I asked a couple of my girlfriends, “Who has the power in your relationship?” One said that she thought she did sometimes and her husband did other times. However, her husband was sitting on the other side of me and he stated empathically that she has the power, because even if he feels differently about how something should be done, she ends up wearing him down and they do what she wants. I asked my other girlfriend who was sitting with us the same question and she said that her boyfriend learned from his past marriages three things: “Keep Momma happy, keep Momma happy, and keep Momma happy.” So in both of those cases the women have the power in their relationships.
Jane, in My Body-His and My Body-His (Marcello), gives away her power leaving a gross imbalance. She can never really find her equilibrium without having an equal say. I understand there are people who love to relinquish all control because I have chatted with a few but I am speaking to the more common relationship dynamic.
My husband and I have found a way to compromise as we both have strong opinions and personalities. We share the power. We sometimes argue about it but less and less as the years go on.
Girlfriend #2 asked me if I have some judgment over what works best and at the time I said, “We all have our dance to work out.” But after pondering for a while, the truth is I do have some opinions around it. I believe, unless you are married to a completely selfless person, resentment must build when one person continually gives up what they want or how they think something should be handled which can lead to passive-aggressive behavior. I don’t believe a truly healthy relationship exists if one person is always giving in.
Part of really loving another person is valuing how they see life and what they need out of it. If it’s always about what one person wants, that seems pretty selfish to me. Relationships are about compromise and sharing life’s challenges equally. It’s not a compromise if one person is always having it “their” way. Compromise is midway between two extremes and not about giving in.
Taking a superior position of one’s own opinions is a form of control and a way of getting what you want. I have a hard time imagining that this type of dynamic can beget a close intimate relationship. For me it shows a lack of respect for the other person.
This all ties back into honesty and the fear of confrontation that I wrote about in “We Kill Our Intimacy with Politeness”. The fear of confrontation that many people have is the very thing that allows others to control them. So while we experience an immediate feeling of “safety” by avoiding confrontation, the long term consequences is the loss of personal integrity and the possibility for a close, intimate connection.
For me, finding a balance of power in all my relationships promotes a fair, respectful, and harmonious existence. Still working on this with some of the people in my life, but learning more every day.
Who has the power in your relationship? How do you negotiate when you have a difference of opinion?