Power Struggle – What Is It and Its Types?

Power Struggle – What Is It and Its Types

If we consider a relationship to be a 100%, it has to be a partnership of equals, 50% each. Both partners have an equal say in decision making, equal share of responsibilities and equal roles. Initially, every relationship experiences what we call the honeymoon period. In this phase, both individuals are trying their best to maximise the positives and minimise the negatives so as to be able to form a healthy bond with each other.

A lot of feel good hormones are released, which eventually start reducing and each partner starts viewing the other with a more realistic approach. Consider the following conversation as a transition one from honeymoon period to when we feel like we’re done:

There’s a couple, Amar is the husband and Priya is the wife.

Honeymoon phase:

Amar– Hey Priya, can you please get me a coffee? I have some serious meetings coming up tomorrow and I need to work on the presentations. Had I not had these, I would have made the coffee for both of us.

Priya– Sure, why not. After all, we are here to be there for each other. If we do not have each other’s back, who will, right? Let me know if you need something.

Amar- That’s so sweet of you, thank you.

It’s not working phase:

Amar- Priya, can you get me a coffee?

Priya- I have some work, please get it for yourself.

Amar- Even I have a presentation to make. You used to say we’ll have each other’s back.

Priya-  But you never were there Amar. Even though I had meetings that day, I still made coffee for you and you didn’t even acknowledge it as you should have.

Amar- You never told me about your meeting, how would I know? You always do this, I ask something and then you bring up some older incident which wasn’t even a concern back then.

Priya- Because you always want me to do your work and you shall not be doing anything.

Previously, the same episode was dealt with in a different way, the negatives were minimised, the positives were maximised but no communication happened on the concerns. So you see, both the partners had these concerns within them but none took the initiative to bring it up in the early days. Initially, they were in the zone of an unsaid agreement which later on didn’t stand the test of arguments.

This brings along a lot of differences in opinions and disagreements which further lead to frustration in the relationship. Now comes a stage where there is a power struggle, a need to dominate the other partner in the relationship because of all the flaws they have while getting defensive on one’s own faults.

It’s an inevitable phase and can be worked on by the couples if they consider new ways of communicating, it can be used positively to enhance the relationship as well provided, they are willing to work on it.

There are 4 different types of power struggles-

1. Defending Authority and Credibility-

Communication involving statements like – “Who are you to tell me what to do? This is my life.” or statements like “You’re a teacher not a scientist, stop teaching me my work.” This might lead the other person to get a little defensive, bring about a change in the body language, the tonality, and pitch of their speech, or rolling eyes, or shaking your head in disagreement at the very moment. They might as well want to just storm out of the room or avoid any contact. These are signs of Defending Authority and Credibility kind of a Power Struggle.

2. Personal Button Pushing-

Quite a lot of times the other person knows us very well. They know the trigger points that raise our alarms and lead us to backing off from whatever we were pursuing in the conversation because of whatever fears or apprehensions there may be. The partner uses these triggers, or buttons to push by engaging in certain conversations that act as a trigger for us. They got an expected reaction from us and we lost the plot at that very moment.

3. Past History and Irrelevant Issues-

In a relationship where power struggle is happening, often individuals maintain a mental memory list of all the things that can be used against the partner in such an argument. Statements like “You said the same thing last time as well”, or “I knew this was coming because you do this every time”. Such statements are used to put the other person on the backfoot, and lose sight of what they were actually discussing, which impacts the relationships specially the marital bond badly. Thus, the entire issue is about that particular statement and not about the point of concern anymore.

4. Empty Threats and Ultimatums-

Quite a few times when things seem to get out of hands for either of the partners, they tend to enter this type of power struggles wherein there are empty threats and ultimatums like “You have till tomorrow, get this done” or “If you don’t get it done by tomorrow, you’ll see.”

These lead us towards distrust and loss of connection between the partners.

Like Gary Zukav would put it

“A power struggle collapses when you withdraw your energy from it. Power struggles become uninteresting to you when you change your intention from winning to learning about yourself.”

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