How to Validate Your Spouse’s Feelings

Key to Spouse's HeartHave you ever felt like you’ve shared your deepest feelings with your spouse only to be left feeling unheard, walled out or simply misunderstood? What you’re wanting—the missing link—is validation or acknowledgement of your feelings.
But when validation is given, it can be like a warm emotional hug to someone who’s been left out in the cold.
Validation is a skill that’s so very elusive to many of us. In fact, it’s often left unexplained in our families, churches and 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.

Validation is so important in highly charged moments. 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 and is often a lost art in a messy marriage.

Be aware that giving validation is difficult for those who are deeply wounded, self-absorbed 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 spouseIn time, you just might inspire them to let go of self-protection and risk by validating your feelings in return.

It’s important to fill the emotional gap that your spouse may leave 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 do that you wouldn’t have been able to do without it?

photo by you mee
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Linking up with – NOBH, Monday’s Musings, Matrimonial Monday, and Playdates with God

  • These are great suggestions, Beth, and ought to be carried around on little index cards or taped to the bathroom mirror as reminders. Small and heartfelt words like these can bridge a critical divide.

    I think being validated is like being able to let the air out of that balloon that is ready to explode: the tension dissipates in one brief, soft whoosh of air. When I am validated, I feel a rush of gratitude, and can feel my mind and body relax, and also feel less defensive.

    • Liking the balloon illustration. Perfect!

    • Yes, it is very much like letting the air out of a balloon. God’s designed us to want validation. I’m so grateful that He offers an unlimited supply to us through His word and through the Holy Spirit. 🙂 I’m glad you liked my suggestions, Kim. I feel like you’ve just “validated” my feelings by coming by here to encourage! You’re a sweetheart!

  • These are great suggestions, Beth, and ought to be carried around on little index cards or taped to the bathroom mirror as reminders. Small and heartfelt words like these can bridge a critical divide.

    I think being validated is like being able to let the air out of that balloon that is ready to explode: the tension dissipates in one brief, soft whoosh of air. When I am validated, I feel a rush of gratitude, and can feel my mind and body relax, and also feel less defensive.

  • GailBP

    I know it’s so important to me that my husband listen to my heart as well as my words, and I often remind him when I share something that I need his full attention. Typically listening is one of my strengths unless I’m writing…then I’m terrible at it. I still have work to do in that area. I know I need to be more deliberate about setting aside what I’m doing and really listening. You are so right…it’s important. And these are great ideas/examples for doing it right. Thanks.

    • Yes, my husband and I talked about that very thing last night. I love to listen to him and want to validate his feelings, but when I’m writing or busy, you can bet that I miss the mark! I also like that you let your husband know you want his full attention. I do that too. Some words are just too important to let go unnoticed or validated, Gail! I’m so glad you’re not afraid to ask for what you need and want! 🙂

  • GailBP

    I know it’s so important to me that my husband listen to my heart as well as my words, and I often remind him when I share something that I need his full attention. Typically listening is one of my strengths unless I’m writing…then I’m terrible at it. I still have work to do in that area. I know I need to be more deliberate about setting aside what I’m doing and really listening. You are so right…it’s important. And these are great ideas/examples for doing it right. Thanks.

  • Nancy

    Great advice for communication in marriage and in any close relationship. Thanks!

    • Thanks, Nancy. I appreciate you coming by and letting me know this has been helpful for you!

  • Nancy

    Great advice for communication in marriage and in any close relationship. Thanks!

  • “…But when validation is given, it can be like a warm emotional hug.”

    This is so true, Beth. What a difference it makes in my marriage when I simply offer affirmation. This one simple truth has brought untold intimacy into my relationship with my husband.

    • Yes, it really does open the door to a deeper bond and closeness, Laura. Thanks so much for coming by and “validating” my feelings, my friend! Consider yourself, “cyber-hugged!”

  • This is so important. My husband asked me a question yesterday and my first thought was to react with, “Are you crazy? Of course I still feel that way!” But I would have hated that kind of reaction myself. 🙂 So by the grace of God I answered with sincerity and compassion and hopefully can now see that he has a need I should be addressing more often, instead of blowing off his question.

    Another great post, Beth!

    • Thanks for you authentic response here, Lisa. I have way too many thoughts like that too. I’m so grateful for the self-control that I’ve been able to achieve over these latter years of marriage. That’s what “messiness” will do for you–teach you what “not” to do! haha! Thanks, as always for coming by and lifting my spirits!

  • “…But when validation is given, it can be like a warm emotional hug.”

