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.

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