Great Relationships Require Much Flexibility.

Here is how stretching yourself and being flexible results in great love.

image by Daniel Schwartz from

Everything in life is in a perpetual motion of change. Our body grows, changes, strengthens, weakens, may get injured, and ultimately, ages. Our ideas shift and alter, as do our moods, as well as the moods of people we are close to. Our romantic loves and friendships will evolve, flourish, and change. Some will even come to a close. The causes of our suffering or happiness will alter. The political situation changes. Fashion and weather is ever-evolving. The seasons' change, from sunshine and warmth to leaves blazed through with color, to a winter wonderland and back again.

Even change itself changes.

Thus, the only way to survive consists in the art of adapting to events that continually take us by surprise.

If you adapt, you (and other things) survive and even flourish. If instead, you do everything you can to stay fixed, you will struggle and even potentially lose big. Those who do not adapt end up like dinosaurs.

Flexibility is actually a form of practical wisdom. It signifies an intelligence that lives in the present, that knows how to read the slightest sign of change and then has the facility and pliability necessary for adapting, moving with, and shifting to those new conditions.

The idea of flexibility is to help us recognize and face fully the present reality.

Because, with all its hard, unpleasant invasiveness, the reality is, in truth, our greatest teacher.

Reality will proceed of its own accord, without considering what is best for us, our hopes or dreams. This is why flexibility is not just a successful strategy. It is also a spiritual quality. It implies freedom from attachments, is fully attentive wakefulness in the present, and includes acceptance of what is so that one can adapt accordingly.

When we are flexible, we are able to let go of old models and we become both humble and brave enough to start over again.

According to research, children who most easily accept frustrations turn out to be the strongest, most pleasant in the company of others, most conscientious, and most open to new experiences.

And, the ability to be flexible is crucial to having great relationships. Because while we may be endowed with warmth and goodwill, if we do not adapt to the new, we will be stressed out, in a bad mood, irritated, hostile, fearful, or overwhelmed by a situation we didn’t expect. Essentially, we will have less mental and emotional energy for expressing ourselves best. And, we will be only half there as a result. The other half of us will be caught up in the distress of being unable or unwilling to adapt, battling, grumbling, resisting.

One demand that is common across many relationships, usually unspoken but still heavily assumed, is “I expect you to always be the same.” Usually, even if we express the hope and as though in support of those around us changing, we are still prone to upset and surprise when it does happen. We tend to continually perceive our loved ones in the same way, and unconsciously, we want them to stay the way we see them. Thus, anything that might conflict with our fixed idea of someone will throw us off, annoy, scare, or upset us. This then frequently results in a tug of war between the two people, mentally and spiritually.

We tend to expect those around us to remain as they are.

We label them, assume we know them, and then keep these labeled ideas in a fixed mental box.

Yet, if we are somehow able to manage to relax our rigidity and to not take our expectations too seriously, we will give others the space they need to be what they want to be: to express new ways of thinking and acting, to show us unexpected sides of themselves and perhaps mature.

If you enter into a relationship with someone expecting he or she will stay the same (because, after all, you are used to it this way), then you are essentially relating with a subscription or an insurance policy- not a real person.

The more chances you give a person to change and experiment, the more the relationship will become an adventure in which you both wonder what the next step will be.

To be flexible in a relationship means being open to new ideas, different ways of doing things, to novel adventures, and even to different life experiences. When we cling to what is, and to what we know, this can result in coming to a standstill.

If we are flexible, not only do we adapt more easily to other’s changes, but we will better manage the difficult task of yielding without getting depressed or angry. To yield may mean, for instance, acknowledging that another person knows more than we do, to say sorry for a mistake we made, to acknowledge our wrongs, to give way to others, or to give another opportunity or idea a chance. All of these are methods of being flexible.

Yielding is not easy for most people, though intuitively, we often understand it is the right choice and works best. Our culture is one that prizes self-affirmation and views yielding as weakness and a defeat. It is what we often see in political debates. People who have a terror of appearing incompetent and thus, it results in everyone shouting over one another, not truly listening and instead, trying to one-up the others with their intelligence. In truth, though, it is the ones who at all costs want to appear strongest who are usually the weakest and because of this, at times they even look ridiculous or pathetic.

To give people we love the freedom to be what they want to be. To give them the space to experiment, make mistakes, be creative, fail, or succeed. To allow them to discover their thousand faces without freezing them in the immutable mold of our beliefs. Without protecting, preaching, pushing, or pulling accordingly to what we believe is best. Would you not want others to trust and treat you this way?

Within romance, we tend to similarly develop fixed ideas about our love and our relationship. This is who he or she is. This is what our relationship looks like. This is what we do every Tuesday night- it’s our routine. This is where we live. This is how we tend to have sex, in this way.

Then, when the opportunity or thought for something new arises, something off the beaten path, something that deviates from this well-known way of doing things, we don’t know what to do with this. We get scared. We feel anxiety. We feel threatened. We feel distressed and dizzy. We focus on all we stand to lose. In the unknown, we focus on what we have to lose, on stress, and on potential problems (instead of seeing an opportunity, the possibility for wonder and awe, for something magical and growth-inducing that you might navigate and come out the other side of it in a great way).

Many couples allow change to cause conflict and friction in their relationship. People who are especially rigid will struggle here the most. For some couples, it might even be the end of them, because they cannot adapt, and because they cannot figure out how to navigate this new way and this change together. And this will be because of both refusal and an inability to be flexible. It will also be because of fear.

This is not to say one must concede to every bend in the road, go along with every proposed new venture. Not so. We each have certain needs, life goals, and priorities in our lives which will determine how this shakes out and how flexible we can be at a given time.

But. Those who choose to turn toward, rather than away from those bends in the road, the ones who lean into the curves rather than slam on the breaks, they are the ones who will find the most joy and success, both in their relationship and their lives.

A relationship is, after all, about deciding you are a team. That this person is your person. The one with whom you want to navigate through life together. That jobs will come and go. Zipcodes will change. That friends and loved ones may be lost. That both exciting and heartbreaking things will happen along the way. But that you two are the constant. And that with this, at certain times it will happen that one person might have to sacrifice, and at different times, the other person may have to be more flexible. When someone is your life love, though, this is how you make it work. Flexibility. This is how you navigate life, side by side, over the big picture.

With rigid inflexibility, that will make this a much tougher path, even an impossible one, to navigate successfully and together.

Besides, it is often these jarring bends in the road, the moments in which we are distinctly uncomfortable, the ones in which we have gone way out of our comfort zone, in which we are most alive, as well as stand to learn and grow the most. The ones that will result in you looking back on your life and thinking, wow, was that an incredible experience. The key to this though? Being flexible.

Fervent writer. Ravenous reader. Impassioned with words. Relationship researcher. Social Scientist. Social Justice Advocate. Author.

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