8 Ways Good People Invalidate Their Partners and Ruin Relationships


NOTE: Listen to the audio version of this article here.

That’s an important word—“invalidate.” But I haven’t always thought so.

My wife would sometimes ruin an otherwise perfectly good night at home or dinner conversation by accusing me of “invalidating her feelings,” to which I’d usually roll my eyes at my silly, overly sensitive wife and her cute little feelings.

Feelings aren’t facts, right? So facts matter and feelings don’t—a convenient excuse to fall back on any time the topic was about something impacting her emotionally but not affecting me.

“It’s always about what Matt wants,” she’d say. I’d get angry (and all of the sudden feelings mattered!) and remind her that she’s the one who started it by freaking out because I apparently didn’t do or say what she wanted me to. I’m not a mind-reader, freak-o!

Even today, I’m guilty of thinking back on my marriage as a relationship with fights about things that didn’t matter. Little, insignificant things we’d blow out of proportion. A dozen years of being unable to see the forest for the trees.

EVERY one of those fights mattered. They signaled that something was wrong and I dismissed or ignored that for years, probably because it hadn’t started hurting yet. EVERY one of those fights was the result of a conversation where one or both of us made a thoughtless, selfish, emotionally impulsive and undisciplined choice.

Only masochists who hate themselves would create and execute an action plan to sabotage every conversation they have to provoke an emotionally unpleasant fight for one or both relationship partners–especially knowing the end of that story was a messy divorce and broken home.

Most of us aren’t masochists who hate ourselves.

Most of us are just a little bit broken and a lot bit uninformed about the healthy and unhealthy behaviors that make marriage and dating relationships thrive vs. the ones that poison and destroy them.


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Emotional Cyborgs and Fake Stoicism are the Life of the Invalidation Party

“Really? You want to talk about validating someone’s feelings? God, you’re such a pussy,” some internet tough guy might be thinking.

And I understand that because I used to be an internet tough guy too and throughout my life have pretended that things that hurt or upset me weren’t actually hurting or upsetting me. (That’s an example of validating someone’s thoughts and feelings even if you disagree with them.)

I thought if people knew the truth—that my feelings were hurt—that they’d view me as some wimpy bitch. Not a Real Man. Boys don’t cry!

Having my Man Card was important to me. It’s important to most guys, near as I can tell. The thinking seems to be: If you have your Man Card, the guys will accept me and the ladies will want me.

It’s funny how we ignore the obvious truth of how cowardly it is to pretend to be something we’re not because we’re afraid of what others will think about the Real Us.

We are ACTUALLY BEING the very thing we’re afraid of, or accusing others of being, when we put on our masks to hide our true and authentic thoughts and feelings.

To be sure, there ARE people who demonstrate a high level of stoicism and emotional consistency. People who seem consistently steady, regardless of what’s happening around them. People who are being authentically true to themselves amid their stoicism are awesome, and probably great behavior models to aspire to—because we probably shouldn’t let our emotions affect us as much as we do.

But in the interest of pragmatism, it’s pretty important to deal in reality. In real life, almost nothing influences human behavior as much as our emotions do. Just ask every successful marketing pro in world history.

So yeah. I want to talk about invalidating people’s feelings because it was routinely part of my conversations with my wife—EVEN when we weren’t disagreeing or fighting. It was my routine invalidation of the things she might have been thinking or feelings that ultimately CAUSED the fight or relationship-damaging moment. One of the thousands of paper cuts that would eventually cause our marriage to bleed to death.

Good People with Good Hearts Do This All the Time

Dudes often get bent out of shape about a series of posts called An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, as well as one called Your Wife Thinks You’re a Bad Husband Because You are One.

They lose their shit as if I’m attacking their character or not calling their mom again after our first date.

I understand this reaction also, because I too would lose my shit when I felt as if my wife was constantly telling me how I was failing her and our marriage despite feeling like a good human being who would do anything for her, and as if I’d sacrificed a lot on her behalf in order to share a life together. (More validation!)

Being a lousy husband like I was DOES NOT make you a bad person any more than an inability to prove advanced mathematical theorems like Will Hunting would make you a bad person.

We accidentally destroy our relationships. It’s an idea that’s been beaten to death on this blog and will be beaten to death some more in the book I’m writing. (For real, this time.)

I was reading through various psychology articles on invalidating others as a tactic for winning an argument, or as a means of trying to convince someone or ourselves that something is better or worse than what it is.

In doing so, I found eight common invalidation techniques people use in all kinds of conversations with everyone they talk to—not just their partners. I realized that people who are otherwise wonderful do this, and accidentally ruin their relationships with people who want to love them, but eventually stop subjecting themselves to that person’s invalidating bullshit.

