The Importance of Emotional Validation

Distressed relationships are full of invalidation and low in validation, while happy and successful relationships include heavy doses of validation and little invalidation.

What is emotional validation?  Have you ever wished when you are upset about something that your partner would just listen rather than jump in and try to solve the problem or argue with you or say nothing?  Validation between partners is the communication of understanding and acceptance.   When we respond in a validating way, we communicate that we understand a person’s experience (emotions, desire, pin, thoughts) or actions and accept them  You may not agree with your partner’s view, but what’s important is that you understand your partner’s emotions.  Validation has something in common with empathy (understanding the other person’s experience), but it also requires clear communication of that understanding.

Why is validation important? Responding to your partner’s disclosures with validation or empathy communicates that you are paying attention, interested in your partner’s experience (wants, emotions, thoughts) and understanding his or her experience.  Validation communicates that you are not interested primarily in arguing or interested primarily in being right (and your partner being wrong). Validation helps the other person express himself or herself accurately, which in turn facilitates your further understanding.

Validation soothes emotions. There is something very basic about being understood and accepted.  When someone we love communicates that she or he understands and accepts what we are thinking, how we are feeling, and what we are wanting, we feel relieved, comforted, and soothed.

Validation builds trust and closeness.  Couples who have had a lot of disagreement and regularly have invalidated each other typically develop a virtually instant, hair-trigger alert to the possibility of the other partner invalidating them.  This clearly communicates mistrust that your disclosures and expressions will b valued and understood and accepted.  The good news is that with validation, mistrust evaporates and trust builds.  In addition, when partners feel understood, valued, and accepted, they naturally feel close to each other. 

Picture of Jim Covington

Jim Covington

Jim Covington (M.Div. MA, LMFT) has been helping couples improve their relationships for more than 30 years. He holds degrees are in psychology and theology, is a licensed New York marriage and family therapist, a clinical member of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapists and has been trained in multiple approaches to marital/couples therapy and family therapy.

He has completed Level 3 Practicum Training in Gottman Method Couples Therapy, externship training with the International Center for Excellence in Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) for couples and PREP (Prevention & Relationship Enhancement Program), and employs Solution Oriented Brief Therapy as taught by Michelle Weiner-Davis.
Picture of Jim Covington

Jim Covington

Jim Covington (M.Div. MA, LMFT) has been helping couples improve their relationships for more than 30 years. He holds degrees are in psychology and theology, is a licensed New York marriage and family therapist, a clinical member of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapists and has been trained in multiple approaches to marital/couples therapy and family therapy.

He has completed Level 3 Practicum Training in Gottman Method Couples Therapy, externship training with the International Center for Excellence in Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) for couples and PREP (Prevention & Relationship Enhancement Program), and employs Solution Oriented Brief Therapy as taught by Michelle Weiner-Davis.