Identify Your Perfect Partner (Manifestation, Part 2)

This is a continuation of Part 1 of the Manifestation series, where I share with you the processes which I have found to be the most practical in attracting what you want into your life.  In Part 1, I outlined the steps to getting clear on what you want.  This process will however look slightly different when it comes to figuring out what exactly you want in a partner and it involves a few extra considerations.  By the end, you will essentially end up with a list, separate from the ones you created in Part 1 of this series.  This list will contain the things that others do, and the qualities that others have which make you genuinely happy.  It will serve as a guide for you to refer back to during your future interactions so that you can easily decide whether or not a potential partner is the right one for you.  And if you’re already in a relationship, feel free use this guide as a way to help you figure out whether or not you’re on the right track.

The advice here will help you build your “love list.”

Reflect

To start off, it can be helpful to think back to your experiences with others in the past in order to clearly identify which aspects of them brought joy and value into your life.  It might have been something as simple as giving you a good hug when you were feeling down.  Or maybe you appreciated it when they cooked a nice meal for you.  The events that we identify indicate the qualities we really liked in that person—maybe they were very comforting (like with the hugging example) or very generous (like with the cooking example).  Identify events where others really made you feel good and then write down which quality that indicates in a person (it doesn’t necessarily have to be a past partner; it can be anyone).  Think of it this way:

Event: They gave me a hug when I was feeling down
Quality: Comforting

Then, list all of the qualities that come to mind, likeso:

I feel really good with people who are:
– comforting
– generous
– dependable
– supportive
– authentic
– protective
– honest
– caring
– etc…

This is the beginning of your love list.  However, the qualities that you write here are the ones which you should keep in mind when meeting new people in general.  It can help you when deciding whether you want to continue spending time with a particular person, or whether it would be best to “love them from a distance,” as Lisa Nichols would say.  The sections in this article are intended to help you build on this list, so feel free pause before moving on if you like.

If you’ve never had a romantic partner before, don’t worry!  Again, you can simply list things that people in general do which make you feel really good.  In order to get clear on the qualities you should look for in a partner, it’s especially helpful to think about the qualities of the people closest to you: Who do you vibe with?  What qualities do they have?  I personally noticed that I tend to feel nurtured by people who validate me, who are very present with me during our interactions, and who are really positive/supportive.

Physical Attraction, Hobbies, and Interests

Physical attraction is essential for most of us but if you notice yourself listing very specific physical attributes on this list, it may be likely that you have a strong connection to your ego which you are projecting onto your future ideal partner.  In that case, I’d recommend doing some more self-work before pursuing a relationship.  Hobbies and interests are also unimportant—research shows that having interests and hobbies in common does not indicate compatibility!

What should make up the majority of the list?  Things that your partner does which make you feel safe and loved, and that add value to your life.  Again, these are personal qualities, otherwise known as character traits.

Positive character traits

Some examples of positive character traits include: appreciative, compassionate, empathetic, generous, faithful, good-natured, intelligent, kind, mature, respectful, strong, and witty.  A person who has many positive character traits can be considered to have good core values.  Finding a good-natured partner like this may be more likely to result in a positive and healthy relationship.  Kindness and maturity, for example, create a strong foundation for a relationship.  Respectfulness is crucial for a healthy one.  You can get through a great deal of hardships with someone who is “strong.”  And many people enjoy witty banter.

There are many positive character traits so it’s important to figure out which ones you value the most.  Again, everyone’s answers will be different!  Maybe you have a stronger need to connect with people who are very intellectual and who you can carry meaningful conversations with?  I personally have enough of those conversations in my head to satisfy that need :).

An important caveat

A caveat here is that relationships aren’t easy.  They demand constant effort.  Even if a partner has great positive traits, no relationship is perfect.  Believing that relationships should be magical, immediate, and free of conflict is simply unrealistic.  It’s okay for partners to disagree and to dislike certain things about each other.  It doesn’t mean that they’re not in love—rather, it can often mean the opposite.  Couples who are willing to put in the work to grow and learn together can really deepen their connection.  It’s all about communication and the willingness to try and grow together.  This doesn’t always look pretty—it might mean (safely and respectfully) discussing tough topics.  But the important part is finding a partner who is willing to have those conversations with you.