    This is so true, Beth. What a difference it makes in my marriage when I simply offer affirmation. This one simple truth has brought untold intimacy into my relationship with my husband.

  • This is so important. My husband asked me a question yesterday and my first thought was to react with, “Are you crazy? Of course I still feel that way!” But I would have hated that kind of reaction myself. 🙂 So by the grace of God I answered with sincerity and compassion and hopefully can now see that he has a need I should be addressing more often, instead of blowing off his question.

    Another great post, Beth!

  • Validation is a huge issue in our lives … a ‘must-have’ for us to be emotionally healthy. Without it, we’ll roam from relationship to relationship searching for it.
    Our ultimate validation comes from really getting how priceless we are to God. But day in and day out, this is so very much needed from those who are closest to us …. it makes us feel safe, heard, valued.
    You’ve sure nailed this one, Beth!

    • You’re so right, Linda. I need my ultimate validation to come from God, but He certainly has wired us to want and desire that connection with our spouses and friends. I’m so grateful for how you’ve often encouraged me. Maybe we haven’t always shared “feelings” per sa, but I’m grateful for your encouragement here nonetheless!

  • Validation is a huge issue in our lives … a ‘must-have’ for us to be emotionally healthy. Without it, we’ll roam from relationship to relationship searching for it.
    Our ultimate validation comes from really getting how priceless we are to God. But day in and day out, this is so very much needed from those who are closest to us …. it makes us feel safe, heard, valued.
    You’ve sure nailed this one, Beth!

  • In my experience, I find many people very easily validating the feelings of friends and strangers, but not their husbands. So much easier to offer our best to others and wear ourselves out in public, so that we have nothing but crumbs left for our mates.

    I have been guilty of this in the past. Seeing it in others gives me the desire to institute change, one small hint at a time.

    Most people don’t take kindly to a whack over the head … 🙂

    Thanks, Beth! Terrific post!

    • Yes, sometimes that’s true. When there’s a lot of emotional baggage weighing a relationship or marriage down, it becomes harder to really “enter into” the heart of what someone is saying. It really does require some vulnerability to validate. That’s why I think it’s harder for those who are emotionally damaged or self-protective to do this. And yes, I’d say the “whack over the head” kind of approach often backfires! haha! Thanks for coming by and weighing in, Amy!

  • In my experience, I find many people very easily validating the feelings of friends and strangers, but not their husbands. So much easier to offer our best to others and wear ourselves out in public, so that we have nothing but crumbs left for our mates.

    I have been guilty of this in the past. Seeing it in others gives me the desire to institute change, one small hint at a time.

    Most people don’t take kindly to a whack over the head … 🙂

    Thanks, Beth! Terrific post!

  • Liking the balloon illustration. Perfect!

  • Amanda Clark

    Great advice, thank you for the reminder!

    • Thanks for coming by and letting me know you liked it, Amanda! 🙂

  • Amanda Clark

    Great advice, thank you for the reminder!

  • Wow, wealth of wisdom in this post Beth, as always. Thank you so much for sharing it. I am an index card kind of person and will noting the points down. I can think of many instances when I’ve wanted to be “heard”, even when the person didn’t necessarily agree with me. For me, being validated helps me feel accepted as a person and helps me become more level-headed. I think that’s the bottom line – “if you’ll hear me,I’ll be able to work the rest of the details with you”. Great post!

    • Yes, you’ve brought up an important point, Ngina, validation isn’t about “agreeing” with someone. It’s about being heard and heard correctly–since we are striving to understand better. I’m glad you appreciated this post, my friend. It seems like one you’d probably write! I think we are both interested in offering practical helps in the relationship department. Thanks so much for your sweet words and presence around here!

  • Wow, wealth of wisdom in this post Beth, as always. Thank you so much for sharing it. I am an index card kind of person and will noting the points down. I can think of many instances when I’ve wanted to be “heard”, even when the person didn’t necessarily agree with me. For me, being validated helps me feel accepted as a person and helps me become more level-headed. I think that’s the bottom line – “if you’ll hear me,I’ll be able to work the rest of the details with you”. Great post!

  • OutnumberedMom

    Beth, I’d love to read what you could write about what validation is NOT. I’ve discovered that my proclivity toward the positive — trying to help others see the rainbow through the rain — doesn’t always cut it. Sometimes you just need someone to say, “I know it’s tough.” It has taken me a while to see that…still working on it.

    • As always you bring up a great suggestion, Laura Lee. I may just do that, because you’re right, a lot of people “think” they’re validating when nothing could be further from the truth. It would be a good exercise to lay them side by side. Thanks, so much for coming by! I need to head over to your place to see what you’ve got brewing! I’m sure it will be encouraging!

