If you’re anything like me, your friendship feels like a series of romantic moments when you first fell in love…
…each one accompanied by your heart thumping and nervous excitement that sends your spirit surging and your stomach flip-flopping just thinking about seeing him or her?
You felt alive, and you wanted to spend every minute with your lover, didn’t you? Remember those times when you and your partner were literally inextricably linked? Then something awful happens to two people who are deeply in love. The power struggle panic. Let’s learn how to deal with the power struggle in relationships.
THE POWER STRUGGLE STAGE’S PRIMARY PANIC
The intoxicating feelings of being in love begin to fade somewhere between two months and two years into your relationship…
…and are gradually replaced by an inner primal panic as we realize we are trapped or abandoned by the very person we thought would make us happy and look after our hearts.
This is the start of a relationship stage known as the Power Struggle stage, which is experienced by all relationships.
If you don’t run for the hills and try to find a new relationship at this point, you try to meet your needs by changing your partner to be more like you (like you) and more like when you first met.
Alternatively, you will attempt to punish them for not being who you believe they were.
They, of course, do the same to you, and before you know it, you’re starting to feel like you can’t be yourself around your partner.
You both walk on eggshells around each other, scared, misunderstood, and unsure what to do about it.
After a while of this power struggle, even minor disagreements become exaggerated, leaving you feeling alone, abandoned, and completely disconnected from the one person you love the most.
When you are feeling disconnected, you are more likely to become needy and demanding to reconnect with your lover…
…or you become withdrawn and distant, shutting down to protect yourself and taking time alone to process how you’re feeling.
In any case, your relationship is no longer secure.
Do you recognize this?
Is that it? Perhaps you’re wondering if I’m clairvoyant!
Power Struggle is a Transition Stage in a Relationship
If you can relate to any of what I’ve just described, you’re not alone.
I’ll say it again: you’re normal, and it’s fine that you’re fighting.
The description above is the unavoidable transition from the Romance Stage of a relationship to the Power Struggle Stage of a relationship. It’s not your fault; nature made it that way.
You lost yourself in your relationship while falling in love and became dependent on your partner to some extent. This is not a “bad” thing; it is a necessary part of the bonding process that occurs when we fall in love.
However, it is not a sustainable way to live. So, nature forces you to energetically divide and create a new, more balanced shared power between you.
If you succeed, you will pass with flying colors to the next stage of your relationship – mature love. If you don’t, you’ll break up.
Love is a Paradox
Surprisingly, it takes falling out of love to ignite the next stage of your growth, both individually and as a couple. You can get past the tug of war and learn how to share power in a fluid, productive way if you’re both willing to grow.
Only then can you progress past the Power Struggle stage of a relationship into a deeper, more mature love that can be even more passionate, exciting, and connected than what you experienced in the Romance Stage.
Different Types of Power Struggles in Relationships.
Is a power struggle a bad thing to have in a relationship? Is it possible to utilize power constructively in relationships? When you realize you and your partner are in a power struggle, such disturbing ideas and their consequences for the future of your relationship can start to weigh on your mind.
Understanding the four types of power struggles in relationships will help you determine whether the struggle you’re in is healthy and beneficial or toxic and negative:
#1. Struggle for Demand-withdrawal Power
In this context, power struggle means that one partner wants conversation, action, and change in their pursuit of resolving conflict, disagreements, and relationship challenges. Whereas their partner avoids dealing with difficulties for fear of exacerbating relationship troubles.
The quiet that follows fights between partners is an example of power struggles in relationships. In a demand-withdrawal power struggle, one partner allows the other time and space to calm down, while the other does not shut them down when they finally try to address the matter.
Because both parties have their relationship’s best interests at heart, this type of struggle can lead to the beneficial use of power in relationships. As long as both parties are willing to make concessions on their respective stances and establish common ground.
#2. Distancer-pursuer power struggle
This power struggle dynamic arises when one partner seeks and attempts to develop a specific level of intimacy, but the other perceives it as smothering and flees. The pursuer suspects that their companion is frigid or purposefully withholding affection.
The distancer, on the other hand, considers their spouse to be overly clingy. Push-pull dynamics are an example of a distancer-pursuer power struggle in relationships. Both parties are locked in an unhealthy hot-and-cold dance in such relationships, unable to agree on an appropriate level of intimacy.