So many of us are caught up in that “romantic comedy” idea of love.  We think that love means being swept off your feet, or that “true love” is easy.  While being in a healthy relationship should have a sense of ease, it’s important to acknowledge that you will need to work on the relationship together if you want it to stand the test of time.  So many of us will run away from a relationship at even the slightest sign of conflict (and the ease/speed of apps like Tinder make this a very convenient option).  But the hard truth is: this approach to relationships is lazy, it is a way of habitually “taking the easy way out,” it will hinder your growth, and it is doomed to fail.  Conflict is normal and to be expected in relationships.  And there is no such thing as a “perfect” relationship (or person for that matter).  So if you don’t know how to work through conflicts, get learning! And find someone who is equally willing to work things out with you.

While you should always respect yourself and walk away from relationships when your gut tells you to (obviously you shouldn’t stay in an abusive relationship!), you should however permit yourself to have negative emotions.  Just because you’re upset about something doesn’t mean that you can’t try to work it out.  If there is a misunderstanding, maybe a miscommunication—it is important to have a respectful discussion with your partner.  Putting in that time and effort shows that you care about each other and that you want to move past any issues as a team.  If you’re unwilling to do that, you can be certain that you will end up jumping from partner to partner for the rest of your dating life!

Self-love, setting boundaries

Some people say that “you can never truly love another until you have learned to love yourself.”  I personally think that is total BS.  However, it is very important that you understand how to practice self-love so that your future relationships will be healthy ones.  And one form of self-love which I do think is 100% essential to practice before entering a relationship is setting boundaries.  This means noticing what makes you uncomfortable in a relationship, defining it, and refusing to tolerate it.  Sometimes we fail to set healthy boundaries because we fear losing the other person, but if you don’t do it anyway then you are setting yourself up for a future of being treated as less than you deserve.  If you have ever been called a “pushover,” felt treated like a doormat, or felt that you have been taken for granted in a relationship, this message is for you: LEARN HEALTHY BOUNDARY SETTING.

You may need to work on this before dating at all – and that is okay.  If it feels necessary for you, honour your truth and do what you feel is best.  Dating will always be there when you’re ready for it.  You need to take care of yourself, too.

The 5 Love Languages

In order to better understand how you experience love, it can be useful to know the concept of “The 5 Love Languages.”  Dr. Gary Chapman describes these so-called languages as: Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service, and Physical Touch.

Dr. Chapman explains Words of Affirmation as verbal compliments which are best kept simple.  This could be something like, “You look really beautiful today,” or “Thanks for being there for me.”  The key here is to not leave kind words unsaid.  If you find yourself appreciating somebody else, it can be nice for them to hear it.  We all need a little boost sometimes, and genuine compliments from people we care about can be really helpful.

Quality Time is pretty self-explanatory.  It means spending time with another person, being present in the moment.  Dr. Chapman points out that our high-tech world makes it so easy to miss out on real, quality time with the people we love.  Even if you’re out for an amazing dinner, you or the other person might be lost in your Instagram feed, scrolling on your phone while nodding and half-responding to the other person’s questions.  It’s easy to get stuck in autopilot and stay absorbed in our devices, but making the effort to spend even 10 or 15 minutes with somebody, really with the person, can drastically improve the relationship.  Giving someone your attention without feeling the need to check your phone every five seconds can be very grounding and rewarding.

The third language is Receiving Gifts, which is also pretty straightforward.  Giving tangible gifts can make the other person feel very special and it can be very gratifying for you too.  The key is to focus on the gesture and the thought put behind it as opposed to a price tag.  It can be easy to think “he/she doesn’t really care about me—they barely spent any money on this.”  But sometimes the most meaningful gifts can be handwritten love notes or a tin of homemade cookies.  The important part is that the receiving party feels appreciated and important.  Money is not the fundamental part of this concept.

The fourth is Acts of Service. Something as simple as giving your partner a neck massage when you notice that he/she is feeling stressed is all it takes.  Or maybe you cooked your partner a warm meal at the end of a long day to show that you cared.  These gestures can be very basic and everyday, but they’re still very meaningful.

Lastly, we have Physical Touch.  While having sex can undoubtedly connect partners, the little things are often more than enough to make your partner feel cared for.  A kiss on the cheek or holding your partner’s hand can be a very simple way to connect physically.  Even if you’re just waiting in line at the grocery store, doing it while holding hands can make your partner feel more connected to you.  It’s important to be sincere and to do what feels comfortable for you and your partner.

