Wanting sex so you can feel closer to your spouse or because you want to connect with them is great. But sometimes, we start to seek validation through sex. When we’re seeking validation through sex, we see it as our partner not loving us when we aren’t having sex. We also feel rejected, which can cause a lot of hurt and anger. So, what can we do if we are starting to notice that we need sex to validate us? Listen to this episode to find out.
In today’s society, the pursuit of validation has become increasingly prominent, often taking various forms. One area where individuals seek validation is through sex. The desire to feel desired and validated by others is a deeply ingrained human need. However, relying on sex as a means of validation can have significant emotional, psychological, relational, and even physical consequences. In today’s episode, we will explore the concept of seeking validation through sex and delve into healthier alternatives for developing self-esteem and self-worth as well as what happens when we are feeling rejected and how the two are interconnected.
Validation, at its core, refers to the recognition and acceptance of one’s feelings, experiences, and self-worth by others. It’s really anything that makes you feel good or feel better about yourself and your relationship. Anything that enhances or confirms your desirability, your legitimacy, and your self-worth. Validation helps us to feel understood, valued, and accepted and plays a crucial role in our emotional and psychological development. But there comes a point when we need to stop looking for validation from outside of us and look for validation from within. That is one of the hallmarks of a truly emotionally mature adult.
I have found in my work that we often don’t realize that we are seeking validation through sex. We think we just want sex because it feels good or that we want to feel connected to our partner; both which may be true as well. So how do you know if you are seeking validation through sex?
- Do you feel more complete, more loved or more confident during or after sex?
- Do you feel less connected, less complete, less loved or less confident when you go without sex?
- Do you question if your partner loves you and you want them to show you through sex?
- But the tale-tell sign that you are seeking validation through sex is how you deal with rejection and what happens when you don’t get that validation. Do you pout? Do you get angry? Do you withdraw? Do you make sure your partner knows you are not happy? Do you try to coerce them or convince them? Do you find you are emotionally dysregulated if you don’t get it?
We talked a lot about rejection way back in Episode 77. Rejection is literally the opposite of validation. We feel excluded, dismissed, or invalidated. It occurs when others (and namely our partner when it comes to sex) fails to recognize our thoughts, feelings, experiences, and sexual desires. Rejection can be deeply painful, as it challenges our sense of self-worth and belonging. It can challenge the idea that our partner even loves us. Because our sexual-self is fundamental to who we are as an individual, when we are rejected sexually it can hurt us at our very core.
Validation and rejection are closely linked, with rejection often intensifying our need for validation. When we experience rejection, our longing for acceptance and validation increases. We seek reassurance that we are worthy, lovable, and valued by others. This is where we see a lot of coercion when it comes to sex. We (or our partner) are seeking that validation through sex so that they can feel solid in themselves again. If one doesn’t get validation from their partner consistently over time and they have not developed a stronger sense of self on their own, this is where we often see complete withdrawal from the relationship as a way to preserve their sense of self or seeking validation from outside sources with affairs or pornography.
It’s crucial to recognize that seeking sexual validation after rejection may only offer temporary relief and will not address the underlying issues that are going to provide long-term satisfaction. Often, if you do get the validation through sex it can lead to a cycle of temporary gratification followed by a profound sense of emptiness and dissatisfaction which leads the person to seek out validation again and again and again. It is essential to understand that true validation comes from within, not from external sources, including our partner and sex.
So what are some of the other pitfalls of seeking validation through sex?
- Superficial Connection: Engaging in sex primarily for validation often leads to a shallow connection. The focus becomes solely on physicality, neglecting the emotional and intellectual aspects of a fulfilling relationship. Over time, this can leave individuals feeling emotionally unfulfilled and disconnected from their partners.
- Dependency: Relying on sexual encounters for validation can create a dangerous dependency on external sources for self-worth. It becomes a vicious cycle, where the need for validation through sex intensifies, leading to risky behaviors, compromised self-respect, and a decreased sense of self.
