We all want to be part of a relationship, and the main reason is the desire to feel connected. You might be surprised to learn that, in fact, this is a basic biological requirement because some of you will only experience it during times of needówhen you want to be understood.
If your partner is not able to provide this connection for you, no doubt you will feel quite disappointed and/or frustrated. Likely, you will also experience a sense of being isolated.
This is such an important topic that for the next three weeks, Iím going to offer some insights and suggestions that will help you to connect with one other. To start, Iíd like to talk about the skill of validation. Admittedly, itís a bit difficult to grasp initially. However, the use of it in your communication will really make a big difference in letting your partner know youíre connected to him or her.
Starting Out Simple
Let me start out with an obvious statement: Everyone has their own view of the world. Hereís an example I often use with my couples: If you and your partner were outside and had just witnessed an accident, you would each likely report something different to the police. Is one of you lying? Was one of you wearing a blindfold? Of course not! Itís merely a case of two different people each having two different perspectives of the same incident; this is a matter of you each having your own perception.
Think about your own lifeóIíll bet that youíve experienced something similar to this. Perhaps youíre recounting an event to your friends as your spouse listens in. Suddenly, he or she interrupts with an entirely different version, as if the two of you werenít in the same place!
Hereís another way I teach this concept, this time to my classes: I hold up a book and everyone agrees which is the front of the book and which is the back of the book. Then, I inquire, "When I hold the book this way, which side of the book is it that you all see?" (They are viewing the front side.) Then I ask, "So as you see the front of the book, which side am I seeing?" They respond (correctly) that I am looking at the back side.
The fact that my students can acknowledge that I see the back side of the book though they are seeing the front side of it is similar to the idea of validation.
Making Use of the Concept
Here is the key concept of validation: When youíre mate is talking about something, you donít have to see it the same way as he or she does. Further, you donít even have to agree with the manner your mate has interpreted the situation. But, in order to have your partner experience feeling validated, you have to let him or her know that you understand how he or she is interpreting it that way. Itís as if you have put yourself in his or her shoes. It is this very act that allows a sense of connection.
I never teach what I donít practice and so this is why I want to now validate you as the reader, which you may be thinking is totally crazy. Here's the scenario: your partner is being absurd in his or her interpretation of a recent issue and over-reacting. And you may be right! But when someone has strong emotions about something, he or she will not be able to think clearly about the matter. Therefore, the emotions must be responded to first; otherwise, they will continue to be charged.
However, if you validate the feelings, the emotions calm down. Once the person has calmed down and has felt understood, you can then speak to him or her about some other possible interpretations or even ways to handle the situation.
Through my years of experience, I have found that when my couples report some hassle between them that couldnít get resolved, it was usually because they forgot to use the tool of validation. Itís a simple tool but it goes a very long way.
In the next two weeks Iíll discuss how emotions are contagious and how to increase empathy.
Part 2: Connect With Your Spouse Through Empathy
Part 3: How to Increase Emotional Attachments in Your Marriage
Karen Sherman, Ph.D., (www.drkarensherman.com) is a practicing psychologist in relationships and lifestyle issues for over 20 years. She offers teleseminars and is the author of "Mindfulness and the Art of Choice: Transform Your Life" and co-author of "Marriage Magic! Find It, Keep It, and Make it Last." You can sign up for her free monthly newsletter with relationship tips at www.ChoiceRelationships.com