The purpose of understanding these languages here is that when you recognize which ones you “speak,” you unlock some important knowledge about what you really want from a partner. We all want to receive love in the ways that are most meaningful to us, personally.  Which of the five languages do you appreciate most?  Find someone who is able and willing to speak them to you.

Don’t settle for less (or other) than what you deserve

It’s also crucial to know your worth.  All of this introspection can teach you a lot about yourself.  After doing this work, really remember to value yourself and this new awareness of your needs and wants.

An article on PairedLife, called “Attract Your Soulmate By Making a List,” says that:  “if the [person], however, has some serious shortcomings and/or does not meet most of the requirements on your list, let [him/her] know and let [him/her] go immediately.  Be upfront and honest by telling [them] that you are not interested in pursuing any type of relationship and then move on.”

It may sound harsh but it’s important advice to remember.  You need to be realistic.  Take stock of what you’re looking for and make sure that you’re honest with potential partners about your values.  If you seem to be on a different page, or looking for different things in life, it may be best to cut things short before they get too difficult.  This can be hard to do, but it is ultimately an act of self-respect (and it also shows respect for the other person because you don’t want to waste their time, either).

Defining exactly what you want in a partner like this helps you to stay focused and confident in the dating world.  When you meet someone that you are “unsure” about, you can think back to your description of this ideal partner and ask yourself whether or not they match up.  Sometimes it’s easy to fall head-over-heels in love with someone you just met.  When you know exactly what you want, and you stay focused on that, it is easier to break ties with someone early on (when you’re not yet attached!) when you realize they aren’t what you’re looking for.  This way, it is also easier to stand your ground and walk away from bad behaviour that makes you feel insecure.

Don’t ever make excuses for people who are treating you as less than you deserve or think that you might be able to change someone.  Believe that there IS someone out there who is already willing and able give you what you need in a relationship.  If you settle you will not be happy and you are only wasting your own time.

A note on “neediness”

Many people fear insecurity, “neediness,” or dependency in potential partners, but they often fail to realize that it is own their behaviours which can often cause their partners to become that way.  It’s normal for a person to feel insecure if they don’t know where they stand in a relationship, or if their partner constantly does things that make them question where they stand.  A good and mature partner understands that and they will not make you feel guilty if you feel that way.  If anything, THEY will feel guilty about it and they will give you what you need in order to feel safe again—whether that’s reassurance, validation, spending more time with you, or stopping the behaviour that made you feel insecure.

So if you fear “neediness” or dependency in a partner, take a look at your own behaviour and ask yourself whether or not you’re an example of a loyal, honest, and dependable person.  We are wired for giving, nurturing, and signalling emotional safety in relationships.  In part, this literally defines relationships.  To behave indifferently to your partner’s emotional needs in a relationship is being selfish.  So is this an area you struggle with?  Are you afraid to be generous, to give emotional validation, or reassurance?  Again, you may want to do some self-work before pursuing a relationship.  If someone is feeling “needy,” there’s a good chance it’s because they love you and you simply aren’t giving them what they need to feel loved in return.

This brings me to…

Emotional safety

In an article titled “Emotional Safety is Necessary for Emotional Connection,” Ellen Boeder discusses how our nervous system is wired to detect threats and disengage us from threatening situations—this includes threats to emotional safety.  She says that, “When we don’t feel safe, our bodies don’t want to engage, connect, or provide the emotional warmth our relationships need in order to thrive.”  In other words, feeling guarded can limit our relationships.

Boeder continues: “The latest research in neurobiology shows that emotional safety is one of the most important aspects of a satisfying connection in a loving relationship.  We need to feel safe before we’re able to be vulnerable, and as Brené Brown reminds us, ‘Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, accountability, and authenticity.’”

Let’s unpack that.  Emotional safety is often a prerequisite for vulnerability.  And vulnerability is a prerequisite for deep, authentic love.  So, by choosing a partner who makes you feel safe, you open yourself up to being vulnerable around that person, too.  And through that vulnerability and honesty, you can allow your true self to unfold before them.  You can be authentic without the fear of being judged.

