Validating Your Loved One's Experience of Endometriosis
March is endometriosis awareness month, and in past years I have written about raising awareness of the condition in groups that may not be exposed to it, such as men.
However, I feel like that’s only one side to it. There is a whole other dimension to raising awareness about a condition that I haven’t explored: validating the experiences of people living with it.
Validation of your loved ones' feelings
What do I mean by validation? Well, to be validated is to be assured that you are correct. To validate someone’s experiences or emotions is to show them that you understand how they feel and why they feel it. Validation helps people feel understood and listened to and reassures them that they aren’t crazy or making a big deal out of something.
Unfortunately, these two accusations are often levied at invisible illness patients.
By validating the experience of someone you love living with endometriosis, you can tell them that you accept them for who they are and open the door for future support and communication, which can strengthen your relationship.
Validating someone’s emotions or experience is quite simple, especially to those we love and are around regularly. It is as simple as making space to listen to and understand them. Communicate back to them that you have listened and understood.
However, for anyone who wants a bit more of a formula for the process, validation can be broken down into these steps:
Recognize the emotion
The first step is to be perceptive to your loved one. Listen to what they are saying or to what they are not saying. Are they angry? Desperate? Hopeless? Identify their experience and let them know you understand.
This isn’t a guessing game, either. If you’re not sure how someone is feeling, ask them.
Recognize the source of the emotion
This takes the previous step a little deeper. If you have identified that your loved one is angry, what makes them angry?
For this article, let’s assume it’s something endo-related. Let your partner know that you understand that endometriosis is what is making them feel that way.
Again, you can ask, don’t just make assumptions about the cause of their emotions and tell them how they feel about it.
Validate their emotions
This step involves showing that what they are experiencing is normal or understandable. You can say things like “that must be hard,” or “I would feel the same way,” or even “I’m here for you.”
It’s important to avoid blaming or minimizing their experience here by saying something like “it can’t be that bad” or explaining how you’ve had it worse before.
Minimizing someone’s experience can feel like you’re helping as you don’t want them to think it’s as bad as they currently do, but it shows that you haven’t understood or accepted their experience.
Validating someone’s emotions or experiences isn’t a magic wand that will make everything disappear. Endometriosis will still need to be managed, relationships still need to be worked on, and pain and hard times will remain.
However, it can help your loved one feel less alone and isolated and give them some much-needed support on their journey.
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