My name is Stephanie Mitelman, and I am a certified sexuality educator. In this blog I will be addressing readers’ questions on sexuality, health, and relationships. Please don’t be shy to send me a question you have! I will be happy to answer one every month!
My partner and I keep having the same fights about the same thing. Over and over. I don’t know how to stop this.
The Importance of Validation
This is a common problem for many couples. Not only couples. But any two people who are intimate. Like siblings, parents, and best friends. In other words, anyone who knows us well and whos’ actions have an impact on us. Those close to us have the greatest impact to hurt or to heal.
Many people are hurt. We get hurt all the time with small and large traumas. Life is unpredictable. And some of the hurt we face can surface as a result of our own actions, while other crisis’ and struggles are independent of who we are or our actions. It’s sometimes luck of the draw.
But people turn to people for support. We all need it at different times.
And yet it is often with these very same people that we rely on for comfort, that may cause the most strife and friction in our lives.
And sometimes we feel swaddled with love by those close to us, and other times we emotionally limp away from interactions.
I often get asked the question why couples or siblings, or other forms of close twosomes fight. Most people initially believe it is about trivial things. Like money or parents/ in-laws. And yes, it is often these kinds of things that start fights. But it is not what perpetuates them or keeps them going sometimes beyond repair.
Because of the place that these special people close to us hold in our hearts, their actions, or in-actions hold more weight in our hearts. And people need to feel safe with those they are close to. It is not material things that continue fights; it is the emotional connection being broken that does.
There are countless ways that we unintentionally break connection with others.
But I have seen that the hardest one to overcome is lack of validation.
While most issues between couples or other close people never truly get resolved… it is the feelings that you feel in relationship to the other that linger. And most of the time these are the things left unrepaired.
Validation is often not well understood. It is not an admission of wrong doing. Many people are invested in their need to feel right. It is attached to our ego and short circuits our feelings of guilts… which for some can feel intolerable. But validation is simply a recognition that you understand the other person is hurt, and why.
Many lives would be improved by this simple acknowledgement. “I know I hurt you and I may not agree with you, but I understand your perspective and how this might feel for you”. Many couples would be more connected and loving towards one another. And many divorces and family estrangements could be avoided.
When an issue keeps coming up time and time again, it is simply because the emotions of it were not addressed. The issue that started the fight may have been addressed, but the way the individuals felt as a result are not. When someone re-opens a door to an issue you thought was long put to rest, it is because it is not rested for them. The emotional connection was still broken because the trust of caring for and protecting their feelings was damaged. And ultimately this is far more important in the end than the actual issue that was at hand to begin with.
Emotional connection and feeling safe with the other; that you will be heard, and that your feelings matter, is ultimately what defines and prolongs the closeness of two people, the quality of that relationship, and whether or not they will stay in each others lives. Whether connected through blood, marriage or friendship, validation is the key.
Validation is the single most important ingredient in intimacy, regardless of the kind. Validation is an acknowledgement of the other person’s feelings being different than your own, and a recognition that the feelings can get hurt.
No one knowingly enters a relationship, or stays in one with the intent of being repeatedly wounded. Validation gives the twosome the ultimate ability to repair by recognizing what the hurt is, and offers opportunity to correct that. If fights are ongoing, this is a strong sign that the repair has not happened.
You can not change what you do not recognize. And when we validate someone’s feelings, whether we intended hurt or not, we start this healing process. When we do not, we send the message that feelings are not important, and thus the other person is insignificant. And without validation, the other person is left with the distinct possibility that the painful feelings they felt in the conflict originally, may happen again.
As I have seen many times through teaching as well as my own personal journey, validation does not happen nearly as much as needed for healthy relationships. When someone is hurt, and they tell someone their actions were the cause, often the feelings of shame and guilt can be so intense that the defence mechanism of denial, justification and blame set it. It is the inability to tolerate such bad feelings for the moment that trigger this response, rather than the opposite of repair; which is to sit uncomfortably with the bad feelings, and then to acknowledge how the hurt and move on. The feelings of shame and guilt can be so intense for some that they circumvent this process and jump right to moving on. This form of dealing with conflict inevitably heads the relationship into decline, and not restoration.
So the next time you are in conflict with someone close to you, which means you have implicitly or explicitly promised to care for their feelings and protect their heart, ask yourself what is more important? Proving that you are right, or protecting that person and the integrity of the relationship?
The most important phrase I have learned through years of teaching about relationships is that hurt people hurt people. And healed people heal people.
We all have the ability to hurt or heal those around us that have meaning in our lives. The decision to act in one way or another is just that, a decision. And we all mess up from time to time. Validation is the repair. It is not about being right or wrong. It is about stating that you understand and that you care.