One of the biggest impediments to having a healthy meaningful relationship is an unequal distribution of power between the parties. It can set up an undercurrent of resentment and power plays that inhibit trust and intimacy.
The way in which power is measured in relationship varies. In marriages, money and decision-making on how it is spent, sex and how leisure time is distributed, and feeling a sense of collaboration or division of tasks are all areas of power distribution. Even how a relationship proceeds has to do with an agreement on how power is shared in the relationship. These features and equations, in general, determine how power is divided and determines the power differential. Some of these issues can be applied to work partnerships and friendships.
If the differential is too great or not consistent with internal expectations there will be conflict and strife that could upset the continuity, fiber, and longevity of the relationship.
When talking about power the definition has to do with an internal sense of empowerment in the style and course of the relationship as well as the capacity to get done that which the individual feels is necessary or important to the relationship and/or individual. This includes an internally consistent picture of self by the other. In other words if I perceive myself to be talented and strong and my partner treats me in a fashion that exhibits that his picture of me is that I am talented and strong – then that is an internally consistent picture of self by the other.
A sense of feeling empowered would consist of a sense of joy, contentment, and strength; together this would feel like a sense of inner control. In this instance the person would experience that his values are valued by his partner and that he has the ability to direct his life accordingly. A sense of feeling unempowered or disempowered would consist of a sense of disillusionment and a lack of inner control. In this instance the person would experience that her values are not valued by her partner and that she does not have the ability to direct her own life.
In the former situation relationship struggles are dealt with in a fairly direct and above-board fashion allowing various opinions to be identified and discussed and a reasonable negotiation to be found. Both parties would offer honest and clear information and have rather full disclosure of their wants and needs. The outcomes to these conversations would be supportive to both parties’ needs further increasing the internal sense of control for both parties. Energy toward change would be dealt with proactively. Even difficult discussions would be confronted in an honest and compassionate way.
In the latter scenario above there would be a less honest set of disclosures with ever decreasing identification of problems outwardly. Actions might be taken passively and in an under-cover way so that issues would not be dealt with directly. There would be a tone of reactivity and defensiveness. In this scenario there would also be an internally inconsistent picture of self by other. This is an example of a power differential that is out of balance.
Listening to the language style, tone, and word choice between partners can give you clues to the power differential and if the differential is in balance or not.
A dearth or paucity of conversation and interaction can indicate an imbalance. This is especially true if it appears that one member is initiating contact and this initiation is met with silence or if the lack of connection appears to be one-sided. Other signs of an imbalance is a sense of defensiveness or reactivity in tone or word choice, bickering or side-talking without resolution.
If you notice that you are in a relationship that is out of balance look for ways to right the balance.
Observe where you feel resentment or you hear resentment from your partner. Try to slow down your interaction and compassionately confront the silence or resentment. Work with the words, tone, or silence lightly, directly and with an earnest interest in learning from your partner.
If the resentment or defensiveness is within you – try to discern what the original driver of the feeling was – could it be a longstanding feeling of unimportance or lack of power or a single incident that has injured you in some way. Think of what you need to feel whole again – and then gently ask for that. Try to encourage your partner to reconnect with you on this deeper more loving level.
Try to remember what brought you into partnership and see if you can rekindle the lightness and love.
If what you discover is that you have lost that sense of lightness than try to move to a neutral place so that you can leave the relationship without further injuring the other or yourself.
Power is one of the core issues of development. All injuries go to power and all successes are related to power. How you relate to power and how you create a balance of power in relationship is directly connected to the level of joy contentment and strength of that relationship. Begin with your personal relationship with power within yourself.
Review the power differential in your relationship and how power is distributed – consider how this situation has evolved. If you discover that you want a different power differential but you want to maintain your connection to your partner then gently discuss the changes you seek to create increased balance.
Balance is the key; clarify for yourself first and then with your partner what you desire and what you want to discard this opens the door to balancing the power differential in relationship.
See you tomorrow.