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Author Topic: Don’t try to be reassuring  (Read 376 times)
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« on: May 11, 2022, 06:03:45 PM »

Hi all,

I had previously identified on here that one thing I was getting wrong on a daily basis for all the years we’d been together, was reassuring my wife that she didn’t need to be so anxious, paranoid, worried and stressed about everything.

This reassurance was (the dreaded) ”invalidating” to her.

We are staying at a caravan park booked through Airbnb and the caravan owner had sent her a map of the location of it (in the holiday park). I have been to many of these places before and I know (for me) it’s often a nightmare to find your accommodation using the map or even asking someone,, but you figure it out in the end. She mentioned her fears before we set off on a five hour drive here with our little kids. I momentarily forgot to validate and reassured her it would be fine. Which it was. Eventually. But not without much cursing and shrieking on her part as we drove round trying to figure it out.

We all know… it doesn’t have to be like this. Face the challenge. Figure it out one step at a time. It’ll be fine it may just take a little while.

Just don’t bother saying these things to your pwbpd. They don’t get it, they don’t agree. And my wife has since expressed to me how utterly angry she was with me for saying it would be fine, when she knew it wouldn’t be and she was right. Well actually, I don’t agree, as it was fine, just would have been nicer without the shrieking. But I didn’t bother saying that.
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« Reply #1 on: May 11, 2022, 09:35:46 PM »

I was about to say that after reading your first paragraph. I'm glad that you realized that it was Invalidating talk, and not just for a pwBPD, but anyone.

How might you adjust what you say in the future?
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« Reply #2 on: May 12, 2022, 09:18:16 AM »

I struggle with this one too. I find myself at a bit of a loss when I am trying to figure out how to validate feelings without diving down the rabbit hole into what my pwBPD and I call "death spiraling".

She has been in a particular funk this week. I am going out of town for a few days and she will have to solo parent for the next couple of nights, and that prospect is pretty unpleasant for her. Yesterday she was very detached and clearly feeling miserable. I asked her how she was feeling and if there was anything going on. She proceeded to talk about feeling depressed, hating the house we live in and having to be stuck there, hating her job, and just feeling really uncomfortable and eager to get a quick fix for that.

Usually this is where I would either engage with every single thing she mentioned and either argue (really bad idea) or empathize (which frequently gets misinterpreted as agreeing with things I don't agree with). This time, though, I simply said "Thank you so much for sharing that with me" and left it at that. It definitely did not make her feel "better", which honestly is not something that is going to happen because of anything I say, but it seemed to acknowledge what was going on without opening the door to drama. Maybe that is an approach that could be helpful - showing appreciation that your partner is sharing how they are feeling with you without really weighing in with follow-up questions or opinions?
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« Reply #3 on: May 12, 2022, 01:31:52 PM »

I struggle with this too.  It's so hard when faced with a stream of negativity not to push back with a message that life isn't always a catastrophe.

I used to think I was helpful and reassuring, of course, but I do realize that it's invalidating for anyone.  I've had better luck with this pivot with my kids, actually, as they respond to my validation or my apologies immediately.  So that's a huge win.

With my wife, it's random - she will either blame me for agreeing with her negative self-image or she won't.  If I"m short and sweet, it either goes well or I'm stonewalling.  But at least I can know I'm not invalidating anymore!
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« Reply #4 on: May 12, 2022, 05:14:40 PM »

I'm glad that you realized that it was Invalidating talk, and not just for a pwBPD, but anyone.

How might you adjust what you say in the future?

I didn’t realise that being reassuring was so badly thought of in general. I combine validation with reassurance in my work with children and it comes naturally to me. It seems different when you’re dealing with an adult. As a person who suffered much anxiety and depression in the past, I did like to be reassured that everything would be ok. But I don’t think I was validated much at home, for example my mother would tell me I wasn’t being bullied, “I’m sure those children didn’t intend to upset you…” etc.

So I do recognise some of my mother’s attitude in myself, but I will always listen to what my children have to say. I have struggled with validating my wife’s feelings, knowing what to say. But she always used to accuse me of starting arguments, and she doesn’t seem to accuse me of this nearly as much now. I think because I stopped being invalidating, then for her it’s actually quite validating if I say very little, but just acknowledge what she said.

It certainly can be frustrating. I’ve done well stepping out of the caretaker role with regards to doing things for myself, standing up for myself etc. But essentially, pwbpd are emotionally disabled and it will always be a special needs relationship (I think it was Cat who said this to me). So if you want the most peaceful possible life, the eggshell walking will remain to some extent, what I mean by this is that you need to stop yourself from reacting in what I think is a normal way by saying something like, “I’m sure it’ll be fine…” I’m sure this becomes easier over time, which is what I’ve found about all aspects of this. For some reason I let my guard down when I forgot, “she’s expressing a feeling… don’t invalidate it…”

The good thing about it is that when I do mess up, it doesn’t descend into a row that lasts for several days, as it used to. I hate that the children have to see their mother so angry and out of control at times, but it is usually for a maximum of ten minutes or so and then she calms down, which has everything to do with my improved handling of such situations.
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« Reply #5 on: May 12, 2022, 06:44:59 PM »

 Way to go! (click to insert in post)
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« Reply #6 on: May 13, 2022, 08:01:44 AM »


This reassurance was (the dreaded) ”invalidating” to her.


