Profile Name: Cool_1_Here:
Easy-going, down-to-earth, considerate with no drama, looking for the same. I enjoy a night out on the town just as much as “Netflix and Chill” and travel. Rolls with the punches of life.
Many pride themselves on being flexible, chill, down-to-earth, and not sweating the small stuff. Perhaps, you have used some of the adjectives above to describe yourself upon meeting your current partner or on a dating profile.
Yet, when those adjectives are put to the test, being compromising can be thrown out the window. Imagine you have arrived early for an 8:45pm movie only to discover your partner did not get tickets ahead of time (as promised) and it’s sold out. You have to either:
A: Kill time and wait for the 10pm showing
B: Come up with other plans altogether
C. React with a string of expletives, declare the circumstances catastrophic and carry that tension into the rest of your night.
Relationships require compromise and a balance of give-and-take. You know this. You’ve heard it.
But do you have an honest view of your capacity for flexibility in your relationship?
Many couples struggle to find that “meet-in-the-middle” space. For some, the difficulty in compromising is pervasive and impacts nearly every interaction. Every day matters from deciding which of you will walk the dog to fighting over what Netflix show to watch can create heated arguments and residual negativity as you refuse to “give-in”.
Does it have to be “either-or”? If it’s not exactly your way, do you feel like you’ve lost? Many couples struggle to explore the “in-between”.
For example its movie night at home:
You want to watch “The Notebook”
They want to watch “The Purge”
You might compromise by watching an episode of “Wives with Knives”. It’s a balance between satisfying the romantic’s thirst for deep all-encompassing love while feeding the craving for a murder mystery fanatic.
Plus it’s shorter than watching a movie so you are essentially meeting in the middle on multiple levels. Talk about a win-win, eh?
For some, the rigidity of one (or both) partner(s) within a relationship can be situational, where you can’t seem to see eye-to-eye over a repetitive issue resulting in high conflict. An example might be deciphering on whose in-laws to spend a holiday with and that being a source of tension every freaking Thanksgiving year after year.
Let’s talk about the importance of flexibility in general, independently outside of a relationship. Some people are very flexible in one context (i.e. work) but not so much in another (i.e. on vacation).
Psychological flexibility according to Kashdan & Rotterberg (2010) is defined as as the measure of how (1) a person adapts to situational demands (2) re-configures mental resources (3) shifts perspective and (4) balances competing desires, needs and life domains.
Furthermore, their research shows that low psychological flexibility has been found to predict higher anxiety, depression, poorer work performance, inability to learn, and lower quality of life.
So that is a plateful of issues that will likely impact the potential of fulfillment and harmony in a relationship.
Am I right or am I right?
We toss around the words flexible, compromise, and “meeting each other in the middle”. But what does being flexible in a relationship really look like?
The following will help to cultivate and maintain a balance of flexibility in your relationship:
1. Approaching every discussion like there are NO Losers
If you have to be “right” then that is so WRONG.
Being solely focused on dancing to your “way-or-the-highway” tune will likely drown out the song of your partner. You aren’t the only one on the dance floor so make room!
It’s important to maintain a discussion and not to seek a solution from a perspective of war. The end goal should never be to determine a “winner”. You should always be exploring how both of you can have your needs met.
2. Honestly explore: Is this more important to one of you?
If you are letting go of the “Whose-right-Whose-wrong” war, this step should come easy to you. It’s totally possible that an issue has more weight or meaning to one of you. You can’t operate from the perspective that everything is more important to you every flippin’ time though. It really comes down to the meaning of what’s being discussed.
For example, I have worked with many interfaith couples that come from very different cultural backgrounds. Which holidays and how they are celebrated can be wrought with tension but it doesn’t have to be. In some cases, one partner may be far more tied to their traditions and it may have significantly more meaning to them. Its important to be honest about the meaning of a tradition for you rather than pushing for a way of doing something that you “should” do or have always done habitually.
3. Recognizing when Flexibility Goes Wrong…….
Flexibility does not mean neglecting your core needs or values.
Some people are inherently more go-with-the-flow by nature. But it’s important to be able to see when you are overly accommodating to others, including your partner, to the detriment of your well being.
If you feel resentful and replay over and over the things that you have done for your partner whenever you “bend” a bit, then you may have to address concerns around clearly identifying your boundaries and speaking up when they are being crossed!
Please keep in mind that there is a big difference in being flexible for dinner and being flexible to infidelity in an agreed monogamous relationship. That is not flexibility. That is bullsh*t.
Another example is holding and implementing boundaries with extended family as a team. The occurrence of your partner’s family or in-laws disrespecting or putting you down is not something that you should put up with or be “flexible” to.
Speaking of boundaries, I encourage you to ask yourself if what you and your partner are struggling to resolve or make a decision on is a preference or a non-negotiable.
So maybe you are fighting to not go to your in-laws this Thanksgiving. Ask yourself is this a preference because you really don’t want to travel and don’t have that much time off for work? Or is it much deeper because you feel alone in having to manage your father-in-law putting down your parenting style and you feel disrespected at every family gathering.
Those are two totally different conversations. In situations like the latter, you must work with your partner in scenarios like that from a “we” stance. If you are having a hard time understanding one another, check out my guide below on listening.
I will leave you with this anonymous quote:
“Blessed are the flexible…for they are not bent out of shape.”