Validating Your Spouse’s Feelings

This is a reposting of an article I wrote nearly one year to today. It has been one of my most popular and visited posts for this past year.

Key to Spouse's Heart

Have you ever felt like you’ve shared your deepest feelings with your spouse, only to be left feeling unheard, walled out or simply misunderstood?

 

That’s because …

When this happens, your spouse will feel emotionally connected to you—like you’ve just given them an “emotional hug!”

Validation is a skill that’s so very elusive to many of us. In fact, it’s often left unexplained and definitely not often modeled in our families, churches and/or culture. But it’s absolutely crucial to effective communication and to the fulfillment of our craving for connection with our mates.

There are 4 key questions you should ask yourself to see if you’re validating your spouse’s feelings:

 

1.  Am I letting my spouse know that what s/he said has made an impression on me?

You might say …


“I know this has been hard for you to talk to me about … it must have taken a lot of courage.”

2.  Am I communicating that my spouse’s words matter to me or evoke compassion?

You might add to the above …
“It hurts me to know I’ve hurt you in this way. I’m glad you cared enough about our relationship to come to me with this problem.”

3.  Am I making it clear that I want to work on understanding my mate’s emotions more completely?

Add to number 2 and 3 above …
“I don’t know all that you feel right now, but I’d like to know more. Help me to fully understand how difficult this situation is for you.”

4.  Am I communicating acceptance of my spouse’s feelings?

Sum things up with something like …
“I may not understand all that you’re feeling right now, but you have a right to your feelings. They make sense to me.”

You might want to record these questions and keep them in a place where you can retrieve them easily, like on a handy index card tucked in your wallet or on a note-keeping app on your smart phone, etc.

In highly charged moments validation can be so crucial and clarifying. Sometimes a conflict can be averted by simply validating what your spouse has said. It may be all they were looking for in the first place. Other important occasions for validation might be when a deep or vulnerable disclosure is being made—especially if it’s for the first time. But validation can make any time of communication more comforting and effective. Sadly it often becomes a “lost art” in a messy marriage.

Be aware that giving validation is difficult for those who are deeply wounded, self-absorbed and/or self-protective. So if you’re living with a mate who fits any of those descriptors, accept that this skill may be one that you’ll have to “lead out on” and be the example for your spouse. In time, you just might inspire them to let go of self-protection and risk by validating your feelings in return.

It’s important that if your spouse is unwilling or unable to validate, then fill the emotional gap in your heart and mind by finding friends who can validate your feelings and, most importantly, turning to God who cares deeply for your hurts and needs. He is always ready to offer comfort in time of need!

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” –Hebrews 4:15-16 (NIV)

 

How have you felt when someone has validated your feelings? 


 

What has validation helped you to accomplish that you wouldn’t have been able to without it?

 

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Linking up with – Marriage MondaysMaking Your Home Sing MondaySunday Stillness, Monday’s Musings, Sharing His Beauty and Playdates with God

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  • http://www.creeksideministries.blogspot.com/ Linda@Creekside

    Beth … what a valuable post this is. I seldom read anything about validation and yet it’s a huge need we have. We often don’t realize how much we crave it. It’s a bit of an art, but it’s probably one of the most priceless treasures we can offer the other. How deeply our marriages suffer if it’s unavailable. And how quickly they’d turn around if it was given and received freely.

    • http://www.messymarriage.com/ Beth Steffaniak

      I think comparing it to an “art” really makes sense, Linda. As an artist (my bachelors was in Fine Art – a degree, I’ll add, with little practical usage! ha!) I do know how just the slightest, delicate stroke of a paint brush or pencil must be made in the details of any artwork. I guess, you could say that validation defines those minute details in our hearts that long to be illustrated and seen. Great to see you here! Love ya, my friend!

  • bluecottonmemory

    Validation requires listening – which is a skill I am honing at the present. I can see it is an art – and when others use it with me, I realize they are making a communication effort but sometimes it feels artificial – I guess that is where the art comes in. The more we learn the skill, the more real it becomes. Wonderful food for thought, Beth, on this Monday morning. And, yes,I agree – some posts are worth re-sharing, like good stories are worth re-telling! Wishing you blessing, comfort and sweet refreshing this week!

