skip to content »

Validating feelings counseling

The bottom line is, invalidation creates barriers to intimacy in a marriage.

validating feelings counseling-81

Invalidation is a pattern in which one (or both) spouse(s) either directly, or indirectly puts down, or questions the feelings of the other.An overt, caustic remark may even convey a sense of contempt of one partner for another.Sarcastic phrases like “Well, I’m sorry I’m not perfect like you” or “I forgot how lucky I am to be married to you” can cut like a knife.The message conveyed is that your feelings don’t matter.A husband may put his wife down because she is more emotional or because she is more easily hurt by comments.We also know what it feels like for someone to ignore our feelings, minimize our experiences, or change the subject of a conversation when the topic really matters. Actively listen and reflect back to them what they are saying, without judging them!

Validating our own feelings and those of other people is an important skill to have and to hone. Well, it shows that we are listening to the other person and that we are trying to understand them. We have to use our observation skills and we have to be pay attention to the conversation. Like I said, validation helps to create connection.

You need thicker skin.” —————————————————– Or invalidation might resemble remarks like these: “You’re overreacting.” “That’s nothing to cry about.” “You’re upset for no reason.” “You need to buck up and stop being a drama queen.” “Don’t worry.” “Don’t be upset.” “Stop complaining.” “Don’t be so sensitive.” “Get over it,” etc, etc.

Sometimes invalidation can be overt, such as when one partner (or both) berates or belittles the other person’s feelings.

While the answers to that question are many and often complex, there is a growing body of research suggesting that there are four negative risk factors- four negative behavior patterns that create barriers in a marriage and increase a couple’s chances for marital failure.

In one key studiy, researchers followed a sample of 135 couples for twelve years, starting before they were married, and were able to differentiate those couples who do well from those who do not, with up to 91% accuracy.* My experience of working with thousands of couples over the past seventeen years is definitely congruent with these findings.

So crucial, I believe, that in our Marriage Renewal Retreats, we spend an entire session and several exercises on training couples in this vital skill of “empathic responding.” One question that inevitably arises is, “How can I empathize with my spouse when I don’t agree with her?