8 Common Invalidation Methods That Accidentally Destroy Relationships

1. Misunderstanding What Validation Is

Sometimes my wife would tell me a story about one of her friends or something that happened at work. Sometimes, when she told me the story, I would find myself disagreeing with her assessment, and defending her friend, or otherwise taking a different viewpoint than she did. I thought I was “being fair.” I thought I was calling it like I saw it. Being real and stuff. But what I was doing was confusing Validation with Agreement. I didn’t have to agree with her to look for the very real reasons why she felt as she did, and then express that I understood her perspective.

“I get it, babe. I’m sorry you have to deal with that at work on top of everything else. I know it gets hard sometimes,” would have worked fine. Instead of “It seems to me you’re overreacting. Maybe if you did X, Y, and Z, your dumb girl feelings wouldn’t be interrupting my dinner,” which I didn’t actually say, but she probably heard.

2. Wanting to Fix Feelings

Sometimes people feel sad or angry. We don’t want them to. Maybe for unselfish reasons, but probably for selfish ones too. So we say, “Oh, don’t be sad,” or “You have nothing to feel sad or angry about. Everything is going to be fine. Don’t worry about it.” This is almost always done with the best of intentions, but it also almost always makes you a dick.

When you tell someone who is sad or otherwise upset (involuntarily) to NOT be that way, what they hear is (even from really nice, unselfish people): “Oh, that sucks that you feel that way. Let’s go do something awesome that I want to do instead so that I don’t have to worry about this thing that matters to you but doesn’t impact me.” The first cousin of trying to fix feelings is…

3. Minimizing

Dishes by the sink, yo. Didn’t matter to me, so they SHOULDN’T matter to my wife, right? Because how I experience the world should be indisputable, absolute truth and the unquestioned law of all human behavior, right? For the life of me, I can’t figure out why we’re so shitty about this. Every second of our lives, we experience things through our individual, first-person experiences, and so often it seems, we think EVERYONE—no matter where they’re from or what they’ve been through—should draw all of the same identical conclusions and have identical emotional responses as us.

If someone is acting like something’s important, that we don’t think is important, we minimize it. Make it out like it’s not a big deal and they shouldn’t worry about it. This is ESPECIALLY shitty when someone is upset with OUR behavior, but we disagree that what we’re doing should upset them. You should only do that if you love getting divorced.

4. Hoovering

According to Dr. Karyn Hall, “Hoovering is when you attempt to vacuum up any feelings you are uncomfortable with or not give truthful answers because you don’t want to upset or to be vulnerable. Saying ‘It’s not such a big deal’ when it is important to you is hoovering. Saying someone did a great job when they didn’t or that your friends loved them when they didn’t is hoovering. Not acknowledging how difficult something might be for you to do is hoovering. Saying ‘No problem, of course I can do that,’ when you are overwhelmed, is hoovering.”

We wear masks for all kinds of reasons in our relationships and in our interactions with others. We’re afraid of rejection. We want to be liked. A lot of bad things happen when we’re dishonest—even when they seem like innocent little white lies that are totally harmless.

5. Misinterpreting What It Means to Be Present

Sometimes people think that being in the same room, or the same house, is the same as being WITH someone. We’re not off doing something on our own away from home. We’re right there, watching TV, playing a video game, fiddling with our phone, or whatever. I used to play online poker, watch movies, sports, or TV shows my wife wasn’t interested in, and all kinds of other things that saw her doing things by herself, while I was doing things by myself. I thought it was fine. I always thought it was good that both of us were doing “what we wanted to do.”

But what she wanted to do sometimes, even more than what she might have preferred individually, was to be TOGETHER. Feeling present with each other, and the emotional connections that thrive from shared experiences was something she wanted. Turns out, this is also something NEEDED for relationships, including marriage, to thrive and function well. She knew it. I didn’t. And now we’re not married.

6. Judging

Judging isn’t so different than minimizing. But judging often adds an element of ridicule to the occasion, which can often cause a lot of damage. I already mentioned it earlier—if my wife told me a story, or even just liked or didn’t like something opposite of me—I would react with judgment. Not only was I disagreeing with her, but sometimes I was doing so in ways that made it clear that I believed all of my thoughts and feelings had more value than hers. As if I came to them from some pure and intellectually superior place, and hers were just some stupid girl feelings.

The more I tell these stories, the more horrified I am at my obliviousness through the years, and my blindness to what asshole moves these types of beliefs and behaviors are.

7. Denying

This one’s awesome. We invalidate other people by saying they don’t feel what they are saying they feel. They report what they’re experiencing in real-time, and instead of accepting that—we just tell them they’re mistaken. That they don’t know what they’re saying and feeling, as if we think they’re hallucinating or mentally insane. It’s hilarious in the saddest way possible how common this is.