“Honesty can make or break a relationship”

Authenticity is closely connected to honesty.  In an article for Psychology Today, Dr. Barton Goldsmith explains just how crucial honesty is in a healthy relationship.  He says, “Trying to ‘protect’ your partner or just trying to avoid looking bad can create more trouble than it’s worth. It is best to be above board in all your dealings.”  This can be hard to swallow because a lot of us have a deep desire to please our partners and to try and placate them.  But the web of lies that you can get tangled in is not worth the trouble.  It’s best to just be honest the first time.  Even if it’s uncomfortable to be honest sometimes, it makes things easier in the long term because it is what allows you to openly address issues together.

Note:

  • Open communication is extremely important in any relationship.
  • You can’t have trust in a relationship without it.
  • It is also a way of showing respect, whereas lying is a form of disrespect.
  • Lying is also a form of manipulation: it is a way of keeping information from another person in order to maintain power in a relationship (because we fear what the other person might do if they knew the information).
  • Lying is wrong, unfair, and unhelpful, period.

In an article for CounsellingResource.com, Dr. George Simon discusses lying as a manipulation technique in depth.  In fact, he claims that it is the “ultimate” manipulation technique.

Dr. Simon says: “For the disordered character, lying serves many purposes. But mainly, lying serves to give a manipulator an advantage over someone else. Disordered characters don’t want you to know what they’re all about or what they’re up to. That would level the playing field in your encounters with them. But disturbed characters want to be one-up on you and a step ahead of you. They want to keep you in the dark and keep you guessing. One of the best ways to do this is by deception.”

Here, Dr. Simon digs deep into the real purpose of lying.  Aside from mere deception, he explains how liars are seeking power, too.  This is a desire for an upper-hand, which often stems from personal insecurity.

This is good to note because it’s easy to think that lying is a surface-level offence; somebody didn’t want to admit the truth, so they lied.  But Dr. Simon asks us to look below the surface and recognize how deeply this behaviour is rooted.  Liars aren’t just trying to hide something—they’re also trying to gain power in a relationship.  Being aware of this is important when choosing a partner.  If you notice that a person is prone to lying, it may be good to look deeply into the pattern and maybe reassess your relationship.  Have a discussion with them and, if necessary, consider ending the relationship for your own emotional wellbeing.

So how do we communicate a dirty ugly truth?  Dr. Goldsmith believes that we sometimes need to be cautious when being honest with partners.  He says, “‘Brutal honesty’ has gotten a lot of press lately, but I have seen it do more damage than good.  You need to present your issues with some degree of kindness.  If not, your message may be buried in an avalanche of hurt feelings.”  So, while it’s good to be up-front, try not to be straight-up abrasive.  Sometimes, when we try to be “straight” with people, it devolves into being rude or mean and that is not conducive to being in a loving relationship.  Try to find a middle ground between being honest and being rude.  There is ALWAYS a way to accurately and fairly communicate a difficult truth.

All in all, what I am trying to say here is this: I highly encourage you to add “honesty” as an essential trait on your list.  It is crucial for any healthy relationship.  And if you personally still believe that “it’s okay to lie sometimes,” please, out of respect for others, work on yourself before pursuing a relationship.

Consider gender

There are only two genders.  I won’t dive into that in great detail in this article, however, it needs to be said here.  Why?  Because in order to figure out who your ideal partner is, you also need to know which gender they are.  Your ideal partner will be someone who is the opposite gender to your own—regardless of their biological sex.  If you haven’t done so already: figure out which gender you have a tendency towards expressing, make the conscious decision to “be” that, and find a partner whose gender is opposite.  This will make for a more harmonious relationship.  I  am working on an article which explains this at great length.  In the meantime, please trust me… and read this (AND think about it). Takeaway: “High correlations between the separate TMF femininity and masculinity scales as shown in Study 1 suggest a bipolar, one-dimensional use of this instrument reflecting laypersons’ ideas of masculinity and femininity as two extremes of one continuum. This is also in line with findings reported by [two similar studies].”

Back to our “Love List”

Elena Murzello, author of “The Love List: A Guide to Getting Who You Want” introduces the concept of a “love list” to help people find good partners.  She compares dating to grocery shopping, stating: “Without a list, you base your purchases on how hungry you are and end up grabbing random items you don’t need, like pretzel-covered peanut-butter snacks.”

How can you find the partner you really want if you never take the time to figure out what you even want in the first place?  What a great analogy.  Everyone knows the feeling—you head to the grocery store in a rush and you throw in whatever food looks good at the time.  You base your choices on fleeting emotions (hungry, maybe in a rush).  So you throw in that extra bag of chips or something else that you don’t really need and likely forget a few things that you actually do need.  Because you never took the time to slow down and figure out your needs, you ended up with whatever looked appealing in the short-term.  In dating, if we don’t first establish our priorities, it’s very hard to find a partner who lines up with said priorities.

