10 hard to spot signs your partner is subtly invalidating your feelings, according to psychology

As people, it’s fundamental for us to feel heard, valued, and understood in our relationships.

It should be the bare minimum, but sometimes these vital elements can be missing. Their absence can often be hidden, subtly manifesting in the form of a partner invalidating your feelings.

Invalidation is a form of emotional abuse where one partner minimizes, dismisses or rejects the other’s emotions. It’s a sneaky form of manipulation that can be hard to pinpoint, as it often escalates gradually over time.

Drawing from psychology, I’m going to highlight some of the subtle signs your partner may be invalidating your feelings—signs that are not always easy to recognize in the early stages of a relationship.

1) Dismissal of your emotions

Dismissal of your emotions can be a subtle form of emotional invalidation that often goes unnoticed.

It’s not always evident, and it can creep into the relationship slowly and insidiously, making it hard to identify.

You might find your partner frequently brushing off your feelings, labeling them as “overreactions” or “ridiculous”. They might assert that you’re too sensitive or that you’re taking things way too personally.

Alternatively, they might turn the tables when discussing your feelings, steering the attention towards themselves or making light of your emotions.

Suddenly, it’s about them or a joke, rather than addressing what you’re feeling.

This pattern of behavior can leave you feeling unheard and unimportant, causing self-doubt to creep in over time.

2) Constant need for justification

Another subtle invalidating behavior is when your partner requires you to always justify your feelings.

This behavior can often appear as a form of concern or a desire to understand you better. But in reality, it’s a way of saying that your emotions aren’t valid unless they can be logically explained.

For example, if you express feeling upset about something they’ve said or done, they may demand a detailed reason behind your feelings.

They might expect you to provide an extensive explanation for why you’re feeling a certain way.

The implication here is that your feelings are not acceptable on their own and require rationalization. This can lead to feelings of guilt and self-doubt, as if your emotions are not valid unless they meet certain “criteria.”

3) Absence of empathy

Empathy, the ability to understand and share the feelings of another, is important in any healthy relationship.

Yet, in a relationship where your feelings are subtly invalidated, empathy can be noticeably absent.

Your partner may seem indifferent or unresponsive when you express your emotions. They might change the subject, show a lack of interest, or simply ignore your emotional disclosures altogether.

Lack of empathy can leave you feeling unseen and unheard, fostering a sense of loneliness even in their company. 

4) Overemphasis on positivity

relationship has no future 10 hard to spot signs your partner is subtly invalidating your feelings, according to psychology

A partner who constantly emphasizes the need for positivity can also be subtly invalidating your feelings.

While a positive outlook is generally beneficial, insisting on a happy facade at all times can be damaging. It can inadvertently send the message that negative emotions are bad or unacceptable.

For instance, if you’re feeling down or upset, they might tell you to “look on the bright side” or “just be happy”. They may dismiss your valid concerns and feelings by labeling them as “negativity” that needs to be eliminated.

A continuous push for positivity can invalidate your legitimate emotional experiences, making it seem like only positive emotions are worth expressing and experiencing in your relationship.

5) Frequent comparisons

Honesty is key, and the truth is, constant comparisons can be a raw and covert form of invalidating someone’s feelings.

You might find your partner frequently comparing your reactions or emotions to those of others. They might say things like, “Why can’t you be more laid back like him?” or “She doesn’t get upset over these things.”

These comparisons are not only unfair, but they also undermine your individual emotional experience.

It’s as if your feelings are measured on a scale based on others’ reactions, rather than being acknowledged and respected as your own.

This subtle invalidation can leave you feeling inadequate and misunderstood, as though your emotional responses are always falling short or failing some unspoken standard.

6) Defensiveness instead of openness

There’s a kindness in listening, in being open to other’s emotions without immediately jumping into defense mode. Unfortunately, this understanding can often be missing when your feelings are subtly invalidated.

Rather than being receptive when you express your emotions, your partner might become defensive. They may view your feelings, especially those that involve them, as a personal attack or criticism.

Instead of validating your emotions and working through them together, they might react with counter-accusations, excuses, or even anger. It’s as if your feelings have become a threat, instead of a shared matter of understanding.