8. Nonverbal Invalidation

Nonverbal invalidation comes in many forms. The shittiest are obnoxious eyerolls, finger-drumming, or yawning.

The more common and innocent ones are when we drift off during conversation, interrupt, change the subject, check our phone, or any number of nonverbal things that communicate to someone that whatever they’re saying couldn’t possibly be as important as whatever we wish we were doing or discussing.

Unfortunately, this is classic ADHD behavior, and OFTEN done with no intention or awareness of how it’s being received emotionally by someone else. I’ve spent a lifetime doing this, I think, but only in the last few years have had the mental wherewithal to check myself and achieve the self-awareness and focus necessary to keep my eyes and thoughts on the person with whom I’m conversing.

More than half of marriages fail (when you factor in all the still-married people who hate one another). I assume non-married relationships end at an infinitely higher rate, but I don’t have data to support that.

But I don’t need data to know that MOST of the ugliness that arises between two people who began their interpersonal journey totally infatuated with, and interested in, one another grows slowly from a million of these little moments.

Invalidation. It ended my marriage and has surely ruined a number of my other relationships, romantic or otherwise.

What has it done to yours?

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59 thoughts on “8 Ways Good People Invalidate Their Partners and Ruin Relationships

  1. Great points. Good post. Well-done

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Amen, Matt. This is just beautiful. One of the best things leaders can do is to just be present with someone in their emotional state. To just stand there in the moment not trying to fix anything, just offering that much needed validation.

    True story, when hubby and I first got married he invalidated everything I said. It was maddening. He once said in that commanding tone of his, “you’re not upset and angry,” and so I just snapped and threw a chair at his head. We shouldn’t do such things of course and violence is never okay, but it is what it is. To perpetually invalidate someone is an attack. The fact that many women tend to have a more passive response to such abuse does not lesson the fact that the behavior itself is really crazy making and emotionally abusive.

    Liked by 5 people

    • Kristi says:

      It is SO maddening to have this done to you!! Women who aren’t cursed with this in a relationship just do not understand how crazy it can make someone…

      Liked by 4 people

    • Okkay says:

      Great post -very validating for us feeling invalidated! Apprecite your honesty Matt ..Isn’t it sad that we ruin our relationships thru the eroding effects of this behaviour!…
      I totally agree -many think if ‘woebetide’ they validate you in your distress -they are agreeing & loosing personal power …when it actuality it is crucial to the future health / longevity of your relationship …very important differentiation to make for any relationships let alone ‘very up close & personal’ ones ( might not be sitting here on my own if they’d wised up to that one…)i
      Ps you’re invalidatiors are really just trying to protect themselves from their own pain I believe they just don’t want to go there

      Liked by 1 person

  3. JBarrett says:

    I have experienced all of these throughout my entire 19 yr marriage. I know his ADHD adds to it but so many years of ignoring it has taken its toll. We are currently on the rocks and it isn’t looking good as I have completely checked out. Thank you for putting it out there so maybe someone can see this and try to change the behavior.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. meridda says:

    Awesome post, matt! One of your best, I’d say (although there are a lot of those). Can’t wait for the book!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Jason says:

    Great points! Thanks, Matt.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. ej725 says:

    Excellent again. I wish I could memorize this entire essay. I wish some married people would read this with a truly open mind with a willingness to see themselves as they really are. Bless you, Matt, and your delightful articulate nail-on-the-head accuracy and your amazing ability to get it all out of your brain and heart onto paper.

    Liked by 5 people

  7. Jane says:

    Each & every # was a small glimpse at my 11 year marriage. Matt, I wish I could introduce my husband to you, so he could hear it from someone who doesn’t have “stupid girl feelings”.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Maybe it’s time to make some hard and fast boundaries, and see how long your spouse wants to exist without you AND your “stupid girl feelings”. Maybe leave for a few days after you have a long talk, and see what that gets you.


  8. Lydia Reyes says:

    Totally impressed! Great read!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. A fine piece as I see us both in many of your points. We all have our broken bits inside us that impact our behaviours and reactions. His delayed diagnosis of ADHD and all the self esteem stuff that comes with a life of unmet goals. My family of origin fear and avoidance of Elephants in the room to keep peace.

    Acknowledging our own flaws and faults (for want of a kinder expression at this hour) and doing the work on them allows us to be gentler and more understanding with our partner’s as they do their work.

    We all want to be that person we present to the world when dating and courting and being “the one” for our partner. Only I am responsible to be the best person I can be – thank you Jack Nicholson in the movie whose name escapes me.