This is one of the many examples of power battles in relationships that can occur when both partners have different attachment types. For example, if an avoidant-dismissive person meets someone who is anxious-ambivalent, the distancer-pursuer power struggle is likely to emerge in their relationship.
#3. Power struggle based on fear-shame
The meaning of the fear-shame power struggle is that one partner’s dread causes shame in the other. This is frequently the outcome of one’s worries and insecurities, which cause the other to experience avoidance and humiliation. Likewise, vice versa.
For example, if one partner is concerned about not having enough money, the other may feel embarrassed about not earning enough. As a result, when one person is stressed or frightened about a certain scenario, the other withdraws in order to hide their embarrassment.
In this dynamic, the stages of relationship power struggle can swiftly develop to unhealthy and poisonous, wreaking havoc on both partners’ mental health and self-esteem.
#4. Struggle to evade punishment
This type of power struggle in relationships stems from one partner’s desire to punish the other. This spouse will criticize, lash out, and make demands on the other. In order to avoid punishment, the other spouse withdraws into a shell and becomes emotionally unavailable.
The most poisonous power struggle in marriage or relationships is one characterized by ultimatums and threats. As a protective strategy, the person on the receiving end of such disdainful behavior frequently resorts to the silent treatment, which only exacerbates the spouse who attempts to punish.
In such instances, resentment and hatred toward a partner are classic examples of power struggles in relationships. Even if both spouses opt to remain together, there is a perceptible negative undertone in their interaction.
Why Is There a Power Struggle in Relationships?
According to psychology, power struggles in relationships have the capacity to encourage unmotivated behavior in others. If a relationship is out of balance and both partners recognize their power, the off-balance and oscillation remain generally leveled and balanced. In such circumstances, the stages of relationship power struggle do not escalate and enter unhealthy terrain.
According to Siddhartha, the struggle of power struggles in relationships stems from the fact that no two people are alike. “In the days of early romanticism, this reality was largely ignored.” As a person grows, they are exposed to new events that shape their personality and outlook. Because no two people have exactly the same experiences, loving partners will always have points of contention that can be difficult to overcome. These differences are what lead to power battles.”
Contradiction, according to Siddhartha, is a law of life, growth, and mobility. “We are all contradictory. Contradiction, not uniformity, is seen throughout creation. There is no such thing as a universal philosophy in life. Power issues in a relationship are common. “After all of the thrill and romance of the early days of your relationship fades, you’re left with two people who, while joined together in a relationship, are still unique,” he adds.
What Are the Signs of a Power Struggle in a Relationship?
Understanding what a power struggle is in psychological terms is one thing; learning to recognize this propensity in your relationship is quite another. The move from one to the other isn’t always smooth. This is due to the fact that we are frequently in denial about our fundamental relationship troubles.
If you and your partner are always outdoing one other but aren’t sure if this is evidence of a power struggle in your relationship, keep an eye out for the following telltale signs:
#1. You engage in mental games.
The tendency to conduct mind games to manipulate one another is one of the most telling power struggle examples in relationships. Whether it’s bringing up an ex all the time or purposefully not messaging first but always responding, these behaviors are strategies for controlling your partner’s mind, instincts, and actions.
When either of you has a problem with the other, you use a passive-aggressive strategy to express your unhappiness. In your relationship, honest, open communication is too difficult. This is one of the first signs of a power struggle in a relationship.
#2. A sense of superiority
What does a power struggle look like in relationships? Your partnership is not one of the equals, which is a significant sign. In fact, it’s the opposite. One of you or both of you has an unshakeable sense of superiority over the other. Whether it’s because of the nature of your jobs, your family background, your education, or your financial situation, at least one of you feels like you’re settling for less than you deserve.
As a result, the settler always feels the need to patronize and dominate the reacher,’ resulting in an unhealthy power struggle. Such power battles in relationships are prevalent in the fear-shame dynamic, in which one spouse constantly makes the other feel insufficient, forcing them into an emotional cocoon.
#3. You are in competition with one another.
Couples that have a strong power struggle in their marriage or relationship feel the need to compete with one other rather than work as a team. You’re always trying to outdo each other, whether it’s on a professional level or something as trivial as who looks better at a party.
