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Psychological flexibility is the ability to manage one’s behavior, and make specific concessions regarding one’s individual values, in order to maneuver through the distressing thoughts, feelings, pains or aches, pleasures or fatigues that life frequently presents us with. Studies have indicated that psychological flexibility is an indicator of better mental health, quality of life, and higher symptom reduction. However, it is worth noting that psychological flexibility is not a trait one is born with, but a skill one can cultivate to become more versatile when navigating through the demanding changes of life and when confronted with pessimism. Psychological flexibility has also been linked to the healthy functioning of romantic relationships.

Flexibility is a Skill

Being attached to things, ideas, and some views can make one rigid and unyielding. Consider that by relinquishing these attachments, you will not be refuting your values and beliefs, but you will be instead surrendering the authority of wanting to control every aspect of them. For a lot of people, being flexible in a situation depends on the mood they are in, how they are attached to a particular idea or belief, or the fear they may have for relinquishing this idea or value. On the other hand, inflexibility has been known to cause anxiety or to give rise to more conflict in romantic relationships. This is the reason why being flexible is a voluntary decision and a skill that is helpful to be practiced regularly in relationships. It is common to resist changes, because many believe that agreeing to be flexible means they are weak and are prone to manipulation. But this is not true, as you can remain committed to your beliefs and values and still choose to acknowledge your partner’s feelings by opting to make crucial changes to improve your relationship.

What flexibility means in a relationship:

  1. Being open to accepting experiences: Every person has their beliefs and values which they like to adhere to, and trying to adjust them can be difficult. But a relationship has to work for the two of you, and to cultivate a healthy relationship with your spouse, you often need to bend your rules to accommodate the other person’s wishes and feelings. Opening doors to new experiences with your partner, will earn you respect and admiration from your partner.

  2. Being emotionally intelligent: This means being open to feeling all of your emotions, and not repressing them nor letting your behavior be controlled by them. This means to be free to acknowledge and share your feelings and thoughts without having to cling to them.

  3. Working towards goals: Even amid setbacks and complicated situations, you should still take steps towards a goal you’ve been aiming for. Most people tend to give up when faced with difficulties in the process of pursuing their goals. Having psychological flexibility in this case means working through the difficulties by changing a few aspects that will see you succeed. Flexibility means using the bad experiences to your advantage to reach the goal, not getting frustrated to a point that you give up your dreams altogether. In a relationship, this means working on your relationship goals, despite setbacks.

  4. Using mindfulness: Mindfulness is a type of meditation whereby you put all your focus on what you are seeing or feeling at the moment. It helps you to have a mindful attention awareness of the present time through your daily routine. Practicing meditation assists you to distance yourself from disturbing thoughts. Mindfulness consists of four aspects:

    • Willingness to experience what you are feeling at the moment

    • Being present or aware of the things that arise at the moment i.e. being in touch with the present moment

    • Being able to relive through an experience as an observer without being emotive

    • The ability to keep away destructing thoughts

Practicing mindfulness regularly assists you to distance yourself from bad thoughts and feelings of the past. Besides, it helps invite good ones that will make your relationship better.

A healthy relationship calls for accommodating each other’s feelings, values, and beliefs. This does not mean to simply agree to what your partner wants, as it means that you will be losing yourself and your values. By being on the same page, which calls to remain flexible and present, your relationship will remain strong.

Your therapy friend,


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