Power Struggles in Personal Relationships

December 31, 2019
In relationships, both partners need to have power. You need to make decisions and, many times, people won't share the same needs, preferences, or desires. In cases like these, power struggles manifest themselves.

Power is a delicate subject in a relationship. Both partners would like to be in a position of dominance above the other, whether they realize it or not. On the other hand, power struggles can influence couples in many ways, such as in shared responsibilities, intimacy, or sexual relationships.

In a relationship, power struggles can cause tension that isn’t necessarily bad. The problem arises when the strategies you might use to get this power are harmful or when the person that dominates the other use said dominance and power for their benefit, not for the sake of the relationship.

Power struggles can be manipulative.

Power struggles in relationships

Couples in relationships are dynamic entities and find themselves in a constant process of mutual exchange. In a social context in general, and a loving context in particular, persuasion or dominance could signal power struggles.

Power struggles in couples can be complex. It’s sensitive to changes, expectations, desires, and needs. On the other hand, after a while, you’ll get the stability that puts each partner in a place they’re comfortable in. Sometimes, you’ll call the shots. Other times, your partner will.

For example, in a relationship, one of you will choose where you’ll go on a holiday, while the other will choose where you’re going to stay. In more established couples, you can see this type of exchange more often, where preferences and knowledge are combined.

All of this could make it complicated to determine who dominates whom. It’s worth noting the fact that having one person dominate the other and the other letting themselves be dominated isn’t a bad thing. The problem arises when one hurts the other just to stay in power.

Power struggles aren't necessarily bad, but be careful with how they start.

Problems related to power struggles in relationships

Usually, a power play in relationships tends to keep a balance in it. Thus, the couple tends to regulate itself spontaneously. People who like to handle certain situations will fit right into that. However, conflicts will arise when both have the same preference.

Sometimes, this balance doesn’t happen spontaneously. Next, you’ll see some situations where the fight for power in a relationship can cause trouble.

“To love is to find pleasure in the happiness of others.”

-Gottfried Leibniz-

Situation 1. Two dominant partners.

Sometimes, both partners are used to leading. When this happens, there are bound to be more arguments. When both are used to being right, it’ll be complicated for both to give up some of your power.

If you believe that your relationship has a similar dynamic, one way to address this is to actively work on understanding each other. For that, you’ll need to develop skills such as empathy, which will prove to be very useful.

Situation 2. Two submissive partners.

When both partners don’t want to lead the relationship, they can feel uncomfortable or helpless because neither can take the lead. This will make them feel insecure and could wear down the relationship in the long run.

In many cases, you can solve this if both share what you’re thinking and try to reach an agreement, such as calling the shots from time to time.

“Never above you, never below you, always beside you.”

-Walter Winchell-

A couple hugging.

A few words about power plays in relationships

Power plays usually occur unconsciously and naturally. They’ll depend on the decisions you make that are more interesting to you or that you can be more insightful with.

Power plays can create a lot more tension after the honeymoon stage. This is when you’re in that place when you start to understand what you bring to the relationship and try to establish more preferences than you had before.

If power plays become constant fighting, you need to sit down with your partner and agree and reflect on what each of you will bring to the table and what arguments or strategies are valid or not, among other things. For example, deciding that emotional blackmail isn’t fair to get the other to clean the house or use it to have sex.

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