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The power struggle in couple relationships

The power struggle in couple relationships

May 10, 2021

"I promise to be faithful in the joys and sorrows, in health and in sickness, every day of my life.

"I, I love you ... as a wife and I surrender to you, and I promise to be faithful in the joys and sorrows, in health and in sickness, all the days of my life."

Those are the promises that we hear again and again when couples have the illusion of living together happily and peacefully after getting married. But... What happens when conflicts start at the same time? Is the fairy tale over?

Conflicts in the couple

Conflicts in couples respond to multiple factors. Today I want to share one of the reasons why couples begin to have conflicts and is imperceptible in the eyes of the newlyweds, to the point that they begin to get entangled until they generate the effect of a snowball.


At the beginning, for the same effect of falling in love, couples often put aside their needs, interests and personal preferences, to be at the service of the loved one. But once a certain stability or security of the other's love is obtained, the person returns to focus on his own well-being, again he resumes his life thinking about his interests, tastes, preferences, without having to suppress his opinions or decisions or access to situations that are unpleasant. That is it can be shown as it is, without worrying whether it will be accepted or rejected , because there is a commitment that makes him feel that "the other person must adjust" to his world.

At this moment, we begin to generate a form of power struggle . It is a usual phenomenon in couples who did not acquire the emotional tools necessary during the courtship to solve the daily problems of coexistence.


What is the power struggle?

The power struggle is defined as the confluence of internal forces where egocentricity prevails and the intrinsic need of self-affirmation in each of the couple .

When this condition occurs in a couple, initially their members may not recognize that each one struggles to have power. Therefore, very often they point or accuse the other for the problems that occur.

Typical phrases in couples: "She is always the one who does ..., she does not understand, she does not listen to me ... she wants what she says to be done, period". "He does not understand me, he just wants me to do what he says, I do not have to leave, he does not send me."

Becoming aware

There are also cases in which the members of the couple have recognized that they reproduce this relationship dynamics but do not know how to get out of it. Example of these situations in consultation are the following comments: "I tell you, but she does not pay attention to me, it takes time for another person to say the same, she only rejects those ideas because they come from me". Or: "It is that he has to do the exact opposite of what I ask him".


At this point, couples do not realize it, but they have started a war in which the objective is to demonstrate who has the power . They stop being at the service of the other to use the relationship. That is, the relationship "must be" gratifying to me or satisfy my expectations and completely forgetting that it involves two.

Now, the most important question with which the analysis in therapy begins is this: Why do you struggle to have the power? Also: what are you feeling or what did you stop feeling so that you consider that you should have the power? Or: at what point did the promise get lost "I give myself to you, to take care of you, to respect you every day of my life? However, delving into these questions to find a sincere answer is not easy.

The symptoms of the power struggle

Let's see typical cases that are heard in therapy where a power struggle has been generated.

  • Always be right : cling to defend your point of view, losing the ability to listen and understand the other.
  • Search your own interests : focus on your needs and interests without caring about those of the other person. In this way, the other person must care for their own welfare.
  • Be perfect or perfect : maintain arguments in which as a person he never makes mistakes, he only has qualities and the other person is solely responsible for the problems in the relationship. With great ease find the couple's defects, but it becomes a very difficult task to find, accept and above all want to modify their own defects.
  • Idealization of the perfect couple : There are people who focus their efforts on having a perfect relationship, without problems, crises or discrepancies. Therefore, they need to feel that they have control in the relationship to avoid disagreements; preventing the other person from feeling like a symmetric part of the relationship.

Why does the power struggle occur?

In all cases, the main reason why the symptoms mentioned above appear is the same: the feeling of inferiority.

When people feel undervalued, excluded, minimized or unable to satisfy the couple, they channel their frustration, impotence, anger and sadness through a compensatory feeling: superiority. That is, people find in "power" the security they have lost in themselves. Unfortunately, they make the other person responsible for their discomfort, that is, instead of resolving their lack of value, they deposit the cause of their ills in the couple: "if they would even pay attention to me once ...", they say very often the patients. But they lose sight of the fact that for this power struggle to be generated, two are needed.

A single person can not start the "battles" that sometimes come to the consultation. Both try to defend their territory, both feel that they are failing the other, both have lost many things

Resolving the situation

To stop fighting for power in a relationship is not an easy task. Many times professional help is required, because the problem is mixed with the emotional deficiencies in each of the protagonists and communication failures. However, when couples are aware little by little of the deterioration suffered by this attitude, assume challenges that allow them to relate with more security and this in turn generates, more tranquility and openness.

Then, I propose some exercises that you can perform while professional help arrives l:

1. Courtesy

Imagine for a moment that our partner is not our partner, he is a very good companion or co-worker, who in difficult moments is there for us. Now, let's start a conversation. Easily we will notice that it is usually more polite, subtle, kind . We will take care of our gestures, tone and words so as not to offend or hurt their feelings.

2. Finding the point in favor

Let's forget for a moment our desire to win the fight, and focus on listening to the other person. Let's find a point where we can agree with him.

3. Caring for the other

It is more than clear that there are many resentments resulting from the fights, which should be addressed with the professional, but at this moment we express our desire to fight for the relationship, it's worth having the objective of taking care of the other person . For that we can do the following: ask the other person, before going to bed: "what do you want to help you tomorrow?". And let's try to accomplish that task as if it were a sacred request.

4. Physical contact

It has been shown that in couples in which physical contact is lost, there is a greater propensity to think on their own without communicating effectively and, therefore, space is opened to start fighting for one's own interests. Therefore, although at the beginning it is not natural or comfortable, before starting the day you can embrace the other person with strength, embrace with strength, without expecting anything more than to enjoy the hug .

5. Surprise

Let's seek to surprise the other person according to what he likes or interests . Let's focus on breaking the fear of rejection or going bad.

6. Ask for opinions

Each case is unique, and the best way to know if you are doing it right is to contrast our opinion with that of other people . Sometimes professional help is indisputable, but in some cases we may not need this help.

7. Making us happy

Let us not place our happiness in the other person. Let's find activities that we enjoy and make us feel good. Let's treat each other with affection and value ourselves as people . Once we feel able and secure in the relationship, without realizing, we will not need to fight for power ... we will be happy with the gains of a stable and equitable relationship.


Transform Your Relationship - Part 3: The Power Struggle (May 2021).


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