Psychological flexibility leads to better relationships

Psychological flexibility

Cohesive families, indeed, seem to share a few crucial traits–psychologists concur. Psychological flexibility may be among the main factors when it comes to longevity and general health of your intimate and familial relationships.

“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way,” Leo Tolstoy wrote famously in 1878 in the opening lines of Anna Karenina. Turns out the Russian author was onto something.

That is the finding of a brand new University of Rochester meta-analysis, published in the Journal of Contextual Behavioral Science, which statistically combined the results of 174 distinct studies that had looked in acceptance and commitment therapy, mindfulness, and emotion regulation.

The researchers’ goal was to describe how psychological flexibility–on one hand–and inattentive, mindless, and rigid inflexibility on the other–were linked into the dynamics within families and romantic relationships.

“Put simply,” says coauthor Ronald Rogge, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Rochester, “this meta-analysis underscores that being mindful and emotionally flexible in tough and challenging situations not only improves the lives of individuals, it might also strengthen and enrich their close relationships.”

Psychological flexibility versus inflexibility

Psychological flexibility is defined as a set of skills that people use when they’re presented with difficult or challenging thoughts, feelings, emotions, or experiences.

Psychological flexibility is defined as a set of skills that people Such abilities encompass:

Being open to adventures –both good and bad–and accepting them no matter how hard or difficult they might be

Having a mindful attentive awareness of the current moment throughout daily life

Experiencing thoughts and feelings without obsessively clinging to them

Maintaining a broader perspective even in the midst of difficult thoughts and feelings

Learning to actively maintain contact with our deeper values, no matter how stressful or busy each day is

Continuing to take actions toward a target, even in the face of difficult experiences and setbacks

The opposite–psychological inflexibility–describes six specific behaviors, including:

Actively avoiding tough thoughts, feelings, and experiences

Going through everyday life at a preoccupied and inattentive manner
becoming stuck in difficult ideas and feelings

Seeing difficult ideas and feelings as a private reflection and feeling humiliated or shameful for having them

Losing track of deeper priorities inside the tension and chaos of daily life

Getting derailed readily by reverses or challenging encounters, leading to being not able to take steps toward deeper goals.

Psychologists consider the rigid and inflexible answers to difficult or challenging experiences dysfunctional, ultimately leading to and exacerbating a person’s psychopathology.

How flexibility shapes interactions

And Rogge found that in households, higher levels of various forms of parental psychological flexibility were connected to:

Greater utilization of adaptive parenting strategies

Fewer incidents of lax, harsh, and unwanted parenting approaches

Lower perceived parenting stress or burden

Greater household cohesion

Reduced child distress

Within romantic relationships, higher levels of various forms of psychological inflexibility were linked to: May play crucial roles in both couples and families in shaping how individuals interact with all the people nearest to them, the investigators write.

The meta-analysis, also commonly referred to as a “study of research,” cements and contributes to the findings of Rogge’s earlier work In which he and a team tested the effects of couples’ watching films together and talking about the movies afterward. In that work, Rogge and his colleagues demonstrated that couples could bring cognizant awareness, empathy, and psychological flexibility back into their relationships using movies to spark significant relationship talks, resulting in both immediate and long-term benefits.

That study, Conducted in 2013, found that a cheap, fun, and comparatively simple watch-and-talk approach can be just as effective as other more intensive therapist-led methods–greater than halving the divorce or separation speed from 24 to 11 percent after the initial 3 years of marriage.

“The results suggest that husbands and wives have a pretty good sense of what they might be doing right and wrong in their relationships,” Rogge said about the earlier study. “You might not need to teach them a whole lot of skills to cut the divorce rate. You might just need to get them to think about how they are currently behaving. And for five movies to give us a benefit over three years–that is awesome.”

Watching and talking movies with your spouse that feature onscreen couples may have a positive effect on your relationship. Rogge recently told People magazine. It’s an easy exercise that “could be a lifesaver during quarantine,” he says.

Which movies work?

As Good as It Gets, Funny Girl, Gone with the Wind, Love Story, Indecent Proposal, The Devil Wears Prada, and Father of the Bride are a few of the films Rogge and his fellow researchers used in their 2013 study of couples.

Looking for some LGBTQ recommendations? Rogge suggests The Kids Are Alright, The Wedding Banquet, The Birdcage, and episodes of Grace and Frankie.

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Categories: Life