Effects Of Emotional Invalidation

Updated June 17, 2024by Regain Editorial Team
Content warning: Please be advised, the below article might mention trauma-related topics that include abuse which could be triggering to the reader. If you or someone you love is experiencing abuse, contact theDomestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Support is available 24/7. Please also see our Get Help Now page for more immediate resources.

When you’re in a romantic relationship,it’s possible to hurt your partner’s feelings through dismissive statements about their emotions, even when you do not intend to do any harm at all. This can lead one’s partner to ask themselves “Is something wrong with me?” or blame themselves for what happened.

This can be a sign of emotional invalidation of someone else's feelings. Whether it's intentional or not, it can cause a rift in both trust and communication within relationships.

Below, we’ll explore emotional invalidation, its effects on individuals and couples, and ways to overcome it.

Need advice on how to become more emotionally supportive?
”We’ve all felt the sting of someone telling us that our feelings aren’t real or important – it hurts! When we downplay our partner’s feelings, we are essentially doing the same thing, and we are hurting them in the way that we have been hurt before. Feelings are just that, they are feelings; there is no right or wrong to them. It is okay to acknowledge our partner’s feelings and still disagree with them, but by acknowledging the feelings, we are also telling our partner that we love and respect them rather than putting them down.” - Dr. Wendy Boring-Bray, DBH, LPCC

Emotional validation and its effects

While we may mean well, behaviors like emotional gaslighting or invalidation can have negative effects on our loved ones and on our partners. In more extreme and pervasive forms, it can even be a type of psychological abuse. Experiencing this is often upsetting, and it’s perfectly natural to have these emotions. 

Emotional invalidation generally includes dismissing, belittling, or otherwise casting doubt or judgment on a person's feelings and emotions. When we emotionally dismiss our partners (even unknowingly), we express our feelings that their perception of their own experiences might not be accurate. This form of emotional invalidation can cause significant emotional turmoil and damage your relationship.

Emotionally invalidating your partner's emotions can have a negative effect on not only your relationship with each other but also your partner’s relationship to their own experiences. 

When you emotionally invalidate the way that your partner feels about something, you’re telling them (possibly unknowingly)  that they’re wrong for having those emotions. 

Emotional invalidation of this kind can make them feel unwanted as if their feelings and emotions don’t matter. A relationship with emotional invalidation can result in a reduction of emotional safety. Emotional safety often involves two people trusting each other with their emotional well-being. Regardless of your intention, emotional invalidation is often the message on the receiving end. Many relationships experience challenges with healthy communication of emotions and emotional validation is often a primary cause of this.

Dismissing another person's feelings or belittling them

Once emotionally invalidated by someone else, many of us start to question whether we’re “too sensitive” and may begin to suppress our emotions, effectively emotionally invalidating ourselves.

There are a variety of ways to dismiss others, but some common statements and behaviors can include things like:

  • Denying their reality, e.g., “You’re young, everyone feels like this.”
  • Telling someone they should just move on from what they’re feeling, e.g., “Cheer up!” or “Get over it.”
  • Ignoring them or making them feel unimportant when they are expressing their emotions to you, whether by giving them the silent treatment or shrugging off their concerns.

A more productive goal, instead, may be to be a supportive partner who hears — and shows that they want to hear — their significant other. Doing so can be one way to strengthen your relationship, provide emotional support, and create a happier life together.

Avoid telling someone their emotional experience

One way to prevent emotional invalidation in relationships is to avoid behaviors and statements that might attempt to dictate how our partners should feel. As an outsider, we may have our own perspectives on the situation that differ from our partners' perspectives, but ultimately it isn’t up to us to decide whether their emotions are accurate or if they deserve to feel a certain way.

However, when individuals knowingly dismiss someone else’s emotions, it can become a part of abusive relationship dynamics. Emotionally abusive individuals often use emotional invalidation to control someone’s emotions. This can be done to belittle a partner or to make them question their perception, reality, and knowledge.


Getting  relationship support through Regain

If you have questions or concerns about emotional invalidation, you don’t have to face them alone. If talking about these topics in a therapist’s office seems uncomfortable, you might try online therapy, which research has shown to be just as effective as in-office therapy. You can connect with a licensed online therapist via audio or video chat from home or anywhere with an internet connection. 

With Regain, you can sign up for couples counseling or individual counseling to discuss any relationship concerns you’re experiencing, including emotional invalidation. When you sign up for Regain, you’re usually matched with a therapist in 24-48 hours. In addition to online sessions, you can contact your therapist at any time via in-app messaging, and they’ll respond as soon as they can.

Don't dismiss emotional experience

Dismissing someone’s feelings is just one form of emotional invalidation; you don’t have to tell someone outright that they’re wrong to cause emotional invalidation. Emotional invalidation can include being inattentive when they’re telling you about their emotions.

Well-intentioned invalidators often defend some dismissive behaviors as simply putting situations into perspective, but this can be unhelpful when it’s not specifically requested. 

Instead, you might say something like, “I want to understand better.” This may be best for situations when a partner is hurt over something you said or did. Your relationship may improve significantly by improving your communication in this manner. You might both start to feel that you can express yourselves freely without fear of invalidation in your relationship.

Removing invalidation

When we’re young, we often learn how to engage with difficult emotional situations in ways that are emotionally invalidating, whether it be from our parents, siblings, friends, or simply our experiences with the world at large. This can lead, sometimes, to using emotional invalidation on other people the way that we were invalidated. This doesn’t mean that it’s something to excuse, but it is something you can unlearn and change. You might give yourself compassion and let yourself restructure the way you engage in conversations about emotions.

One of the first things that you can do is apologize to your partner for any emotional invalidation you may have caused. You can then work on learning how to discuss feelings in healthier ways, without emotional invalidation. This does not come naturally to everyone, but you can choose to seek out professional support to change this pattern.

Need advice on how to become more emotionally supportive?

Counselor reviews

“Sessions with Natalie are very insightful and give practical advice on implementing new habits and changes. Be prepared to engage and be challenged to think in a different way. I know that my partner and I can already see improvements in our relationship and feel more positive about working through our issues together.”
“Austa has been wonderful thus far. She has helped my partner and I during an unimaginably difficult time... She has also guided us in communicating effectively and setting appropriate boundaries in our relationship. I was hesitant to pursue counseling at the beginning, but I truly believe that it is making a difference for our relationship. Austa is easy to talk to and she is a great listener. I would wholeheartedly recommend her as a counselor.”


If you are concerned that you may have unknowingly engaged in emotional invalidation, or if you feel you have experienced it yourself, you’re not alone. With Regain, you can be matched with a therapist with experience helping people navigate emotional invalidation and other relationship concerns. Take the first step toward a heathier relationship and reach out to Regain today.

For Additional Help & Support With Your ConcernsThis website is owned and operated by BetterHelp, who receives all fees associated with the platform.
The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.
Get the support you need from one of our therapistsGet Started
This website is owned and operated by BetterHelp, who receives all fees associated with the platform.