    Maybe instead of blaming our partner for wanting us the do better, we should thank them for the opportunity and motivation. 🙏

    Liked by 2 people

    • Ps – just remembered – it’s “as good as it gets” – the movie that is 😜

      And no pressure, but I’d like a couple copies of “the book” for my waiting room. It’s not just about how to treat our partners, you know – it’s a lot bigger than that and your prose is accessible and non threatening. Life lessons I think. 🙏

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Zee says:

    I don’t know how to categorize this, but it feels like invalidation when he says, I just want you to be happy” and proceeds to dothe exact opposite of what I said makes me happy. I used to get frustrated, but now I know that’s how he maintains his good guy image. It’s just lip service, not real change.

    Liked by 3 people

  11. Kristi says:

    This one is fantastic, Matt. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Linda says:

    Oh! I do this…crap. Saying this is emotional abuse then leads to the obvious conclusion that I am being an abuser, and that is a hard pill to swallow. I’ve also recently learned that my emotional style is “avoider” which makes my comfort level with other people’s emotions very limited and therefore quite prone to invalidation. Thank you for this education Matt. The puzzle pieces are slowly coming together, and as the saying goes, awareness is the first step to recovery.

    P.S. You might find the book “How we love” by Milan & Kay Yerkovich interesting. It goes along well with your ideas, and reaches down for the core reasons why.

    Liked by 3 people

  13. KK says:

    I experience all of these behaviors in my marriage :(. And I have tried explaining each of these every time one of them happens….of course it doesn’t sink in though.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Reblogged this on By the Mighty Mumford and commented:

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  15. zelmare says:

    Great piece. I’ve been through a divorce, and before that a shitty marriage, and a lot of what you are saying makes me cringe … I used to be on the receiving end of a lot of the above. I know that the piece was about invalidation, but another sure-fire way to make a marriage go bad, is withholding intimacy, ‘because it’s wimpy’ of ‘men don’t do that stuff’. Also…it’s great that you grew as a person through the mistakes you made previously. I hope that doesn’t sound patronising, it is not meant that way.

    Liked by 2 people

  16. Tina says:

    Good one Matt – my ex and I were both guilty of this. I was usually the one Hoovering and later on judging the hell out of his feelings. (Like how dare you claim to be unhappy – you are the one that makes me unhappy) I think I became pretty dismissive nonverbally too. It was pretty shitty of me and no way to fix the things going wrong between us.

    I almost spit my coffee at the screen on Misinterpreting What It Means to Be Present though. My ex considered him self “at home” if he was within a one mile radius of the house. I’d text or call him asking “where are you” and he’d say “I’m at home”. I’d say “no you are not because I am at the house and you are not here”. “Oh well I’m next door taking to Charles,” or “I’m up at my buddies shop working on his race car” or “I’m at the convenience store (across the street) chatting with some friends”. To him all of that was “At home” I cant even come up with words for how furious it would make me and he was always like – whats the big deal – I was “close enough” to home. That and the ignoring me while I was trying to talk to him because the TV was on or he was busy checking his phone. We’d go out to dinner together and he’s spend the entire time on his phone – like literally would say more words to the wait staff than to me. Grr. Ok – remembering why its is good we are ex’s right now!

    Liked by 2 people

  17. Autumn Grayson says:

    I can say that it can mess up parent child relationships and friendships just as easily as romantic ones.  I understand what it is like to be someone who invalidates others because, unfortunately, it is an extremely annoying personality trait I inherited from my Dad, even though I am a girl.  Sadly, one of the main things that made me get rid of my invalidating behavior was being invalidated myself for a couple years.

    Some other things to add to the list of invalidating things are when someone is being super emotional, especially to the point of yelling at another person for a long period of time, and then expressing outrage when the other person dares to finally show their own emotions.  My Dad is actually a decent person, but I would sit there and take his yelling for (sometimes hours) of time, and I would take it in near silence until I would eventually start crying, because I learned that yelling back only escalated the argument.  At first I figured I was safe venting my anger through tears, because how could he get angry at that?  But then he would often have a ‘How dare you cry!’ response.

    Other invalidating behaviors include acting like hurtful arguments weren’t that hurtful/forgetting how intense they were.  Or calling the person ‘judgmental’ just because they dare feel upset about those intense arguments even though they were never actually resolved.  Or when the invalidator starts huge arguments over the smallest things and expects everyone to agree that it is a big deal, but then acting like the arguments other people have are always over silly things.  His is complicated to explain, but my Dad would get angry at someone and then argue with us for a very long time until the issue was resolved to his satisfaction, even though it was a small thing.  But then if, say, my sister and I were arguing and trying to work something out between us he would come in, often only partially understanding what was going on, and then just passin his own judgement on the situation and sort of having a ‘you’re sisters and you love each other, so just give each other a big hug, I resolved this situation for you so just go about your day!’. I know he had good intentions, but it was invalidating because, when I reflected back on it, I realized that he was treating everything that bothered him with earth shattering importance, while acting like every argument the rest of the family had was just petty silliness that could be solved with a hug or apology.  He problem was that it made it a lot harder for the rest of the family to actually work through things.  Oh, and another invalidating thing was when I reminded him of something he did a few months ago, he wouldn’t remember, so when I would bring hear things up he would say something like ‘Oh sure!  Name the exact date and time when his happened!’. I mean, seriously?  He never had to name dates and times when he accused me of things, and no one keeps track like that.  The funny thing is that if I did keep track, he would accuse me of recording grudges down in a little black book.

