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Monday, April 22, 2013

The Power of Validation : Part 1

 (quick disclaimer: For the betrayed spouse, an affair is NEVER your fault! But it doesn't hurt to try to get to the root of what things might have contributed to the affair happening.  It seems only logical to do this in attempt to prevent something like this from happening ever again)
The Power of Validation : Part 1 : WHAT IS VALIDATION?

Because of the affair, I've learned of one concept that has not been seen often in our marriage.  It's the concept of VALIDATION.  But I'm learning more and more how INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT this concept is and how different our marriage would have ended up, had it been practiced regularly.

I'm embarrassed to admit that before the affair happened and before any therapy, I did NOT know what validation was.  At least in an emotional way.  And all of this information is not only helpful in your marriage but with your children as well!! Our therapist gave us a handout that stated the following:

"Validation occurs when we confirm, mostly through our words, that other people can have their own emotional experiences.  It is NOT agreeing with their emotional experience, but it is reassuring them that it is OKAY FOR THEM TO FEEL THE WAY THAT THEY DO.  This brings about feelings of being understood, which is the beginning for emotional safety. When people feel emotionally safe, they share more.  As they share more, we learn more, and are more likely to help them in a supportive non-threatening way."
Some examples of validating statements:
-"I can't even begin to imagine what you are going through"
"If must be difficult to feel so sad"
"It makes sense that you would be feeling that way."
"That must have been frustrating"
"Let me make sure I understand, so you are feeling..."
More validating statement examples
The important thing is to remember that in that moment, you need to focus on what the person is FEELING and not necessarily the situation or whatever might have happened.  And try not to make it about yourself!  (Things you should not say)
Before the affair happened, my husband would not have been able to articulate that he was not being validated.  That's the hard part.  We didn't realize what was happening under the surface.  By not being validated, my husband would pretty much shove his feelings aside and try and forget them.
He would never have said he was unhappy in our marriage, but he just thought that's "the way things are" when you are married and you just deal with it. He just wanted me to be happy and apparently I didn't appear too happy when he shared his feelings, so he decided not to do so as often. We do NOT want this to happen because emotional validation is a basic human need.  We all need and crave it more than we realize.
In my situation, not only did the other woman show interest in my husband's life, which made him feel good, he was also able to share his deepest and darkest feelings and she, having been to therapy for several years already, knew how to validate his feelings and made him feel valued and accepted no matter what. When he felt valued and accepted by this woman, he thought that only this woman could do that for him and that she must be his soul mate and THOUGHT he was in love. When really, it was a simple concept that anyone could implement in their relationship if practiced.  
Since then, my husband has come around and has realized that there are things we both need to work on in this marriage and that it IS worth the time and effort.  He has since realized the whole affair was stupid and he is so sorry that it happened. We continue to go see a therapist to help us with concepts such as validation and we have noticed a huge difference in the way we talk to each other and in the way we feel when we have these conversations. 
This week I will be posting more about validation. I hope that I can help any of you out there learn all you can about this concept that can improve any kind of relationship.  Whether with your spouse, your parents, your children, etc.  If you have any questions, please ask...I will try my best to help!!

For further reading:
 How To Validate Your Spouse's Feelings - Messy Marriage
What is Validation and Why Do I Need To Know? - Psych Central
The Art of Relating : Validation Starvation - The Healthy Planet

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