Navigating Emotional Invalidation: Strategies for a Healthier Relationship

Emotional validation is the basic aspect of a healthy and nurturing relationship. When your partner dismisses or belittles your emotions, it can leave you feeling isolated, frustrated, and unheard.

Research shows that perceived invalidation of emotion is linked to higher emotional distress, above and beyond a number of intrapersonal emotional styles and emotion regulation skills known to cause psychological distress.1

Understanding Emotional Invalidation

You experience emotional invalidation when someone undermines or dismisses your feelings and experiences. It can show up as dismissive comments, ignoring emotions, downplaying the significance of what you are going through, or stonewalling.

How to Recognize Emotional Invalidation

Here are some examples of emotional invalidation:

  • Downplaying: “It’s not that serious! You’re really making it a big deal”
  • Comparison: “You think your experience is terrible? Look at what xyz is going through.”
  • Sarcasm: “Okay, here we go again with another one of your drama”
  • Rebuttal: “I never said that. You are imagining things.”
  • Blaming: “You’re too sensitive, that’s why you are upset”
  • Advice-Giving: “Why don’t you just do this, this will fix it”
  • Ignoring: Pretending not to hear or avoiding discussing your feelings altogether.
  • Interfering: Interrupting you before you can fully express yourself.
  • Defensiveness: “That’s not what I mean, why are you always twisting my words?”
  • Overreaction: Reacting with frustration or annoyance when you express your feelings.
  • Gaslighting: Manipulating your perception of reality, making you doubt your feelings.
  • Invalidating Questions: “Why are you so upset over something so insignificant?”
  • Judgment: “Stop being unreasonable. This is ridiculous”
  • Conditional Love: “I won’t leave if you stop being so dramatic.”
  • Dismissing Feelings: “You’re just being overly emotional. Can’t you control yourself?”
  • Belittling: “It’s cute how uptight you get.”
  • Rationalizing: Explaining why your emotions aren’t valid or justified.
  • Stonewalling: Ignoring you or withholding communication as a response to your expressed emotions.
  • Shaming: “Grown-ups don’t get upset over things like this.”
  • Making It About Themselves: “You think you’ve had a rough day? Let me tell you about mine.”

 

These examples illustrate how emotional invalidation can manifest in different ways, often making the person feel unseen and unheard. If you’re experiencing emotional invalidation in your relationships, it’s important to address the issue and communicate your feelings in order to foster healthier and more respectful interactions.

Although emotional invalidation can stem from various factors, such as lack of emotional intelligence or unresolved personal issues, it’s essential to address this behavior to foster healthier relationships.  

Coping with an emotionally invalidating partner can be challenging, but with the right strategies, you can navigate this challenge while prioritizing your own emotional health and mental well-being.

 

Here are some strategies for coping with emotionally invalidating partner

  1. Self-Awareness: Begin by recognizing and acknowledging the emotional invalidation within your relationship. If you don’t know what emotional invalidation is, refer back to the list above to see if any of those sound familiar. Remember that your feelings are valid, and you have the right and deserve to express them without fear of being dismissed.
  2. Open Communication: Find an appropriate time (when neither you or your partner is emotionally charged) to have an open discussion with your partner. Start with “I” statements to express how their behavior affects you. For example, say, “I feel hurt when my emotions are minimized”. Do not put any blame on others, only focus on addressing how their behaviors impact you.
  3. Educate Your Partner: Help your partner help you. Be patient when helping them understand the impact of their invalidation. When they express understanding, show appreciation and provide positive reinforcement.
  4. Set Healthy Boundaries: Verbalize your boundaries about how you want to be treated. Let your partner know that emotional invalidation is not acceptable and that you require mutual respect.
  5. Extend Compassion: While it might be challenging, take a step back and try to understand your partner’s perspective. Sometimes, emotional invalidation is a result of their own struggles and discomfort with challenging emotions.
  6. Create a Supportive Network: Identify and surround yourself with friends, family, or support groups that offer empathy and validation that you need. These connections can provide acknowledgment and understanding you might not be receiving from your partner.
  7. Focus on Self-Care: Prioritize self-care activities (hobbies, mindfulness, etc) that improve your emotional well-being.
  8. Seek Professional Help: If emotional invalidation persists and strains your relationship, consider individual and couples therapy. A therapist can facilitate healthier communication patterns and guide you and your partner toward positive change.
  9. Practice Patience: Change takes time. Your partner might not immediately grasp the importance of emotional validation. Continue advocating for yourself while allowing space for growth.
  10. Reflect on Your Needs: At times, despite your efforts, a relationship might remain emotionally invalidating. It’s crucial to evaluate whether the relationship is contributing positively to your life and well-being.

 

You deserve a relationship where your emotions are respected, acknowledged, and valued. Coping with an emotionally invalidating partner requires courage, compassion, perseverance, and self-care. By implementing these strategies, you can navigate this challenge while fostering personal growth and emotional resilience.

 

Reference:

Schreiber, R. E., & Veilleux, J. C. (2022). Perceived invalidation of emotion uniquely predicts affective distress: Implications for the role of interpersonal factors in emotional experience. Personality and Individual Differences, 184, 111191.

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