Relationships are funny things. From an outside perspective, it can seem like a bizarre thing to commit yourself to another person’s well being because of some undefinable connection called “Love.” Yet we do it. We fail, and we try again; sometimes repeatedly, looking for the partnership that will bring out feelings of love and belonging. And even then, love is not a permanent fixture. It can wither and blow away without proper care. Thankfully, there is something of a science to love; and there is a real way to make sure that it not only stays in your relationship, but grows: Validation.
What is validation?
When I am asked about the most important things a couple can do to stay connected, I usually give 3 answers: Own your stuff, empathize, and validate. While the first two could have their own articles, I want to focus on the third because it is often the source of the others.
What is validation? It is the willingness to acknowledge someone else’s (specifically your partner in this case) perspective as subjectively true, and objectively valid. It is not agreeing with them, nor is it saying that they are correct. It is simply acknowledging their perspective and following their internal logic.
Validation feeds love
The reason that I believe that being able to validate is such an essential skill for deepening your connection with your partner is pretty simple. In order to truly validate someone, you have to be willing to understand them; and the more you seek understanding, the more your partner will feel safe sharing their world with you. The safer they feel, the easier it will be to deepen the love in the relationship.
It is a two way street, though. If one partner is doing all of the validating and the other doesn’t put in the effort, then it may be time to do some work. It requires both of you to be vulnerable, which is not always easy!
Validation is not for the faint hearted
Validation is one of those skills that sounds really great, and with practice it can take the love in your relationship to another level; but it is not always an easy task. It takes a very strong and resilient relationship to be able to swim out to the deep end and experience what your partner really thinks of you without getting defensive.
How do I validate?
If I’m going to tell you how important it is to validate your partner, I probably need to go ahead and tell you how to do it, right? Well here it is:
- Make sure you understand what they’re saying. If you don’t know exactly what they’re talking about, ask for clarification. Make sure you tell your partner what pieces are missing for you. Sometimes miscommunication is as simple as not hearing a word clearly or not knowing what it means.
- Follow the internal logic of their statement. It doesn’t have to make objective sense to be important. People are scared of bugs even though most of them are not objectively scary. If you can connect their interpretation of what is happening to their feelings, then you will be well on your way to validating them!
- Remember that it’s not about you. This is especially true when you’re the “problem.” Something you said, did, or didn’t do sent a message to your partner, and they are responding to that message. Keeping this in mind will protect you against becoming defensive and invalidating their experience.
- Express your understanding. Run a thread from what your partner experienced, through their interpretation, and into their emotions. This will tell them that you understand where they are coming from.
Validation gets easier with practice
As with most things, being able to validate your partner’s perspective is a skill that takes practice. The more willing you are to practice it, the easier it will get. And the more you and your partner validate one another, the deeper your relationship will become!
So much more could be said about the importance of validating your partner, but this is where I will be leaving it today. What are some of the ways that you have felt validated in your relationship?