Invalidation is what I’ve found most painful in my relationships throughout my life. My dad usually invalidates me, many the friends and partners I’ve met have invalidated me, and many of the mental health professionals and volunteers that I’ve spoken to have done so, as well.
My mom was usually good at it, but she recently passed away. Most of my relationships have been seriously invalidating, and it has taken a horrible toll on me emotionally. If it sounds hard for you to believe that someone can deal with this much invalidation in one lifetime, I’ll throw out a few examples to illustrate:
- I told my dad that my disabilities make grocery shopping really hard for me, and he said, “It’s not that bad.”
- I told a friend that I was upset that an activist I looked up to said in a video that checking verbally for consent is creepy, and she said, “If you don’t like it, don’t watch it.”
- I told my therapist that I wasn’t sure if I could stay friends with the friend mentioned above because of her reaction to what I shared, along with similar problems. She said that I’m not being fair to my friend and that I can’t hold anyone to the standard of being supportive in a relationship.
Well, I disagree with my therapist about that. I know that I can’t force anyone to be supportive, and I wouldn’t want to. However, if I choose to only keep people in my life who will make at least a little bit of an effort to be supportive, I have that right. I Googled validation and found out that it’s not just me – many other people consider it an important part of relationships.
Psychologist John Gottman can predict with up to 94% accuracy whether a couple will stay together based on how they respond to each other’s “bids” for connection (Sorenson, Michael). Bids can be even very small things, such as when someone comments on a car going by that they like. Sorenson points out that Gottman’s term of “bids” is simply another framework for validation.
Associate psychology professor Kristalyn P. Salters-Pedneault says that invalidating environment may contribute to psychological issues, such as borderline personality disorder (“Development of BPD in an Invalidating Environment”). I’m not sure if I have this disorder, but I do know that memories of invalidation haunt me and cause an ongoing psychological ache that’s difficult to endure. I hope that my post can reassure those who’ve been invalidated that their reaction is understandable and encourage those who invalidate to show others more compassion. I’ll write later about how validation works.
Sorenson, Michael. “Validation: The Most Important Relationship Skill You Were Never Taught.” Michael Sorenson, 20 Dec 2017, https://michaelssorensen.com/2017/12/20/validation-the-most-powerful-relationship-skill-you-were-never-taught/. Accessed 6 Nov 2018.
Salters-Pedneault, Kristalyn P. “Development of BPD in an Invalidating Environment.” VeryWell Health: Borderline Personality Disorder, 17 Mar 2017, https://www.verywellmind.com/emotionally-invalidating-environment-425303. Accessed 6 Nov. 2018.