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How Psychological Flexibility Can Invigorate Your Love Life?

Steven Topper, LCPC 

         It’s no secret that successful romantic relationships are as difficult as anything we face in our lives. Divorce rates support the notion that loving someone deeply is really hard work. While it’s not uncommon for us to feel stuck, unsupported, frustrated, and lost within our relationships, a set of skills called psychological flexibility may hold keys to enriching, enlivening, and deepening our romantic relationships. There are key components to psychological flexibility and below we’ll explore how these may move us into meaningful directions romantically.

Developed alongside Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), psychological flexibility has been growing in interest among researchers over the past few years. It continues to show staggering impacts on wellbeing, depression, anxiety, and many other factors. This has led therapists and researchers alike to develop strategies for increasing an individual’s psychological flexibility over symptom reduction directly. There are features and we can explore how each feature may be utilized within our romantic relationships.

Being open to experiences, positive or negative, is the first component to psychological flexibility. This openness (or allowance of, acceptance of, willingness for, leaning into, etc.) may look like making choices even though I know anxiety, frustration, and risk may come along with those choices. Within our relationships, we can ask ourselves questions around openness, such as: If it meant being uncomfortable, what action could I take to support my partner? This sort of openness allows us to engage more fully with our loved ones by decreasing limitations on what behaviors we can take.

The next component is mindfulness. practicing present moment awareness that is flexible and intentional has been consistently shown to increase relationships and wellbeing. This means pay attention to the here and now, fully, on purpose. When we’re arguing with our partners, instead of reaching into the past about how they’ve wronged us before, or reaching into the future to worry about how they’re going to be like this forever, what happens when we turn our attention to the now? We may be more likely to notice our partners’ distress, their attempts to remedy the situation, and we may pick up on ways they are attempting to love us imperfectly, and places where we can move into loving them.

Noticing without clinging to thoughts and feelings, as they show up is the third piece of the flexibility puzzle. Just like with mindfulness, how might we be freed up to engage more deeply when we let go of the narratives that could include my partner never listens; I’m always the one saying sorry first, this is totally unacceptable? By holding these thoughts more lightly (not arguing their accuracy), we may be able lean into difficult problems and work with our partners instead of against them.

Along similar lines, the next component is holding a broader perspective on relationships and context even when distressing events occur. How often have we found ourselves arguing about something so pedantic and stupid that, later, we can clearly see how wasteful and hurtful it was? This frequently happens because we are likely to get so wrapped up in our emotions that we lose sight of the broader picture. Questions to consider around this might be: What are my partner and I attempting to build with our relationship? How might we be practicing building it?

As we look at each of these components, we may see how being deliberate about practicing these things day to day may increase the fulfillment we (and our partners) find in our relationship. Each piece of the puzzle brings us closer to our love and the deep connection at the heart of our love.

If you are currently struggling within your relationships, it may be a good idea to connect with one of our skilled counselors for grief therapy in Chicago. You can contact Symmetry Counseling at 312-578-9990 to set up an appointment with one of our licensed counselors. 


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