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Jul 14, 2017

In the Empowered Relationship Podcast episode 110: How To Manage Two Majorly Conflicting Needs In Relationship, I talked about we often get caught in the belief that being in relationship requires us to give over of ourselves in an attempt to seek relationship harmony. Yet, when we do this, we can lose touch with ourselves, our passion, and our desires.

David Schnarch in Passionate Marriage talks about “Emotionally fused couples.” He explains that they “are controlled by their connection. They have lost their ability to direct themselves and so get swept up in how people around them are feeling. There’s room for only one opinion, one position, differentiation is the ability to stay in connection without being consumed by the other person. Our urge for togetherness and our capacity to care always drive us to seek connection, but true interdependence requires emotionally distinct people.”  

In episode 110, I talked about the importance of holding priority for both needs…autonomy and intimacy in relationship. Yet, we typically do not have a model of how to grow ourselves (autonomy) while growing in relationship (intimacy).

Intellectually, we may understand that both needs are important…the need for autonomy and the need for intimacy. But in practice, we struggle balancing these two seemly conflictual needs. Though, the struggle is part of our development. The process of growing, maturing, and evolving us.

In episode 110, I also talked about two different approaches in the field of couples work.

  • One is to help the individual become more differentiated. “Differentiation is the process by which we become more uniquely ourselves by maintaining ourselves in relationship with those we love.” By David Schnarch in Passionate MarriageThrough the process of self validation “that’s when you don’t expect your partner to validate or accept what you disclose. You validate yourself as you show your partner who you really are.”  By David Schnarch in Passionate Marriage 
  • The other is to help couples create a more secure emotional connection, so that they can feel more trust, care, and safety within their partnership. This safety allows for more vulnerability and authentic sharing, which in turn creates more connection.

The main difference between these approaches is the need for safety in the relationship dynamic. One approach focuses on self-soothing and self-validating, so that a partner can express himself/herself more authentically and vulnerability. This in turn cultivates more passion and connection. While the other approach focuses on creating safety between partners to allow for more vulnerable sharing, which in turn creates more intimacy and connection.

Through my dissertation research, I speculated that it may be important to first create a solid, safe foundation in relationship to then take more risks of self-expression and self-validating.

While these two approaches are different in their focus, they have several similar aspects. Let’s address the desire to feel seen, understood and validated.

We all want to feel accepted, loved, and valued for who we truly are. Yet, the path of seeking validation can be fraught with great difficulty.

“We’re driven by something that makes us look like we crave intimacy, but in fact we’re after something else: we want someone else to make us feel acceptable and worthwhile….Once we realize that intimacy is not always soothing and often makes us feel insecure, it is clear why we back way from it.”  By David Schnarch in Passionate Marriage

It may be important to note there is a subtle difference between the intention to seek intimacy verses to seek validation. Seeking validation is more about approval and okayness.

(Please listen to the podcast episode or read the transcript to hear more explanations, stories and examples.)


If you do not know you are worthy and acceptable, it may be incredibly healing to have your partner remind you of your goodness. AND are you continuously relying on your partner’s validation to source your self-esteem? Or are you doing your inner work to grow yourself?

To answer the question “Is it okay to want validation from your partner?,” it may be important to look at a few aspects within yourself first. These questions address HOW you are going about seeking validation and seeking intimacy:

  • Are you wanting your partner to be responsible for your experience? (“You didn’t agree with me. I feel small and inadequate. It is your fault that I feel insecure. Can you see how you made me feel low?”) Or are you clear that you are seeking validation? (“I am feeling a lot of self-doubt. Can you help me? Would you be willing to point out some strengths that I might be overlooking about myself or the situation? (ownership)
  • Are you willing to look at your discomfort and pain to have greater understanding of what your issue is about? Asking yourself what gets brought up in you in this situation, may help you see with is going on at the core. If you do not look within, you are likely going to miss a great opportunity to learn something powerful about yourself and you will probably project on your partner. And your partner will not have an opportunity to really be with you and connect with what is real within you. (vulnerability)
  • Are you willing to let your partner really see you fully? Usually, we want our partner to look at what they did wrong to hurt or offend us. It is a much more vulnerable thing to look at why this is a tender spot for you or what insecurity it brings up in you, AND then to share it with your partner. (transparency)

“Well-differentiated people can agree without feeling like they’re “losing themselves,” and can disagree without feeling alienated and embittered, They can stay connected with people who disagree with them and still “know who they are.” They don’t have to leave the situation to hold onto their sense of self.” By David Schnarch in Passionate Marriage


1. Safety

2. Ownership (Responsibility)

3. Vulnerability (authenticity)
“Vulnerability here does not mean the act of being weak or submissive. To the contrary, it implies the courage to be yourself. It involves uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure. And that is why it might seem scary.”  By Emma Seppälä in Why Being Vulnerable Is The Key To Intimacy 

4. Transparency:

“The truth is that when we allow ourselves to be completely open and vulnerable, we benefit, our relationships improve, and we may even become more attractive. “We are actually drawn to people who are real and down-to-earth,” says Brown. “We love authenticity and we know that life is messy and imperfect.” Why do we love children so much? Why are we drawn to people who act themselves? Because we feel an intrinsic comfort in the presence of authenticity. Moreover, someone who is real and vulnerable gives us the space and permission to be the same.” By Emma Seppälä in Why Being Vulnerable Is The Key To Intimacy 


How can you would will one of the 4 Keys this week (safety, ownership, vulnerability, transparency?



Click on this link to access the transcript for this episode: ERP 111: Is It Okay To Want Validation From Your Partner? [Transcript]

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