This article is intended to help you create your “love list.”  I included this in the manifestation series for a reason: knowing exactly what you want in a partner is a prerequisite to attracting that kind of person!

Stay tuned for Part 3 🙂

Crocodile Tears: Why We Need Validation

I had a recent conversation with my mom on the phone. It was emotional. We argued. At the end I was in tears. I was distressed because she has this very pessimistic way about her (as the result of being let down too many times in her own life, naturally) and this pessimism affects me in a very negative way. In this instance it made me feel as though something that I told her about, something harmless that I personally wanted to do, was wrong in some way. It created an extremely intense level of guilt within me, to the point where I felt sick to my stomach by the mere thought of doing that thing. I simply became so distressed that I was lost for words and all I could do was cry. Then, she said something shocking, reckless, and disturbingly familiar.

“Stop giving me those crocodile tears” she said.

I went silent.

She said a few final egoistic words. I told her to take care and that I hoped she felt better (she told me that she felt ill earlier that day).

She hung up the phone and I sat there to think about the significance of this statement and what it meant to me personally, while I let out a few more “crocodile tears.”

Screen Shot 2018-08-04 at 17.40.24

When I was a kid I reacted to this kind of treatment as any kid naturally would. I accepted the fact that I had done something wrong and I made it a point to avoid doing that wrong thing again in the future.

I didn’t realize just how serious of a problem this was until earlier this summer when I had just graduated from university and received my degree in psychology. I moved back in with my mom and now we make frequent road trips to go visit my grandma who is currently in the hospital. On the road we rant about different things, sometimes personal and sometimes random. It’s the personal stuff that always feels uncomfortable for some reason. I noticed that whenever I feel like sharing something with my mom, something just a little bit personal about myself, something that I would openly tell any one of my friends, I feel a bit apprehensive, anxious… and guilty.

On this particular day I found that feeling very curious. “Let’s do a test,” I thought. I told my mom something that I was honestly thinking about at the time. I told her that I was thinking of eating more raw vegan foods because I noticed that a lot of people were having very positive health outcomes from going raw vegan, and that I thought i’d try having one raw smoothie every day and see how it feels. Normal, benign, and healthy, right? Well, my mom immediately reacted with disapproval and negativity. She interpreted it as something that I wanted to do because I had “low self esteem” and that I should just be happy with myself without dabbling into “extreme” ways of living in order to improve myself.

“Hm” I said. And I sat to think on this for the rest of the ride as I tuned out everything else she was saying.

It really bothered me. Not because I needed her approval, but because it didn’t make any sense. There was absolutely nothing wrong with my idea of having one smoothie a day. If anything, it would be a really healthy thing to do. It wouldn’t hurt me or impose on my mom in any way. It was a simple, random, curious, and harmless idea that I got. Why did it really offend my mom so much then? The only thing that I could think of is that it’s simply not something that she would do – it’s different from HER norm.

I then wondered how often this had happened when I was a kid and what it was that I was doing when she reacted with disapproval (side note: I was an extremely curious and adventurous kid. I did some pretty questionable things :)). I recalled things like not going to bed when it was my bedtime and playing in the dirt when I was wearing nice clothes because we were about to go out to dinner. One time I attempted to resuscitate a dead squirrel from the road that got ran over by a car. A lot of things that any reasonable parent would get a bit upset or worried over (even though I would personally find it hilarious if my kid did the squirrel thing).

But there were also some really innocent things that I did which weren’t abnormal or wrong. When I recalled these events it scared me. There were things like… not getting into the car fast enough, leaving a bit of food on my plate after a meal, wanting to have steak for dinner instead of hot dogs, needing to go to the bathroom at an “inconvenient” time, accidentally tripping and falling for christ sake. Little, menial, NORMAL, and HEALTHY things that I did which my parents got EXTREMELY upset over. They would huff and puff and yell and scream over these things.

