What to Do When You Feel Emotionally Invalidated in Your Romantic Relationship

A couple having a deep conversation

Emotional invalidation happens when someone dismisses or minimizes your thoughts and feelings. 

Romantic relationships can be a source of deep fulfillment — we may spend a great deal of our time on them, because they comprise one of the most meaningful aspects of our lives. 

We depend on those we love to understand us. When we are in a healthy relationship, it makes us feel safe to express ourselves, open up, and be vulnerable. We long to connect in a way that will fill us up, so we’re able to show up as our best selves.  

Emotions, too, are a big factor when we are in relationships — how we feel, how we react or respond, and how we process our thoughts affect how we show up in life. When our romantic partner invalidates our feelings, it takes a toll on our emotional health and well-being.

How to Spot Invalidation

What does it mean to be invalidated? When someone invalidates us, it can mean:

  • They act as if they don’t understand what we’re saying, so they dismiss or minimize our thoughts and feelings.  
  • If they do understand us, they react as if they don’t care. They reject, judge, or ignore our thoughts, feelings, and emotions, implying that what we feel is unacceptable, wrong, or unimportant.

For example, let’s say that Anna and Eric are deciding on how to spend their Saturday night. Anna, the introvert, suggests watching a movie at home. Eric, who enjoys socializing, wants to go to a friend’s party.

Anna: “I’m in the mood for a quiet evening. Parties can be a bit much for me.”

Eric: “You always avoid social events. Don’t you think it’s time to be more fun and social like other couples?”

Here, Eric invalidates Anna by implying she’s consistently avoiding social situations and suggesting they’re not “like other couples” because of her preferences as an introvert.

To be fair, we need to understand that, as imperfect human beings, all of us could say or do something that invalidates our partners sometimes — by mistake. It may happen with well-meaning intentions, especially when it’s an attempt to cheer them up in order to take their mind off a stressful situation. It’s important not to assume that everything someone says in this regard is a direct attack on us. But if it happens too often, and becomes toxic behavior, it’s important that we address the issue, and calmly.

Before that, let’s look at how invalidation affects us and what we should look out for.

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5 Ways Emotional Invalidation Affects Introverts

Emotional invalidation is a hurtful experience, particularly so for an introvert because we can’t help but live inside our heads. We live, function, and find our energy within us. When our partner invalidates our feelings, we gather all the external information, data, and facts — and start processing it inward.

Here’s how emotional invalidation affects us: 

1. You feel deeply hurt — and often.

We feel extremely hurt when people who we expect to know us well do not understand us. We may lose control over ourselves, as our minds replay the incident on repeat. We may feel a heavy weight of sadness in our chest, and any small trigger might send us into a frenzy of crying, bursting into tears in the middle of nowhere.  

2. You doubt yourself and start to feel more and more inadequate.

When those we love misunderstand us, or push us away by invalidating us, we may begin to doubt ourselves. We may feel inadequate and unworthy of love. Our self-esteem dips as we struggle with negative self-talk. 

Our mind, too, might tell us we’re not good enough, that we’re incapable of effectively handling communication and our relationships. As a result, we might spend a lot of time worrying about what our partners think about us and our issues. This kind of thinking reinforces our lack of self-worth and can push us further into an inferiority complex.

3. You blame yourself (even when you’re not to blame).

When our self-esteem goes down, we may blame ourselves. We feel the problem was our fault and dwell on the possibility that perhaps we must change. We wish we could be better — a better communicator, a better lover, more social, more extroverted, more adaptable. 

In short, we blame ourselves for simply being us. We may become frustrated with who we are. We think if we could become more like everyone else, then perhaps there may be less conflict and fewer problems.

Are you an introvert who shuts down around the people you’re attracted to?

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4. You shut down and withdraw from others.

Many times, we introverts would rather be sitting quietly alone, lost in our thoughts. When we feel invalidated, however, we withdraw from interacting with others to the point of shutting down. We may seem disinterested in what’s going on around us and refuse to interact or engage, so we withdraw ourselves emotionally and physically.    

The reason we might act this way is we’re trying to avoid conflict, for fear of being criticized or pushed away again. There’s underlying hopelessness that a solution isn’t available, and shutting down makes us feel safe.

5. It spills into other areas of your life, like work and activities that used to bring you joy.

As we’re trying to cope with the overwhelming feelings that arise, the anxiety might spill into other areas of our lives. We may constantly experience a low mood, lacking energy (even for activities that would normally bring us joy), and feel stuck in a slump. The mental and emotional exhaustion may cause us to become agitated, and we lack the desire to just get up and have fun.

So now what?

What to Do When You Feel Invalidated

Instead of blaming yourself, redirect the focus away from you. Remember, just like everything else in life, nothing is personal until you make it so. Even if it seems like it, it’s not about you. 

Understand that your feelings are valid because they are real. You’re not overreacting. You are enough just the way you are, and you don’t have to be someone else or do something else. Most importantly, give yourself permission to speak your mind if you feel you’re being misunderstood or invalidated.  

How do you dismiss the unhelpful thoughts you may have? Every time a judgmental thought pops into your head, or when you have a quick emotional reaction to something your partner has said, pause for a moment. Repeat these words in your head until a calm overtakes you: “It’s not personal.” 

Because the truth is, it isn’t. This is especially true if this is not the way they usually react, so don’t give it another thought. They are probably dealing with their own problems.

However, if this has happened before, it’s worth taking the time to address the issue and communicate. Calmly let your partner know how you feel and how their invalidating statements hurt you and make you feel you’re not cared for. If they are not ready to hear this, be willing to end the conversation, showing that you do not feel safe right now and will discuss the matter when they are ready to listen.    

Also, set clear boundaries and avoid feeling guilty for your actions. There’s nothing wrong with your feelings. Remember, you deserve to be heard. It’s better to be upfront about your feelings and get things out in the open rather than assuming it was an attack on you and your character. Don’t be afraid to be completely honest, as it could help them understand where you’re coming from. And if they understand what you’re saying and change their behavior, it could strengthen your relationship.

Clear Communication Is Key in a Relationship

As introverts, we may struggle more than others emotionally. That’s why clear communication is a fundamental part of a healthy relationship. It’s important that we communicate our needs clearly to our partners. Don’t be afraid to open up or fear further judgment if you do. Hiding things will only make it worse and create a barrier between you and your partner.    

While your significant other may have some ideas about your nature as an introvert, it’s better to express your needs directly and openly to avoid any confusion. Attempting to maintain a positive emotional connection will make us feel safer and more comfortable with our partners. In the long run, we’ll be contributing to a healthier, happier, and more satisfying relationship.

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