The Lack of Power Struggles Within a Relationship: Can This be Achieved?

I’ve been thinking quite a lot about the discussions we’ve had recently concerning power struggles within a relationship. We’ve been talking about John Gottman’s book “Why Marriages Succeed or Fail“. He seems to have looked at the many couples he observed in terms of their conflicts and issues with power. He believes that success depends on how you handle conflict. He found some very interesting statistics on how to balance anger and fighting with positive energy, and what ratio a relationship needs to succeed (5 to 1). However, he also seems to indicate that all relationships emanate from a core of conflictual relating.

We come from a very different experience and pattern. We have learned that it is possible to have a core of passion and peace as the foundation of a relationship. We have experienced that the belief that all relationships have to be weighed down with conflict is a fallacious one and that there are other alternatives.

As a consequence, we have never talked much about power and power struggles within a relationship. The issue of power, of who has it and how it is exercised, doesn’t play a part for us, and there is a very good reason. Our relationship is based on a foundation of celebrating and honoring the uniqueness of each of the partners. This practice obviates the need for any one-upmanship. Each partner is complete as who they are. Each partner is all powerful in the sphere of being themselves. For the couple to be strong and powerful, each of the partners wants the other to be strong and powerful. There is nothing therefore to be gained by any pushing or pulling, or attempts to direct, correct, overpower or intimidate.

In fact, all that is desirable comes from each partner feeling safe, undefended, supported, acknowledged, and appreciated within the relationship.

Conflict, fighting, anger and power issues do not have to be part of a relationship. Other ways of relating are real and attainable. What we have experienced is not just a one off, or amazing good fortune. It is possible for you to experience peace within your relationship. We hope our explorations will help you to experience this truth.

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3 Comments on “The Lack of Power Struggles Within a Relationship: Can This be Achieved?

  1. Soft tactics take advantage of the relationship between person and the target. They are more indirect and interpersonal (e.g. collaboration, socializing). Conversely, hard tactics are harsh, forceful, direct, and rely on concrete outcomes. However, they are not more powerful than soft tactics. In many circumstances, fear of social exclusion can be a much stronger motivator than some kind of physical punishment.

  2. For some couples in other forms of relationships, it’s easier to move into an acceptance relationship, while for others it’s easier to move into an individuation/assertion relationship. In a scripted relationship where partners have very different interests but genuinely care for each other, loosening the role expectations and creating space for each person to follow his or her own pursuits is one way to step out of chronic power struggles.

  3. “Children who are into power,” writes Jane Nelson, Ed.D. in Positive Discipline “are usually involved with an adult who is into power. It is the adult’s responsibility to change this atmosphere.” The most important thing the parent can do is to see the part she plays in the power struggle. It is imperative, for the sake of the relationship, that the parent begins to take responsibility as the parent to begin to heal the relationship. There are several things a parent can do to reduce power struggles within the home.

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