No, my dad was not exempt from doing this. I remember one time I had accidentally spilled some milk and his reaction was as though I did something reprehensible. If I asked him for a piece of cheese when he was cutting it for his lunch for work he got upset. When I told him about something I did that I thought was interesting and exciting he would always ask “oh, who told you to do/say that?” …as if I did not have a mind of my own and was not capable of doing interesting and valuable things by virtue of my own natural talents. He made me rush to hug my relatives upon meeting them and I was scolded if I did not run to meet them fast enough. Eventually (obviously!) I became shy and I was scolded for being that way too.

Holy shit, I thought. There are so many things here which weren’t even wrong. I just felt like they were wrong at the time because my parents had a meltdown when I did them. And who were they to know right from wrong? As a pretty wise kid, it was obvious to me that some of the things which they themselves did weren’t well regarded.

Well, it turns out that most of those things that I did which they got upset over were things that simply inconvenienced them in some way. When I was little I couldn’t have realized this, but now, with my educated adult brain, I understand that they got mad at me for doing certain things because those things imposed on them or whatever they were doing at the time. It was because they were stressed, they were self-absorbed, and that I wasn’t necessarily doing something wrong. Basically, if it wasn’t something that they would do and/or if it inconvenienced them, it was wrong. I bet, to some degree, they even controlled my behaviour like this in order to cope with a lack of control that they were personally feeling in other areas of their life, but I digress…

As a kid, it was as though by merely existing I was doing something wrong. There was something wrong with me and I, as a person, was not intrinsically capable of doing anything right or meaningful. At least that’s probably how I internalized it. It only makes sense then that I would often feel anxious, second questioning and doubting of myself, wondering whether or not whatever I was doing or saying was acceptable. But the question now is: how did this eventually affect me in the long run?

Screen Shot 2018-08-04 at 18.16.41Late last year I met an individual with severe bipolar disorder. When this person was triggered, he would go into isolation for extended periods of time because he was so overcome with feelings of guilt and shame. He felt as though he was not good enough for anyone and he did not want to be seen in such an “unworthy” and “unlovable” state. He was an academic perfectionist and a competitive athlete. As an adult, his triggers came from no one other than himself and his own fears of inadequacy. He told me that he discovered the root cause of this behaviour through therapy and that root cause was the frequent, unpredictable, and irrational disapproval of his parents during his childhood. Although to a lesser extent, I could relate to him.

It made me think a lot about how the constant disapproval and invalidation from my parents affected me. Is it restricted to how I feel and behave around my parents? Or does it leak into other areas of my life? I don’t lock myself away in isolation, overcome with shame, but is there something else that I do, or some unhealthy behaviour that I can heal with this new insight? I recalled past relationships, friendships, hobbies, events, school – any and all types of situations in which a person does things.

Here are some facts: I struggle with perfectionism. I often doubt myself. I am easily confused and manipulated. I am obsessed with understanding the inner workings of things. When I can’t understand the inner workings of things I feel inadequate and sometimes crazy. I can’t stand it when things are incorrect or untruthful. I absolutely hate being lied to. Being told (explicitly or implicitly) that I am not smart hurts. I abhor unsolicited advice (it assumes that I don’t already know something). I’ve been in multiple relationships with people who did not respect my needs or feelings. And finally (in terms of what is relevant), I cannot stand being invalidated.

No, it’s not that I NEED validation from other people. I don’t need people to tell me whether I did something “good” or “bad.” I am an adult who is capable and self-aware enough to know the difference between when I did something awesome and when I did something shitty. In fact (not that this happens very often, but) I am smart and strong enough that I usually just laugh when someone tells me that they didn’t like something that I did or said. I also don’t give the slightest care whether or not someone likes me.

It’s being INVALIDATED that gets to me. When I tell someone how I feel, when I am sad or upset, when I tell them that I am worried about something, or that I have some genuine concern …and they essentially tell me that I’m just giving them crocodile tears. It makes me sick to my stomach. And it is the absolute worst when it’s coming from someone that I care about, who claims to care about me too. I am overcome with anger and frustration when people say things like:

  • “You’ll get over it.”
  • “Oh come on it’s not that big of a deal.”
  • “It’s not hurting me so there’s nothing wrong with it.”
  • “I’m not going to have this discussion. It’s your problem. You deal with it.”
  • “I’m sorry you feel that way.”
  • “It could be worse.”
  • “You don’t really mean that.”
  • “You’re just tired.”
  • “It’s PMS.”

