“A happy marriage is a long conversation which always seems too short.”
What is a relationship, really? There are a few ways of looking at it. Firstly, we tend to see a relationship as a thing, referring to it in conversation as a noun. If you consider this a little deeper, you could think of relationship as the act of relating, connecting, bonding that you participate in with another. When you consider relating – a verb – it makes it easier to slow down and focus your attention on the actions that define how you are showing up in your relationship.
Where we have an opportunity is in understanding that the relationship actually exists inside of us. It’s an attitude, a frame of reference. Seen this way, a relationship is not about the external – being about them and what they do or don’t do – as much as the meaning you make inside of you about what happens externally. You can experience the relationship in terms of its energy. Consider the question, “Is the way I am holding a relationship inside of me draining my energy or is it building my energy? Is it contracting or expansive? Is it fear-based or love-based?”
Intimate relationships are one of the biggest arenas for personal growth that you will experience in the course of your lifetime. Your partner is your teacher. The ways in which you relate to your partner is a mirror reflecting back to you the quality of relating that you apply to yourself. For instance, if you have judged your partner as critical and harsh, what may this judgment be reflecting to you? It’s entirely possible that you have not yet identified and accepted the ways in which you are critical and harsh with others, and, especially with yourself.
What Is Reframing?
To reframe is to step back from a something and look at the frame, or 'lens' through which your reality is being created. To reframe is a metaphoric way of thinking about something that provides distance and the opportunity for discovering and adopting a different point of view. Definitions for reframing include:
- to support or enclose (a picture, photograph, etc.) in a new or different frame
- to look at, present, or think of (beliefs, ideas, relationships, etc.) something in a new or different way
- (Photography) to change the focus or perspective of (a view) through a lens
The Stress of Ending Relationships
The ending of a significant relationship, either because your partner died or because of a separation/divorce, is one of the highest stressors on the Social Readjustment Rating Scale developed by Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe. The death of a spouse rates the maximum of 100 points and divorce is in second place at 73 points. Marital separation is next with 65 points. When you are under high levels of stress, it’s most likely that you will be reacting to life by withdrawing or giving up, or by fighting or blaming others for your upset. It’s completely understandable to react in these ways. And, it’s not who you are.
If your relationship is ending or if the end has been thrust upon you by your partner’s death, this kind of stress is something you’ve been living with. You may be shocked to realize just how draining and debilitating this is for you. You may be dismayed at your reactions and wishing you could figure out how to get some balance and distance from the emotional upheaval you are experiencing.
If you are divorcing or divorced and working to rebuild your life after the loss of your marriage, it means that there has been some manner of breakdown in the relationship. It’s no longer working for you. That can be on the level of the drama (“He did this…,” “She never ….” ) the realm of blame, of needing to be right, of playing the victim and/or perpetrator. This is especially true if we have defined the relationship as dysfunctional, toxic, or bad.
There is a way to move beyond the level of drama and stress, to let go of the fixation of labeling the relationship in ways that do not serve you.
How to Reframe a Relationship
Reframing helps us drop the need to be right and to move into a more neutral point of view. We pave the way for acceptance that, under the circumstances, we’ve both been doing the best that we know how to do. This can also be applicable to you if your spouse/partner has died if you are dealing with blame or upset that you have not been able to let go of.
Let’s try an exercise: Close your eyes and think of your relationship. Imagine a picture of it on a screen in your mind’s eye. See it in vivid detail. Now, imagine yourself stepping back from the picture and removing the frame from around the edges of the picture. Move the frame to another part of the picture, perhaps part of it that you did not see before. Study this “frame” and see how it is different from your first view. Repeat this process, moving the frame about your picture to see different views and reflect on the change of perspective. Allow yourself to zoom in and out to see these different pictures within the picture.
What was that like for you? Did you get the sense that there’s more than one picture within the picture?
Step Seven of my Nine Steps to Rebuilding Your Life After Loss Program is all about Reframing your relationship, a powerful tool for moving from the contraction of a limiting point of view into a more expansive perspective that provides tremendous healing and liberation. The end result is that you will be able to reconnect with the loving in your heart, knowing that the love you once shared with your partner is inside of you and therefore it never dies, nor can it be taken away.
Love and Blessings on Your Journey,