Tag Archives: validation

“I want more intimacy, validation, and to feel closer to you.”

"Marilyn Silver Screen" by Mimi Stuart © Live the Life you Desire

“Marilyn Silver Screen” by Mimi Stuart ©
Live the Life you Desire

Some people claim they want more intimacy, but what they seem to really want is total agreement and constant validation, which are antithetical to intimacy. Long-term, passionate intimacy requires that two people have a strong enough sense of self that they can have differing opinions without expecting all-encompassing closeness and validation from each other.

Intimacy based on accommodation

People often find it uncomfortable to deal with their partner’s insecurities. It is easier to simply appease them, agree with them, and validate them. So they often validate their partner simply to accommodate the partner’s fears and insecurities. It is often really their own anxiety that they cannot tolerate when their partner is under stress.

For example, you may choose to respond by nodding agreeably when you don’t agree rather than saying, “I think you could have handled this differently.” As a result of hiding your true thoughts, the result is a deadening of the soul, resentment, and a loss of passion within the relationship.


Validating your partner can temporarily improve your partner’s mood and functioning. However, it often creates long-term problems, such as increased codependency. Each partner feels increasingly burdened by an obligation to ease the other person’s anxiety. When couples become codependent, they are increasingly vulnerable to the other partner’s manipulation. They also become anxious about saying and doing the right thing in order to get a positive reaction.

Intimacy based on candor

True intimacy evolves when you don’t manipulate your partner to validate you. When you don’t need your partner to accommodate your insecurities, it’s easier to show parts of yourself to your partner that he or she may not agree with or validate. The benefit is that your partner then truly sees you without feeling an obligation to shore up your insecurities.

This requires a certain discipline, confidence, and courage to look at yourself objectively and to accept your partner’s authentic response.

While it’s nice to be validated by others, you are more likely to get true validation when you are not trying to attain 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 push for validation means greater intimacy and the possibility of a long-term passionate relationship.

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

Read “Intimacy vs. Agreement: ‘I better not disagree with his point of view, or he’ll get upset.’”

“I try so hard to make her happy.”

"Noble Love" by Mimi Stuart ©

“Noble Love” by Mimi Stuart ©

Responsibility for another’s wellbeing

People who put excessive energy into trying to make others happy tend to lose their sense of self and the accompanying groundedness and objectivity. The suppression of their own values, needs and desires often leads to growing resentment and a lack of vitality.

The more compelled a person is to promote someone else’s wellbeing, the more anxious that person becomes. People who put excessive energy into “helping” others and to making them happy are often completely unaware of the anxiety which drives them, because they are projecting their own anxiety onto the people they are trying to help.

Dependence on validation from others

The opposite dynamic also leads to trouble. The more your own wellbeing depends on validation from others, the more anxious you become. Thus, when people are desperately seeking validation, they tend to use emotional manipulation to get it. The resulting validation isn’t very gratifying because it has been coerced. Thus, their craving for validation is never satisfied, and becomes a drain on the relationship.

People who crave a lot of validation may be aware of their own anxiety, but they believe it is up to others to take care of them. Their efforts to get others to relieve their anxiety are ineffective in resolving the ultimate problem—that is, learning to tolerate their own anxiety.

Escalation of anxiety

Anxiety increases when you have less control over achieving your goals. Since you are not in control of someone else’s wellbeing, and you are not in control of someone validating you, anxiety for both parties increases. Hence relationships between emotionally fused people tend to generate considerable chronic anxiety.

The more anxious people become, the more reactive and intolerant they are of others. They become more frantic to “fix” things. They may feel alternatively overwhelmed and isolated, needing more emotional connection, but rejecting all but the “right” kind of connection, that is, total validation. A lack of response or the wrong kind of response hurts or angers them, which causes them to say hurtful things or withdraw, leading to an escalation of anxiety and conflict.

It is paradoxical and unfortunate that undifferentiated people have more need of emotional support, but are less likely to get it or to be satisfied by it.

Healthy relationships

In healthy relationships, people are helpful, considerate, and care about the one another’s wellbeing. They will do things they think might make the other person happy. However, they are emotionally differentiated, which prevents one person’s anxiety from infecting the other and spiraling out of control. Differentiation means that you avoid emotionally manipulating another person and you avoid walk on eggshells. Instead you respect that person as autonomous, though perhaps interdependent. This requires being aware of and tolerating your own anxiety when someone else is not happy or when you are not receiving the validation that you were hoping to receive.

Murray Bowen, who developed the notion of differentiation, puts it this way: “The goal always is to work on oneself, not to attempt to change one’s family. The goal is not to get the family to “accept” you, to “love” you. The goal is to be more of a self, which is not contingent on acceptance.”

by Dr. Alison Poulsen

Recommended Kerr and Bowen’s “Family Evaluation.”

Read “Happiness: ‘We must have a terrible marriage because I’m so unhappy.’”

Read “I can’t live with her and I can’t live without her.”

Read “Ten Keys to a Great Relationship: ‘The magic is gone.’”

“I often feel depressed, anxious and desperate when my girlfriend is not giving me enough attention. For example, if she takes too long to reply to my text messages or is not very affectionate.”

"Rocket Man" by Mimi Stuart ©

“Rocket Man” by Mimi Stuart ©


People who need attention or validation in order to feel secure must step back and learn to cope with that longing without acting on it. Otherwise they create a vicious cycle that will ultimately backfire. The more desperate and insecure you become, the less likely you are to be validated by others or to get the attention you crave.

Even if you do receive validation in this situation, it’s likely to be out of a sense of pity or guilt rather than freely given.

