When hearing people discuss the tenets of happy marriages, the word “validation” and “appreciation” are often thrown around. And for good reason: “People have a biological need to be needed or valued,” says Dr. Terri Orbuch, a relationship professor at Oakland University, and author of 5 Simple Steps to Take Your Marriage from Good to Great. When validation doesn’t occur, people tend to look for it elsewhere, which rarely falls into the Good Decision category.
One big aspect of validation is simply being there when your spouse has a problem. This calls for: Not talking. Not saying how you did it or would do it. And, and, and not giving unsolicited advice. It’s about listening and offering a well-placed, “I’m with you.” But you knew that. When you’re in a conversation, the cues are pretty obvious.
But validation doesn’t always take a recognizable form, because more than listening, it’s about recognizing.
“It’s for being seen for what you’re contributing, even if it’s mundane and routine,” says Dr. Emily Upshur, a licensed clinical psychologist in New York City. Check that. Especially when it’s mundane and routine. Parenting is a never-ending game of Did I Just Do Anything Right? It’s easy to feel doubt, let alone any sense of confidence. As the supportive spouse, it’s your job to step in and provide, yes, validation. The words can vary but the subtext remains: I saw that and I’m not keeping it to myself.
The hard part is starting. People don’t feel appreciated for all the stuff they’re doing, so they dig in and say nothing. That’s a game without a winner. The unavoidable truth is that someone needs to be first. It might as well be you. The good news is that goodwill is contagious. Give some and chances are high it will be returned, and then, per Upshur, “it snowballs.”
There are scores of opportunities for validating and showing appreciation for your partner. They happen early in the day, at night, and on the weekends. They even happen when you’re not together. None of them take much extra time, but they provide a big return, and they look…
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