There is a very small window of time when the day lily blooms. Only one day. And then, it dies. And so, to be able to snap a photo of it, in the right light, with the right conditions is a formidable task. Even more so for someone like me who is not a professional photographer. But, I did it. And I patted myself on the back and the photo now hangs on my kitchen wall as a testament to my speed with a camera. But my husband patted me on the back too. And so did my kids and so did my mother and…you’d think I’d won the Pulitzer Prize for Photography. In essence, that’s just how we roll in my household. We validate. We give recognition. We pat each other on the back. And it’s the exact kind of treatment I never got when I was in a relationship with some guy who simply didn’t recognize my worth.
Here’s a clue into your relationship and how you can determine if it’s a keeper or not: how often do you find yourself dying for validation? How often do you find yourself doing kind things hoping to get recognition in return? How often are you kind or good or buy a gift or flatter someone, not just because, but for a little extra attention?
Our human need for validation is strong, and a healthy relationship isn’t slathered in validation (c’mon now), but it does have enough to meet your needs so that you don’t always find yourself starving for it.
Validation can come in all shapes and sizes too: a pat on the back for a job well done, soup delivered to you when you’re sick in bed, a comment from someone who says, You’re beautiful, a willingness and an eagerness to spend time with you, a returned phone call.
Validation tells us, not only “I exist,” but that “I am important.” And, “I matter.” And lack of validation coming from a partner is a huge, glaring, red flag. Worse, when we start to manipulate people to get validation, we create an incredible unhealthy and vicious circle. Here’s what it looks like:
Mary and John are dating. But lately, Mary is constantly frustrated that John never wants to spend time with her. So, she’s gotten into the habit of bartering for his time. She will go over his house while he’s at work and do his laundry, clean his kitchen and go above and beyond what a girlfriend should do to show support and care. She does these things because that’s who Mary is. She’s a kind, caring person. The trouble is, she doesn’t seem to get much in return from John and so now, she does many of these things not so much out of the kindness of her heart anymore, but rather, because she wants him to sleep over, or spend time with her, or go with her to a friend’s party, or pay more attention to her. In the beginning of their relationship, she might have done small acts of kindness for him, and she would have done this wanting nothing in return. But now, she catches herself arguing with him saying things like, “I did your laundry, I cleaned your dishes, and I paid for lunch…the least you could do is go to this party with me.” It’s gotten so bad that now she has started to threaten to leave him, in hopes that that will change his behavior.
Let’s be honest, we all–healthy couples included–manipulate or barter on occasion. A wife who’s not exactly in the mood might have sex with her hubby because she’d really like him to watch the kids so she can go out with her friends. Or, a man might buy flowers, chocolates and a nice dinner for his girlfriend in the hopes of intimacy afterwards. We all barter to varying degrees. But, when you find yourself operating that way all the time to get what you want, it’s no good. In fact, it’s downright painful.
You know why? Because validation, kindness, recognition, communication and time are typically given without strings. And in a healthy relationship, they go with the territory. They are not things you have to work hard for, barter for or manipulate others for. If you’re not getting these things freely, without having to barter or manipulate to get them, you’re in the wrong relationship.
I know, I know…I forgot the most important part. Something we all learned. Something we should all know by now. That we should not rely on others for validation. We should have the confidence and the self-esteem within ourselves so that we do not depend on others to stroke our ego or make us feel good about ourselves. Yes, yes and more yes. That’s absolutely true. But, the reality is, when someone loves you, they validate you. They call you. They want to be with you. They pat you on the back. It’s a natural part of the love process. And without it, you’re sacrificing a pretty important perk.