couple sitting on bench who are upset with one another

Can a Relationship Survive Emotional Invalidation?

couple sitting on bench upset with one another. emotional invalidation. couples therapy

Emotional invalidation, regardless of the intention, can be very damaging to a relationship and its longevity. Understanding it and knowing how to navigate through it can be key to determining what comes next. 

What Is Emotional Invalidation?

Emotional invalidation is a type of emotional abuse that dismisses or minimizes someone else’s feelings and emotions. It can make them feel unworthy, unconfident, helpless, worthless, and lonely. 

Repeated emotional invalidation, especially from a loved one or partner, can lead to larger mental health problems and a rift in the relationship.

Types of Emotional Invalidation

Emotional invalidation doesn’t come in just one form. It’s important for both the invalidator and the receiver to understand the different behavior patterns that occur. Here are some common examples:

Inattentive Invalidation

Attention is not paid while one person is talking about an important issue. The subject gets changed, an opinion gets overshadowed, or more attention is paid to the cell phone than to the person speaking.

Belligerent Invalidation

Rather than listening to the partner speak, the other goes into defense mode and formulates rebuttals. 

Controlling Invalidation

This is common with parenting, home tasks, and certain social situations. One person goes out of the way to “fix” something their partner does because they know better or their way is “more right.” 

Judgmental Invalidation

One person minimizes something that they don’t feel brings value. 

Emotional Invalidation

One person disagrees or tries to change the feelings of the other partner without gaining their perspective or working through those feelings. 

Reasons for Emotional Invalidation

Emotional invalidation is a sign that there is an unhealthy component to the relationship. There could be a control-related reason that invalidation is occurring. If you/your partner are insecure, oftentimes invalidation is an attempt to feel more important.

When there’s a lack of empathy or a twinge of jealousy, it can lend itself to invalidating actions or behaviors. There’s also the chance that the person simply doesn’t realize how their behavior is affecting the other.  

Strategies to Respond

Being on the receiving end of invalidation isn’t easy. How you choose to handle it can help determine the outcomes of your relationship. 

Think before you give a response. Sharp snap-back responses won’t help your cause. Be calm before you evaluate and move forward with a plan. 

Use “I statements” when discussing the matter with your partner, sharing the facts of what happened, how you feel in response, what you need in the relationship, and what you would request in the future. If your partner isn’t aware of their actions, this is a good way to express yourself. If you want to learn more about this, we recommend the book Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg.

It can also be important to master the art of self-validation: speaking to yourself in a kind and understanding way, no matter what is going on around you. 

The Importance of Validation

Validation means expressing understanding and acceptance. It is an important piece of the foundation for healthy relationships, and one that can be worked on. Validation leads to emotional safety. 

Whatever the issue between you two, if you can find a way to practice acceptance, active listening, accurate reflection, improved empathy, and non-judgment, you can get yourselves on a better path.

By working on being more validating, you can eliminate some arguments and put a hard stop to many others. 

Providing Validation 

If the emotional invalidation that has been occurring was for malicious reasons, the relationship may not be able to be salvaged unless a major change occurs. But if the behavior came out of a lack of awareness or something along the lines of insecurity, it will be easier to turn the pattern around.

It’s hard to grasp the fact that one of you may have been hurting the other. It’s an important practice to be humble and take responsibility for the places we may still need to grow and learn.

We recommend practicing mindfulness and being more intentional, as well as working on managing anxiety or any other issues that may be underlying. Practice being open to feelings and viewpoints other than your own. These skills can be learned through books, courses, or with a therapist or coach.

If you’re dealing with emotional invalidation in your relationship, contact us to help get your relationship back to a healthy state through individual counseling or couples therapy.

Tags: ,

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

15 + seventeen =

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

one + 13 =