The Importance of the Power Struggle in Relationships

March 7, 2018

The classic, celebrated saying goes like this, “After the storm comes the calm.” But what happens when the storm represents the rush of happiness that the beginning of a relationship usually brings? Well, in that case, the calm is the end of the fairy tale, and love hormones give way to conflict and power struggle. 

Nevertheless, it doesn’t have to be this way. In fact, according to the Costa Rican psychologist Marianela Esquivelrelationship conflict can be healthy. As long both people are aware of it, know the triggers, and don’t let it snowball out of control. 

“Choose your life’s mate carefully. From this one decision will come 90 percent of all your happiness or misery.”

– H. Jackson Brown, Jr.-

Power struggle in relationships

Inevitably, the honeymoon period ends. When it does, we go from giving ourselves over completely to the relationship, to looking for balance. We are searching for an equilibrium where sometimes we’re the main priority.

The goal is to find stability and security that allows us to get back our autonomy (or at least part of it.) It is an important time and the way it goes has a lot to do with the future of the relationship.

A moment will come when every couple engages in a power struggle. However, the maturity of the couple will determine how it plays out. That, and how much each person gives themselves to the relationship at the height of the honeymoon period. On the other hand, if both people have the proper emotional tools at hand, this emotional “war” won’t be too taxing. 

A power struggle at work.

Nevertheless, the confluence of internal forces tends to take place on many levels. It is an intrinsic need that each person has in the relationship: to self-affirm. A certain self-centeredness comes out. If you aren’t ready for it and aware of it, it can lead to accusations in both directions.

It is important to recognize the dynamic, no matter how it plays out. That way you can avoid blaming the other person for all of the relationship problems. Consequently, you can minimize the power struggle a little bit, and keep the foundations of the relationship intact.

How to recognize the symptoms of a power struggle?

Now, the fact that you can identify a power struggle doesn’t mean you’re able to solve it. However, it is the first step. So, take a close look at your relationship and see if you recognize any of these symptoms:

  • Watch and see if both of you always want to be right. Observe if you cling to your idea so much that you stop listening and refuse to see things from another perspective.
  • Make sure you don’t focus solely on your own interests and relegate your partner’s interests to the back burner. Remember that you are a team.
  • Human beings aren’t perfect, so we all get things right sometimes, and also make mistakes. Don’t focus too much on the other person’s defects and forget about your own.
  • To that end, perfect couples don’t exist. In other words, your partner wasn’t a wonderful person who has suddenly become a monster. Don’t let your current disagreements lead you to idealize the past and demonize the present.
Relationship problems.

Can you reverse an intense power struggle?

The answer is definitely yes. In general, a power struggle is provoked by feelings of insecurity or inferiority. Nevertheless, feeling undervalued doesn’t mean we have to overcompensate by acting superior. Here are some interesting exercises that can heal situations like these.

  • Try to foster camaraderie with your partner. A significant other isn’t just your love, he is also a teammate, a companion, a co-conspirator. So before getting offended, try to be nice, tactful and courteous. Pretend you are talking to a friend, not a rival or an enemy.
  • Forget about winning. Your relationship isn’t a competition. Look for things you have in common, not what separates you.
  • Fight for the relationship, not so much for yourself. If you take care of your significant other, you are actually taking care of yourself as well.
  • Physical contact is essential. It is intimate communication. It is also a source of endless pleasure if you have just a little bit of imagination.
  • Ask for other people’s opinions. Look for happiness with your partner by fostering rapport. Let go of your fear of rejection.

“That idotic fear of getting old without a partner makes you choose with your head what you should choose with your heart.”

-Ricardo Arjona-

Holding hands with pinkies.

If we put these exercises into practice, the power struggle in the relationship won’t wound us. It will also demonstrate that this phenomenon can actually be positive for the relationship. As a result, each person feels valued and secure.