This was my experience for several years with FFw.  I would invalidate her out of ignorance which would "make the fire bigger" for the next time she was upset.

I honestly never heard of "invalidation" and while I had heard of "validation" and "valid"...my mindset was really more about "correct"...rather than anything about emotion.

As in "is that thing on my radar a "valid" target"  (oh back to the FF military days)

You can imagine that me trying to convince my wife what is "correct"...well...inflamed things to say the least.

Really proud of you thankful person.  Keep up the good work!


Best,

FF
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« Reply #7 on: May 13, 2022, 12:14:38 PM »

I struggle with this as well, except that I really struggle with the principle more so.  It doesn't take a person having BPD to want to have their emotions validated as some in this thread have already talked about from the invalidation side of things.  The BPD just causes a different reaction to the scenario.  Why is there a need for validation though? For anyone, not just the BPD.  When looking for validation the argument is always "these are my feelings, that's what you aren't getting."  That's absolutely true.  Even with myself, my feelings are my feelings and no one else's, so why would I need someone else to validate them for me?  They are mine.  It doesn't matter if someone else doesn't like my feelings because they aren't their feelings.  For me the biggest issue is this, I believe mankind in general has come to a bad conclusion on what the purpose of feelings/emotions are (I blame the Romanticism movement of the 1700s for this Laugh out loud (click to insert in post)).  Feelings/emotions seem to be used as the determining factor for setting moral standard.  For example, if something makes me mad then the thing that happened must be wrong.  If that were the case, then everyone would have the same inherent feelings and emotional reactions.  Or, if something makes someone feel happy then it can't be possible that there is something inherently wrong with whatever that thing is.  However, what if feelings/emotions are supposed to be the indicator of what our personal values are?  I mean some things that make us happy in America would offend people in other places.  It's because their values are different and the emotions/feelings are the indicators that allow us to see that difference.  Basically I'm just saying this, my emotions are designed to help me learn more about myself, not to make others change how they treat me.  When I experience an emotion I should ask myself why I experienced that emotion, not why don't others cater to this emotion.  I understand BPD makes people think differently, but the majority of the world that doesn't have BPD still thinks the same way in terms of validating/invalidating emotions.  I know this may not be a popular opinion and I hope that it isn't taken offensively if  you disagree.  I don't mean for it to be offensive, it's just my 2 cents (if it's even worth that much). 
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« Reply #8 on: May 13, 2022, 12:47:51 PM »

“When looking for validation the argument is always "these are my feelings, that's what you aren't getting."  That's absolutely true.  Even with myself, my feelings are my feelings and no one else's, so why would I need someone else to validate them for me?  They are mine.  It doesn't matter if someone else doesn't like my feelings because they aren't their feelings.”

Why do others want their emotions validated?

Insecurity has a lot to do with it. For those who are secure in who they are, there’s much less of a need for validation.

Humans tend to be tribal, rather than loners, and want to feel affirmation for their beliefs and feelings. It feels good when others affirm our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.
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« Reply #9 on: May 13, 2022, 04:05:28 PM »

When looking for validation the argument is always "these are my feelings, that's what you aren't getting."  That's absolutely true.  Even with myself, my feelings are my feelings and no one else's, so why would I need someone else to validate them for me?  They are mine.  It doesn't matter if someone else doesn't like my feelings because they aren't their feelings. 
I totally agree. Like, why can’t it be, bpdw panics, she thinks everything’s going to go wrong, but I think it’s probably going to be ok..? And we’re both allowed to feel and express that. And then afterwards we’re allowed to both have our different feelings about how stressful it was or wasn’t… And express those too. Without anyone needing to be angry or suppress their feelings…
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« Reply #10 on: May 17, 2022, 09:48:17 AM »

I totally agree. Like, why can’t it be, bpdw panics, she thinks everything’s going to go wrong, but I think it’s probably going to be ok..? And we’re both allowed to feel and express that. And then afterwards we’re allowed to both have our different feelings about how stressful it was or wasn’t… And express those too. Without anyone needing to be angry or suppress their feelings…

