During a typical Relationships & More therapy session, clients will use all sorts of words to describe their relationships, themselves, and their partners. It is a common occurrence in relationship therapy. It is so common that therapists are trained to listen for those words. Why? Because words mean things. They reveal a lot about what a person is thinking and feeling.
Take the word ‘flexibility’. Relationships & More insists that it’s crucial to long-term, satisfying relationships. The couples who visit with them in their Rye, NY office learn all about flexibility in the course of their sessions. So what about you? Is flexibility in your relationship dictionary?
A Loose Definition
Flexibility in a relationship is somewhat ambiguous. This is to say that it doesn’t always look identical in every situation. As a general rule however, flexibility is the ability to adapt to different circumstances, needs, etc. It is a crucial characteristic in relationships because things rarely go as planned.
How many times have you made plans with your spouse only to have them interrupted by some unforeseen circumstance? It might be having to work late. It might be a sudden illness or a problem with the kids.
Sure, having plans interrupted is disappointing. It can even be somewhat inconvenient. It takes flexibility to not let those types of things become major factors that could cause division between you and your spouse.
Being Flexible for Your Spouse
Flexibility can also be defined as the way you relate to your spouse. The Gott man Institute’s Heather Gray wrote a fantastic piece not too long ago discussing why it’s important for couples to meet one another’s needs. Part of the post was focused on flexibility.
Gray talked about how her husband has a need to talk regularly so he feels connected to her. Though she doesn’t experience the same need, she learned to be flexible in order to make him feel secure. She now makes a habit of regularly talking with her husband.
Likewise, she related a scenario in which she might need to take some time to unplug and disconnect so she can clear her head. Her husband has learned to be flexible to that need. He sets aside his need to feel connected by letting her go for a period of time.
When Flexibility Isn’t Present
Couples have all sorts of wonderful words in their relationship dictionaries. They are quick to talk about love, understanding, mutual respect, and so on. But what happens when flexibility isn’t in that dictionary? It leads to conflict that could ultimately be harmful.
A lack of flexibility on either party’s part is sometimes symptomatic of selfishness. It can also be a symptom of insecurity. The point is that a lack of flexibility may not be an issue unto itself. It may be a symptom of an underlying issue that has never been dealt with.
The danger here is one or both persons being so inflexible that they eventually cannot find any common ground. Far too many married couples have ended up in couple’s therapy for this very reason. They did not address their lack of flexibility in a healthy manner, and it eventually became the wedge that drove them apart.
Life throws us curve balls. Circumstances change. Very rarely does anyone work through an entire day in which everything goes off as planned. That is why flexibility is so crucial to relationships. If flexibility is not in a couples’ relationship dictionary, trouble lurks around the corner. They would be better off learning about flexibility and finding a way to practice it than ignoring it in hopes it goes away.