So often we find ourselves triggered when someone we are close to is experiencing a negative emotion. Often we take it personally or get caught up in their story thinking we have to do something about it in order to make them feel better.
This hit home for me the other day when I was talking with a client. He wanted to know how to address the open relationship topic with his partner. He was certain he wanted to be open and she was having doubts. Their conversations were becoming increasingly difficult and he wasn’t sure what to do.
In his story, it became clear to me that he held a belief that if he validated his partner’s feelings, he was submitting to them. In his mind, validation meant he was saying yes to letting her feelings and her experience take over his. It was as if they were always in competition and she was always going to win. This left him with the impression that he had no choice other than to let her emotions run all over him. This was his belief. He was none too happy.
This, of course, piqued my curiosity because one of my current practices involves considering how two opposing forces, energies, experiences, etc, can co-exist. In other words, life and life situations don’t have to be either or, right or wrong, his or hers, yours or mine. Same coin, two sides, same coin, same value.
I asked my client if it was possible for him to listen to his partner without taking on her feelings, without fixing anything, without getting wrapped up in a story of what her experience might mean. I asked him what it might be like for him to listen and offer something like, “I hear you. I see you are upset and I hear you.” In doing so, he would be validating his partner’s experience whether he agreed with her or not, all the while staying true to himself. This option sort of stumped him because it was something he had never thought possible. It was a new way to relate to his partner and perhaps to other people in his life.
In a follow-up session, he shared with me that it went really well. His partner was hungry for validation. We soon learned that validation was a crucial piece of her healing and for their reconciliation. (Yay!!!)
Regardless of what kind of relationship you are in, whether it’s an open relationship, polyamorous, monogamous, or something in between, feelings come up. It’s a natural part of being human. It’s my belief that you don’t have to agree with someone’s feelings to validate their experience. You don’t have to change what you are thinking, wanting, doing, etc, because someone is having a feeling about it. Both parties are valid in their desires. It’s how we show up in those moments and how we communicate our desires that will either help or hinder our relationships.
To learn more about how I use an open relationship counseling approach in my coaching and to see if working together is the best fit for you, contact me and schedule a Free Exploratory Session today!