Exactly.  It's the double standard that is my biggest issue.  I'm ok with accepting that she is going to panic.  I don't have to participate in the panic in order to accept it though, just like she doesn't have to participate in my calmness in order to accept that.  I also don't have to agree with her panic or the feeling causing the panic in order to accept it.  Acceptance only works one was with the BPDw.  That's the part that I am done dealing with.  I'm tired of the "BDPw doesn't think like you so you have to validate without expressing your own thoughts because that just invalidates".  I get that her mental state means she can't help it.  Some people's mental state makes them inclined to commit crime.  No one asks people to just accept that and validate their emotions.  No, the two situations are not exactly the same, but the principle is.
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« Reply #11 on: May 19, 2022, 02:16:20 PM »

This was an interesting post to read and helpful to me. It is counterintuitive to not be reassuring to someone close to you as they panic about seemingly nothing. My uBPDw often panics and thinks she is dying because she experienced a shortness of breath or some minor thing that nobody normal would pay attention to. I listened to a full on panic attack about how she was "dying" because she was thirsty and has some thick saliva. I pulled over because I was driving and bought her a bottle of water. Then listened to the "oh my god I can't breath, this isn't normal I am dying" rant word salad for 45 minutes. My reassuring her really didn't do anything to sooth her because I am locked out of her world when she is in one of her panic attacks. After reading some of the comments here I think I will sit back and allow her to realize herself that she isn't dying and maybe that will help. She is not diagnosed BPD because as many of you know pwBPD have such fragile egos that anything short of perfection and being perfect is crippling to them. I suggested she has BPD once and heard how horrible I am, mixed with random things I did or said over the years for an hour. The rant ended essentially with I was the worst person ever and should be killed if the world was to be better.

We have each other my friends. We are the only ones that truly understand what life is like with a BPD partner. I draw strength from all of you reading your stories and I hope you draw strength from mine knowing you aren't the only one facing this horrible affliction.
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« Reply #12 on: May 19, 2022, 04:45:33 PM »

  It is counterintuitive to not be reassuring 

As you learn more about pwBPD you will find the same thought over and over, the thing that actually works..calms things...is counterintuitive.


Have you ever tried taking her seriously?   As in if someone is dying, the emergency room is the logical next step.  Perhaps asking if you should drive her to the nearest ER might get her head going in a different direction...maybe...

Best,

FF
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« Reply #13 on: May 19, 2022, 05:54:11 PM »

We have each other my friends. We are the only ones that truly understand what life is like with a BPD partner. I draw strength from all of you reading your stories and I hope you draw strength from mine knowing you aren't the only one facing this horrible affliction.
Hi Anon, I’m glad you found us. The people here are incredible and have helped me so much. I wanted to give a little back and share my own insights to help others if I can. FF is absolutely right. I used to do this shouty, confrontational, “DO YOU NEED TO GO TO HOSPITAL?” out of sheer frustration but of course just got accused of being unkind and not caring etc. which of course made things worse. Then one day I tried just calmly asking, “do you need to go to hospital?” This was before I found the bpd family, but I thought maybe if I pretend I’m concerned she’ll drop it. I was right, I have used this line calmly now on many occasions and the answer has always been, “well no”. But sometimes people feel they do need to see a medic just for professional reassurance. So it’s worth finding out if this helps. It could even lead to a mental health assessment which may or may not be helpful. Good luck with everything. We are here for you.
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« Reply #14 on: May 19, 2022, 08:38:15 PM »

Then one day I tried just calmly asking, “do you need to go to hospital?” 

 the answer has always been, “well no”.


YES!

One way I have found to sound "concerned" is to remind myself to "be curious"

as in "oh goodness babe...do you need to go to the hospital?"  So there is some concern in there and some curiosity...and you are also implicitly saying you care and ready to assist them in getting the care they need.

That helps them calm and allows them to think more clearly and as you see..results in a much more reasonable answer.

Now...a related thing I used to get stuck on was trying to "debrief" or improve the relationship after they say something whackadoodle.  I NEVER found a way to suggest that maybe next time X happens they not loose their minds and demand to go to hospital.

Never

What does seem to work is to be deliberate about moving past whatever X was...as soon as it appears to not be a crisis any more to DROP IT..just move on.

Great discussion..keep it up!

Best,

FF
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« Reply #15 on: May 19, 2022, 11:52:41 PM »


Now...a related thing I used to get stuck on was trying to "debrief" or improve the relationship after they say something whackadoodle.  I NEVER found a way to suggest that maybe next time X happens they not loose their minds and demand to go to hospital.

Never

What does seem to work is to be deliberate about moving past whatever X was...as soon as it appears to not be a crisis any more to DROP IT..just move on.


FF,

Another great point I totally have found this too. I used to try to help my wife “see sense” and learn from her mistakes. I have stopped saying things like, “if this happens again, maybe you could remember today and realise things may not be as bad as you think..” etc.

Because pwbpd behave like children sometimes, it may be instinctive to treat them like children. Not necessarily in a cruel way, but as in, helping them learn. I’m a teacher so of course I thought I was doing this as best I could. Not telling my wife the lessons directly, but trying to bring her to see the conclusions herself, as I would with a student. It never worked.