And it can also be done covertly: sometimes people will listen to the things that you tell them and then, in their mind, they will change the story to better fit their own perception of reality. You won’t realize that they did this, usually, until a few days later in a different conversation when they bring up what you said. Ever felt like someone “twisted” your words? Usually it’s because what you said was inconvenient for them on some level. It provoked them to step outside of their ego and actually take action to address whatever you were telling them or to at least acknowledge it. Emotionally immature people are uncomfortable doing that. Sometimes they’ll get defensive instead and gaslight the situation, saying that an event itself happened differently than the way it actually did. Usually that’s because the way it happened looks bad on them. This is also a very common reason why people lie.

Invalidation is, by it’s very nature, a form of emotional abuse. It is wrong, period. Nobody should ever question the validity of another person’s reality or emotions, and they especially shouldn’t use manipulative tactics to cope with it. The only purpose this serves is to help the person avoid taking responsibility for their own shitty behaviour or avoid addressing something.

But for me, invalidation stabs at a very deep wound. I find it infuriating. Obviously my childhood played a huge role in that but I think that most of this anger really stems from simply knowing the meaning behind it: when you invalidate someone, it is because you are assuming that their feelings are irrelevant, inferior to your own, unimportant, or incorrect. You are telling them that their reality is wrong and yours is right. The problem with that is: it can NEVER be the case that one person’s feelings are more valid than another’s. We’ve all had different life experiences which have shaped our unique brains and thus perspectives. Who are you to say that yours is the only right one? Invalidating others is a behaviour that operates on an incorrect premise and only serves to silence a person when their feelings are inconvenient for you. It’s this principle that makes invalidation bother me more than anything. It’s simply wrong.

And even if you disagree with a person’s logic you should never invalidate their emotional experiences. Validation has absolutely nothing to do with agreeing. Let me repeat that:

Validation ≠ Agreeing

For the sake of this article I am using “validation” and “emotional validation” synonymously but we are talking about EMOTIONAL VALIDATION here. Obviously I’m not saying that we should accept EVERYTHING that others tell us as the truth! To save us all some time and make sure we’re on the same page, here is an excellent definition:

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Unfortunately men invalidate women a lot. An evolutionary theory suggests that this is related to being “nagged” at by their mothers and now they naturally tune out the voices of women. Other theories look how men are socialized, essentially positing that men have learned to invalidate the feelings and realities of others because they were repeatedly taught to do so as children. Invalidating phrases like “it’s not such a big deal,” “man up,” and “men aren’t supposed to cry” are indeed linked to a dampening of the development of empathy in men (Lawrence et al., 2004). It’s why men are more likely than women to have narcissistic personality traits and be diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder (Grijalva et al., 2015). Some refer to this gender difference as “toxic masculinity.” Whatever you want to call it, it sucks. I personally remember being in relationships where my partners didn’t listen to the things that I had to say, who told me that my feelings were exaggerated or wrong or in some way, and who even laughed at me when I cried.

So should I release my need for validation because it gives others power to influence how I feel? Should validation only come from within? Is this an issue that I need to heal within myself?

The answer I’ve come to is no. Absolutely not – quite the contrary in fact. It’s the people with narcissistic tendencies who need to accept the fact that everyone should be validated emotionally, otherwise it’s abuse. And you can’t just “release” or “get over” a fundamental need. I’ll say this a million times: all human beings have a need for belonging so we do need other people. That means we need to learn how to live with each other rather than pretending that we are completely “strong and independent” and then wondering why we have relationship problems. That means we need validation. And for our own good we need to relearn empathy if our socialization has taught us to forget it.

This is a core reason why many people spend hundreds and thousands of dollars at therapy, whether or not they realize it. They are seeking emotional validation. Why? Because we live in a narcissistic society where our friends, family, and lovers think that we shouldn’t need it. Because thinking that way makes their lives easier. But we do need it. And they need it too, whether or not they are mature enough to admit it. This is why therapists and counsellors are professionally trained to validate. It’s also a major factor in the efficacy of psychological therapy as a general practice. Being asked “and how did that make you feel?” followed by a nonjudgemental response is actually HUGE.

