We’ve all been told at one point or another to just go with the flow. Sometimes the advice is great and works out, other times it makes you want to scream and pull your hair out.
But when it comes to going with the flow in relationships, what does that actually mean?
Relationships are a huge part of our lives. They require hard work and a lot of patience, so is it possible to go with the flow in life and still invest the time and emotion needed to make your relationship a success?
I want to share with you my thoughts on going with the flow. In this article, we’ll look into how going with the flow can benefit your relationship, as well as the risks that come with taking this ‘laid back’ approach.
What does going with the flow mean?
A quick Google search gives me the definition of ‘going with the flow’. It means to ‘do what other people are doing or to agree with other people because it is the easiest thing to do.’
Now I understand why the expression can make people want to scream and pull out their hair.
Going along with what everyone else is doing doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll have an easier time, and when it comes to relationships, no two are the same.
Instead, I’d like to put forward how I see ‘going with the flow’.
When I think about going with the flow, I focus less on relaxing and having a carefree attitude, and more on being adaptable and able to roll with the punches.
Let me give you an example.
Moving to another country tested my patience massively. I was used to my way of living, and my new country does things completely differently. From shop opening times to etiquettes around eating and family, it was a shock to my system.
During those first few months, I was often told to stop being stressed by every inconvenience and just go with the flow.
‘It’ll make your life much easier’, I was told. And it did. But only once I created the flow that I was happy with was I able to embrace the process and grow as a person.
I learnt to accept the things that were outside of my control. I learnt to embrace changes in my plans and instead of becoming frustrated, look for ways to adapt and continue.
I realized that going with the flow doesn’t have to mean that you give up your personal power and become at the mercy of others.
Instead, it meant that I had to drop some of my unhealthy expectations, learn to become more adaptable and resilient, and as a result, I’ve started integrating into this new culture in a much more productive way.
So what does this mean for going with the flow in a relationship?
Relationships are tricky. Some couples fall into their flow fairly easily, whilst others need time to adjust, rearrange and compromise their way into harmony.
I began using my idea of going with the flow in my relationship, and whilst it isn’t a fix for all the problems that arise, it does help me respond to situations more healthily.
Brown mentions how so often people approach going with the flow or trying to enter a flow state with the idea that ‘all you need to do is give up responsibility, give up focussing on where you need to be in the future and just completely live that moment.’
He goes on to talk about the three main ways to enter your flow state, and none of them includes taking a step back from your responsibilities or goals.
So when it comes to relationships, it would be counterproductive to think that the dictionary definition of going with the flow would work.
For a relationship to thrive, you need to focus on your relationship goals and working hard at building that relationship with your partner.
Going with the flow in your relationship means that you become much more open to growth and change, to letting go of issues which aren’t important, and embracing the things that are in your control.
I believe it’s made a difference in how I respond to stressful situations, and within my relationship, I’ve become much better at handling the unexpected.
To understand this in a little more detail, let’s look at how going with the flow can truly benefit your relationship.
How can going with the flow benefit your relationship?
More opportunities for new experiences
When you learn to let go of unrealistic expectations and your ideas of your perfect relationship, you’ll automatically open a door to embracing the unknown. This can go from something simple like a date, or to the type of person you end up with.
A great example of this is a situation we’ve all been in at one time or another. You organize a great date with your partner, but due to unforeseen circumstances, the whole plan goes downhill.
How you react will determine whether the evening is truly ruined, or whether it can be adapted and improved with a little bit of creative thinking.
A ‘go with the flow’ person will try to improve the situation, come up with a new, even better plan, and laugh off the failings of the original date. That’s because they’re secure in what they want.
They know their end goal is to have a good time with their partner and rather than damage the evening further, they prefer to roll with the punches and think outside the box. This way the date isn’t wasted and neither person goes home feeling disappointed.
Less frustration and stress
Leading on from the previous point, as well as allowing for new, unexpected creativity to take place, letting go of things out of your control can greatly decrease your stress levels.
In relationships and our personal lives, we’re constantly juggling our responsibilities. Most are in our control, and we know how to deal with situations that we encounter daily.
But now and then life enjoys throwing a spanner in the works, often one which we have little or no control over. In relationships, this can often be the behaviour or habits of a partner which we can’t control but still annoy us ever so.
When you’re able to tell the difference between what is in your control and what isn’t, you’re already a step ahead in lessening your stress load.
Accepting what you can’t change and trying to create the best possible outcome in uncontrollable situations lets you focus your energy on the things that you can control.
For your relationship, this means more time spent creating happy experiences rather than stressing over small setbacks.
More time to spend on the important stuff
Learning to let the small stuff go means you open up so much more of your time, energy, and thinking towards things that matter.
It can be tough to do this, as two grown people merging their lives can often be rocky as you both learn to adjust to each other.
If you make a habit out of focusing on the bigger picture and going with the flow when it comes to insignificant differences or situations, your relationship will feel less cluttered and stressful.