If, for example, hearing that your spouse has gotten a raise makes you sick to your stomach, or if your promotion makes them visibly envious, these are early signs of a power struggle in a relationship.
#4. You both drag each other down.
Another typical indicator that you’re in a power struggle in a relationship is when your partner drags you down or you pull them down. Perhaps you could both try it once in a while. Do you detect a mocking tone in your partner’s assessment of your actions, accomplishments, or shortcomings? Or are you filled with scorn for theirs? Do you find yourself always justifying yourself to your partner? Or you to them?
When partners begin to drag each other down, whether in private or in public, it’s an indication that you’re in an unhealthy power struggle. “I was dating an investment banker who never missed a chance to make me feel inadequate about my accomplishments,” recalls Ashlyn, a creative arts student. He’d take me to exceedingly luxury restaurants were splitting the bill would have meant blowing off money worth an entire month’s spending on a single dinner.
“He’d always pick up the tab, but not without a condescending remark or a full-fledged lecture about how I wasn’t accomplishing anything useful in life.” Because I chose to remain silent about it, the stages of the relationship power struggle progressed swiftly. We got to the point where he began making decisions for me. That’s when I realized I needed to end the relationship.”
#5. The romance in your life has vanished.
Can’t recall the last time you did something special for each other? Or did you go on a dating night? Or simply spent a relaxing evening together, snuggled in a blanket, talking and laughing? Do you and your partner instead find up arguing about chores, errands, and responsibilities?
These tendencies are common in relationships during the power struggle phase. Your relationship will suffer until you take conscious steps to stop the cycle by mindfully changing troublesome patterns and working on better communication.
How Do You Handle a Power Struggle in a Relationship?
It is not simple to deal with a power struggle in a relationship. Breaking toxic relationship patterns and replacing them with good practices necessitates conscious effort on the part of both partners. “Perfect partners don’t exist,” Siddhartha says. When the power struggle phase of a relationship begins, it is easy to go from seeing your partner as a great match to finding fault with everything they do or say.
“Do not allow current differences to idolize and demonize the present.” Remember that taking care of your relationship and significant other is an important element of self-care.” But how do you accomplish any of this? Here are five methods to help you go over the power struggle stage of your relationship and establish a holistic connection:
#1. Recognize the relationship’s power struggle.
The first step toward healing and moving past power struggles, as with any relationship issue, is to recognize that you’re dealing with them. This necessitates properly stating the situation. On the surface, it may appear that your problem is continual arguing or confrontations that escalate into hot and dangerous exchanges. You may be aware that this is jeopardizing your relationship’s stability and intimacy.
If the surface-level steps you’re doing to combat these tendencies aren’t working, it’s time to scrape the surface and dig deeper. Perhaps you and your partner are realizing each other’s worst relationship concerns – whether it’s a fear of desertion, rejection, control, or trapping.
Only by identifying the root cause of power struggles in marriage or relationships can concrete steps be taken to eliminate them. Or, at the very least, find a way around it.
#2. Resolving communication issues
To get over the power struggle stage of your relationship, you must overcome communication hurdles. Open and honest communication is essential in any healthy and balanced partnership. Nonetheless, communication difficulties in relationships are more widespread than most individuals would like to admit.
“Getting out of the power struggle means learning to communicate better,” Siddhartha explains. The more one may work toward understanding and accepting one’s power, the more one’s relationship will be calmed and centered.”
This entails developing the skill of intuitive communication, which allows you to open your hearts to each other without touching any raw feelings. This can assist partners in rekindling the deep connection they felt at the start of their relationship. Building on this connection prepares the way for healthy intimacy free of power struggles in the future.
#3. Put an end to long-standing conflicts
Having the same disagreements over and over might lock you in a loop of toxic tendencies. These patterns subsequently fuel the relationship’s innate vulnerabilities, fears, or apprehensions, resulting in a power struggle. For example, suppose one partner complains to the other about not providing them enough time or attention, and the other response by wanting more space. This is an example of a classic demand-withdrawal power struggle in a relationship.
The more you argue about it, the more the demanding spouse fears being abandoned, while the withdrawer grows disconnected or aloof. That is why it is critical to resolve reoccurring confrontations and avoid difficulties from escalating.
