Relationships, even the great ones, can be complicated. This is especially true if you’re lacking validation. Think about the last time you told your partner about the way you felt. Maybe he/she said something to you that hurt your feelings. On some level, perhaps you knew they didn’t mean it to be hurtful, but because of something you’d experienced in the past, it rubbed you the wrong way.
If relationships worked the way they did in the movies, your partner would have said something like, “Honey, I completely understand where you’re coming from. You don’t have to say it. I’ll not let anything hurt your any more.(Hug)” But because life isn’t a movie, there’s a chance your partner actually said something closer to, “Why are you getting so offended? I didn’t mean anything by it. You’re being dramatic for no reason.”
If this sounds familiar, then you probably understand why validation in a relationship is important. It isn’t about being told you’re right or that everyone should agree with you, it’s simply about having your feelings acknowledged and successfully communicating within a relationship.
Think about the last time you really felt like your partner understood you. You experienced a really peaceful sensation and some form of accomplishment. While it can be a subtle moment, feeling understood leads to a better, stronger connection. This isn’t just about acknowledging your partner when they tell you how they feel about something that happened between the two of you, it’s about being present in any conversation you share, even if it’s just a quick recap of their day.
Your Relationship Grows When You Stop Judging and Start Accepting
By showing your understanding and acceptance to your partner, they will feel more confidence in themselves and feel more willing to share their thoughts and feelings with you.
To illustrate the way this works, let’s use a dramatic example: Your partner has done something silly and you say, “That was so stupid.” Your partner becomes very insulted and hurt, even though you know you didn’t mean anything by it. In the back of your mind, you remember a family member used to tell him/her that they were stupid growing up.
By validating your partner’s feelings, you calm or even eliminate their concerns.
While your initial reaction may be to say something like, “Oh come on, you know I didn’t mean it like that…”, this can have an adverse effect and hurt your partner’s feelings even more. Instead, you would want to say something closer to, “I’m sorry I worded it that way. You know I think you’re so smart. It was careless and I apologize.”
Your partner will feel loved and respected, and appreciate the relationship with you more.
Remind your partner that you appreciate and respect them. Validate how they feel and ask if they’d like to talk about why they were so hurt by your comment.
Arguments will be prevented, or quickly resolved.
If your partner does open up and explain why he/she got offended, don’t allow yourself to get defensive while they talk. Remember, the whole point of asking them to talk about it was to hear them out. Let them talk before you jump to any arguments.
You’ll help your partner to become open to your point of view.
Your partner wants you to understand what is happening in their head, so remember that you deserve that opportunity, too. Apologize for the wording, especially since they were insulted with that same phrase while they were growing up. Empathy is key.
And even if you can’t fix the issue, you’re providing encouragement and support.
When something like this happens, you can’t go back and undo the way it made them feel, or the root of why it hurt them in the first place. But what you can do is allow a space for open communication and validation. “Sorry” may not be enough at first, because your partner may need some time to let it go. Even if it seems dramatic to you, remember that to them it isn’t dramatic at all. Let them know that you’ll be patient with the process and you will be more mindful in the future.
The More You Validate Your Partner, the Deeper Your Connection Becomes
Validation is key to a healthy, strong relationship. There are 6 levels of validation, and each helps you connect deeper and deeper with your lover.
Level 1: Being Present
This is exactly what it sounds like. Pay attention to what your partner is telling you. Look at their eyes, hold their hands, or even hug them to show that you’re being with them.
Level 2: Accurate Reflection
When you reflect your partner’s feelings, you summarize what they’ve said to you or share your opinion on the matter. It ensures you really were present and focused, while also helping them to sort through the situation and separate thoughts from emotions.
Level 3: Mind Reading
While being psychic would be helpful in any relationship, this level is actually about being able to guess what’s happening in the other person’s head based on observation. If your partner is telling you about something upsetting that happened at work, or about something you did that upset them, try to understand why it impacted them. Use statements like, “I’m guessing you must have felt really sad because…….”
Level 4: Understand the Person in Terms of Their Experiences
Sometimes things are hurtful, not because they were intended to be, but because we experienced the situation through a lens of past experience. If your loved one is venting about something upsetting, but it doesn’t seem upsetting to you, take a step back and try to understand it from their point of view.
Use statements like, “Given what happened to you when … I completely understand that this made you feel …”
Level 5: Recognize Emotional Reactions That Anyone Would Have
One of the easiest ways to validate your partner is by pointing out scenarios mentioned in a global way.
For instance, if something happened that upset your partner, and you’re sure it would have upset you or anyone else that experienced it, say something like, “of course you feel … anyone would have felt that way!”
A simple statement like that is comforting for your partner because they know that they really are not alone.
Level 6: Radical Genuineness
If you have ever experienced something similar to the scenario your partner is describing, share it. The goal is not to make this conversation about yourself. It is ideal to show that you are an equal and have experienced a similar instance.
Validate Your Partner By Starting With the Subtle Things
Each level of validation takes hours of practice because it has involved a lot of communication skills including patience, listening skills, how you tell your thoughts, and how you show empathy. To help you make validating your partner’s feelings easier, try the following steps.
Aim to Reach Level 1 & 2 First
This means you’ll be present and accepting during communication. While this will take practice, start by being aware of your body language. Crossed arms and a body angled away from your partner makes it look like you are only saying you want to hear what they have to say, but you really could not care less.
To Connect Deeper at Level 3 & 4, Observe More
Be mindful of the experiences your partner has had in the past and observe the way your partner acts with you. What are his/her usual behaviors, and how does he/she seem when they’re upset or sharing feelings with you? Once you start developing that awareness, conversation will become simpler.
To Reach Level 5, Understand More About Your Partner, and Others Too
While you never want to get overly caught up in comparing yourself to other people, it can be helpful to consider how others would face the same or similar situation. It can also be helpful to pretend to be an outsider when listening to your partner in order to better understand their feelings and not risk getting defensive.
To Advance to Level 6, Experience More
This can be challenging because you and your partner are not likely to have experienced the exact same situations, but if you can relate at all, share the way that scenario made you feel.
It takes two people to build a happy, strong and lasting relationship. After you read this, perhaps you want to sit down with your partner and discuss validation. How have you excelled at it in the past? Where could you have done more? Create a space for the conversation, so future talks will seem less forced.
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|Psychology Today: Understanding Validation: A Way to Communicate Acceptance