- Emotional Turmoil: Seeking validation through sex can leave individuals vulnerable to emotional distress. It can lead to feelings of guilt, shame, and regret, particularly when encounters are driven by a desperate need for validation rather than genuine desire. Emotional well-being can suffer as self-worth becomes contingent upon external experiences.
- Objectification: Placing excessive emphasis on sexual encounters as a validation mechanism can lead to objectification. People may start viewing their partners primarily as sexual objects that are there to fulfill their needs. They disregard their partner’s other qualities, talents, and achievements and their partner’s feelings. This can have detrimental effects on the overall relationship as well as on both individuals.
So, if you are finding that this sounds familiar for either yourself or your spouse, here are some ideas of how you can embrace a different perspective.
- Self-Reflection and Self-Compassion: Cultivating self-awareness and self-compassion are essential steps towards finding genuine validation. Engaging in introspection, understanding personal values, and practicing self-acceptance can build a solid foundation of self-worth, independent of external factors.
- Authentic Connections: Rather than seeking validation, focus on building meaningful connections in other ways with your partner. Invest time in developing emotional intimacy, shared interests, and mutual support. These types of connection provide a sense of validation that goes beyond the superficial and temporary gratification of coercive sex.
- Pursuing Personal Growth: Channel your energy into personal growth and development. Set goals, explore new hobbies, and invest in your passions. Accomplishments and personal growth contribute significantly to self-esteem and a sense of fulfillment. By focusing on personal growth, you shift the emphasis from external validation to internal fulfillment.
- Developing a Support System: Surround yourself with a supportive network of friends and loved ones who value you for who you are. Seek relationships from those who genuinely care about your well-being and support your personal growth. Having a strong support system provides a sense of validation that is authentic and enduring.
So this reminded me so much of the show Ted Lasso. So if you have not seen Ted Lasso, it’s an amazing show on Apple TV, about a man from the Midwest who has pretty good success being a mid-level college football coach. He gets hired to coach soccer (or football) in England, and he knows nothing about soccer. Now this show isn’t really about soccer. It’s really about mental health, primarily about men’s mental health. And one of the things that I love about this, is this coach forms the Diamond Dogs with a bunch of other men that are other coaches and support staff and different roles in this soccer club in England, to really help support each other mentally and help talk through their relationship struggles. And it is transformational for many of these men because a lot of men don’t develop those close friendships where they can be open and vulnerable and share their struggles, which is detrimental to their mental health. It’s also detrimental to their value and their self worth. And so getting a place with authentic validation from people who are like minded and support you and support your personal growth is really important. And I think a lot of times women do this really well, and men do not. And so really finding a support group for men, I think can be invaluable. Like these Diamond Dogs.
I highly recommend this show on Apple TV. I will give you a word of warning. There are a lot of “F” words. If that really bothers you, this may not be the show for you. But it was such a good show that I actually showed it to my teenage son because I think the lessons that it provides are invaluable and I highly recommend it.
Validation isn’t a bad thing. It’s actually a wonderful and desirable part of any meaningful relationship. But when it becomes the focus of the relationship, this doesn’t lead to good things individually or as a couple. Good marriages are high in validation. But it should come naturally and not because it is sought after. And while seeking validation through sex may initially seem enticing, it ultimately leads to a shallow and unfulfilling cycle. True validation comes from within, through self-acceptance, self-compassion, and the development of meaningful connection. By shifting the focus from external validation to personal growth and authentic relationships, individuals can embark on a journey of self-discovery, leading to long-lasting satisfaction and a profound sense of self-worth. Remember, you are worthy of validation, but it should come from a place of self-love and personal fulfillment.
If you are needing help moving away from validation based sex and wanting to have more internal validation, I encourage you to join me in coaching. I have always said that a great sex life comes from a solid sense of self and a solid relationship. In coaching we work on building that solid self, learning to self-validate, building emotional independence and learning how to self-soothe when dysregulated, and seeing where we are using outside validation and learning tools to strengthen and build a solid sense of self. This opens the door to having a more connected and intimate relationship inside and outside of the bedroom. And from there, we can build a great sexual relationship. I have loved helping individuals and couples do this and I would love to help you too.