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25 Apr

Sybil and Tom, both passionate about politics, often found themselves at odds with one another while stubbornly insisting on doing something dangerous to prove a point.

Sybil would be among dangerous throngs of voters, and Tom would throw himself into tenuous schemes to upset the ranks of the upper class.

This can be difficult for me, because Erin's emotions or perspectives often push my buttons.

I get defensive or go into fix-it mode so quickly that it keeps me from validating her.

Take, for example, how long it took Jim to tell Pam how he felt about her.

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Some people have a difficult time reflecting back what their spouse is saying because they fear it means they agree with that perspective or interpretation of the facts. I can debate for hours the particulars, specifics, figures, statements and events as Erin sees them. This not only helps her feel safe, it also takes us to a deeper level of intimacy.

Invalidation, on the other hand, is to reject, debate, minimize, demean, judge or try to fix someone's emotions. When I first read through these invalidating statements, I cringed as I realized how many of the phrases I had used with my own loved ones — especially my wife, Erin.

Counselors use the expression “gaslighting” to describe efforts to gradually manipulate someone into doubting his or her own reality or to trick a person into believing he or she is insane. Sadly, I'm sure I've sent the message to Erin that not only were her feelings wrong, but there was something wrong with her.

Conflict avoiders, such as Jim and Pam, would rather live with the discomfort of problems than express their needs in the relationship.

Generally their relationship is happy, and that suits them fine.