If there's something I say all the time to my therapy clients, it's this:
"Validation is NOT agreement."
What this means is that you and your partner may not see eye to eye on everything (it would be unusual if you did). You can actually disagree respectfully with each other and still validate the other person's point of view.
Validating a belief or experience that you don't have does not necessarily mean you agree with that other person. You are simply practicing empathy for them.
Here's an example to illustrate my point:
Imagine you and your partner are running late to a family gathering with your 4 month old. One person is exhausted because they were up four times the night before with the baby due to that pesky sleep regression. The other partner is also tired but more frustrated because they are running late. This is a perfect chance for conflict to pop up and learn how to manage it more effectively.
You are both in the same situation but have different perspectives. If the frustrated partner can validate that they understand why their partner is exhausted rather than focus on running late, it can soften the conflict. On the other hand, if the exhausted partner can validate that they know it is difficult for their partner to be late, it helps that partner feel understood.
You'll notice that neither partner is agreeing with the other. They are only trying to see if from their partner's perspective.
Validation is a way to build empathy, understanding, and grow closer to each other.
However, when couples focus on their own perspectives without considering the other partner's story, it can drive them further apart and lead to more difficult conflict.
Something else I notice that is incredibly invalidating as well is adding a "but" right after the validation statement. It's not useful to acknowledge your partner's feelings and immediately throw a "but" followed by your perspective or how they are wrong. Avoid this at all costs!
If you can take this message and apply it to your Partnerhood, what is something you might be able to validate for your partner today? How do you imagine it may help you grow closer? I'd love to read about your experiences with trying this out.
If you'd like to know more and do better in your relationship together with your partner, I'm happy to give you some easy exercises to work through in my Partnerhood Workbook. And the online course is always another option. Just let me know how I can continue to help you.
Christie Sears Thompson
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
The Partnerhood (www.thepartnerhood.com)
Trade Winds Therapy & Relationship Coaching (www.tradewindstherapy.com)