Over the years, I’ve had slews of couples come through my office with a variety of presenting issues that range anywhere from communication breakdowns, to sexual dysfunctions, to infidelities, to diminished passion, etc. These only name but a few, but the common denominator that appears pervasive throughout most relationship difficulties is a climate of tension, resentment, and mistrust that results when the partners don’t feel acknowledged or honored by each other. This can erode the foundation that the relationship is built upon and jeopardizes the love, closeness, and attachment the couple had developed. Mayday! Mayday! Relationship rescue is now needed!
The interpersonal skill of validation is one technique that can help enrich any relationship and is a great tool for solidifying emotional bonds and fostering more intimacy between loving partners. This article will explore the concept of validation and offer suggestions for incorporating more of it with your partner to promote more heightened “relationship bliss.”
What Is Validation? In the initial stages of dating, it’s not too difficult to validate each other. This “honeymoon phase” of relationship development is depicted by high chemistry, thinking about each other all the time and wanting to devote energy to being with one another. You feel excited and boosted by the other’s attraction for you and attention. It requires very little effort and is usually described as a “magical” feeling. Over time, however, this “spark” tends to diminish and is a normal sign of the maturing of the relationship, not necessarily a signal that something is wrong.
Long-term relationships require lots of validation for sustenance and nourishment. Validation is letting your partner know how much you appreciate him. It’s being attentive to his needs and acknowledging him as someone of value to you, regardless of whether you agree or disagree about areas of contention. It’s making him feel important, showing him how much meaning he brings to your life. Validation is the ultimate expression of love for your partner. The key is to be genuine, consistent, and deliver it in the style to which you know your partner likes to be attended.
Validate Your Man!
The greatest way to validate your lover is to use your knowledge and wisdom of his needs, personality, tastes, and preferences and communicate it verbally or through action in ways that will have the most and meaning and impact for him.
In his groundbreaking book, “The Five Love Languages (2004)”, Dr. Gary Chapman, Ed.D exposes how we all express love in different ways; what is meaningful and validating to you may be indifferent to your boyfriend. The key to relationship success, according to Chapman, is to understand each other’s unique needs and learn the correct love language to express so each partner is fulfilled. Chapman identifies the five specific love languages as:
1. Words of Affirmation (verbal compliments & appreciations, kind words, encouragement)
2. Quality Time (togetherness, conversation, activities)
3. Receiving Gifts (flowers, surprise gifts)
4. Acts of Service (doing things for your partner that he likes/wants)
5. Physical Touch (affection, holding hands, back rubs, kissing, sex)
By speaking your partner’s primary love language, you are validating him in a way that matters most to him and increases the chances he’ll reciprocate back to meet your needs in ways you prefer.
An important point needs to be made in that it’s critical you learn how to validate yourself too! While giving and receiving validation with your partner is a positive relationship skill to practice, it’s equally vital to empower yourself. You don’t want to create a dependency on your partner to meet all your needs; you are responsible for your own happiness and should avoid placing expectations on your relationship to fulfill your life. Learn how to boost your self-esteem and soothe yourself when life or your relationship gets tenuous. This will help you cope better with disappointments and avoid placing pressure on your partner for something you must take ownership for. As partners, teach each other on how you best like to be treated, but also be proactive in taking charge of your own life and making things happen for your success.
1. As an exercise, both you and your partner can make separate lists detailing what you imagine your lover doing that would be pleasing to you. Then at a later time, exchange your lists, talk about them, and begin performing the items on the lists. This can be an easy reference for accomplishing tasks that you each know would be validating for the other.
2. Purchase the book “The Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman. While written primarily for a heterosexual audience, the material definitely pertains to gay couples as well and I highly recommend it as a valuable resource. What is your primary love language? What is your partner’s? How can you work together as a team to meet each other’s needs in ways that you each appreciate the most in your own unique styles of preference? The book also contains personal assessment tools and exercises to help you integrate the content into your relationship.
While validation won’t solve all your relationship woes, it certainly will go a long way toward creating a climate of support, encouragement, and attentiveness that can inspire more intimacy, trust, and commitment. Make a conscious effort to learn more about your partner’s needs and your own and tailor approaches that will create the most impact for both of you.
With practice, validation will become second nature and “relationship bliss” can be yours for the taking!
Reference: Chapman, Gary (2004). The Five Love Languages: How To Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate. Chicago: Northfield Publishing.
© Dr. Brian Rzepczynski, The Gay Love Coach
The suggestions and feedback offered in this column are but one perspective of multiple approaches to dealing with problems or challenges. Information provided in articles and advice columns should not be used as a substitute for coaching or therapy when these services are needed. None of this information should be your only source when making important life decisions. This information should not be used for diagnosing or treating a particular problem, nor should it take the place of a consultation with a trained professional. It is your responsibility to consult a professional prior to making any life decisions.
Dr. Brian Rzepczynski, contributing author to GAYTWOGETHER, is one of the leading love coaches for the gay community. As a licensed dating and relationship coach, Dr. Brian Rzepczynski, DHS, MSW has over 18 years experience as a psychotherapist and life coach specializing in helping GLBT individuals and couples develop and maintain successful and fulfilling intimate relationships. He holds a doctorate degree in human sexuality from the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality and a master’s degree in clinical social work from Western Michigan University. He also runs a successful private therapy practice, Personal Victory Counseling, Inc. http://thegaylovecoach.com