Are You Accidentally In-Validating Your Spouse?

A couple of weeks ago I wrote, “4 Ways to Validate Your Spouse” and one of my readers, Laura Lee of Outnumberedmom suggested that I write about what validation is NOT because many people think they’re validating someone when nothing is further from the truth.

I totally agree!

I’ve been there, in a deep conversation with my spouse or someone I care about and I’m thinking …

“I hope s/he gets it this time. I hope s/he can validate what I’m saying” …

Only to end up feeling unheard or passed by completely … invalidated.

There’s this sacred connection that can happen when we learn to validate, but when we offer a counterfeit, it instead creates walls …

The Wall

And who wants a wall between our heart and our spouse’s heart? Not me!

So I’ve come up with 8 examples of what validation is not and maybe you could help me with adding a few more in the comment section.

Validation is not …

  • Reminding them of all the pastoral platitudes you can think of to “stop the bleeding.”
  • Offering a quick and unsolicited word of advice to solve their problem.
  • Turning the conversation back around to what you’ve been feeling as a way to “empathize” and never really zeroing in on what the other person has just said about his/her feelings.
  • Complimenting them on how well they’re managing, then quickly changing the subject so you can shut down the more emotional or heavy one they just introduced.
  • Nodding and saying, “Uh huh”, “Yes”, “Is that so?” at all the proper interval as to behave like an active listener, even though you’re feeling more like a dutiful or disinterested one (Trust me, there’s no hiding it).
  • Being so uncomfortable with their pain that you pretend to offer a guise of comfort by saying, “Aww, you shouldn’t feel that way.”
  • Telling them to look on the bright side, saying something like “It could be worse, you could be like Mr. Phipps who lost a leg when he … blah, blah, blah.”
  • Using all the correct validation lingo, while keeping your eyes glued to your cell phone, tablet or laptop.

Don’t get me wrong. I realize that most of the examples I’ve given are offered from well-intentioned people—whose desire is to validate and offer comfort. But in most of these situations, people either don’t know how to validate or are too uncomfortable with the vulnerability that validation requires to offer it freely. Let’s face it—validation is not for cowards!

I’m working on improving and focusing on this more in my life and conversations. I’d love it if you’d join me!

So, what do you think?

Are you ready to break down some communication walls and truly validate your loved ones?

What are some well-intentioned ways you’ve “not” been validated by someone in the past?

“Singing cheerful songs to a person with a heavy heart is like taking someone’s coat in cold weather or pouring vinegar in a wound.” Proverbs 25:20 (NLT)

Don’t forget to join me for Wedded Wednesday this week! I’m going to highlight some favorite posts I’ve read recently! Maybe your name/blog will be found there!

photo by | spoon |

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Linking up with – NOBH, Monday’s Musings, Matrimonial Monday, and Playdates with God 

  • Nancy Sturm

    Ouch! I plead guilty. Thanks for the wisdom offered here.

  • Yep, I’ve been guilty of it too, Nancy. It’s easy to spot it when you don’t receive these things, but not so easy when you’re trying to validate. Thanks so much for coming by and bravely weighing in!

  • This. is. good!
    I want to make a copy and give it to a habitual INvalidator that I know (lol), but I think I’d better just be careful that I’M not invalidating instead.
    It seems that what true validating really entails is connecting authentically, heart-deep, with that other person’s pain. If that’s happening, we’re unlikely to do those invalidating actions described. But sometimes we don’t “get” what the other person’s going through, especially if we’ve never experienced the same kind of tragedy/pain. Or because we judge the other person and think they couldn’t possibly be grieving like they appear to be. I am cringing right now when I think of one example when I know I did that!
    Here’s a good reason why God lets us go through painful circumstances: They can make us much better at validation, because they enable us to “get it”!
    Sylvia R @ sylvrpen.com

  • I’m so glad you found this helpful, Sylvia. I think I should’ve taken more time to clarify “why” these other approaches are not “validation” but maybe that’s a topic for another post! Lol!

    When we are hurting we really need the hearer to “enter our pain.” And that’s what validation allows us to do. It’s hard, as you’ve pointed out, when we haven’t walked through their painful trial. But if you refer to my post on how to validate that I mentioned earlier in this post, I think you’ll see that understanding a person’s pain and acknowledging it are different. We can validate and not completely “get” what the other person is feeling, in other words. Thanks so much for coming by and encouraging me, Sylvia.

  • **too uncomfortable with the vulnerability that validation requires**

    BOOM! love this. right on, Beth.
    (as usual.)

  • Stacey Micklevitz

    Beth, one of my family members ALWAYS tries to relate to my issues by identifying a similar situation in her life, often one-upping my issue. This is so irritating to me that I can only imagine how I’d feel if this was my spouse! I’m not interested in how something similar happened in someone else’s life, I’m just interested in having my feelings recognized/validated! Great post!! 🙂

  • Mia

    Dear Beth
    Thank you for sharing these gems of wisdom! Just after I read your post, the first opportunity presented itself to put some of your suggestions into practice. I was ashamed to see how much I still need to learn.
    Much love and thank you for all your encouragement you leave at my place!
    Mia

  • I say that because I’ve been in that uncomfortable position–fearing how to handle someone else’s pain. I sure don’t want to hurt them more!

    Thanks so much for your sweet encouragement, Kelli. You always know how to brighten my day!

  • Yes, yes! It feels that way when you are on the receiving end, but rarely “looks” that way when you’re the one dishing out the “Oh, I can relate” story. I’m not saying you can’t ever share from your own personal experience either. It’s just shouldn’t trump focusing on the other person’s feelings.

    Thanks so much for adding to the conversation a very important point, Stacey! And also for being such a great encourager in my life!

  • That’s great, Mia! I love it when what God gives me is helpful to others in an immediate sense. That always reminds me of His great timing and the way He seamlessly weaves our lives together to help each other.

    I’m right there with you–learning how to do this in the most important moments. It’s a work always in progress. Thanks so much for coming by and encouraging me, my friend!

  • laura

    Thank you for these examples, Beth. I recognize times when I’ve been on the giving and receiving end of a few of these :). I love how encouraged I always am when I leave here–encouraged to try harder in my marriage and make it a lovelier place.

  • Oh, these are painful to read, Beth. I’ve either done most of them or had them done to me, and they do not help. A great list and reminder for what NOT to do. Thanks!

  • OutnumberedMom

    Miss Pollyanna here…guilty as charged. I’m the “Let’s look on the bright side” girl. I don’t tend to vent much, so I find myself feeling like others are. I need to be more patient, more understanding! I need to realize I can’t “fix,” but I need to just BE there sometimes.

  • I can relate to this so much!

  • Like OutnumberedMom’s comment below, because I am a bit Pollyanna (what my husband loves to call me), I want everyone to look on the bright side…all the time. In all fairness, I truly believe those who look for the bright side of things usually find it and are much happier because of it, so I’m trying to help people get to that place faster. But sometimes I have to be reminded that some people (thank goodness, not my husband) just want to remain where they are for the time being and I am learning to honor that place.

  • But the practice of validation is not just about people wanting to remain where they are … it’s about entering the pain or coming alongside them in their pain to “be with them” and avoiding the temptation to fix their perspective. If we slow down the process and validate their feelings, then usually they have greater motivation and more quickly move toward the bright side. Job’s friends first response was to validate his pain–to sit with him and not instruct him on how he should look on the bright side. But it’s so very hard to do, especially if we (being outside the pain) see the bright side glowing on the horizon. 🙂

    Thanks so much for stopping by and weighing in, Fawn! I really appreciate all that you do at Happy Wives Club!