“Utilize timeouts to keep arguments from escalating. “A conflict escalation produces dread, uncertainty, and a tendency to defend oneself at the expense of what is healthy for the relationship,” says Siddhartha.
You can’t forgive each other for previous sins or repair old scars unless these toxic patterns are broken. Without it, trust between spouses cannot be reestablished. Only trust gives you a sense of security, which allows you to get past the power struggle stage of a relationship.
#4. Refrain from playing the victim card.
It’s natural to feel victimized when you feel smothered, shamed, or punished by your partner. You are the one whose liberty is being revoked. The one who is made to feel responsible for everything that is wrong in the relationship. The person who is subjected to angry outbursts.
Before you mentally condemn your partner, take a step back and consider whether this is truly the case. Have you been unintentionally contributing to the unhealthy power struggle in your relationship? Are you transferring your own anxieties onto your partner? Does this complicate the dynamics of the relationship?
To go over the power struggle stage in your relationship, you must look at your equation from a different angle. “Once you understand the big picture, it’s simpler to step back and allow for resolution,” Siddartha explains.
#5. Recognize and appreciate your differences.
No two persons are alike, as Siddhartha points out. Their life experiences, outlooks, and attitudes aren’t either. However, when these differences become a source of conflict, neither party is able to be their true selves in the relationship.
Then, as a self-defense strategy, both begin moving for power consolidation. In the expectation that their capacity to control others will allow them to be who they want to be.
This method is frequently ineffective, trapping both partners in a deeply entrenched power struggle stage of a relationship. An apparently easy – if more difficult said than done – strategy to combat this is to actively endeavor to accept and cherish each other’s differences.
Assume one partner is extremely critical, causing the other to become evasive. The couple must work together to break this pattern. While one must learn to express themselves without using harsh words or low blows, the other must learn to listen with an open mind and without taking offense.
When both partners feel confident enough in the relationship to be their real selves without feeling forced to do or say things to keep the peace or please their SO, they can let go of a negative power struggle.
How to get over the Power Struggle Stage & enter the Mature Love Stage in a Relationship
Recognizing that you have a problem and clearly defining what that problem is is the first step in any healing journey.
The obvious issue is that you are no longer able to maintain a stable intimate connection with your loved one. Hence, nothing you do improves the situation.
The deeper issue that both of you are dealing with is that you are triggering each other’s deepest attachments fears – most likely:
- fear of rejection or abandonment
- fear of being entrapped, controlled or suffocated
If you are willing to admit that you have a problem that you are unsure how to solve, you have taken the first step toward healing your relationship.
The following information will be useful to you in dealing with power struggles as you continue your journey:
- How to connect in a safe way that makes you feel close to each other
- How to put an end to the recurring conflict to keep repeating the same old destructive relationship patterns.
- Counter-intuitive communication skills that we were not taught in school so that you can openly share your heart without rubbing each other’s emotional raw spots.
- How to mend and forgive old wounds so that you can rebuild trust between you.
- How to understand and appreciate each other’s differences so that you can both be yourself with each other and live an authentic life together. You don’t have to change to please your partner or keep the peace.
Recognize that your mate has shown that you have value by wanting to be in a relationship with you. Since you mean anything to your mate, you affect his or her feelings, for better or worse. As an adult, you have the power to change a person’s attitude and maintain the tone of the home. You can also influence and impact people’s attitudes, outlooks, and sensibilities.
The more you work toward recognizing and respecting your power in the relationship, the more it will humble and center you. This more precise assessment of your own strength will assist you in making better use of it. Recognizing your adult strength will help you balance your friendship. If you really understand your own strength, you don’t need to demonstrate it, as Thatcher said.
Power Struggle FAQ’s
Do all couples go through a power struggle?
Power struggles in a relationship are common. After the initial excitement and romanticism of your relationship have worn off, you are left with two people who, while they care for each other, are distinct.
What is power in a relationship?
The ability of one person to exert authority and influence within a relationship or group is referred to as power. Power entails taking leadership, resolving conflicts, completing tasks, and lending a compassionate ear or a shoulder to weep on when the other person is in a vulnerable position.
What causes power imbalances in relationships?
To be fulfilled and happy, one requires the affection and approval of others. Denial of one’s own needs, desires, and feelings. Expecting unreasonable things from others. a lack of self-awareness (victim-blame mentality)