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Flexibility in a relationship

It’s important that we remain flexible in our relationships. When we meet someone we like, we may have those “love at first sight” feelings, but it’s important we don’t let these feelings cloud our ability to see someone clearly. On the other hand, we also need to understand rarely, if ever, is there someone who is so perfect that we don’t wish something were different. Along those lines, we need to remain flexible. We must balance what we love about someone with what we want to see change.

I think it’s a mistake to think someone will change, but I also believe people can and do grow as adults. We have to see someone for who they are now. If we learn enough about the person, we may see where they can grow and perhaps how to help them see that. If we can love the person for who they are right now, then we can let the idea of growth exist as a possible future. Perhaps if we show gratitude for who they are now will help them open up and see the new person they can become.

I think my husband and I have both grown a bit since we’ve been together. I know he’s taken on some habits he wanted to change and is doing a pretty impressive job of changing them. I, too, have opened up in ways I never expected. I’ve been quite used to having my routine undisturbed, but when he’s around, I open up to spontaneous decisions. I think I would resist it and argue about it if I weren’t with such a great husband.

All relationships have the potential to help people grow. It is through the eyes of others that we can see ourselves more. When they feel open to comment on how we behave, our habits or rituals, it is then we remember more consciously that we do these things that make us who we are. Even if we offend someone or make a poor choice, someone else’s reaction can alert us to how we might do things differently.

On the other hand, we cannot force others to do anything differently. Growth requires a willingness to change. If someone doesn’t want to change, then they will not grow. This is the reality we face when we meet someone new. If they aren’t the kind of person we can appreciate as they are, then we have to decide whether or not we are willing to live with them and do whatever work might be needed to encourage growth. It might also be an opportunity to grow ourselves. We might need to learn to appreciate them for who they are first. Maybe at that time, we can then learn to see who they are in a different way and a way that makes it easier to jostle them out of complacency.

I don’t think either my husband or I would have grown much these last few years if we did not have that deep sense of gratitude. I think our flexibility with one another and openness comes from that gratitude. For me, I know he brings a sensitive approach to problems, and that helps me realize he speaks with care.

No matter the relationship we need to be ready to work things out and be flexible enough to accept the things we see as shortcomings. The book Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High is a great resource to learn how to manage those conversations that need to happen from time to time. It provides a great model of learning how to listen and also how to speak. It may not resolve issues easily, but it is a great way to approach the situation and try to keep people talking.

Read a summary of the Crucial Conversations book

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