    It is almost as if the only valid emotion is anger(though only when the invalidating person has anger) and so men invalidate women’s emotions because they are more likely to manifest as tears.  Too bad people don’t realize that tears are often a manifestation of anger, often because some women feel like they are not ‘allowed’ to yell.

    The funny thing is that people who invalidate feelings and claim to be logical want the utmost respect when it comes to their thoughts, feelings and actions.  But when they sit there and demand respect without giving it, invalidate others, or get angry and emotional while accusing others of being emotional, they completely undermine the respect others had for them before.

    And the ones who invalidate tend to think they are being calm and rational and that the other person isn’t.  But if someone is actually rational, and they see that what they are saying to their significant other is unintentionally making them even MORE upset, wouldn’t it be more rational to take a step back and examine why the conversation isn’t working and figure out how to fix it?  If the so called rational person can’t examine what they are doing and change to a tactic that works better, then they are the emotional ones, only sticking to tactics that fulfill their pride and anger.


  18. Ah, yes, death by a thousand cuts, emotional invalidation. This is how my relationship tanked, along with my partner pushing me away (In his mind unintentionally, but it still happened). And now here I am, seeing all the flaws, that I just could not correct at the time. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 2 people

  19. Osvaldo Pereira says:

    Matt, I am in year 2 of a divorce being finalised, year 4 of a separation. The crushing grief you feel after a break-up, the spasms of grief that reduce you to broken bits, in there now.

    How did you create the space to move on in your life without seeking to chase after your ex and make things right? You clearly know where things went wrong. You would armed with this knowledge have the capacity to fix things?

    I grew up in a Sourthern Italian traditional conservative family that at the best of times would drive me and my wife crazy but with strong views on family, marriage, commitment to each other, basically with an “us against the world mentality.” It makes you capable of almost any act of sacrifice for someone you love, and any act of anger to someone who breaks that bond or circle of family. It didn’t help me approach my break-up with a clear mind and heart and both my ex and I acted horribly toward each other.

    Knowing now with some distance the things you did wrong, do you tell your ex and apologise? How do you stop yourself if love is still present from trying to chase her and reintegrate your family, which must the the fervent, secret dream of all of us who see ourselves in you, think we were fundamentally stupid but not malicious men, and believe our suffering has taught us better?


    • I’ve read his other blogs, and he couldn’t “win” her back because she is with someone else. She left him for someone else, so she decided she had better options. It’s admirable that he has become so emotionally aware, but after years of dysfunction and feeling bad, something snaps in some people’s brains and they cannot ever be with their partner in the way they once were. They can’t trust the way they used to, they don’t want to be around them. They associate them with negative feelings and situations. Their exes just have to respect their feelings and let them go, and hopefully learn a hard lesson.


      • Osvaldo Emilio Pereira says:

        My situation exactly, then. It’s tragic that these wake-up moments come too late. A new woman is (already) the beneficiary of these insights, but not because I didn’t want to be a better husband to my wife. Four years after our separation, I am still wracked with grief and regret, as well as anger that of all of the options that were available to potentially remedy the situation, my wife chose adultery and divorce.

        It has taken years of therapy to see that the picture is never black and white, and in reading Matt’s post I wonder if he is making the same mistakes I do in my darkest moments of shouldering all the burden. In any tragedy or trauma, we always think, had I only done this differently, perhaps the outcome would have been different. And in any relationship, we can all find ways in which we were each objectively shitty partners. The bottom line is whether a person chooses to turn towards or away from their partner. I naively thought our relationship was forever, and so there was always something more pressing, more important, that demanded time and attention. The kids’ entrance exams for school, a big project at work, fixing the house. My wife became a second-order priority, because I didn’t prioritize myself either — not because I was a bar or hanging out with friends, ignoring her, but because I was working myself silly and running around trying to be all things to all people, and assuming she and I were a team where the kids came first and we would figure out ourselves last.

        I was dead wrong. When I started dating again, I would be tortured, thinking, God, I couldn’t make the time to take my wife to a nice restaurant, but here I am with a complete stranger doing that now. Or when my current relationship began, and we took a romantic trip to Italy, I think with shame about cancelling plans to do the same with my wife because of work. I can torture myself 1,000 ways about things I should have done better, could have done better, without changing the reality for one moment that I loved (and still love) her. But love has to be more than a feeling, it needs to be made manifest in action, and that is where I failed.

