Validating and empathizing

All too often, though, we end up reliving the patterns that hurt us in the first place.

And as we did when we were children, we let our frustrations be known—only this time, we express the pain with criticism.

While it's best if both partners participate, one person's change in attitude can make a difference—just as Helen's solo efforts helped our relationship.

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They are built on habits that capture the feelings you have for each other and make them durable.

I've seen couples use these skills to transform a poor marriage into one that is wonderful. In our case, Helen was the first to see that although we were developing a new type of marriage therapy professionally, our communication had deteriorated.

I had to admit that I don’t read self help books and blogs myself – too busy treating clients and researching my own books and articles – but I was interested in his observations about the “industry.”It appears that the central problem in self help books and blogs that deal with behavior and emotions is very similar to the central problem of psychotherapy.

When I supervised counseling interns of various helping professions, the most difficult struggle was to help them strike a balance between emotional validation – how you feel - and empowerment – the ability to change your state of being, including your feelings and behavior, for the better. If you don’t validate sufficiently, distressed clients will resist the best empirically supported attempts to empower them to make their lives better.

You think, "Football—this is your idea of being together?! It will be over at four, and then you'd like to do something together. I'm sad, but that doesn't mean I don't understand." Notice that you don't have to agree with him—or think he's right and you're wrong—in order to validate him.

" But you know what will likely happen if you say this, so instead you mirror what your partner has just said—no reacting negatively. Next you empathize with him, reaffirming that you stand with him instead of against him, by saying: "I want you to feel that you have time on the weekends to do what you want."At first glance, it may look like you're swallowing your feelings in order to cater to your partner's.

A relationship cannot remain the same when one of you has changed.

With some work, you both might even find yourselves back marveling at the magic of your happiness.

Harville Hendrix is the author of Getting the Love You Want.

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