Of course, as we’re looking to our spouse to continue that magical validating experience, our spouse is looking to us to provide the exact same thing. That’s why it’s so easy to fall into patterns of complete emotional dependence on one another, especially after the newness of our mutual attraction wears off. But needing to feel needed by another is not authentic validation; it’s actually a symbol of our lack of authentic validation. That’s because, ultimately, validation is an inside job. Validation is only authentic and lasting when it comes from within.
I love the way Dr. David Schnarch puts it in his remarkable book Passionate Marriage. He talks brilliantly about how we can all be divided into two camps—those seeking connection whose validation comes from their spouse, and those seeking connection who are grown-up enough to seek validation from within themselves. He even provides two contrasting statements to highlight the difference:
Other-validated intimacy “sounds” like this: “I’ll tell you about myself, but only if then you tell me about yourself. If you don’t, I won’t either. But I want to, so you have to. I’ll go first and then you’ll be obligated to disclose—it’s only fair. And if I go first, you have to make me feel secure. I need to be able to trust you!”
Self-validated intimacy in long-term relationships sounds quite different: “I don’t expect you to agree with me; you weren’t put on the face of this earth to validate and reinforce me. But I want you to love me—and you can’t really do that if you don’t know me. I don’t want your rejection—but I must face that possibility if I’m ever to feel accepted or secure with you. It’s time to show myself to you and confront my separateness and mortality. One day when we are no longer on this earth, I want to know you knew me.”
Runkel, Hal Edward. The Self-Centered Marriage (pp. 42-43). Potter/Ten Speed/Harmony/Rodale. Kindle Edition.