Think back to your wedding day, or perhaps the beginning of your relationship. If you were to take a snapshot of your relationship from that time, what kind of picture frame would you put it in? A shiny, ornamental frame that is beautiful, or an old, scratched up frame with broken glass?
Chances are, most of us would put the photos from our happiest memories in a nice frame.
Picture frames are also a useful analogy for how we view different aspects of our relationships, as well as the qualities in our partner. As changes take place in life and relationships, we often allow our view of our spouse or significant other to change, too.
What qualities were you initially attracted to in your partner? Did you admire his sense of responsibility and great work ethic? Was she spontaneous and fun? Maybe he was open and vulnerable with his feelings, and that was attractive? Or maybe she was nurturing and loving? Was he mysterious and intriguing? Confident and secure in his identity? Or full of care and concern for your well-being?
Every “up” side, also has a “down” side, though. It’s true that many of the same qualities we initially find attractive in our significant other are the same things we later find irritating or intolerable—because we have changed our “frame” of mind, or the way we view the other person. For example, responsible becomes boring, confident becomes arrogant and self-righteous, a good work ethic becomes unavailable or workaholic, spontaneous/fun becomes irresponsible (or unreliable), nurturing becomes smothering or parental, mysterious becomes dishonest or emotionally cutoff, caring becomes controlling, and exciting becomes addictive. Sound familiar? If so, it might be time for a re-frame!
What is a Reframe?
In counseling, it’s common to hear stories about how a person believes their significant other has “changed” over the years. While this might certainly hold elements of truth, it’s also possible that we have changed the way we “frame” their qualities, based on our own thoughts and perceptions. None of us are perfect! Every relationship has elements of positive and negative, to varying degrees. How we view our significant other depends on the frame we choose to use. This is the concept of reframing.
Reframing doesn’t mean that the facts change, it just means that we choose to change the way we react to something by how we view it.
So, how do you start reframing your relationship?
There are some guidelines that are helpful for making the concept of reframing effective:
- Reframing doesn’t mean being in denial. It simply means that you recognize the silver lining in the cloud when appropriate to do so. Some issues can’t be reframed (e.g., physical or emotional abuse).
- Using a reframe effectively means it has to be real for you, or else you will be playing mind games or being dishonest. For example, if you have typically felt your partner genuinely cares about your opinions, it will be easier to reframe “he rejects me and my compliments” to “it’s difficult and uncomfortable for him to accept compliments“.
- Choose to reflect back on your own perceptions of what initially attracted you to your mate. Instead of blaming them for changing, take ownership over how you have changed your perceptions over time. Then make the conscious decision to change how you view a given situation for the benefit of the relationship. See what happens with your feelings and reactions. Do you feel more peaceful and less resentment?
- Take enough time to think through a reframe so that it “fits” for you. Trying to reframe something too quickly in a relationship can feel dismissive and hollow.
By following some of these guidelines, you might just find that the concept of reframing prevents some unnecessary conflicts from erupting on down the road and creates more intimacy in your relationship.
What kind of frame do you place your relationship in?
Imagine Hope Counseling Group has a passion for guiding people towards healthy, fulfilling relationships. Joleen Watson, Natalie Chandler, Tamara Wilhelm and Teri Claassen understand that Hope is one of the most important things a person needs in order to keep pressing on when life gets tough. Imagine Hope is based out of Indianapolis, Indiana. Read more from them here.