Are You in a Supportive Relationship?

By: Brian M Murray, MS

One of the hallmarks of a great marriage or relationship is being involved with a person who values the other person’s feelings in a respectful and caring way. Validation in a relationship is kind of like a relationship health check. It is the ability to communicate thoughts and feelings that are accepted by the other person. Healthy relationships do not criticize or belittle the other person for expressing their feelings. Whether intentional or not, being critical or belittling the other person can send signals that what is being expressed implies the other is wrong, or somehow it makes them a bad person. Invalidation is negative behavior that can and often turns the overall mood of the relationship sour. The initial gut response to the negativity is often anger and resentment. The anger and resentment are the result of feeling the pain of the invalidating comment.

Emotional support is very important as it validates each other’s feelings by communicating the importance of how valuable the other person is. There are certain characteristics or “checkpoints” that a person can look for in a relationship. Like anything else in life, once in a while it is good to have a checkup. While this is not an exhaustive list, here are some points to ask for a quick self check. In parenthesis are examples of invalidation.

  • Are you open to each other’s ideas, thoughts and feelings and implement active listening? (looking or walking away when they talk)
  • When discussing feelings and emotions is the other person non-critical of you for having them? (stop crying, or, don’t be such a baby)
  • Do you both accept the fact that your feelings and thoughts are your own without being judgmental toward each other? (oh, just get over it, get to the bottom line and stop digressing)
  • Are you both able to ask for help and support from each other without worrying about how the other person will respond? (not my problem, you’re on your own)
  • Are you both able to talk trusting that the other will empathize with you and have an understanding ear to your concerns? (you are too sensitive, why are you so sensitive about everything?)
  • Do you both feel accepting of each other with positive regard and have a general sense of mutual support for each other’s endeavors? (I hate it when you come to me with this type of junk, you are all talk and no action)

Congratulations if you answered yes to all of these questions as these are some of the hallmarks of a great marriage and relationship. For the ones answered no it might be worth it to take look and see if there is something can be done. These questions serve as guidelines that indicate mutual respect by honoring each other. In other words, they become statements where one person validates the other by setting the self aside for a moment while the other person is valued in the moment. Validation is important for the relationship to grow and mature where each person has the freedom to be themselves without condemnation, criticism and judgment from the other.

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