And not only will this habit or way of thinking improve your relationship, but it’ll also free you when it comes to work, personal goals, and friendships.
Managing your expectations
We’ve all got expectations built up within us. From childhood, our parents, society and religions have all instilled expectations into us about how we think the world should be.
Having some expectations is natural, but the danger lies in how we manage those expectations, especially when it comes to our partners.
In Rudá Iandê’s free masterclass, Love and Intimacy, he touches upon how our expectations can hold us back in our relationships.
We often have more expectations of our partners than we consciously realize, so Iandê encourages writing them down and reflecting on how they can cause unnecessary pressure and disappointment within your relationship.
He also mentions how going with the flow in your relationship can allow you to build on what’s happening right there and then in front of you, not building something based on your expectations of what a relationship should look like.
You become more resilient
Once you’re able to truly go with the flow, bouncing back from setbacks becomes much easier.
Not only will you already be in the habit of focusing on what’s in your control and what’s important to you, but you’ll also find it less painful to deal with things that you can’t control.
Resilience is often described by psychologists as:
The process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or significant sources of stress—such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems, or workplace and financial stressors.
To be able to adapt is to be able to survive. It’s what humans have done since the start of mankind, and whilst we have evolved in our ways of living and interacting, everyday stresses can still affect us greatly.
Therefore, if you’re open to change and to adapt to your relationship or to any problems which will inevitably happen, you’ll find yourself becoming increasingly resilient to the hardships of life and love.
Acceptance over what you can’t control
Have you ever been aware that something is out of your control, but you can’t help but fall victim to your emotions?
It’s an easy trap to fall into, but in reality, it does nothing to solve the problem at hand. And the problem with this response is that you will always be at the mercy of situations outside of your control.
If you let your emotions get the better of you, you’ll be less likely to think rationally and reasonably. When it comes to relationships, this can be a make or break situation if it occurs often.
Instead, being able to accept what you can’t control means you’ll feel less stressed, and you’ll be more in tune with your emotions and thoughts. Feeling disappointment or frustration is normal, but how you harness and direct those emotions is what matters the most.
In real-life terms, this means the difference between arguing with your partner when the car breaks down or being able to step back and focus solely on the problem instead of projecting your emotions onto your partner.
You learn to embrace the moment
If truly going with the flow is achieved, you’ll naturally pave the way for being more present at the moment. Instead of sweating the small stuff or worrying over an external crisis that you can do nothing about, you’ll be able to focus on what’s happening right there and then.
This means more time – quality time – spent with your partner or family. Instead of being preoccupied with your thoughts and emotions, you’ll be able to make the most out of the time you spend together.
On how living in the moment and mindfulness can be a great benefit to your life and relationships, Jay Dixit on PsychologyToday explains:
Mindfulness boosts your awareness of how you interpret and react to what’s happening in your mind. It increases the gap between emotional impulse and action, allowing you to do what Buddhists call recognizing the spark before the flame. Focusing on the present reboots your mind so you can respond thoughtfully rather than automatically.
When it comes to disagreements or tension within the relationship, you’ll be able to focus completely on the problem at hand and not on the insignificant details which so often act as a distraction.
Being present in the moment allows you to keep things in perspective, think clearly and direct your productivity and attention fully into what’s happening in every moment you spend with your partner.
The fine line between ‘going with the flow’ and ‘disregarding your feelings’
Going with the flow can be a great way to approach relationships and make the most out of your time with your significant other, but there is a fine line between being easy-going and losing yourself in the process.
The whole point of going with the flow is to create a relationship where you are open to change and have a deep understanding of yourself and your partner.
Hurdles and obstacles which will inevitably pop up along the way can be dealt with much more smoothly if you’re willing to go along with the flow and adapt to what’s sent your way.
What it doesn’t mean is dismissing your feelings, desires or needs.
It’s a very common misconception that going with the flow means to be easy-going, carefree, and happy to conform with the norm. This thinking can lead to your feelings being hurt, your needs being unmet and your desires ignored.
As all human beings, your primary needs to need to first be met before you can be content and secure enough to continue growing and developing the relationship.
If a relationship doesn’t allow you to be true to your authentic self, it will only be a matter of time before your frustration and loss of self will become too much.
For example, if there’s a serious situation that has hurt your feelings deeply, you must be able to talk this through with your partner.
It wouldn’t be productive to simply go along with the flow, as eventually your anger and hurt will spill out in a way that could cause further damage to the relationship.
The key lies in finding a balance between being clear on things that are important to you, and the process of embracing new situations that may not always feel comfortable but which contribute towards the growth of your relationship.
When it comes to going with the flow, there’s certainly a lot more needed to make a relationship work than just being easy-going.
I believe that going with the flow is a statement that can be adapted, improved, and shaped to help us when it comes to our lives and our relationships.
So ask yourself this: Are there elements of going with the flow that can be used to help my relationship?
Because to achieve the benefits listed above, having a more productive attitude towards the old familiar saying may help you when it comes to going with (and enjoying) the flow of your relationship.
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