There is a specific type of communication we all long for in relationships—especially in our relationship with our spouse. Early in our marriage, Greg and I became acutely aware of what happens when this form of communication is missing between us. Though we had studied it for years in others, we somehow failed to apply it in our own relationship.
Every time I shared my feelings about an experience I’d had with a friend or concerns I had about one of our children, Greg and I would end up in a major disagreement about “us.” We couldn’t figure out how this happened so consistently when the initial topic of conversation had nothing to do with our marriage. The experience left us dazed and unable to figure out what was really going on.
As a result, we began to feel unsafe sharing our hearts with each other. It didn’t take long for both of us to realize this was going to be a real problem if we desired to have a close, connected, healthy marriage.
Validation Made a Difference
Then one night something happened that put our marriage on a different course. As we laid in bed in the dark and quiet, Greg was facing the opposite direction while I was sharing a disappointing experience that I’d had with a girlfriend earlier that day. This time his response was different than ever before.
Previously, whenever I shared my feelings about an experience or relationship, Greg responded by offering either an alternative viewpoint to help me see the scenario from a different angle or a quick fix to solve the problem. But this time Greg took a completely different approach. After I shared that my girlfriend hadn’t shown up for lunch and never called to explain, Greg responded with an empathetic, “Wow, I can see why that really hurt you.”
The mood in the room suddenly changed. I even scooted closer to my husband and grabbed his hand. Greg was unsure of what he’d done to draw me close to him, but we both knew something was different.
The next morning as we sat drinking our coffee, Greg and I unpacked what had happened the night before. He had expressed validation for my experience and feelings, and that simple act drew us together.
Validation Is Not an Apology
To validate something is to recognize its value. Sometimes couples resist offering validation because they misunderstand it. Validating your partner does not mean admitting guilt, accepting blame, or seeking forgiveness. Validation is simply an acknowledgement that your spouse’s experience, viewpoint, feelings, or reaction has value and should be heard.