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Our relationships are far from being perfect.
We aren’t perfect either. But it seems that when we form a strong bond in our relationships, we expect constant happy days filled with nothing but smiles, laughter, and cheerful moments.
We don’t foresee the difficulties. We don’t anticipate the storms. And maybe we don’t want them to happen, which is absolutely understandable. After all, we would all choose bliss over discomfort.
But suffering is an integral part of our lives—we come to life through pain and leave our physical bodies through pain. Especially when it comes to our romantic relationships. We certainly don’t wish to feel or inflict hurt, but it’s bound to happen.
Without pain, there would be no growth, no gratitude, no examination.
We’ve spoken about emotional abuse for years, but we’ve disregarded the details—the damaging parts.
We’ve disregarded emotional invalidation.
It is when our personal pain comes to the surface in our relationships. It is when the imperfect side of love shines bright. It is when our hearts break wide open, and we want our partner to mend them.
And when we hurt or fight—when our relationships aren’t that perfect anymore—we revert to our partner for emotional support and validation but don’t find them there. Instead, they meet us with judgement and downplay our pain.
Many of us might not realize how damaging emotional invalidation is for the person who’s hurting. Even the one who’s emotionally abused might not realize it, as they try to shove down their negative feelings that haven’t been acknowledged or understood.
The partner who invalidates might trick them into thinking that they are overreacting, being too sensitive, or should just get over it because it’s not a big deal. That said, the partner who’s hurt feels alone and judged. As a defense mechanism, they try harder to verbalize their pain so they feel heard and supported.
Now what starts as a harmless fight turns into a field of deep emotional suffering. And while we think that the abuser is inflicting pain on purpose, it is important to acknowledge that emotional abusers are hurt as well. It is possible that they don’t know how to validate their partner’s emotions because they don’t know how to validate theirs. It is a simple defense mechanism that provides them with a swift and definite exit.
No, you’re not too sensitive.
No, you’re not overreacting.
No, you don’t need to “just get over it.”
We need to understand that judging and downplaying our partner’s emotions damages our relationships. If we don’t know how to cope with difficult emotions, it’s okay to express it and seek help. It’s okay to discuss our shortcomings with our partner.
But it’s not okay to pressure our partner into being happy and satisfied the entire time. When our partner is not feeling okay, when they’re angry at us, or when they have an issue they want to discuss, it means they are suffering, and they need emotional support. They need solutions. They need understanding.
The more we suppress our partner’s feelings and make them feel bad, the faster we give them a one-way ticket to being displeased. The emotionally abused partner might lash out, storm out, or simply become more upset, as it is their only way to voice their concerns.
Our partner’s emotions are always important, especially during fights or disagreements. It is not our place to define their emotions, shame them, or tell them how they should be feeling. Our sole job is to uncover (together) the root of the problem and discuss solutions that satisfy both parties.
We all want to be loved, but most of all, we all want to be understood—heard.
So stop telling someone they’re being dramatic or sensitive or overreacting. Stop shaming someone for not feeling good. Stop expecting relationships to be a perfect romantic novel with no complications.
Relationships require constant, committed effort. And the biggest effort of all is to accept and love our partner as they are. With all their negative and positive emotions. With all their ups and downs.
Empathy and compassion are more important than being right. At the end of the day, it is kindness, understanding, and support that keep our relationships healthy and striving.