And the extent to which being invalidated bothers us ultimately does not matter. Because, again, it should never happen in the first place. Personally, I have simply made the decision not to get close with anyone who hasn’t evolved far enough outside of their ego to validate the feelings and needs of other people. It’s the ultimate sign of weakness and immaturity. It’s cowardice. I used to think that validating was something that I could teach to others in my personal life who weren’t very good at it but I’ve since decided that I do not have the time nor desire to do that. Because if they can’t validate me then there couldn’t possibly be anything good enough about them that makes them worthwhile of spending time with. Even if they are intelligent or interesting they simply aren’t a good person in my book. And yes, it’s most likely because they have their own internal issues going on, but I won’t sacrifice my wellbeing in order to appease them with my care and presence anymore. I am more interested in meeting people who want to grow and evolve rather than do the more comfortable thing and hide from their relational problems. Such people are only capable of love so long as the needs and feelings of their “loved” ones are convenient for THEM. I am proud to be a grown ass woman who considers herself quite “strong and independent” but I also recognize that the people who I appreciate the most are the ones who are emotionally nurturing, the people who aren’t too scared or self-absorbed to say things like “that must feel awful,” “aww, are you okay?” and “can I do something to make you feel better?” Anyone with a fair amount of self-awareness and maturity will recognize that about themselves too.

I also want to encourage anyone reading this to implement the same way of thinking in their own life. Know that your need to be validated for your feelings is normal and healthy. Anyone who disagrees on this does not understand what emotional validation actually is and for that reason I will probably dedicate a nice long blog post to explaining it to them soon.

This is what us emotionally healthy people need to do instead of trying to “overcome” our need for validation: we need to set boundaries with people who invalidate us. And, if need be, we should cut them out of our lives completely. If someone is not listening to you, or telling you that your feelings are wrong, they simply don’t respect you. And we don’t need people like that in our lives.

Here’s another comment that I would like to make: I have spent a fair amount of time working with children and let me tell you that this phenomenon is not rare. In fact it is the NORM. As a part of my career I have been responsible for telling kids not to do a plethora of things which were not, in fact, really wrong. I had to tell kids they could only play with certain toys, that they had to sit at certain times and play at other times. If they felt like sitting during play time or playing during sitting time they were scolded. Their behaviour was constantly questioned and if they did anything outside of the “norm” then they were told that they were doing something wrong. They were systematically invalidated nearly every minute of every day. I saw this in schools, homes, and various other settings. Eventually I realized that most of these rules and “norms” were not even there to help the children develop into healthy individuals but rather to manage the stress and maintain the ego of their caretakers. I am so glad that I no longer work with kids for this reason alone.

I am no longer a child. I have to take my past experiences, learn from them, and cope with whatever repercussions they come with. I just hope that the parents of today truly give this some thought. It is incredibly easy for a child to suffer permanent and debilitating consequences from seemingly harmless childhood experiences. Parents, please ask yourself: are your kids learning right from wrong? Or are they learning what YOU think is right and wrong based on your own troubled past, upbringing, and education? Please think of your own mental health struggles and ask yourself: am I preventing my child from turning out like this, or am I encouraging it? When you scold them, did they ACTUALLY do something wrong? Or were you just stressed out and inconvenienced by their existence? The more things you disapprove of them doing, the more you are showing them that WHO THEY ARE is wrong. Choose what you disapprove of wisely.

I love my parents. They are flawed humans, just like the rest of us, who were probably doing their best to raise me in the midst of their own struggles and they also love(d) me in their own ways. They didn’t have the most ideal childhood themselves. I don’t want to make it sound like I’m complaining. I am using this as an example, to learn from it and to share what I’ve learned with others. Because my story is not unique at all – invalidation affects everyone, especially children. It fucks us up in both subtle and detrimental ways and it’s a pattern that continues to repeat itself over generations because of our failure to stop it.

The only solution is to acknowledge the problem, set healthy boundaries with others, and learn how to transcend our ego through empathy. By doing this, we will not only heal ourselves but we can also help to heal those who have suffered emotional trauma and prevent it from happening to others in the future. Because no one deserves to have their emotions invalidated. It’s disrespectful and abusive.

There is no such thing as crocodile tears.

References

Grijalva, E., Newman, D. A., Tay, L., Donnellan, M. B., Harms, P. D., Robins, R. W., & Yan, T. (2015). Gender differences in narcissism: A meta-analytic review. Psychological Bulletin, 141(2), 261-310. doi:10.1037/a0038231

Lawrence, E. J., Shaw, P., Baker, D., Baron-cohen, S., & David, A. S. (2004). Measuring empathy: Reliability and validity of the empathy quotient. Psychological Medicine, 34(5), 911-920. doi:10.1017/S0033291703001624