But something incredible which has happened here is that my wife is now voicing her own such conclusions which she has come to. Things she was always blind to and got very angry about when I tried to help or advise. She told me yesterday that she is so envious of me for setting myself goals then working to achieve them. She knows she always talks a lot about such things, but in her words, “I never complete or achieve anything”. Maybe, because I don’t argue with her anymore about such things (except when I forget), it’s helping her to figure things out for herself. I’m excited for her but of course my expectations will remain low, and I will refrain from passing judgement or opinions as much as possible.
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« Reply #16 on: May 20, 2022, 05:36:37 PM »

What I meant by its counterintuitive, is my first instinct when someone panics is to reassure them. I've learned though through experience and also reading some posts on here that usually just being mellow and waiting it out usually makes the episode end once she takes her blood pressure half a dozen times. I use to try and reassure her and it usually just made the episode last a good 45 minutes with it ending somehow in my fault. Everything is our fault, you all with BPD spouses know this.
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« Reply #17 on: May 20, 2022, 08:15:41 PM »

What I meant by its counterintuitive, is my first instinct when someone panics is to reassure them…
Everything is our fault, you all with BPD spouses know this.
It’s interesting, because my father similarly suffers from great anxiety, and is a hypochondriac by his own admission. He now suffers from Parkinson’s disease since his early 50’s, which I’ve read can be related to having extreme anxiety for many years. Growing up I witnessed my mother reassuring him all the time. And it was like he drank in the sympathy and he loved it and it made him stronger. But if you tell my wife she’s ok or anything of the kind, she just gets angry because she feels you’re not taking her seriously. My father has his share of mental health issues but this is why I wouldn’t say it’s bpd. But I do think his mother had bpd.
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« Reply #18 on: May 21, 2022, 08:41:06 AM »

To be honest I am at the point where she has worn me down so much, and beaten me into the ground with her shenanigans, that I just accept whatever day by day. I feel like one of those zoo-lions that has accepted captivity and just sits there and deals with the zoo-goers BS tapping on the glass. When she isn't hyper-fixated on some nonsense she is busy being distant, cold, and Vulcan like. Rarely I get the affectionate pre-splitting wife that seems human, only for her to disappear and vomit up some word-salad about how horrible I am for not having her as an emergency contact (even though she NEVER answers her phone).
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« Reply #19 on: May 21, 2022, 09:11:16 AM »

I didn’t realise that being reassuring was so badly thought of in general.

Maybe the take home is not that reassuring is so badly thought of in general, but rather than there is a very fine line between validating and being invalidating. In this example, she likely felt her anxiety was being minimized or dismissed.

If her dermatologist said something reassuring about a mole, or her automobile mechanic said something reassuring about her car, or the landscaper said something reassuring about the lawn... But even here, if the dermatologist added a little smirk while reassuring, BOOM, it becomes invalidating.

This is the reason that members are often better to focus initially on "not being invalidating". It's the easier of the two skills (vs validation) and not as much of a mine field. Its also one you can ask your partner about and get help.
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« Reply #20 on: May 24, 2022, 08:55:22 PM »

I’ve learned a lot from this thread.  This is my first post/reply/interaction of any kind on this site, although I’ve been reading many of them for a few days.  I think I do the reassuring thing a lot, which isn’t helpful. 

In moments like the one described, I just ride it out and hope for something that triggers another emotion to disrupt/distract him.

In another twist, my undiagnosed BPD husband can quite masterfully lure me into these conversations where he wants to be reassured but then lashes out at it.  His “conversation” style is such that it is difficult to avoid.  He poses things as questions that you have two choices. 
1 - agree/reassure/give in to whatever he wants
2- disagree/be insensitive/reject him/start a fight

Either way you respond, it gives him justification to accuse you of either supporting something (that might be a completely bad idea) or never being on his side.

I’ve gotten to the point that sometimes I don’t even respond. I just stay quiet. 
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« Reply #21 on: May 25, 2022, 07:29:30 AM »

Welcome

Every Day I'm glad you have been reading and learning for a couple of days and even more pleased that you have taken the step to make your first post!  Great job...!    How does it "feel"?

I would encourage you to start a brand new topic.  Offhand I would suggest starting a thread about his "conversation style" and how you have been responding to it.

He poses things as questions that you have two choices.  
1 - agree/reassure/give in to whatever he wants
2- disagree/be insensitive/reject him/start a fight

I see lots of opportunity here for you (without your pwBPD's cooperation) to improve this dynamic in your relationship.

What if?...  What if he gave you a dichotomous choice and you didn't limit yourself to his two "choices", when you responded.

Again..so glad you are here and will keep an eye out for your new thread!

Best,

FF

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