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4 min read

What Can I Do When My Partner is Dismissive of My Feelings? How to Heal Emotional Invalidation

A woman feeling invalidated

Emotional invalidation is when someone ignores, judges, or outright rejects your thoughts, feelings, or emotions. When you receive emotional invalidation from yourself or someone else, it can create feelings of low self-esteem and worthlessness.

Emotional invalidation can be done in a number of different ways. It can be a dismissive comment "I'm sure it wasn't that bad" or "you're being dramatic." It can be a derisive laugh from someone when you've shared something important to you. It can be getting hit with the silent treatment when you need to talk something out.

Signs of Emotional Invalidation in Relationships

While emotional invalidation from anyone can lead to hurt feelings, receiving it from a romantic partner or spouse can be devastating. Emotional invalidation can come from good intentions in someone with a lack of self-awareness, as when someone minimizes your feelings to try to cheer you up. The person may have neutral intentions, as with a partner who has difficulty dealing with their own emotions and uses silence as protection. Or it can be used as a form of emotional abuse to control another person. Some signs that your partner uses emotional invalidation in your relationship can include:

  • Ignores or dismisses your emotions, making you feel unheard and unimportant
  • They tell you how you should feel, rather than acknowledging your emotions
  • They blame you for your emotions, using phrases like “You’re just being sensitive”, "stop being dramatic", or "it's not that bad"
  • They use the silent treatment
  • They fault you for expressing your feelings, saying things like, “You’re overreacting.”

Emotional invalidation can be the result of your partner being unable to process your emotions, or not knowing how they should respond.

How Emotional Invalidation Can Affect a Person

Emotional invalidation can cause a number of challenges. Being exposed continually to invalidating responses can lead to difficulty managing your emotions. Without emotional validation, you can start to doubt your own feelings and experiences, and be unsure of how to react to different situations. You may also become frustrated and lash out at inappropriate moments.

Emotional invalidation can also create identity issues. You may internalize feeling invalidated and develop low self esteem in response.

Finally, dealing with emotional invalidation can either cause mental health issues like depression or anxiety, or exacerbate the symptoms of these disorders if you already experience them. When you don't feel heard, it's difficult to develop emotional safety that allows you to build resilience against these challenges.

Learning to Validate Your Own Feelings

Work on yourself first. Even under the best of circumstances, you may not always be able to rely on your partner to validate your feelings, so it can be important to learn how to hear your own inner voice. Emotional invalidation can be unintentional in some cases, so don't allow yourself to be drawn into a debate about your own lived experiences. Emotional self efficacy can offer emotional safety and resilience, even when you don't feel heard. A therapist may be able to help you develop these skills, or you can look for exercises online.

The Importance of Emotional Support

It can be essential to your emotional well being to have your feelings validated by others. If you are not getting what you need from your partner, it can be important to have social connections that do honor your feelings. This can be family members or friend groups. Not that a partner's emotional invalidation gets a pass, or should not be addressed, but that having people in your own life who validate your feelings can help improve your mental health, even if you have a partner who does not offer emotional validation.

Communicating with Your Partner

An emotional connection with your partner can be essential to a healthy relationship. Building communication skills can be a way to fight emotional invalidation and offer emotional support to each other. Here are some strategies you can use with your partner.

Use I-Statements to Express Your Feelings

Using "I" statements when you are discussing emotions allows you to express your feelings without sounding accusatory. This can help you communicate in a more emotionally validating way, and avoid blame.

Use Active Listening Skills

Active listening allows you to better understand each other's feelings and perspectives. Give your full attention when the other partner is speaking, use body language to indicate understanding, and follow up with open-ended questions to affirm what you're hearing.

Model Validation for Your Partner's Feelings

Emotional invalidation is not always intentional, so showing your partner how to support your feelings can be done through emotional validation of your partner's feelings. When you feel hurt, avoid the silent treatment and allow your partner to share.

Seeking Help and Healing

These are skills you can try to work on together on your own, but working with a family therapist can be a more effective way to learn to honor your partner's perspective and learn to read your partner's emotions.

When you feel hurt, it's difficult to have the perspective to bridge the gap between you. A safe and neutral space like a therapy office can provide a way to open up communication and emotional validation. A couples therapist can also provide guidance, emotional support, and tools to develop a healthy and mutually supportive relationship.

If your partner uses emotional invalidation as a form of emotional abuse to control or hurt you, then they may not be willing to participate in therapy. If they do not, you can still benefit by going yourself and learning how to protect your own mental health.

Building a culture of emotional validation can lead to a supportive relationship, emotional intimacy, and improved mental health. Couples counseling can help you set boundaries and learn to validate each other's feelings, while building a happier relationship.

Support for Emotional Invalidation in Austin, TX

Emotional invalidation from your partner, whether through the silent treatment or dismissive words, can lead to mental health challenges and fractured relationships. Fortunately, marriage counseling or couples counseling can help couples learn to honor each other's feelings.

At Williamsburg Therapy Group, our team of doctoral-level Austin psychotherapists offers both online and in-person appointments to accommodate both spouses, and to support the partner feeling invalidated, while helping both to improve communication skills.

If you are feeling invalidated, give us a call today, and our patient coordinator will help you find the right therapist to help you identify emotionally invalidating statements, learn how to cope when feeling emotionally invalidated, and offer additional relationship advice.

Couples therapy may also be an option for you.

Book a Therapy Session in Austin Today

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