Marital Communication: Don’t Defend, Validate Instead

Joan has begun to let go of the need to build herself up by improving her husband Bill. Now when she speaks to her husband, her tone is different and Bill is hearing the difference:
Joan: “I’m sorry that you are so angry.”
Bill’s translation: “Your anger must be very painful to you, and I regret that you are so unhappy.”
Joan: “I am angry at you.”
Bill’s translation: “I am telling you the truth. You are not a child. I do not have to protect you from my unpleasant emotions. You are a grown-up and you can take it.”
Joan: “It’s awful when that happens, isn’t it.”
Bill’s translation: “Your feelings are understandable under the circumstances, and I empathize with you as one equal member of the human race to another.”
Joan: “I’d be angry if that happened to me.”
Bill’s translation: “Your angry feelings are unpleasant, but valid and you are a worthwhile human being in spite of them.”
Joan: “Your teasing makes me angry.”
Bill’s translation: “I am telling you how your behavior is making me feel. I am not telling you what to do. I am not controlling you. I am controlling me. You have a choice. If you continue there will be a logical consequence – but the choice is entirely up to you.”
Joan: “Your snappy comeback has just made things worse. I am angrier now than I was before.”
Bill’s translation: “You cannot provoke me to overreact. I am angry at you. The ball is in your court.”
Bill is learning how to express his anger appropriately. He respects Joan’s new example and he works at following it when he can. He no longer expects Joan to abandon him and accepts that he is an equally lovable member of the human race.
Joan has learned that she can feel relief from the pent up pressure, tension and stress. She has an identity of her own. She’s not just a role opposite her husband.
She is living in the present, not the past or the future. She feels independent, no longer depending for her worth on making her husband understand her needs. She has stopped trying to please her husband. She has started to please herself by taking ownership for her own happiness.

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Shared by: Aaron Karmin, LCPC, Contributing Blogger

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