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.
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?