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Loving Again After Invalidation: Interpersonal Effectiveness DBT Skills in Action

Have you ever experienced feeling unloved or unheard by your significant other after opening up about your emotions? It can be an excruciating experience, right? This Valentine’s Day, we’re focusing in on how to heal from harmful invalidation in your relationships and rediscovering how to love (and trust) again. By utilizing Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) skills, you can reinforce your connections and develop healthier ways of communicating with the people you hold dear.

Understanding Harmful Invalidation in Relationships

If you’ve ever felt like your thoughts and emotions, have been disregarded, judged, ignored, or dismissed, knowing that you may have experienced harmful invalidation is essential, especially in intimate relationships where you expect to feel supported and heard. You can better spot these hurtful comments and interactions with practice and awareness. 

Here are some signs to look for:

  • Failing to acknowledge your point of view. When your partner acts like they don’t understand or refuses to see things from your side.
  • Talking over you or interrupting frequently. This shows a lack of interest in genuinely listening to your words.
  • Making jokes at your expense. Even if meant for good fun, jokes that put you down can feel invalidating.
  • Ignoring your requests or boundaries. When your partner disregards things you’ve asked of them, it sends the message that your needs don’t matter.

The Impact of Invalidation on Intimate Connections

Invalidation can damage self-esteem and mental well-being, leading to loneliness, resentment, and emotional distress. It can erode intimacy and trust, creating poor communication and emotional distance. Traumatic instances of invalidation, such as growing up with a mentally ill parent, can even lead to an unstable sense of self and credibility, causing lasting effects for years to come. Honoring your feelings is indispensable, even if others do not understand them. You should not have to hide parts of yourself to avoid being shut down.

Healing With DBT Interpersonal Effectiveness Skills

Valentine’s Day can trigger memories of times when you have felt unimportant or disrespected in your relationship. These feelings of invalidation can be especially tough during this time. However, it’s important to know that there you can work through these experiences of invalidation and find it within you to trust again. Using effective techniques and investing effort, both partners can work together to address this issue and rebuild trust and intimacy. Everyone, including you, deserves to feel respected, heard, and cared for.

Practicing Self Validation This Valentine’s Day

Building a healthy relationship requires effort from both partners. Both partners should feel heard, understood, and accepted to foster feelings of safety, security, and connection. Invalidation occurs when a partner’s remarks make you feel worthless, unheard, or misunderstood, leaving you hurt, angry, or withdrawn. Recognizing when it happens and learning how to respond appropriately is fundamental. When someone invalidates you, practice radical acceptance of yourself, and offer yourself the validation you were hoping to find in your partner. 

Here are our top tips for embracing self validation:

  • Engage with Awareness
      • Actively stay present and attentive to your own thoughts and feelings.
      • Employ self-awareness through internal reflection, acknowledging emotions, and posing questions to understand yourself better.
  • Confirm Understanding
      • Validate your emotions by accurately reflecting on your inner dialogue.
      • Maintain a nonjudgmental and matter-of-fact attitude towards your feelings, emphasizing self-acceptance without unconditional approval.
  • Explore the Unspoken
      • Delve into implicit emotions within yourself through introspection.
      • Embrace the potential for misinterpretation, remaining open to learning more about your own emotional landscape.
  • Connect to Your History and Biology
      • Relate current emotions to past experiences or personal biology.
      • Demonstrate self-compassion by understanding that your feelings are valid given your unique history.
  • Normalize Your Emotions
      • Communicate to yourself that your feelings are part of the human experience.
      • Avoid endorsing behaviors that aren’t aligned with your well-being, balancing self-validation with self-improvement.
  • Practice Radical Genuineness
    • Respond genuinely to your own thoughts and emotions, acknowledging their impact on your well-being.
    • Treat yourself with respect, avoiding patronizing or condescending self-talk.
    • Acknowledge both strengths and limitations straightforwardly, fostering a healthy relationship with yourself.
    • Be truthful about your feelings, practicing radical genuineness while respecting your own emotional experiences.

Additional interpersonal effectiveness techniques you can try:  

  • Check the Facts – When you get into an argument, your thoughts may become distorted. Take some time to calm down and look at the situation objectively. Recall what your partner said and check if you’re making unfair assumptions. Straightening out the facts can help you address the real issue and avoid future misunderstandings.
  • Move Away from Blame and Self-Critical Statements – Neither shifting the blame elsewhere or shouldering it all yourself will be helpful to you in this moment. Remind yourself that all behavior is caused, but you are and have been doing the best that you can. 
  • Take Care of Yourself – Self-compassion is most needed in the moments when we make a mistake, or feel the validity of our opinion constantly in question. For tried-and-true methods of self soothing, try calling a friend, exercising, or treating yourself to a meal at your favorite restaurant. These small acts of kindness towards yourself can go a long way in lifting your mood and helping you feel better.
  • Using “I-Statements”  – Speak assertively but kindly. For instance, instead of accusing someone by saying, “You never listen to me!” it’s more proactive to say, “I feel hurt when you dismiss my opinions.” Explaining how their behavior impacts you is vital, and listening to their perspective with an open mind is crucial. 
  • Validate their experience while also asserting your own. – For example, “I can see why you feel that way. At the same time, my experience was different.”
  • Practice, Practice, Practice – Consider role-playing with a friend or therapist to improve your communication skills. Discuss scenarios where one person invalidates or dismisses the other, then switch roles and practice effective responses. Listening to the difference in tones can be enlightening. With regular practice, these skills will become more natural.

You can also try the DBT “opposite action” technique by responding with empathy and assertiveness to reduce tension and facilitate open communication. You can take charge and strengthen your relationship by refusing to give in to the urge to fight, retreat, sulk, or otherwise escalate the situation.

Finding a DBT Therapist Near Me for Support

If you’re recovering from a relationship that made you feel invalidated, consider DBT therapy. With a skilled therapist and a focus on improving interpersonal skills, you can build healthy relationships and find love again. Seeking counseling from a local DBT therapist is a valuable step towards healing.

DBT therapists are highly trained to assist you in:

  • Recognizing the signs of invalidation, such as criticism, denial of your experiences, and lack of empathy.
  • Identifying how invalidation has affected your self-esteem and your ability to trust others. 
  • Learning interpersonal effectiveness skills such as self-validation and opposite action to improve your relationships.
  • Finding a supportive community and receiving encouragement from others who have had similar experiences.

If the effects of invalidation are weighing on you, it’s important to remember that you can recover and rediscover your value. By practicing self-validation, setting boundaries, improving communication, and showing compassion to yourself and others, you can develop more meaningful relationships based on mutual understanding and respect. Remember that healing can be challenging but rewarding; you don’t have to go through it alone. With the proper support from a DBT therapist, you can put these DBT skills into action, making it easier to love again and create more satisfying connections.

If you’re located in the NYC area, our team at Suffolk DBT can provide you with DBT-trained therapists who are ready to assist you along your path to recovery. This Valentine’s Day, give yourself the gift of learning to love again after experiencing invalidation. Our therapists can work with you to build the skills you need for more fulfilling connections and help you discover what genuine love means to you.

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