Wednesday, October 26

Validate my long distance feelings. I don't need Advil.

I didn't cry when I dropped off Taer at the airport. It probably helps that I'll be seeing him again in less than two weeks for Annie and Mike's wedding. Just a short while ago, though, that still wouldn't have stopped my eyes from watering when we parted. For a long time, I cried each and every time we said goodbye at the airport. Actually, my sad and shaky pout usually started as soon as the packing began. Sometimes I bravely teared up ever so slightly in a very demure and ladylike way, but more often, I was just a wailing mess.

I'm a big baby. I know.

It isn't easy being in a long distance relationship. We've been keeping this up for well over three years now. One HUGE thing we had to learn to do well was to COMMUNICATE. Duh. But beyond the typical stuff, I had to teach Taer how to validate my feelings.

Early in our relationship, I was going through a particularly rough time with my normally tight-knit family, I hated the awful job I had at the time, I was PMS'ing; I was just having a really bad, emotionally draining day. I needed a hug. What I got instead from my boyfriend on the other side of the country was, "Maybe you should take Advil."


I'm upset, and you're telling me to take Advil? Are there some magical happiness-inducing side effects to this burnt sienna pill that I don't know about? Ok, so I didn't actually say any of that. Instead I just told Taer I needed to go, and after I hung up, I called Tina to cry on her phone shoulder. She listened and sympathized. And she made my boo boo all better, just as a proper good girlfriend should. Then I called Taer back again and told him the following:

Sometimes when I tell you about my problems, I am not looking for a solution. Sometimes, all I want from you is a, "Oh, you poor baby!" Just listen to me and let me know that you're hearing me and that you support me. I will try to keep my whining to a minimum, but it will probably happen. Indulge me. Tell me that you feel bad that I'm going through hard times. Tell me you wish you could be here with me. Ask what you can do for me. Do not try to give me a logical, rational answer. Do NOT suggest Advil. Please.

You think that by offering some kind of answer, you are providing what I need. Well, sometimes the answer is to have no answer. I realize that you are a strong rock of a man, and I can be an emotional woman. If you were put in my situation, you probably would not react the way I do. You don't understand why I'm so sensitive. Well, I'm not saying you have to understand my feelings, but please try to respect them and help me get through them.

When I took A.P. Psychology, I learned that children should have their feelings validated. If they drop a lollipop and cry about it, the worst thing we can do is tell them, "Stop crying! It's only a lollipop." It may be only a lollipop in our adult world, but to that child, it is probably a big deal to lose such a prized possession. What we should do instead is get down to their level and say, "I know it's upsetting to drop that. It's ok to cry. What can we do to make it better?"

A co-worker recently told me that validating feelings even works with her toddler who can't yet speak. She mirrors him when he balls up his fists and shakes them up and down, imitating him to show that she understands he's upset. She sympathizes before trying to calm him down. She says it works.

Taer got it. He's such a guy's guy, but he now knows how to make my emotional boo boos all better, almost as good as my best girlfriends. And, in his defense, he claims that the Advil advice was in response to my state of PMS. It's still not what I wanted or needed, but at least I know it wasn't totally out of nowhere.

As I said all this to Taer, I tried to stay as rational and logical as possible, because I know that's how his mind works. I've actually found that using I.R.A.C. from law school is the best way to go whenever I talk to any boy. But that's a whole other subject. I'll have to elaborate in another post.

Every once in a while, Taer still slips into his not-so-sensitive, uber guy mode. Now I can just say, "validate," and he knows exactly what I want. He no longer offers me Advil; he knows I'll get it for myself if I need it.


Parisjasmal said...

Isn't it ironic that the word ADVIL
is actually the world VALID with the letters rearranged.
Think about it....seriously.

Taer knew what he was doing, it just came out all wrong.

Loved this post. I am sure you and Taer are the cutest couple in the world!

jennipah said...

thanks, parisjasmal. i didn't notice the advil/valid thing, but that makes the whole thing even better now! taer is the sweetest. i'm a lucky girl.