Relationship troubles are something that virtually all of us have experienced at some point of time. Most of us make an effort to resolve our differences, and work to create a happy and successful relationship. There are times, however, when either partner makes this impossible.
Mary and Tim had been dating for over 15 months, and finally moved together once they completed a year together. Shortly after moving in, Tim started pressuring Mary to stop seeing her friends from college. Upon her refusal, Tim gradually became passive aggressive, and their relationship turned sour very quickly. Tim never gave a reason for wanting Mary to end her friendship, and Mary in turn, refused to comply with his wishes. This power struggle started to happen for everything from the kind of clothes Mary wanted to wear, to even what they would have for dinner. Within a few short months, Mary moved out after she had enough of his controlling nature.
While the exact details may vary, most power struggles in a relationship follow a similar pattern, with one partner trying to dominate the other constantly.
A healthy relationship should be above petty power games. Whenever power struggles happen, the relationship tends to become very fragile, and there are considerable chances that it will not survive
What a power struggle is
Before we even begin to try and figure out how something like a power struggle can be avoided in a relationship, we must first make an effort to understand what it really is. If you look at it casually, power struggle in a relationship is about dominating or overpowering your partner. However, on the subconscious level, it is much more than that. In every close relationship, power struggle manifests after that rosy “honeymoon” period, where you start to see the not so incredible and endearing traits of your partner. When the initial rush of being in a relationship starts to wear off and you start expecting a kind of maturity in your love relationship, only then you feel like having a tussle of power.
If your partner tries and make you feel guilty for your success, or wishes that you seek their approval for even the smallest things, you are right in the middle of a power struggle.
You are facing a power struggle if you or your partner is having differences which could have easily been resolved with a discussion. These differences can be about the pettiest of things, and yet one or both partners refuse to give in.
The Why and How of Power Struggles
There are three major causes for power struggles in a relationship:
Insecurity is a normal part of being a human being, and we are all insecure about something or the other. The key to avoiding power struggles when you are insecure about something, is to communicate your doubts and issues with your partner. In the majority of relationships, a partner is not even aware of the insecurities of the other, and this leads to misunderstanding and resentment.
Jealousy can manifest due to professional success, or personal lifestyle. Maybe you envy how easily your partner can make new friends, or how seamlessly they manage their work and private lives while still having time for their interests. Communication is the key here as well, and often you will find that your jealousy was without reason.
Dissatisfaction is also a major reason people resort to power games. The feeling that the other person is not putting in as much effort into the relationship as you are can lead to anger, and resentment, which are toxic for a healthy relationship, and might lead you to do things that end up breaking up the very relationship that you value so much.
Before Tim started trying to dominate Mary, she had secured an internship at a prestigious media company. Tim was eying a similar position as well and his failure to secure the opening led to a lot of resentment.
Power struggle destroys self-esteem, love, trust and the ability to think logically.
How does it manifest
When you feel vulnerable, you react with anger to hide your own weakness, and attempt to make your partner appear as if they were the one at fault. This can be actively done, or be passive aggressive in nature, but the underlying intent behind a power struggle so make the other person come across as wrong.
Often, these power struggles in a relationship are the result of triggering of several core issues. With the passage of time, these issues get complicated and reach a point when it is really difficult to resolve. There comes a point in your life where you are calm and composed on the surface, but there is a raging sea of emotions swirling within, that cause you immense confusion and leading you towards emotional turmoil. Things get even more complicated when both the partners have similar issues, and are actively trying to pull each other down.
A relationship is often sidetracked by ego of the partners who are hell-bent on proving or disproving something and make the power struggle drag on endlessly.
The fight for domination is not uncommon in a relationship. People either like to take care of their partners, or expect the partner to look after them. Normally this need balances itself out, and people create a harmony out of the imbalance. However, when both the partners are dominating in nature, a confrontation becomes unavoidable.
How to overcome it
Since power struggle is an unavoidable part of a relationship, both the partners need to work towards resolving the issues.
The very first step towards creating harmony between the two of you, is to accept that both of you engage in these arguments and ignore each other’s feelings. Once you admit it, you will prepare yourself for behavioural changes. Respect plays a huge part in any relationship, and both of you need to recognize and acknowledge the efforts that the person puts in for your sake.
To overcome a power struggle, you need to scan your inner self and find out what is important to you and what your basic needs are. You need to realize that both of you can play the authority figure, if only you figure out a way to make it work. Often you will realize that an issue over which you fought was only a minor one, and this should be reason enough for you to take pause and reconsider whether you want to risk losing someone you love for things that are not even of much significance to you.
Rachel and Mark faced similar problems in the third year of their marriage. They both have successful professional lives, but at home, they simply could not find a way to create balance. They discussed this problem at great length, and sought the help of a relationship counsellor who helped them resolve their differences.
The truth is, healthy relationships do not face issues with power struggles simply because the couples work dynamically, and the role of the leader keeps changing hands depending on the situation.
For a relationship to grow and be fruitful, it is important that everyone appreciates and respects the other’s point of view. And it does not mean that you have to change your opinions or to accept other one’s views but the thing is you should not be stubborn to impose your thoughts on your partner. It is better to leave a room for thought.
Just a little effort on your part to stop struggle for dominance in your relationship, and you will able to foster a relationship that is mature and stable.