Defensiveness can create an environment where you’re afraid to express your emotions openly for fear of triggering a defensive response.

7) Shifting blame

We’ve all been there, feeling as if we’re at fault even when we’re not. This is a classic and sometimes subtle sign of emotional invalidation: shifting blame.

If your partner often finds a way to turn things around on you whenever you express your feelings, they might be subtly invalidating your emotions.

For instance, when you express your hurt feelings, instead of acknowledging your pain, they might say something like, “You’re always trying to make me the bad guy” or “You’re too sensitive.”

Blame-shifting can make you question your own feelings and reality. It’s a way of diverting the focus from your feelings to their own perceived victimhood. 

8) Overuse of humor

signs a relationship lacks emotional depth 10 hard to spot signs your partner is subtly invalidating your feelings, according to psychology

Who doesn’t enjoy a good laugh? Humor can add a dash of fun to any relationship. But when used excessively or inappropriately, it can subtly invalidate your feelings.

If your partner often uses humor or sarcasm to dismiss your feelings or concerns, it can leave you feeling trivialized.

They may make jokes when you’re trying to have a serious conversation or laugh off your emotions as if they’re insignificant.

While it might seem light-hearted and harmless, using humor as a defense mechanism can belittle your emotional experiences. It’s like saying that your feelings are not important enough to be taken seriously.

Remember, some humor is good—even healthy—in a relationship, but not when it’s at the cost of your feelings. They should laugh with you, not at you.

9) Ignoring your needs

Each one of us has emotional needs, and in a healthy relationship, these needs are recognized and respected.

However, if your partner tends to overlook or dismiss your needs, it can feel as though your feelings don’t matter.

They might minimize the importance of your needs, brush them off as being needy or dramatic, or fail to acknowledge them at all. This behavior can leave you feeling unvalued and insignificant.

The harsh truth is, a partner who invalidates your feelings by ignoring your needs doesn’t respect you. It’s crucial for you to decide whether to address this issue or consider if the relationship is worth pursuing.

10) Denial of your reality

This is perhaps the most important thing to remember: if your partner denies your reality, they are invalidating your feelings.

Denial of reality happens when your partner refuses to accept your perspective or experience as valid.

They might question your memory of events, dismiss your interpretation of situations, or insist that their viewpoint is the only correct one.

This form of gaslighting can be incredibly damaging, leading you to question your own thoughts and experiences. It’s a major red flag and a clear sign of emotional invalidation.

Always remember, your feelings are real, valid, and deserve to be acknowledged and respected. No one else has the right to deny your reality.

What to do if your feelings are being invalidated

If you’ve noticed these signs in your relationship, it may feel overwhelming and disheartening. But remember, it’s not your fault, and you’re not alone.

Being with a partner who subtly invalidates your feelings often leads to emotional exhaustion, self-doubt, and a sense of loneliness. 

It’s important to understand that you cannot change your partner or make them validate your feelings by loving them more or altering yourself to fit their narrative. Their behavior is about them, not about you.

You can’t force someone else to change, but you can focus on understanding and validating your own feelings.

Essentially, the key is recognizing your own worth. Your feelings are real, valid, and they matter. You are enough, just as you are.

The best course of action may be to seek professional help, such as a therapist or counselor. They can provide you with the tools to communicate effectively and set healthy boundaries.

This article isn’t intended to diagnose your partner or label them as emotionally abusive. Rather, it’s designed to help you identify patterns that may be undermining your emotional well-being.

Seeing a few signs doesn’t necessarily mean that your partner is deliberately invalidating your feelings. But if these patterns persist and cause distress, it’s a cause for reflection on whether you’re genuinely valued in your relationship.

In closing, remember this: You deserve respect and understanding in a relationship. You deserve to have your feelings acknowledged and validated. Don’t settle for less.

Picture of Isabella Chase

Isabella Chase

Isabella Chase, a New York City native, writes about the complexities of modern life and relationships. Her articles draw from her experiences navigating the vibrant and diverse social landscape of the city. Isabella’s insights are about finding harmony in the chaos and building strong, authentic connections in a fast-paced world.

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