How to be flexible in a relationship

In 2009, a programmer by the name of Kevin Systrom began working on a passion project that married his interests in photography and social sharing. He called the idea Burbn — a mobile app that allowed users to check in at particular locations, make plans for future check-ins, earn points for hanging out with friends, and post pictures of the meetups.

Burbn, however, was not exactly a hit with the users. The app was just too complicated. But Systrom was undaunted. He brought on another programmer, Mike Krieger, and together, the pair determined that while users were not utilizing Burbn’s check-in features, they were using the app’s photo-sharing features. And after months of tweaking and experimenting, Systrom and Krieger released a pared down version of Burbn that was essentially a simple photo-sharing app. They called it Instagram.

You see, Kevin and Mike had a decision to make. Sure, they could have forged on with Burbn the way it was, neglecting to make any significant changes. But odds are, they would have failed. They also could have thrown in the towel and chosen to move on to another project and another idea altogether. But it was the decision they made to honor their commitment to the project and be flexible enough to use the information they had to find an innovative and productive solution that allowed them to prevail.

It’s the same in relationships.

A lot of us have been conditioned to think that once we find the person who we believe is perfect for us, then the hard work is over. Everything should be smooth sailing from that point on. After all, if they are perfect for us, shouldn’t everything just fall into place? But that couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, once you find the partner you are ready to commit to, that’s when the real work begins. And any healthy relationship will require a certain amount of flexibility from each partner. Because change is inevitable. And in order for a relationship to grow and prosper, it is critical that you and your partner be able to adapt to the changes, finding your way through the good and the bad together.


For many of us, how flexible we are in a situation depends on what kind of mood we are in, how attached we are to a certain belief or idea, or what fears we may feel about letting go of that belief or idea. But how many times have you seen that being inflexible has led to even greater stress or created more conflict in your relationship? And how many times have you seen that being flexible can help bring more peace, comfort and love?

That’s why being flexible is a conscious decision, and it is a skill that you must practice repeatedly in your relationships if you want to see the benefits. Often, individuals choose the path of resistance and refusal to change, because they equate being flexible with settling or weakness. But it is actually the opposite. You can still remain steadfast in your values and beliefs, you are just choosing to be open to your partner’s feelings and wishes and willing to make significant changes for the betterment of your relationship. That’s powerful and proactive, and it’s something that your partner will undoubtedly respect and admire.


Our attachment to things, to ideas and to certain views can make us rigid and unrelenting. By letting go of these attachments, we are not denying our beliefs and values, we are simply giving up the mandate that we must control every aspect of them. This practice is known as “non-attachment.” Non-attachment doesn’t mean being cold and callous. It is not the same as being detached. Rather, it simply means you are not holding on, you are not grasping. When you become non-attached, expectations and emotions will no longer control your life. And you will have a new sense of clarity that allows you to see the truth that lies at the heart of the matter, which ultimately helps you be more flexible with your partner.


When we are right, we feel good about ourselves. We feel validated and we feel that we have sound judgment. Granted, those are all positive things. But what do we get out of being right when we are in a relationship?

The need to be right leads to the need to win an argument. And the need to win an argument means your partner has to lose. And if you really care about your partner, why would you want them to lose?

When you let go of your need to be right, you open yourself up to a generative and exciting environment where both you and your partner can learn and grow together. This also creates a safe space in the relationship where both you and your partner can trust the other to engage in compassionate listening and effective communication techniques.


Many of us have been conditioned to place emphasis on having the same interests and hobbies as our partner. But what we really should be focusing on is ensuring our partner shares our same values.

Values are those principles and ‘rules of life’ that you hold in your heart. They’re the personal beliefs that are a critical, fundamental part of who you are as a person. And they play a role in most aspects of your life — the choices you make, how you interpret scenarios, the reactions you have, who you choose to spend time with, the expectations you make. (Read more about how values drive your decisions.)

When someone respects and honors your values, you feel safe and secure. But when someone denies those values, it can make you feel uneasy, or perhaps even cause you suffering. And a lack of shared values with your partner will only lead to continuous arguments and ongoing frustrations that can ultimately lead to the demise of your relationship.

While any close relationship requires compromise, it is quite another thing when going along with what your partner wants means a loss of your personal integrity. If you are on different pages, you will feel that you are sacrificing your core beliefs, and it won’t be long before the relationship becomes strained.

Header image credit © RockandWasp/Shutterstock

Team Tony

Team Tony cultivates, curates and shares Tony Robbins’ stories and core principles, to help others achieve an extraordinary life.

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