        I think if she had been patient with me, had stuck with me, I would have come around. The Catch-22 is that sometimes the pain that is needed to get us to wake up is so large, so intense, that what has administered the wake-up call is usually already a fatal breakdown in the relationship.

        Again, I wish things could have been different. And I feel tortured thinking that the most important relationship in my life broke down because of my own stupidity and inattention to what mattered most in life. I can torture myself psychologically, kill myself, but it won’t bring the relationship back, or make my wife love me again. This feeling in the aftermath of love is terrible. It is terrible to still love and not be loved, and as an added curse to blame oneself for not being loved.

        But is it fair? At what point was my behaviour a response to a woman who had already given up? Wasn’t there another solution possible, short of divorcing me? The question tortures me.

        Matt’s wife probably doesn’t look backward, and I don’t think mine does, either. We’re the ones left to pick up the broken pieces and try and make sense of things. And there’s no filling that hole with a new relationship, or with ignoring the past. You carry it like an anchor the rest of your life, I think, the dull ache of grief and second-guessing the past.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Your anguish permeates your writing like cigarette smoke on overly saturated clothing, wearing the scent like an overloaded beast of burden. I’ve been to my fair share of therapy, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned is that lamenting the past is a waste of precious resources. You can’t do anything to change the past, and continuing to feel bad about it is also doing you a huge disservice. You are wasting the now, and adversely affecting your future. The only thing you can do relationship postmortem is to take away as many lessons as possible and apply them to the life you’re living now, because your old life is gone and never coming back. I’m sorry.

          Not everyone gets a second chance, and the fact that you have a new gf should not be overlooked. Don’t take her for granted, either. If you don’t deem her worthy, stop wasting her time and yours. Don’t waste your now because you think you need to punish yourself more. Enough is enough.

          I wish you well, and really appreciate your heartfelt and well-written response. It was touching, the emotion was raw, and at the end, my only wish is for you to find ways to ameliorate your pain and not ignore your current chances at joy. Take them anytime you can, we are all going to die one day. Make it count.


        • L. says:

          Man get a hold of yourself, really… self love is in need more than anything else I suspect.. stay strong!!!


  20. andrea says:

    Very good points. My 11+ year relationship is unraveling now, partly because I was upset that my SO did nothing for my birthday last week, besides text me. After i brought this up, I mentioned the last few years when I brought home cupcakes or cakes with candles, to surprise him. His response? That he’d purchased me an iPad years ago and what is a $4 cupcake compared to that.

    It is sad. I’m wondering though, and I haven’t read a ton of your blog, but you seem to spend a great deal of time thinking about the relationship, and that is great. But are you dwelling too much? You are remorseful and you’ve grown since then, you are definitely more aware of what happened…but are you moving forward in the world? I read a lot of preoccupation with memories. No offense!


    • Matt says:

      It’s for others now, Andrea. More than me. I am compelled to think and write about these topics on behalf of others NOT accidentally getting divorced or having bad relationships because they lack awareness.

      Liked by 2 people

  21. Esmeralda says:

    Genius, and I hop everybody who needs to read this, does!
    Men and woman need to learn how to validate, how to sit with painful feelings, how to not be conflict avoidance (possibly another thing you could discuss at a later date), how to be truly present, et cetera, Your 100% right
    I spoke about my friendship divorce before, but minimizing and just getting a little bit lazy with helping me with my problems was the beginning of the end of our friendship. it just was. Never ever fall into that trap of feeling so safe you can just peace out of listening and validating.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Lelani says:

    I am so glad I found this post :) even printing it off to give to my partner who is driving me nuts – I feel like such a nuisance, a burden, like I contribute nothing and that all my feelings don’t matter because his are more important….how dare I feel a certain way about anything.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Ann says:

    This is exactly what I go through with my husband every day. I have tried over and over to explain how awful it is to him but he does not seem to care. I simply don’t express my thoughts to him anymore. We have kids and I don’t want to destroy our family with divorce. My in laws are all like this though. Very arrogant and know it alls. While I am not excusing his behavior, that is what he was raised with. I feel my husband loves me in his own warped way. I plan to go to counseling on my own in the future just so I can have someone to talk to and help me cope.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Tracy says:

    Thanks for the article- really useful. I’m dealing with a lot of this too in my relationship since we had kids. Specifically my husband says he doesn’t know how to talk to me, I’m too sensitive and the things that bother me are just little things about which I’m making a big deal. How could your ex have approached this issue? I’d love to forward him your article, but I think it would just start a new fight over how I am not taking responsibility for my part of this.

