Relationships are “supposed” to be blissful and harmonious right? Wrong! We need conflict to grow! Many couples often experience power struggles at some point which creates tension and discord that can feel discouraging if we don’t; know how to navigate and communicate in a healthy way.
Power struggles occur when we feel like our needs and our partner’s needs are different and mutually exclusive. We feel alone, not heard or seen so we react with trying to dominate and “win” the fight. Often what lies beneath power struggles are feelings of insecurity, feeling abandoned, fear of rejection and powerlessness or threat, or fear of being controlled or trapped. It’s difficult to understand and appreciate each other’s differences, especially when these things are lurking under the surface. The good news is that with good communication, genuine love, respect and trust, couples can successfully work through power struggles in their relationship.
Power struggles have positive aspects to consider. They can be seen as an opportunity to understand yourself and your partner better and how you are different, how you came to be different given your backgrounds, connect and grow closer, rather than become distant and withdrawn. It’s not about the subject of the fight but HOW you fight instead that matters. A successful outcome depends on how couples seek to find common ground and deepen their understanding of each other’s needs.
Have an Awareness That It’s Happening
You can’t change what you’re not aware of or is unconscious. We all have blind spots. It can be annoying when our partner points out our blind spots and it’s annoying to them when we point theirs out because none of us like the feeling of being unaware of ourselves. The truth is we can learn a lot about ourselves through our partners’ eyes if we take the shame and blame out of it. It’s also important to understand the relationship dynamics and patterns that have been established in your relationship. Long-standing dynamics are harder to shift if we keep to a shame/blame, right/wrong lense to look at it. Learning to effectively recognize the patterns of power struggles when they occur can be incredibly helpful and opens the door for dialogue that reduces harm to the relationship.
Be Honest About Your Feelings and Needs
It can be scary to let yourself be vulnerable and share your needs even when you’ve been in a relationship with someone for a long time. Attempting to get your needs met by trying to change or criticize your partner will likely create and maintain power struggles in your relationship.
Share with your partner how you genuinely feel and what you need from them. Talk about what’s underneath the surface and create an atmosphere that makes it feel safe to connect deeply.
Learn to Share Responsibility
In any conflict each of us has contributed in some way. Pointing fingers and blaming aren’t effective ways to work through a power struggle. When everyone thinks they’re 100% right, no one wins. What percentage, however small, can you own in the problem? Taking responsibility for your part helps create safety in the relationship. We need dialogue that encourages shared power between partners and ends the tug of war that contributes to the same old destructive relationship patterns. We need a win/win for the couple to succeed. If one person loses the couples loses.
Have you experienced power struggles in your relationship? We’d love to hear your comments or connect with you to try to help you navigate through them!