Question: Yangki, what do you think? Should I ask my ex how she feels? What’s the best approach: 1) How do you feel?; 2) Tell me about how you feel; 3) I care about how you feel or; 4) Your feelings are important to me.
I have been an avoidant in all my relationships (currently 41 years old and never married). I did not realize that I was one until I found your blog and everything you write about describes me to the T. In one of your articles you said “emotional invalidation is the exact opposite of emotional validation. Instead of telling someone “I care about how you feel”, you are telling them what they feel doesn’t matter, and that they shouldn’t be feeling what they are feeling.”
My ex felt unimportant and used the words “I don’t feel like an important person in your life”. The truth is that she is the most important person in my life but because of my avoidant attachment style I dismissed her feelings.
My question is, how can I make her feel that I am validating her feelings. I wrote her a long letter and apologized but she said she does not need an apology (and she was a bit upset it), she needs to see the change.
Yangki’s Answer: You can’t ask her “how do you feel?” or say “Tell me about how you feel”. When you are in a relationship, talking about “feelings” is important because “feelings” are one of the glues that keep a relationship together. When you are broken up, “feelings” is a touchy subject for obvious reasons.
Your ex is right about not just apologizing but showing her you have changed. I know many ‘experts’ advice writing your ex an “apology” letter; I don’t advice it. In my experience, an apology letter can only go so far. Some exes don’t even bother to read an “apology” letter and even those that do, the majority don’t respond.
For someone who for a while felt their feelings were not listened to or taken seriously during the relationship; an apology letter can sometimes feel like you again making it about you. It’s like, “Here we go again. You want me to know how you feel, but what about how I feel?”.
To show her you care about how she feels:
1) Write a short text message accepting the break-up
One of the first things I advice in my Dating Your Ex eBook is accept the break-up using emotionally validating language. Using emotionally validating language is a powerful way to say “I care about how you feel” or “Your feelings are important to me”. This is where “I hear you. I see you. I get it. Your feelings are important to me. I care about how you feel begins, and for most people trying to attract back their ex, where the process of getting back together begins.
2) Be present and use empathetic listening
Pay attention to obvious or subtle expressions of emotions and feelings and make it a point to validate them. I am not talking just about “feelings” for you, the break-up and getting back together; but rather their feelings about whatever it is they are talking about or expressing emotions about.
It could be their feelings about what someone said, what happened to them, a photo of a sunset, work, a family member or anything. Make her feel that you care about whatever is important to her because she is important to you. Pay special attention to her bids for emotional connection.
3) Use emotionally validating language or statements
Initially I was going to include some of the statements that are commonly used but when I did a Google search; the internet is full of examples of validating statements and there is no point in me copying and pasting them here just to make me look like an expert on validating statements. Look them up, and adopt those that sound more like you. Make sure to check out invalidating statements as well so you avoid them.
4) Last but not least, keep the focus on her
I don’t mean in a needy, such as putting her on a pedestal. But in a way that acknowledges her reality and her feelings about it.