How Invalidation Can Tear Apart Your Relationship—And What to Do about It

the importance of validation in relationshipsJanelle was telling me about a recent argument with her boyfriend.

“I can’t get the back door unlocked.”

She laughed at my blank expression.

“Look, I know it doesn’t sound like a relationship issue, but it has become one.  The lock jams several times each week. Nothing I can do will get it to open.”

“And how does that relate to your relationship?” I asked curiously.

“He doesn’t believe me!” This time, her laughter had a hysterical edge. “He says I’m not doing it right. It always works for him.”

She sniffed. To my surprise, I saw tears starting to form in her eyes. She rubbed them away with the back of her hand.

Was this really about a door … or was it something else?

To an outsider, this looks like a simple difference in opinion. He thinks she’s not opening the door right; she thinks it’s genuinely jammed.

But some things aren’t a matter of opinion.

Your personal experience is one of them.

Few things are more frustrating than trying to communicate something important to your partner … only to be told it’s all in your head.

That’s why validation should be a part of every healthy relationship.

When you validate your partner, you recognize that his thoughts, beliefs and perspectives are valid, regardless of whether you share his view or even understand it.

Janelle’s boyfriend didn’t understand why she felt the door was jamming. Because his experience wasn’t the same as her experience, he jumped to the conclusion that her experience was invalid.

That’s the exact opposite of what good partners do.

He could have listened to her. He could have found out more. He could have investigated this issue. Instead, he dismissed something that was clearly upsetting her.

No one has the right to tell you what your experience should have been. You are the only authority on what happens to you. If someone tells you they know what’s going through your head better than you do—and they’re not joking—run.

the importance of validation in relationshipsAfter that incident with her boyfriend, Janelle stopped going to him when she needed help. She felt shamed for reaching out and stung by his presumption of superiority. If she were only more like him, she thought, she wouldn’t be having this problem. She should be more like a man rather than a helpless woman, incapable of opening a door.

Janelle and her boyfriend needed to learn how to validate each other—fast.

Or they’d continue growing apart, until they no longer had a relationship at all.

Continue reading

If You Don’t Need a Man, Can You Still Rely on Him

how to stop being codependent“I’m never going to look for a man to complete me again,” Janice vowed. “No more relying on men. I declare my own independence.”

I smiled warmly at Janice’s enthusiasm. She’d done a lot of work on herself in the past year. She knew she didn’t want any more codependent relationships. She was done with trying to save her romantic partners.

“That’s a good goal for you,” I told her, “but it’s just a stepping stone. Your ultimate goal is interdependence.”

Janice looked confused. “I thought dependence was bad.”

“Interdependence is something different,” I explained. “It’s when you rely on one another, but you don’t need each other.”

At times like these, I wish the language of psychology was a bit clearer. Everyone knows the difference between independence and dependence, but not as many people are familiar with terms like codependence and interdependence.

If your aim is a healthy, long-lasting relationship, then understanding the subtle differences in those concepts can help you a lot.

As Janice discovered, you don’t need a man to complete you, but it’s great to find a man to complement you. I’ll show you how in a minute.

First, let’s look at what happens when you need a man to complete you.

The technical term is codependence. A codependent relationship is one where you need your partner to need you in order to feel whole. You can’t be yourself without him. If your relationship ended, you’d feel lost.

how to stop being codependentIn codependent relationships, you use one another to get your needs met. Perhaps you need someone to take care of, and he likes being taken care of. Perhaps he’s an introvert, and he needs an extroverted partner to bring him out of his bubble.

Being needed feels good. That’s why Janice kept choosing romantic partners who needed her. One was hopeless with money and relied on her to keep the rent paid. Another drank too much and wouldn’t have held down a job if it weren’t for her constant support.

She felt safe in those relationships, because she knew he wouldn’t leave her if he couldn’t function without her. It was scary to contemplate dating someone who didn’t need her. He might not have any reason to stay.

But Janice was determined to change. She was going to become the least needy woman on the planet. She was sure that success lay in not needing men at all.

“After all,” she told me, “don’t men love independent women? I thought that was one of the things they looked for.”

“Independence is something to cultivate while you’re single, certainly,” I agreed. “But you have to be ready to step forward into interdependence once you start a relationship. Otherwise, you’ll end up feeling ‘alone together.’”

“How do I do that?”

This is what I recommended.

Continue reading

4 “Bad” Qualities to Look for in Guys You Date

Qualities to Look for in Guys You DateSo there you are. He just picked you up for the first date.

You make small talk as you head to the restaurant. Nothing deep. Just typical getting-to-know-you banter. It’s going well . . . and then IT happens.

Another car cuts him off.

He pumps the brakes, easily avoiding an accident. It’s no big deal, really. It wasn’t even much of a close call. But he unleashes a tirade of expletives that would make a sailor blush.

He’s cussing with more imagination and passion than you thought possible. You didn’t even know THAT word could be a noun, a verb, and an adjective in the same sentence. If it weren’t so shocking, it would be impressive.

That level of irrational anger probably is a red flag.  But here’s something interesting I recently read about people with colorful language.   

A recent study uncovered an unlikely correlation between swearing and honesty. According to researchers, there’s a potential upside to profanity. People who curse more tend to be more honest, as well.

Of course, a foul mouth can also be offensive. I’m not telling you to run right out and find a guy who relies on four-letter words for all his communication. But this does highlight an interesting paradox.

Some character traits we think of as “bad” could actually be signs of virtue.

I’ll take it one step further. There may be guys you’ve turned down because you saw something you think of as a flaw. But what if that negative was a positive in disguise?

Below are four “bad” qualities that just might signify something good about a potential suitor. If you come across a guy with one of these traits, get to know him a little better before sending the signal that you’re not interested.

Continue reading

How to Get More Love in Your Life

How to Get More Love in Your LifeWe all want more love.

Not even getting the perfect relationship can guarantee you’ll have enough. Couples who’ve been together for years don’t always feel loved the way they’d hoped.

Getting more love in your life doesn’t start with changing your man, or even getting a man.

It starts with changing how you think about love.

Dr. Barbara De Angelis asks a provocative question in her latest book, The Choice for Love.

“What if we could be in love all the time?” she wonders.

What if love isn’t something you get … but rather something you are?

I’ve often been intrigued by the disconnect between how loved someone feels and the quality of their relationship.

I’ve met women who feel absolutely adored, despite the curt or even rude way they’re treated by their men.

I’ve also met women who feel emotionally abandoned, despite having a husband who cares deeply and tries his best.

Dr. De Angelis has an intriguing explanation for this.

She suggests that inside each of us is an ocean of love.

Sometimes this ocean rises up like a great wave, overwhelming us with joy. Sometimes the waters recede, leaving us feeling empty and alone.

The ebb and flow of our own emotions are what makes us feel loved sometimes and not at other times.

From this perspective, no one can give you love—or take it away. The love you feel is always your own.

This is such an empowering metaphor. It helps us visualize the truth that love is an inside job.

How to Get More Love in Your LifeIf you decide that you’re going to fall in love with your life, just as it is, then no one can stop you. So what if one particular man doesn’t return your affections? You still have an entire ocean of love inside you.

Your quest shifts from finding a relationship that will give you the love you don’t have … to finding out what causes that mysterious surge of love inside your heart.

So try this. Get curious about why you feel love at certain times and not others. Can you remember the last few times you felt that rush of love? What was happening? Who were you with? What were you thinking about?

To help you on your quest, here are 3 love triggers. They pave the way for an overwhelming sense of love in your heart—with or without a man.

Continue reading