• Darrell & Robin MacLearn

Flexibility Helps Us Navigate Change in Relationships

If there is one thing we all experience in life, it is change. John F Kennedy said, “Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” The law of life. No one can escape it. As time passes, things change. We change our age, our friends, our school, our address, our health, our jobs, our weight, and sadly, many change spouses. But this doesn’t have to be the case.

As we go through life together we must learn to bend to the winds of change so we don’t break.

If we add flexibility to our set of life skills we can avoid ending our marriages. When we are in a relationship, over time there are many experiences, some good and some bad, some happy and some sad, some thrilling and some challenging. To be successful in our relationship and not only stay together but grow together, we have to be flexible.  It is important that our partner knows that no matter what happens in life, no matter what our children do, no matter how much weight we gain, no matter if we go bald, no matter what diagnosis we receive, we are committed to them and to our relationship. There is security and comfort in that knowledge. As we go through life together we must learn to bend to the winds of change so we don’t break. One of the best ways to build flexibility in our relationships is by growing our friendship with our partner. There are many ways to accomplish this but one of the best, in my opinion, is to do things together. As we spend time together, our friendship can grow. Now, this doesn’t happen automatically. That is to say, just because we spend time together doesn’t mean we will grow closer. We still have to be intentional in growing in our connectedness and intimacy and that requires interaction.

Exercise #1: Pick a hobby

We can build our friendship as we do an activity together. Darrell and I love to golf. Unfortunately, we do not get out very often but when we do, it is great fun. Perhaps you already have an interest you share with your spouse. That makes this easier. But if you don’t, I want to encourage you to find something you both can get interested in and do it together. It could be a physical activity like golf or hiking or biking or kayaking. Or you could work out together at the gym. It could be an indoor activity like putting puzzles together or building something in the garage. It could be volunteering together at a non-profit. There really is no limit to the possibilities. Find something, anything and intentionally do it together. This will build your togetherness and reinforce that you are part of the same team.

Exercise #2: Take interest in each other’s interests

Even if we are not involved in the same activity as our partner, we can show interest in theirs. It takes very little effort but the payoff in connection and feelings of love and value can be huge. Say, for example, your wife likes to write poetry. Ask her about her latest creation. Ask if you can read it or if she would read it aloud to you. Be complimentary of her work. Can you see how this would build on your intimacy and connection? Or let’s say your husband likes to tinker in the garage. You may not even know what he’s doing out there but have you ever asked him to show you? Be curious and ask what project he’s working on. Paying attention to one another will pay dividends in return.

As we move through life together things are bound to change. Over time, we all change. Are you the same person today you were when you were 20 or 30 or 40? Practicing flexibility enables us to love and accept our partner through all the ages and stages of life. And when our partner feels accepted and loved, they will thrive and so will our relationship.

The idea of flexibility in our marriage is about becoming less selfish (all about me) and becoming more of a team as true partners (all about us). The more things we can do to encourage and reinforce that we are on the same team the better we are able to be flexible when challenges occur. 

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