Why Validation is Important in Relationships

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.

 

Sources

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.

I Went to My DVR (Division of Vocational Rehabilitation) Intake Today

Today, my friend Linda generously dropped me off at DVR for my intake, then took me back home, to ease some of my stress around it. I was worried that the intake person would be hard on me for my past mistakes at my previous attempts there, but while did turn out to be concerned, she was polite about it.

I didn’t have a good time at the appointment, though, because she focused way more on my weaknesses than on my goals and strengths. I found that discouraging. One of my biggest problems with working is that I can get confused, even with help, about how to do the job. That can make me intensely anxious, especially if someone is mean to me about it.

She gave me some written information about the program, which I’ll read to find out how I can get the most out of it.

She said that I’ll get a letter within about 60 days either accepting me right away, or putting me on a wait list, depending on how disabled they consider me to be in their evaluation. They’re going to gather some of my medical records and decide from that.

I hope that things go well.

My Therapist’s Advice: If You Don’t Have a Supportive Family, Focus on Making Friends

My therapist called to check on me today. I said, “There’s no warmth from my family,” and she said, “Some of us don’t have families who care for us. Find your own people. Focus on making friends.” I’d like to gently remind myself and those of you reading that we don’t have to keep hanging around the people who hurt us over and over again. We can instead look for people who will support us through our ups and downs with a smile.

My Relationship With My Dad is Over

I can’t deal with my dad belittling me anymore. Today, I told him about how my mental health issues make certain things take longer for me to do, which frustrates me, and he said, “It’s not that bad.” I said, “It doesn’t sound like you have any sympathy for me.” He angrily said, “Goodbye!” and hung up on me. He knows that invalidation is one of my buttons, but he pushed it, anyway.

He has stressed me out so much that I’ve been diagnosed with complex PTSD in part because of him. I still lived with him when I first attempted going to school, and the stress of dealing with him was part of why I had to take a medical leave of absence. He regularly blew up at me about things as minor as him spilling a cup of water on himself in the fridge that I put there.

I’ve considered unblocking him so that I can invite him to therapy, but there’s such a long history of him hurting me, that I doubt it’s worth the effort. I’ll probably just leave things with him as they are.

My mom, who I had a better relationship with, recently died, and it hasn’t worked out with other family members. There are a lot of unhealthy dynamics in my family. I basically have no family ties now, which feels shitty.

 

I Made an Appointment With a Career Counselor for People With Disabilities to Help With My Anxiety About it

I called DVR (the division of vocational rehabilitation) today to schedule an appointment with a career counselor, which will be on October 22nd. I’m tired of ruminating about how I can make it work, transitioning from disability payments to supporting myself. My therapist and peer counselor have been trying to help, but since I have a lot of other issues to work on, such as trying to make friends, progress has been very slow.

Also, although they’re both smart and nice, I have so little work history, and what little is there is so shot, that I think I need specialists in this field to help me.

Starting a structured process for figuring out my career already seems to be helping me. Now, when worries about myself start to pop up, I can tell myself, “My career counselor can help me with that on the 22nd.” I can tell myself similar things as the process continues.

My dad is worried that I’m moving too fast, but I told him that if she doesn’t think I’m ready, I think she’ll let me know, and that hopefully, she’d help me work out whatever problem would be holding me back, or let me take if she couldn’t help me with it and come back later.

Also, I called the Ticket to Work program, which is part of Social Security, and they referred me to an agency that will call me in a week or so to explain how working will affect my benefits.

I’ll post an update about how my intake at DVR goes.

Looking at Life Holistically

Psychologist Jennifer Taitz says in her book, How to be Single and Happy: Science Based Strategies for Staying Sane While Looking for a Soul Mate, to look at your life holistically instead of focus too much on one thing (96, Kindle version).

I’ve struggled with this habit. There have been times when I’ve been preoccupied entirely with whether I’ll ever make friends, and done nothing but read about social skills day after day. There have been times when I’ve been preoccupied with if I’ll be able to become a therapist, and done nothing but read career articles day after day. Even when my anxiety is more under control, I can still go down an endless rabbit hole of studying social skills and mental health because I find these topics so fascinating.

However, if you spend too much time on one thing, you’ll lose chances to grow in other ways. For example, since I’ve spent so much time studying these things, I haven’t explored fiction yet as much as I wish I had.

To remind myself to look at life holistically, I’ve found it helpful to keep lists of my values, goals, favorite activities, and interests in my journal to refer to. I use them as a guide to keep my day more balanced. I also make smaller to-do lists based on these more significant ones.

I wrote down five things that I could do to make my apartment a little cleaner today, and got them all done. I made another list of things that I could learn or have fun with besides studying social skills and mental health. Watching the first episode of the drama House, MD and reading a few entries from the portrait book The L Life: Extraordinary Lesbians Making a Difference were on that list, and I did both of them today.

I’ve felt healthier and happier since I started spreading out my time among more things.

 

Works Cited

Jennifer, Taitz. How to be Single and Happy: Scientific Strategies for Staying Sane While Looking for a Soul Mate. New York, TarcheerPerigee, 2018.