Most of us truly want to validate our spouse when he or she is frustrated or hurting, but often we don't know how to offer validation or we start to give advice.
I have usually found that if I validate Erin, she is able to work out her own emotional problems faster than if I give her advice.
Don't forget, validation says, "You matter to me, regardless of whether I agree with your perspective or whether your feelings make sense to me." When you disagree with the facts or opinions that your spouse is sharing, the key is to focus on his or her feelings. This gets us nowhere fast, and we both walk away feeling disconnected. To understand your spouse's emotions, try using phrases like: • "That sounds frustrating/discouraging/like it would really hurt." • "That must have been scary." • "How strongly are you feeling that (on a scale of 0 to 10)? " • "It sounds like you are really feeling __." • "How else did you feel? " This kind of questioning helps validate your spouse's feelings.
However, I have another — to focus on Erin's emotions. But when you question, disagree, debate or argue with how he or she feels, you completely invalidate your spouse. Once you understand your husband's or wife's perspective and emotions, you can follow the reflective listening with a simple statement like: • "It makes sense to me that you are feeling that way." • "I would feel the same way." • "I can understand why you feel that way." • "What you are saying matters to me." • "Your feelings are really important." When one spouse does not object to or argue with the other's feelings, but accepts him or her with validation, the other spouse feels truly loved.
On the other hand, it's extremely powerful when you allow your spouse to experience his or her true feelings and validate his or her emotions. One spouse's validating attitude confirms that the other spouse has a right to feel the way he or she does.
Remember, you can validate your spouse's point of view while still possessing a different viewpoint.
Let’s look at some of our favorite pop culture examples.
Counselors use the expression “gaslighting” to describe efforts to gradually manipulate someone into doubting his or her own reality or to trick a person into believing he or she is insane. Sadly, I'm sure I've sent the message to Erin that not only were her feelings wrong, but there was something wrong with her.To battle my natural tendency to debate and problem-solve Erin's feelings, I remind myself of the truism, " People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care." I have to constantly remember that Erin won't care about my perspective, my emotions or my idea for a solution until she feels that I care about her.I've found there are three powerful ways for couples to validate each other: 1. A great deal of validation occurs if you get good at reflecting or repeating back what your spouse is saying: • "So what I hear you saying is __." • "Is that what you are saying? " • "It sounds like __ is really important to you." • "So what bothered you was that __?This can be difficult for me, because Erin's emotions or perspectives often push my buttons.I get defensive or go into fix-it mode so quickly that it keeps me from validating her.