Settling

While watching the 2010 remake of Ice Castles, a reporter asked the main character (an up-and-coming figure skater) about how she coped with the pressure of competing.

“I don’t think of it as pressure. I think of it as excitement,” the girl replied.

With those thirteen words, the Olympic hopeful demonstrated a communication technique known as reframing.

Reframing is a tool that coaches use to help clients see a situation differently and with new understanding. This change in perspective is particularly useful when helping someone view a liability as an asset or a limitation as an opportunity—Like the other day when a friend asked me if I believed in settling.

‘What do you mean?”

“Do you believe that a person has to settle in order to stay married?”

The question took me by surprise because never, in the 18 years that Bill and I have been married, did I ever feel like I was settling. A relationship is not something that you sit down to watch, like a television series (or the remake of an old movie). It’s a live improvisation where both people have a starring role and how it plays out is dependent upon—not one—but two.

My friend must have known this because , when I asked for clarification, it became clear that we were both on the same marital page.

“By settling, do you mean compromising?”

After nodding in agreement, my friend replied: “I can’t tell you how many times a guy has told me that his wife no longer wants to do what he likes to do and the guy has to settle if he wants to stay married.”

The idea that anyone would enter into a marriage thinking that there would be no give and take is hard to imagine, yet it happens every time one partner repeatedly sacrifices their sense of self in an effort to please the other. I often say that there are no victims, only volunteers. And if you lay down for long enough, no one will recognize you when you try to stand up.

Both parties are to blame when a relationship becomes less than ideal and both are responsible for fixing it. One of the best tools for the job is reframing because even tension is a good thing if it leads to self-awareness or change. And sometimes all we need is a new perspective to see that a marriage is never about one person … and settling is not okay.