    • http://www.messymarriage.com/ Beth Steffaniak

      Yes, it really is just as much a skill of listening, Maryleigh as speaking or verbally communicating. Great point! And I know what you mean about it feeling and sounding artificial, if not, awkward especially at first. But I do it in my counseling/coaching practice all the time and people always seem to appreciate it and not even notice that I’m doing it. I think that’s because I’ve “practiced” it in that setting and honed the art. But I have a harder time using it when conflicts erupt with my husband. The emotions tend to hijack both of us and listening easily goes out the window! :-) Thanks so much for stopping by and adding to the discussion, my friend!

  • http://www.thebeautyinhisgrip.com/ Joan Davis

    I just posted about marriage and keeping our “best friend status” our spouses. Listening and validating them are so important! I’ve found that when I say something that validates my husband he is greatly encouraged. I’ve also found that he returns the favor! Great post! And, thanks for coming by The Beauty in His Grip to share God’s beauty! Blessings, Joan

    • http://www.messymarriage.com/ Beth Steffaniak

      I’ll have to go back and find that post, Joan. I always love reading about communication skills and how they help build our marriages and relationships! Thanks for coming by and saying, “hi!” I truly appreciate it, my new friend!

  • Marie Steinhardt

    Thanks for the reminder Beth! Validation is such an important piece to good communication, but sometimes forgotten. I’ve found that in conversation with Steve, validation encourages him to communicate at a deeper level, I’m not always the best at validating, especially with my husband, your post is a great reminder that I need to practice validation more often.

    • http://www.messymarriage.com/ Beth Steffaniak

      Yes, that’s so true. I do think it mines the depths of our hearts in ways like nothing else can. And I agree with your next statement, finding it difficult to do this with my husband as well–the person I should be doing it most with! ha! Our poor guys! I will join you on that recommitted effort to validate all I meet! Thanks so much for taking the time to stop by and encourage me, my friend! Love ya!

  • http://www.lisanotes.com/ Lisa notes…

    Truth here, Beth! The sad part is I kept reading it from MY perspective, from MY need to have my own feelings validated. Oh well–obviously there’s still work for me to do. :) Thanks for sharing this again. Good stuff.

  • Andrew Budek-Schmeisser

    I don’t really have a personality that invites others to validate my feelings, which must have been terribly frustrating for my wife! It’s not coldness, but there is a distance at which I keep others, and while I’m trying to overcome it, it’s still there.

    I do try to validate others’ feelings, and I do try to be a good listener. I’m told I succeed, which is a validation of sorts.

    But for me, it’s all got to come from within. Some days it’s easy, some days, not.

    One thing I would say, is that if you have a non-validating spouse, avoid friendships with members of the opposite sex – even via email. That can be the first step on the road to an emotional affair, and can be extremely destructive for a marriage.

    http://blessed-are-the-pure-of-heart.blogspot.com/2014/03/being-dismissive.html

  • http://intentionaltoday.com/ Ngina Otiende

    This is so wonderful Beth. When i first read the post a few months ago (its been one year already?!), I printed and hang in front of my home work-desk for a season! Validation is one of those skills I need – it’s just one of those things I didn’t grow up with and so I can be quite stingy with it. But I have grown, thank God, I am not where i used to be, He’s helped me grow. Thanks for sharing again.

  • http://www.ugochi-jolomi.com/ Ugochi

    Validation from my spouse always makes me feel open to share my heart. I think I need to deliberately ensure that I always validate him too.
    Thanks Beth, your posts always hit home.

  • busymomof10

    This is an excellent post — I hear what you are saying! ;)
    This is not a topic that you see discussed very often – I don’t think I’ve ever seen a blog post on Validation before, but it is an important part of resolving conflict and feeling “safe” and “heard” and “understood.” Thank you for opening our eyes to this element of communicating with our spouses.