    Liked by 1 person

    • So fight about it! Fighting in and of itself isn’t bad, but how and when we fight can be. Fighting is a necessary part of a relationship, just make sure you fight fair and stay on topic. If you can’t resolve conflicts, you will simply build up resentment until you can take it anymore, are miserable, and just leave or decide you’re fine living in misery. Life is too short for that bullsh*t! Please share how that goes if you are willing to share.


  25. This is such a wonderful post and it helped me so much…emotional cyborgs for real!


  26. Catherine Detraves-Jacobson says:

    Wow, very helpful to me right now.. and are you single now? Coz you have seriously come around in a way that would make you a great partner!


  27. Theresa Henry says:

    Even over a year later I have to say thank you for this insight. I can recognize what really upsets me and validate and a cpl of the ways were and are totally me. I will take a valid attempt of changing or growing to be a better gf but I honestly hope he notices and fallows the leader so we can do some healing


  28. Sally says:

    This really spoke to me. Thank you for sharing this as I always thought I was just being a baby about things and that I over reacted. Recently, we went on a side x side ride. There was a large group of us and often times, the guys are screwing around. 2 years ago I had a severe panic attack while riding with my husband on our side x side machine and he dismissed it. Stop crying he said. I said I can’t control this, I am freaking out and I’m so scared. I’m trying to get more comfortable and the other day, I tell him, please, I don’t like when you and the guys do this, it scares the crap out of me. He yelled at me, saying do you think I want to get hurt, do you think I want to hurt you, I bought this machine to have fun, I didn’t spend $30,000 just to go slow. I do the things you want to do, so you’ll just have to suck it up. I tried explaining again how I am trying, I didn’t even mind going up the scary hills or going fast but when he started screwing around and trying to pass each other on a mountain, it freaked me out. So I just said fine, you do your thing and I’ll do mine. And he gets even more mad at me. I seriously do not even want to talk to him. I’m almost at my breaking point. This to me is not something little to invalidate. I just don’t know what to do or say. I’m breaking inside feeling this way!


  29. Daniman71 says:

    Thank you Matt, another insightful and timely post. Some people say that invalidation is emotional abuse. I can only say that I know it’s not safe to express myself, that in doing so I will be judged, criticised, blamed, name called, dismissed, minimised, ridiculed and rejected. Basically I will become the problem and will be wrong in every way.
    So I’m trying not to express myself at all, to just suck it up but I know that can’t last forever. It certainly is death for a relationship though. How can you be safe and intimate and trust in such an environment? A relationship means to relate, invalidating is not relating, ergo no relationship.


  30. […] whether it’s because you’re abusive prick who is intentionally cruel to her OR because you’re a good guy completely in the dark about why she’s upset with you, her genuine reality and everyday experience have her convinced that you are deliberately hurting […]


  31. L says:

    I have written a reply which has not been approved somehow…. Not sure why, since it’s an honest opinion, I guess old habits die hard, invalidating my opinion like that…. Wusss…


  32. Alicia Rose says:

    Thank you for being a man willing to humble himself and write an article like this! As a therapist and someone who has also experienced invalidation in my own personal relationships, I know this is a skillset that is very much needed. It can save so many relationships as there are very few men, and some women, who seem to actually know how to do this.


  33. Cindy says:

    So glad I stumbled on your blog after doing a google search. Read it and all the posts. Weird but I finally felt validated just reading it all. Many of us are in the same boat.

    Both men and women can react poorly when a friend or a loved one is in need of basic validation. Providing comfort, a hug, an attentive ear without fear of being ridiculed or ignored is all most of us want and need. Does seem that a mans makeup is not geared to this as well as women. That being said it does not in any way give an excuse for a human being to ignore or make small of someone’s emotions. Poor potty training is no excuse to continue behavior we saw as kids. I know, I know, hard to break behavior that our neurons have had imprinted on them for years. I applaud you Matt, for seeing within yourself. Unfortunately, many refuse to.

    I too am dealing with a fiancé who will completely invalidate my emotions. I am finding myself, as many posters have, just not communicating my feelings much. It’s just a waste of time. I do however, point out to him periodically that talking down to me or attempting to make me feel less than will not be tolerated. That is why I am not in a rush to marry him. That is why we are not living together. I have seen a softening of his demeanor especially when he has stepped over that line and I just stop talking altogether in the middle of a conversation. It’s the dead silence that tells him he screwed up and I give him no fuel to continue. But I know I can not marry someone who refuses to be supportive to me emotionally. So who knows if down the road I will marry him or return the ring and move on. But your blog made me realize you can teach old dogs new tricks. Sorry couldn’t help myself :).

