The Physics of Love

In the natural world, the strongest elements know how to bend and not break. Do you?

The Physics of Love

by Erik Newton

photo courtesy of Guille Faingold

filed under Advice


Flexibility is a vital element of strength. When force is exerted against a hard, inflexible material, it snaps. It’s what we call brittle. Flexible material, on the other hand, bends and adjust, or returns to its original form when the pressure is removed.

When applying that concept to human behavior, we often refer to it as adaptability. A person’s capability to adapt to change is a measure of how strong and well-balanced she is.

So how does that apply to your love life? It’s pretty simple: Things change, so go with the flow. Adapt and enhance. The trouble is that most of us get settled and expect our relationships to stay the same forever.

The Challenge of Flexibility in Love

We see this come up in relationships all the time. An example of a minor change might be a dietary shift. Suddenly you can’t eat your favorite food anymore. That has a cascading effect on the household. Shopping and cooking routines get altered. Maybe that favorite food was part of a beloved ritual or tradition. It creates a little tension. When these tensions collect, the eventual result is a slight callusing of the relationship.

A larger change might involve a major career shift. You get laid off or change professions. Suddenly your income and schedules are all out of whack. It’s scary, and you’re probably questioning your value and identity to some degree, and that in turn is affecting your mood. Likely your partner is feeling these effects and is getting periodically triggered around his or her own fears, and is also unsure how to respond.

All this change can, and often does, lead to relationship breakdown. It’s not just that we get used to routine, it’s that each change has cascading implications on all the other areas in our lives. And that’s just simply stressful. So what should you do?

Staying Flexible in 4 Steps

First, acknowledge that the change and accompanying stresses are inevitable. It happens to all couples all the time. It’s the norm, not the exception.

Second, be proactive about your responses. Slow down and have direct conversations about what you and your partner each need and expect during this time.  

Third, have patience. Changes look normal in retrospect as time passes. Since the fear and stress are inevitable but do pass, give it all time to marinate, and it will be much easier to handle.

Fourth, enhance! This is the whole point. Change isn’t just a pain, it’s an opportunity to make life better. How can this change lead to something you’ve always wanted? How can you adapt to it and become a stronger team? How can you enjoy the process of the change? Start with those questions, and the inevitable becomes a lot easier.

These four steps make a difference, but they may appear oversimplified. It takes practice. It also takes humility. You’re not perfect, and change is uncomfortable, but it’s okay to change. There is no real threat.


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