Some people who want more “intimacy” really want more validation. They think that intimacy involves one partner who discloses, while the other accepts and validates that person.
In contrast, however, a successful, long-term, passionate relationship is based on self-disclosure without expecting validation from the other person.
The problem with expecting validation is that we often validate our partner simply to reduce anxiety and to accommodate his or her fears and limitations. While we may tell ourselves we are reducing the anxiety of our partner, often it is really our own anxiety that we cannot tolerate when our partner is under stress.
If a partner’s inner response is “You need to figure this out on your own”…, but he or she chooses to respond out loud by nodding and smiling, the result is a deadening of the soul and a loss of passion within the relationship.
Validating our partner can temporarily improve a partner’s functioning. However, it often creates long-term problems, such as increased codependency. Codependency involves increased vulnerability to the other partner’s manipulation, an expanding obligation to ease our partner’s anxiety, and a tendency toward always presenting oneself in a particular way to get a positive reaction.
Self-validated intimacy, as opposed to venting, allows your partner to truly see you without imposing an obligation on him or her to validate you. It requires a certain discipline to look at yourself objectively and to accept your partner’s authentic response, whether it’s a lack of interest or disagreement.
While it’s nice to be validated by others, you are more likely to get true validation only when you don’t seek it. When you’re willing to accept a person’s honest response, then you can meet that person on a deeper, truly-intimate level. Ironically, less validation means greater intimacy and the possibility of a long-term passionate relationship.
by Alison Poulsen, PhD