I think a lot about the need for validation, mostly because it gets brought up in response to nearly everything I post here.
There have been some excellent posts in MRP recently on validation-seeking behaviors and an increased understanding of where this fits into many people's marital problems.
Even posting on MRP is great for detecting validation seeking in yourself (Do I need everyone to agree with me? Do I feel the need to jump in and "defend myself" when someone calls me out?) /u/RStonePT called me out on my most recent OYS for putting something into my post specifically designed to elicit approval; I felt the immediate need to disagree, but upon reflection, he was right. The need for validation can be hard to spot within yourself.
Knowing this is an issue, I've been seeking out different approaches to removing the need for validation that I can bring into my own life. That's included listing out personal fears and then deliberately exposing myself to them each week; training myself to be mentally aware of validation seeking in my own behavior and then purposefully resisting it; and working to focus on my own pleasure and sensations during sex, rather than focusing on whether my wife is "into it" or reacting a certain way.
Though not RP, the book Passionate Marriage by David Schnarch also addresses the need for validation in depth, so I've been re-reading it on my current business trip.
Below I've collected Schnarch's suggestions for "Constructing Your Own Crucible;" i.e., learning to address your own need for validation and using that personal development to challenge the status quo of your marriage. I've found it useful in terms of understanding how I can directly address my own need for validation, and conceptualize what a relationship would look like without it.
I'm hopeful other people get some value out of it.
Bold language is Schnarch verbatim; non-bolded is my own paraphrasing of Schnarch's points.
How can you confront your own need for validation, and grow beyond it? How can you stop "selling yourself out" within the context of your marriage?
Confront yourself for the sake of your own integrity and personal development. It’s good for you, but it isn’t easy and won’t feel good. Stop trying to prove there’s “nothing wrong with you;” it’s not a question of whether you’re “good enough the way you are,” but a question of who you want to be.
If you’re having difficulty identifying your own issues, look at both sides of your “two choice dilemma.” How is the style or content of the dilemma personally relevant or familiar to you? Have you been through something similar before and dodged it? Think about what your partner frequently says about you, which you dispute. In what ways is it true?
Stop taking your partner’s reaction personally. Ask, why am I taking my partner’s reaction personally and getting defensive? If you think you should, what have you been doing that leads you to believe it’s all about you? If you’re not culpable, why take it personally?
Don’t count on your partner to confront herself in return. You don’t untie the Gordian knot, you cut through it. If you demand reciprocity, your partner controls you.
Forget about “working on your relationship” or the idea that “the relationship is the problem.” It doesn’t work. When you change, the relationship changes. Get what you want out of yourself, and you will either like your relationship more…or be able to do something constructive about it.
Stop focusing on what your partner is (or isn’t) doing. Focus on yourself. Focusing on yourself increases pressure on your partner to change. People who like themselves are discerning about who they spend their time with.
Stop trying to change your partner. Pressuring your partner actually reduces the pressure on both of you for change. Stop disputing their position and actually pay attention to it. Pressuring causes the partner to “dig in her heels.” Instead, clarify what you want and what you are willing to do to get it.
For solutions, look in different directions than you’ve looked in the past. Reconsider options you’ve previously rejected. Ask, “What about me would have to change - or what would I be willing to give up - in order for this to be a real option? Would I like myself if I could do this?” You will either find new options or realize what is truly non-negotiable.
Stop trying to make your partner listen, accept, or validate you. Listen to yourself. You can’t see the situation clearly without seeing yourself clearly. Ask yourself, “What is it in me that predisposes me to see my partner in this way?”
Keep your mouth shut about your partner’s issues - particularly concerning those you’re certain are true. “Sharing” your insights about your partner’s behavior is often an expression of a need for validation. Let your partner fight with themselves, not you. Remain quiet about their issues.
Don’t identify with your feelings. The feelings we defend are often not the ones we want to keep. Stop making your feelings a core part of your identity.
Pay attention to your tone. Tone colors what you say. Not being able to modulate your tone tells you a lot about yourself and your issues. “Quietly determined” is the tone of people who have truly hit critical mass.
Own your projections as a matter of integrity. We have distorted our perceptions of reality based on our own anxieties and weaknesses. Own this reality and be able to confront it without needing your partner to “forgive” you or letting them use it to trigger you.
Acting differentiated interferes with being differentiated. Don’t try to “act” the way you think a “truly differentiated” person would act. This prevents you from actually going through the work to achieve differentiation. Stop worrying about how your partner perceives you.
Let the best in you do the thinking and talking. Difficult situations are an integral part of life. Confront the reality of your own life. Accept it as an opportunity for growth. It’s hard to admit our lives are filled with error and deception. Only accepting this, and facing the truth, gives you the opportunity to grow.