  • OutnumberedMom

    Beth, I’d love to read what you could write about what validation is NOT. I’ve discovered that my proclivity toward the positive — trying to help others see the rainbow through the rain — doesn’t always cut it. Sometimes you just need someone to say, “I know it’s tough.” It has taken me a while to see that…still working on it.

  • rboerner

    Love this. I am often accused of talking with friends because they “agree” with me. It is not agreement I want but validation. My spouse has many wounds and for me it is important to remember #4 I am thankful for the friends God has placed in my life so I feel validation. It makes #4

    • Yes! I get this totally! I’m not after agreement either–although I like it when I get it! But validation is so important to feeling heard and connected with. As you’ve pointed out, Becky, having a spouse with wounds may make this part of communication difficult. I hope I can be one to “fill the gap” in your life, my friend! After all, you fill a lot of gaps in mine! 😉

  • rboerner

    Love this. I am often accused of talking with friends because they “agree” with me. It is not agreement I want but validation. My spouse has many wounds and for me it is important to remember #4 I am thankful for the friends God has placed in my life so I feel validation. It makes #4

  • yes yes yes! what you said about validation might be all they wanted in the first place? oh, that’s me. so often. i guess i assume others must crave that, too. this is so good, Beth. such an unsung heroism, this validation. thank you.

    • I think, and I may be speaking out of turn here, women are more attuned to this need. I think men want it just as much, they just don’t always realize they want it or are missing it. I certainly feel like the women in my life are better at it than the men in my life. 🙂 Thanks so much for coming by and encouraging me, my friend!

  • yes yes yes! what you said about validation might be all they wanted in the first place? oh, that’s me. so often. i guess i assume others must crave that, too. this is so good, Beth. such an unsung heroism, this validation. thank you.

  • Yes, it is very much like letting the air out of a balloon. God’s designed us to want validation. I’m so grateful that He offers an unlimited supply to us through His word and through the Holy Spirit. 🙂 I’m glad you liked my suggestions, Kim. I feel like you’ve just “validated” my feelings by coming by here to encourage! You’re a sweetheart!

  • Yes, my husband and I talked about that very thing last night. I love to listen to him and want to validate his feelings, but when I’m writing or busy, you can bet that I miss the mark! I also like that you let him know you want his full attention. I do that too. Some words are just too important to let go unnoticed or validated, Gail! I’m so glad you’re not afraid to ask for what you need and want! 🙂

  • Thanks, Nancy. I appreciate you coming by and letting me know this has been helpful for you!

  • Yes, it really does open the door to a deeper bond and closeness, Laura. Thanks so much for coming by and “validating” my feelings, my friend! Consider yourself, “cyber-hugged!”

  • Thanks for you authentic response here, Lisa. I have way too many thoughts like that too. I’m so grateful for the self-control that I’ve been able to achieve over these latter years of marriage. That’s what “messiness” will do for you–teach you what “not” to do! haha! Thanks, as always for coming by and lifting my spirits!

  • You’re so right, Linda. I need my ultimate validation to come from God, but He certainly has wired us to want and desire that connection with your spouses and friends. I’m so grateful for how you’ve often encouraged me. Maybe we haven’t always shared “feelings” per sa, but I’m grateful for your encouragement here nonetheless!

  • Yes, sometimes that’s true. When there’s a lot of emotional baggage weighing a relationship or marriage down, it becomes harder to really “enter into” the heart of what someone is saying. It really does require some vulnerability to validate. That’s why I think it’s harder for those who are emotionally damaged or self-protective to do this. And yes, I’d say the “whack over the head” kind of approach often backfires! haha! Thanks for coming by and weighing in, Amy!

  • Thanks for coming by and letting me know you liked it, Amanda! 🙂

  • Yes, you’ve brought up an important point, Ngina, validation isn’t about “agreeing” with someone. It’s about being heard and heard correctly–since we are striving to understand better. I’m glad you appreciated this post, my friend. It seems like one you’d probably write! I think we are both interested in offering practical helps in the relationship department. Thanks so much for your sweet words and presence around here!

  • As always you bring up a great suggestion, Laura Lee. I may just do that, because you’re right, a lot of people “think” they’re validating when nothing could be further from the truth. It would be a good exercise to lay them side by side. Thanks, so much for coming by! I need to head over to your place to see what you’ve got brewing! I’m sure it will be encouraging!

