O - Observe
V - Validate
E - Empathize
Today we'll talk about the third letter - V for Validate.
We all have feelings (guys, stop running...you have them too, so deal with it).
Our marriages should be the go-to place in which those feelings can be expressed, with no fear of repurcussions. We should be able to unburden ourselves emotionally in the safe haven of couplehood.
Gentlemen...no edging toward the door, and it's locked from the outside, anyway.
Marriage is where your feelings should be validated.
How can you make your marriage that safe haven? How can you hear feelings without the nagging worry about hearing something you don't want to hear.something with which you don't feel you can agree?
First, one thing should be clear -validate does not mean agree.
What you're doing when you validate your spouse's feelings is simply acknowledging that he or she has those feelings, and that they are important. You can recognize and respect without agreeing.
Second, recognize that you undoubtedly have feelings with which your mate won't agree, but does that make them trivial to you? I hope not.
Marriage is a partnership of equals, not a place for tyrants and syncophants.
The nuts and bolts of validation are fairly straightforward -
- Set a time, or make time - Expressing a deeply-held feeling isn't a trivial exercise,and needs dedicated time. The best thing to do, if you're the one doing the sharing, is to ask for time with your spouse when you'll be undisturbed. If you're the recipient of the request, be open, and be accommodating, because the process is important...more important than Downton Abbey or the March Madness. If the sharing simply won't wait, then put things aside, turn off the TV, turn off the phones, and turn off the computer. This is where you get to fulfill the wedding vows...to have, and, especially, to hold.
- Listen without interrupting - Even if you're used to finishing sentences for one another, this is the time to lay that skill aside. Listen to the end, and if you're not sure...ask. Not combatively, but simply "may I speak now?"
- When you speak, repeat - Repeat what you've heard to preface anything you say.This ensures that there is no misunderstanding, and that you're on the same page. Give your spouse time to correct you, if needed, after the repeat.
- Don't contradict - When you're validating, and listening, you're simply taking in information, and not trying to modify your spouse's stance. Ask for clarification, but don't tell your mate why he or she is wrong, or not understanding something.
- Be aware of body language - Don't cross your arms and close yourself off, and don't stand sideways to your spouse when he or she is speaking (it's evasive). Don't tap your fingers, signaling impatience. Do make and maintain eye contact, and do touch if touch, at that time, is welcome. Be aware; stand or sit in as relaxed a pose as you can. And never, ever roll your eyes.
- If problem-solving is needed, set a future time - If your spouse is airing negative feelings that have something to do with you, this is not the time to defend yourself. Make it clear that you're listening, and that your mate's feelings are important to you...and that you value their sharing. Keep that sharing positive, and work out any problems or disagreement at another time.
Validation is easy to describe, but hard to implement. A lot harder than it looks!
But you can practice. Work on listening without interrupting, for instance, in mundane conversation. Be aware of what you're doing, so you know how it feels.
Get comfortable with saying things like "I feel" and "this is important to me". If you can say these things about yourself, you'll develop empathy for your mate at the same time.
Finally, get into the habit (if you're not) of holding hands. Touch is one of the most important parts of creating that safe environment we all need, and which we want to create.
What do you do to create a safe environment in which feelings can be shared and validated?
Please visit me at my other blog, "Starting The Day With Grace".
This post is linked to Wedded Wednesday, a compendium of really cool posts on marriage. If you click on the logo below, you'll be taken to www.messymarriage.com, which is the springboard to a wealth of information. It's run by Beth Steffaniak, who has a heart for marriage and a soul for God!