Why validation is vital in a relationship, but must be genuine and free of judgment
- We all want our partners to accept who we are and validation helps create the bond that builds each other up
- But validation without understanding can be damaging
It is human nature to be self-conscious and sometimes we need to be reassured that we are still connected with the people around us, either by seeking approval or validation in different ways.
But some people need validation more than others, and there are even those so eager to be accepted that they allow other people to dictate how they should behave or live.
Being popular and liked is a deeply satisfying feeling, especially given how important social media is to people nowadays. But going out of the way to coax others into approving you, or even worse, changing yourself to fit in with general expectations just to be liked, is pathetic.
This kind of behaviour – lacking self-worth and self-respect – spells desperation and nothing else. It is nice to have the approval of others but the way to get meaningful validation is to first approve of and respect yourself, rather than doing so to others.
However, genuine validation in a romantic relationship is a good thing.
“We yearn to be seen and heard,” says Ariadna Peretz, founder of the Maitre D’ate matchmaking agency. “When someone notices something about us that others rarely notice, we feel a real affinity for that person because we think that person can truly understand who we are. It means that they ‘get’ us, and validation is the same.
“When our significant other accepts our feelings and/or thoughts, we feel validated, accepted and understood. It emboldens us and makes us feel like we’re not alone in the world. This connection is very important for a relationship to thrive. In a relationship, you depend on each other to build yourselves up, and validation helps create that bond.”
Peretz also believes that validation is a good way to reinforce or strengthen a relationship. “Making the effort to understand other people’s rationale – regardless of whether you agree or not – makes you understand them on the whole and can bring you closer.”
She warns, however, that it could be detrimental to a relationship if you blindly accept your partner’s compliments.
“If you demand that your partner agree with and/or appreciate your thoughts, you’re basically telling them to lie or to change their mind. Neither is conducive to a relationship.”
Some people tend to seek validation or give it without truly understanding the real meaning behind it.
Validation is a form of understanding and sharing your partner’s experiences, especially the unpleasant ones, by listening to them to help lighten the load on their shoulders. More often than not, simply being there and lending a sympathetic ear is enough. There is no need for personal judgment; you just need to accept them, rather than approve or disapprove of them.
One of our deepest needs in an intimate relationship is to feel understood. We yearn to find a soul mate who truly understands us without passing judgment or attempting to change us; who wants to see our inner self and feel what we feel. But true understanding can only be attained through empathy, without which no genuine validation can be achieved.
“Be present, ask questions, don’t judge, don’t hijack the conversation,” Peretz says on how genuine validation works to improve a relationship. “Accept their reality and try to understand how and why they feel or think the way they do.”
One thing to bear in mind is that empathy is easy when your partner is happy. It is a different story, however, when they are sad, hurting or angry, and especially when you are the source of these negative emotions.
Be aware that during hard times, being sympathetic can be counterproductive, despite positive intentions. Expressing compassion or pity without actually experiencing someone’s feelings with them is like putting a plaster on their wound without dealing with the root cause of their injury and pain. A superficial response will most likely produce opposite results, making them feel invalidated and resentful.
Validation without fundamental understanding and genuine empathy is like having sex rather than making love.
Finally, authenticity and individuality are important. Don’t reject yourself by placing other people’s opinions and beliefs above yours in your search for validation, even from your partner.
A strong and happy relationship is one that is amicable, supportive and inspiring, where your partner allows you to flourish and be the person you are or want to become.
The rules of validation in a relationship
- Listen without preconceived ideas or judgments
- Focus on their message and feelings to foster a connection
- Remember, there is no right or wrong
- Get inside their inner world to understand their needs, and the source of their pain and distress
- Let them know they are not alone
Luisa Tam is a senior editor at the Post