Thus, for your own well-being, you need to resist the urge to pursue validation from your girlfriend. Avoid the use of manipulation, guilt, pleading and covert reciprocal bargains, such as the unstated, “I’ll flatter you if you flatter me.”


People differ in how effusive they are in emails, texts, and on the phone. There is no correct way to be. Accept your girlfriend for who she is, and give her positive feedback when she is more affectionate or attentive in her texts to you.

When dealing with feelings of anxiety and desperation, remind yourself to resist acting on those feelings in order to avoid pushing her away.

Do something interesting

Instead of getting angry at her or sending a needy text, find other things to do during those moments of anxiety that will make you a more whole and interesting person. Once you focus on another engaging activity you will feel less anxiety. Moreover, you will become more interesting and desirable to her and others around you.

Decide what activities you will do when you feel lonely or insecure–read a book, learn a language, go for a run or a walk, play the guitar, write poetry, watch Ted Talks, or the like. Find a few interesting things to do and then develop the willpower and self-discipline to do them, instead of letting your anxiety and anger get the better of you.

It may be hard at first, and then it will become easier because you will enjoy doing your own thing. The result will be a more interesting, confident, and well-rounded person, who will be more desirable to be with. The bonus will be increased interest and attention from your girlfriend.

by Dr. Alison Poulsen


Read “I end up arguing with him because he’s usually too busy working to talk.”

Read “Does she like me? She doesn’t text me like she did at the beginning.”

“I better comfort her because she can’t handle this.”

"Under Water" detail by Mimi Stuart ©

“Under Water” detail by Mimi Stuart ©

Validating others can backfire

Ironically, those who depend on another person’s validation to feel secure about themselves are causing their insecurity to intensify. If they depend on their partner, friend, or parent to validate them in order to appease their anxiety, they are allowing others to re-enforce their limitations. This will prevent them from growing and from developing a stronger sense of themselves when faced with difficulty, discomfort and anxiety.

Who is really the anxious one?

When somebody is upset, scared, or uncomfortable, are you the one that intervenes and tries to make it right? You may not think that you are the anxious one but generally what spurs somebody into quick action in an effort to validate others who are upset is their own anxiety.

People who find themselves frequently validating their partner, friend, or child think that it’s the other person who needs to be protected from falling apart or freaking out. Yet often they themselves are the ones who cannot tolerate their own anxiety in face of another person’s fear or problems. They focus so much on the other person that they are not even aware that their attempts to soothe the other person and to fix their problems results from their own discomfort with their own anxiety.

Dr. James Hollis holds that “the quality of all of our relationships is a direct function of our relationship to ourselves.” Thus, “the best thing we can do for our relationships with others… is to render our relationship to ourselves more conscious.”

How to handle another person’s anxiety

Avoid responding to other people’s anxiety with increased anxiety, which may express itself as validating them or fixing things for them. When you rush to soothe another person, you treat that person as a child, which prevents them from developing their own ability to stand on their own two feet.

Rather than soothing others who are facing some difficulty, it is more respectful to be with them or check in on them while allowing them to take care of themselves. Rather than validating them with efforts to appease, praise, and agree with them, tell them the truth, but do it with kindness. Rather than fixing the problem for them, be available for a conversation, and start by listening.

When someone’s emotions are running hot, the most effective way to be of help is to remain calm, and not allow your own emotions to be triggered. Allowing others to be responsible for soothing themselves and facing their own anxiety without propping them up allows them to grow, to develop self-respect, and to become a more whole and capable person.


Of course you must remain flexible. Babies and young children, for example, need to be soothed. But as children grow, we should gradually allow them more time to soothe themselves before we step in. In order for adults to handle big problems without falling apart they need to learn to handle small ones as they grow. If parents allow their children increasingly more responsibility to take care of themselves and fix their own problems as they grow, they will be able to handle increasingly more anxiety without falling down too hard. The key is allowing autonomy and responsibility to develop gradually.

Also, people experiencing real trauma may need soothing and help handling their problems.

The more we can be a calm presence for a person rather than a band-aid, the more we encourage them to become responsible for themselves, which is the only real way we can give them the gift of becoming more confident and secure.

by Dr. Alison Poulsen

Recommended: Dr. James Hollis’ Creating a life: Finding your individual path and The Eden project: In search of the magical other. Toronto, Canada: Inner City Books.

Read “Intimacy vs. Agreement: ‘I better not disagree with his point of view, or he’ll get upset.’”

Read “I worry a lot over my adult children and I often call them to give advice.”

Intimacy: “I want more intimacy and to feel closer to you.”

"Amelia" by Mimi Stuart
Live the Life you Desire

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.

Other-validated intimacy

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

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

Recommended: David Schnarch’s “Passionate Marriage.”

Read “My parents were so dysfunctional, I don’t even know what a good relationship looks like.”

“Don’t you love me?”

"The Kiss" by Mimi Stuart
Live the Life you Desire

No, please don’t ask that! If you have to ask, then at least say, “I know you’re crazy about me,” or “Tell me all the reasons you love me,” but say it with confidence and a smile in your eyes.

The question “Don’t you love me?” sounds needy and weak. You’ll probably get a “Yes, of course I do,” but it won’t be very satisfying, because the yearning and deprivation behind the question act as elements of coercion. There’s a sense of “You better answer ‘yes’, because if you don’t soothe my doubts, I’ll fall apart and then you’ll really have to take care of me.”

It’s human nature to be put off by neediness. Ironically, the very people who want so much to be desired and loved cause others to lose desire for them by their yearning. Instead of pressuring someone to validate you, it’s healthier to accept and validate yourself. It takes will-power, self-awareness, and a lot of practice standing on your own. While it may be tough to resist asking for validation and love, you’ll become stronger as well as more desirable to others.

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

Read “Emotional Intimacy.”