“Just go with the flow, Bruna. For goodness sake, just go with the fucking flow.”
Welcome to a very common conversation I have with myself when I begin dating someone. Does it work? Not usually, and I’d feel defeated every single time, but I recently realized I was approaching the whole “going with the flow” concept all wrong, anyway.
Whether it be inner dialogue, articles on the Internet or your well-intentioned friends trying to give you “good” advice, many of us have experienced the pseudo pep talk of allowing things to just progress naturally, and that makes total sense, but it’s not always helpful.
For some of us controlling, um, risk-averse folks, going with the flow can feel like a constant anxiety attack that never seems to end. And I finally found out why.
It’s not about an undesirable outcome that creates the anxiety. It’s not knowing where you stand. After all, anxiety is literally fear of the unknown.
During one of my bouts with emotional anxiety, I brought this whole idea up to my therapist, who suggested that my fear was stemming from being in a position that didn’t have clear boundaries or any sort of definition at all.
“You deserve to know where you stand, and you deserve to have your needs met. Your anxiety will go away once you have a conversation that helps you identify where you stand,” she told me.
I knew she was right, but I still felt like that would be enabling behavior that I previously thought to be rigid.
“I understand,” I responded. “But, I really want to be able to embrace going with the flow. I hate feeling like I always need to be in control of situations, because that’s just unrealistic.”
That’s when she dropped a truth bomb on me that I’m now considering getting tatted. OK, not really, but it was definitely a gem.
“Bruna,” she began. “You do go with the flow…in life. If something unexpected happens or you’re faced with an obstacle, you seem to go through it pretty well. But when it comes to a relationship or a person in your life, it’s different. How can you go with the flow when you don’t know where the flow is going?”
Right. The simplest statement suddenly made things so clear.
When it comes to romantic endeavors, we’ve constantly been fed this idea that asking defining questions or checking in to clarify our status is needy or clingy—especially for women, who are instantly slapped with those labels the second we voice our needs.
But that’s literally the bare minimum of what we deserve.
If we’re going to share our time, energy and care with you, the very least you can do for someone you claim to care about is help create a space where honest and open communication is welcome, where we can reconvene whenever necessary so that some proper boundaries and expectations can be placed. After all, don’t you want the person in your life to feel at ease with you?
So, when it comes to “going with the flow” with dating, it’s not about dismissing your needs or desire for clarity out of fear of seeming difficult. It’s about being flexible with the inevitable bumps and turns that may arise along the way, because they’re bound to come up when two people begin merging their lives together.
Your well-being matters. Your mental health matters. Your needs matter.
So don’t be afraid to speak up for yourself. Because if you don’t, who will?