Connecting in a relationship and interacting using frame theory
When someone is questioned about their reasons for ending a relationship, a common response is that they are just not compatible with the person in question.
The truth is that compatibility is created and we can learn to be compatible with almost anyone.
It is the art of connecting with someone that we base this compatibility supposition on: some people connect with each other far more naturally than others, which is generally how we get into romantic relationships.
It is for this reason that when a couple come to me adamant on staying together and working on their relationship, helping them to connect with each other is the number one priority. If you can positively connect with someone – and I will explain what I mean by positively connecting in this article – then the basis of a fulfilling relationship is already there…
Frame theory in relationships and other interactions:
To segue from meeting someone to building a solid relationship with them, an understanding of the fundamental changes in how to connect and interact effectively at each stage is vital. One way to define these interactions is using frame theory.
“Frame”, in the context described here, is a term derived from Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) as a way to analyse human interactions. I have come to define it as “the underlying meaning or assumptions of an interaction”; clearly a highly useful concept to understand within romantic relationships.
At a simplistic level, there are two types of frame: strong frames and weak frames. A strong frame represents someone who is dominant, confident and self-assured, whereas a weak frame represents someone who is submissive, affectionate and overly apologetic. It is common for people to become accustomed solely to one of these types during early social-development.
The problem with frame theory is that its importance and distinction at different stages of developing a relationship varies considerably.
When learning principles of attraction and how to meet people, it is important to understand how to adopt a strong frame that portrays universally attractive traits such as confidence, leadership and authority. [Related article: This concept is the basis of the behavioural traits outlined in the article Nice guy or bad boy – find the perfect balance]
Most men naturally develop a strong frame as required in this instance; unfortunately, that strong frame is often based around negative beliefs! The conjecture here is that even if a strong frame contains negative beliefs, ANY strong frame subdues a weak frame.
An example of this in practice is when a man approaches a woman with deep-rooted, negative beliefs such as:
- Women are intimidating.
- Approaching strangers is weird and rude.
- I won’t be her type.
- I will have to act in a predetermined, unnatural way.
With overpowering beliefs like this, it is almost as counterproductive as simply having a weak frame and meekly interacting with women, with the hope that they will do all the hard work and spend the time getting to know you and like you regardless.
Men who get good at attracting women become excellent at leading interactions and flipping any negative frames that are imposed upon them. For example, if a woman tries to test or oppose a man’s apparent confidence, he will know how to turn it around with a stronger frame of his own.
The problem is that this is only applicable in the early stages of dating. If you carry on with this attitude and dynamic as a relationship progresses, you will come across as aloof, or worse, insecure!
This is the reason why a number of dating coaches I have worked with in the past find it extremely difficult to maintain long-lasting, fulfilling relationships. They are great at attracting women and building the foundations of a relationship, but they find it hard to shift their attitude towards the relationship at the correct moment.
Creating a frame of unity in a relationship:
When a relationship becomes mutual, monogamous and loving, the individual frames that we present will become clouded as we start to feel truly connected. This happens naturally as a couple bond with each other and become comfortable in the relationship. However, even if this is the case, the ingrained attitudes are rarely shifted internally and this inevitably causes problems further into the relationship.
The only way to feel truly connected to your partner is to create a sincere emotional interdependence, where there is no longer a power shift between any of your interactions and hence you create a frame of unity.
This doesn’t mean that you should never disagree or have individual roles in your relationship, but that the underlying assumptions of any of your interactions are always that of mutuality and respect. The recent article Compromising in a relationship touches on this dynamic from a slightly different angle.
Every single interaction and emotional request in a relationship is a chance to connect and the most fulfilling outcome in any example is always the one that makes a couple feel connected the most. This is regardless of whether the outcome or decision was the best one in practice or not. This affinity is not necessarily ideal in other interactions in life and that is where people can get confused. Connecting with a romantic partner is different from connecting with anyone else because it is based around intimacy.
It is impossible to positively connect with someone in terms of intimate rapport while having conflicting frames. On the other hand, if you have a joint frame of unity, you will ALWAYS connect positively, regardless of any potential conflict. 🙂
Really good. This is the first time i’ve heard frame stuff you talk about and it was interesting to read.
ps i wihs you would update your twitter with more stuff i like reading your stuff.
I know I could definitely be more active on twitter but I always want to make sure that what I post there is both as interesting and relevant as possible. Hopefully I’ll have more time to dedicate to twitter and writing in general soon. 🙂
I’m glad you like this article,
This post is awesome, best in in a while imo. I love it when you really break down topics we take for granted, such as interactions here.
Just so I make sure I understand, are there only strong and weak frames or is there a form inbetween? Also, when creating the frame of unity at the end, how does that work exactly if one person has a strong frame and one person has a weak frame?
Great post, I hope you go in to more details on this topic in the future.
Thanks a lot. I tried not to get too technical and geeky when breaking it down but I must say I love delving into any topic related to social psychology. 🙂
Strong and weak frames are merely a simple way to categorise what is an extremely broad spectrum of characteristics. Human interactions will tend towards one or the other though, so although all frames vary in intensity, for ease of understanding, all that is relevant is that whichever frame in an interaction is stronger (more decisive, prevalent and unwavering) will be the dominant carrier of that interaction.
When creating a frame of unity, it doesn’t matter who has a strong or weak frame by default. It’s not uncommon to have a more dominant person in a relationship (often the male in traditional relationships) but when interacting within a frame of unity, none of those roles or factors undermines anyone in the relationship and that is the key.
I will endeavour to go into more detail about this topic in the future, as I appreciate I have only touched the surface here. 🙂
Thanks for your comment,
Hello I am new here and am just starting out in my 1st really serious relationship. It took me a few reads through to understand fully about these frames but I love the last paragraphs where you talk about frame of unity. Me and my boyfriend definately work best when we make an effort to be on the same wavelength and show respect for each other.
I look forward to reading more of this website. Is there a page or article I should start at or shall I just brose randomly? Emma
Hi Emma, welcome to the website! 🙂
Being on the same wavelength and respecting each other is exactly what this is about. This leads to understanding each other’s needs in the relationship, which is the most important factor of all. 🙂
The best place to start on this website is probably the ‘Best of’ page, which is kept relatively up to date. Once you’ve exhausted that, the rest of the articles can be found in the categories down the right-hand side of each page. 🙂
Thanks for commenting and I look forward to hearing from you again,
Am new here.thanks for very much it’s really help me alot. Am always quarrelling with my boyfriend,which pushes him away from me. How can i stop it. And how can i make him love me again.
Welcome to the website. The simple answer is to do whatever you can to prevent those arguments. Arguments can only flourish if there is input from both sides. If you avoid getting hooked into an argument, you can gradually create more effective and rewarding communication methods. Two articles that discuss these techniques in more detail can be found HERE and HERE.
If you focus on creating more attraction, rapport and intimacy, your boyfriend will emotionally invest more in the relationship, which is the basis for loving someone.