5 Ways to Validate Couples and Reframe a Conversation

Show You Care: Validate and Reframe

We all disagree with our spouse about things. Mentors, you will hear this all the time. They will come with two different perspectives.

As marriage mentors we want to show respect and caring to both parties. We want to validate both perspectives.

It can also be helpful to reframe a conversation in a different way that can help a couple to a new understanding.

Validate Both Perspectives

Michael and Jennifer were sitting in my living room across from my wife and I. Michael said that they have been fighting about how much time he spends with his friends. Jennifer thinks that he doesn’t spend enough time with her.

What do you say?

Mentor: “It sounds like the two of you haven’t found a balance between time with friends and time together.”

Sometimes stating a problem that simply will help them to focus on an issue.

Validate the Positive

It’s easy to get focused on the negative and to lose the positive. You can use this validation to be sure that you are finding common ground in the midst of a disagreement. Often, there is a yearning from both people to connect. That is always something to validate.

For example, he wants to spend time outdoors and she is happy to stay home.

You could say, “I’m hearing that you both want to spend time together, but you are disagreeing about what activities you can do with each other. Is that right?”

Put it in Relationship Terms

In can help to reframe the conversation in relationship terms. This can help to move the focus from individual desires to a relationship bond. What’s the impact of their actions on their relationship?

He likes to stay up late at night and watch TV. She wants to go to bed. When he stays up late, she feels alone. He feels she’s not respecting his need for down time.

You could say, “You both have different expectations of how to spend your time. You both feel disappointed and a that you’re not respected. This is causing you to disconnect from each other. Is that right?”

By focusing on the relationship aspect, they could find other ways to improve their connection.

Shift the Focus to Action

We can get caught up in believing that there isn’t anything that we can do. We focus on the negative and become discouraged. Sometimes it can help to shift the focus to something that could be done.

She feels stuck and that here isn’t anything that can be done. He agrees.

You could say, “It sounds like you are both feeling pretty discouraged. Is there one small step that would make a difference over the next week?”

Change the Conclusions

It’s easy to come to one conclusion that may not be accurate. You can help a couple to reframe an idea from a different point of view.

He feels that she doesn’t listen to his opinions and wants to argue with her. When he argues with her, she feels that he doesn’t care what she thinks. Neither one of them is really listening to each other.

You could say, “I’m hearing that it’s important to both of you to feel understood. You both sound like you’re frustrated that other person isn’t listening to you. I actually find it encouraging that you care so much what each other thinks. While you don’t agree with each other, you do care. If you could learn some listening techniques it sounds like you could be motivated to really try to understand. What do you think about that?”

It could be that finding good intent would give them motivation to recognize that it’s probably the techniques they are using. They both want to be understood.

Validating both people’s emotions and then helping them to see a problem more clearly can be a powerful way to change someone’s thinking and help them to create change.

Tips for Marriage Mentors:

  • Validate both perspectives – Remember that both people have thoughts and feelings.
  • Find the positive desire – Couples are often discouraged about their relationship. Often, they have good intent, but their actions are communicating it. Find the positive intent.
  • Focus on the emotions under the behaviors – What emotions are fueling the behavior? Are there fears? Are there insecurities?