“He never listens to me,” “She doesn’t understand me,” “I want to feel connected.” These are common statements our providers encounter in their work with couples. They don’t know the name for it, but what these couples seek is intimacy. Intimacy is the feeling of being emotionally close to and supported by the person we love.
Many couples therapists use the In-To-Me-See approach. This approach is based on the idea that all people have the need to be truly seen by their partner. No mask, shield, or cover-up. This is intimidating and scary. For the mask to be fully removed, a relationship must have built enough trust to allow each person to feel safe being vulnerable and fully authentic. Renowned couples therapist Esther Perel believes, “Vulnerability is an invitation. You are opening yourself, welcoming validation or critique.”
Both validation and critique are normal parts of being human, but critique specifically triggers a subconscious defense mechanism in your partner. In turn, this can have a negative impact on the trust in your relationship. Although the intention of critique may not be malicious, the fear of leaving oneself vulnerable to criticism can shut down the opportunity for validation in a relationship, which can be detrimental to trust. Validation, on the other hand, can help to ease fears and anxiety so that each person feels more comfortable expressing themselves. Validation is a warm hug, critique is a slap in the face. Which one would encourage you to be more vulnerable? Trusting your partner helps you to take the leap to open yourself up.