  • Yes! I get this totally! I’m not after agreement either–although I like it when I get it! But validation is so important to feeling heard and connected with. As you’ve pointed out, Becky, having a spouse with wounds may make this part of communication difficult. I hope I can be one to “fill the gap” in your life, my friend! After all, you fill a lot of gaps in mine! 😉

  • I think, and I may be speaking out of turn here, women are more attuned to this need. I think men want it just as much, they just don’t always realize they want it or are missing it. I certainly feel like the women in my life are better at it than the men in my life. 🙂 Thanks so much for coming by and encouraging me, my friend!

  • It sounds as if you have one of those mates that’s wounded in some way and is probably unaware or unmotivated to give you the validation you need in the relationship. I hope that you have found good friends or a good Christian counselor who can fill this gap, and don’t forget to turn to God for His divine comfort. It’s amazing how He can override the hurt that’s there!

    It’s a hard thing to swallow, but you’re probably going to have to lead out on this one for your wife and not hold it against her when she doesn’t respond in kind. Perhaps if you model this communication technique long enough (several months at least) she’ll begin to feel a desire to offer it back to you. My prayers are with you! Thanks for being brave enough to share your struggle in this space!

  • It sounds as if you have one of those mates that’s wounded in some way and is probably unaware or unmotivated to give you the validation you need in the relationship. I hope that you have found good friends or a good Christian counselor who can fill this gap, and don’t forget to turn to God for His divine comfort. It’s amazing how He can override the hurt that’s there!

    It’s a hard thing to swallow, but you’re probably going to have to lead out on this one for your wife and not hold it against her when she doesn’t respond in kind. Perhaps if you model this communication technique long enough (several months at least) she’ll begin to feel a desire to offer it back to you. My prayers are with you! Thanks for being brave enough to share your struggle in this space!

  • It always warms my heart when Adam takes the time to validate my feelings and shows he’s listening and that he cares… not that he doesn’t care at other times, but it makes me feel extra special when I’m down or frustrated. Sometimes validation doesn’t have to come in words though… it can simply be in the form of a big bear hug! :oD

  • It always warms my heart when Adam takes the time to validate my feelings and shows he’s listening and that he cares… not that he doesn’t care at other times, but it makes me feel extra special when I’m down or frustrated. Sometimes validation doesn’t have to come in words though… it can simply be in the form of a big bear hug! :oD

  • I love the way you worded everything in this post. It was exactly what I was looking for. And I 100% agree with what you’ve said. My marriage was lacking this concept and it was building an invisible wall between us. It took my husband having an emotional affair for us to realize the need for this concept. In fact, I just made a post about it today and if it’s ok with you, I want to include a link to this post in case my readers want a little more insight on it. Thanks for sharing! http://mrdarcycheated.blogspot.com/2013/04/the-power-of-validation-part-1.html

  • CJ

    So how do I validate my wife’s feelings when I disagree with the facts she is basing those feelings on? I understand the feelings but want to help her recognize the distorted facts so she doesn’t have to feel hurt.

    • That’s a hard question to respond to in this short space, but I’ll try, CJ. Validation is not about agreeing. Validation is about connecting with the other person and acknowledging “feelings” not facts. Actually, when you take the risk to validate or acknowledge your wife’s feelings (without agreeing with her logic), you may find her dropping her guard and becoming more willing to discuss the rationale behind her beliefs. Remember, you can validate that something she believes makes her feel a certain way without agreeing that what she believes is true or a fact. I hope this helps. If you still struggle, seek out the help of a professional. A mediator can help you navigate a conversation with greater certainty and care.

  • CJ

    So how do I validate my wife’s feelings when I disagree with the facts she is basing those feelings on? I understand the feelings but want to help her recognize the distorted facts so she doesn’t have to feel hurt.

  • That’s a hard question to respond to in this short space, but I’ll try, CJ. Validation is not about agreeing. Validation is about connecting with the other person and acknowledging “feelings” not facts. Actually, when you take the risk to validate or acknowledge your wife’s feelings (without agreeing with her logic), you may find her dropping her guard and becoming more willing to discuss the rationale behind her beliefs. Remember, you can validate that something she believes makes her feel a certain way without agreeing that what she believes is true or a fact. I hope this helps. If you still struggle, seek out the help of a professional. A mediator can help you navigate a conversation with greater certainty and care.

  • I starting to believe this is the issue between me and my wife…Validation. Iam always willing to communicate and well shes not…Instead she turns to friends. I often make up in my mind that shes seeing someone or maybe sharing those feeling because she doesnt communicate often and when I express my feeling its never validated.

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