    Liked by 1 person

  34. Gillian Gahagan says:

    Yep, my 12 year marriage is in a state of total dysfunction due to this EXACT type of chronic invalidation. (Actually–there is more: in the beginning there were also silent treatments and guilt trips. Yes, why would I sign up for that…good question.) My husband cannot figure out why I get so upset, because to him, hardly anything ever (including his sarcasm or shitty or insulting comments) are a big deal. He thinks I’m over-sensitive, over-emotional, and recently, “emotionally unstable!” To him, it’s all “not a big deal,” and since he cannot see the forest through the trees, he thinks what we are arguing about is actually the dishes, and not the fact that he just dismissed my feelings and invalidated my perspective for the 10,000 time or more in 12 years. I am by no means perfect, but the chronic invalidation from my partner has finally worn me down to the point that I have to emotionally separate my self from him for the sake of my sanity.

    I used to try and try and try to “explain” myself, which only made things worse to the point of the invalidation moving into total gaslighting territory. I give up. Until I can learn to say “whatever” and mean it, these interactions are terrible for my mental and emotional health. I’m currently in counseling trying to figure out my next move. I’m hoping he’ll choose to come in with me at some point, because I don’t believe anything can be resolved at this point without a mediator.

    The sad part is that we have a 10 year old son together. :(

    I’m thinking about showing him these articles–they are the most validating articles about invalidation I have ever read!

    Cheers, and I’m sorry you had to come by this knowledge and maturity the hard way, but unfortunately, most of us do learn the hard way, don’t we.


  35. Tara says:

    So well explained, from the guy’s point of view. Thanks! I’ve read John Gottman’s work, about emotional bids. And this totally goes with that.

    Liked by 1 person

  36. Sandra says:

    Sometimes it seems petty. But last night I asked my spouse to turn the AC down from 73 to 72. This morning it was cold. I asked what he turned it down to and he said 71. Seems he always has to do things just a slight variance from what I want.

    Liked by 1 person

  37. Terra says:

    Wow thank you! Im beyond belief That I didnt have to say a word to feel more validated then I do now or ever! It’s heartbreaking that my boyfriend calls me names like psycho or crazy. He tells me I need to get professional help. I wont go all out here but I do everything for him and sacrifice my life for his … Sounds stupid but Thank you I hope he wakes up before I do!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  38. Amy G Dala says:

    Hello, I’m new here and I’d like to thank you, Matt, for your openness and perspective. You’ve helped me a great deal already. I’m glad to read that you’re doing much better on your journey.

    How would you recommend getting your partner to understand the need for validation? Is that possible? My boyfriend (of over two years) gets frustrated to the point of quitting the relationship whenever I get frustrated or defensive with him or something he says, or even mention feeling criticized by him. Because that’s not his intention, it’s not “so”. He becomes very black and white. Because he didn’t intend it, I shouldn’t feel it. I’m not sure he understands that a person can feel one thing when someone else means something else. I’m not the only person in his life that reacts this way, so one would think this might be obvious to him. I read the book recommended “How to Fix Your Marriage Without Talking About It” and learned a lot about how men are “ruled” by shame. Could that be what this is about? Does the fact that I feel criticized when that’s not his intention cause him so much shame that he can’t deal with it?

    Ideas welcome. :)



    It’s been 13 years of feeling invalidated. Pretty much is gone from angry violent outbursts to saying I’m not going to argue and refusing to converse about whatever the situation is. I feel like I’m walking in a fake world of stroking a fragile ego, and never being able to communicate or be who I really am. If I do try there is always a certain punishment coming. I’m tired, exhausted, and not sure I can even see the light of happiness that used to peak through at least once in awhile. Thank you, for validating what I’ve been tossing around in my heart for all these years. Thank you for discussing it out loud!


  40. christinarousseau says:

    Thank you for this insightful article . You really sum up what it feels like being on the receiving end of not being validated too . Its such a tricky thing to grasp for someone who has NOT been validated in childhood and grows up with thus internal working model … i think this article will be of great help for those people and gives hope to the receiver that they were not mad , oversensitive and that their existence , values, feelings and subjective experiences really are allowed , even if not ageeed with .


  41. Francesca says:

    Invalidated to the point that my past (prior to him) didn’t happen the way I remember and I’ve also managed to not take responsibility for my (pseudo) past because I’m obviously struggling with emotions that cannot have anything to do with my present… ohh and there’s no way I’m REALLY feeling that way and until I can accept responsibility for my part in it, I will never understand my feelings because of my unresolved insecurities and misaligned perspective of my own life.

    I used bigger words than actual verbiage in summation, but you get the idea…


  42. Dimitri says:

    So spot on. It has taken me years to really understand how these little things slowly destroyed my marriage as well.

    Liked by 1 person

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