When it comes to power in romantic relationships, men are often cast as dominant and women as deferential. But working against this are. A trademark of healthy relationships? There's a balance of power, meaning one person doesn't have total control of the relationship or call all. In a perfect world, all relationships would be healthy, happy ones But what does it mean to have power in a relationship in the first place?.
For example, if one partner is denying sex to the other, is that an equal relationship? What role does power have in that dynamic? Who is exerting power in that situation? Is this perhaps the only form of power the individual has at his or her disposal? These are important questions to ask.
If we are not mindful of the role of power in relationships, we miss an important opportunity to have an honest discussion about what is truly going on.
But the truth is if the partner who is denying sex in the situation above keeps pretending that he or she has a headache and ignoring the power struggle beneath the surface, the problem only snowballs to the point that the couple will find themselves so resentful that breaking up seems to be the only viable option.
If people truly want to be transparent and honest in their relationships whichever kind of relationship it isthey need to be able to have a frank discussion about the role that power plays in that relationship. I once had a professor who started the first day of class by saying that he knew that as the professor he had a large amount of power that he wielded over us, and as a result he would be mindful of using it cautiously and wisely.
At the moment I thought to myself that this was one of the most honest statements I had ever heard.
The Role of Power in Relationships
And I instantly trusted this professor. He could have justified to himself that these students with the Cs instead of As were just worse students, that they lacked the appropriate reasoning and critical thinking skills and he could have gone on through his life doing the same to future students, to university staff, to his wife, and to his kids. And he would never be called on it. And nothing would ever change.The One That Cares the Least Holds the Power in a Relationship
Unacknowledged power festers and destroys relationships. Love relationships are not much different. What role does gender, age, socioeconomic situation, financial status, and social resources play in determining power? Does the older partner feel that he can control his younger lover because he has the more lucrative career? Does the partner who moved across the country to be with his lover feel trapped and powerless because he has no other social outlets? And what role does sex play in these power dynamics?
Is it used to deny? To capture and keep? Often, sex and power are indivisible.
These are the kinds of power dynamics I see in my office every day. Couples who come to me in crisis often have never had an honest and frank discussion about power.
She has everything going for her in the dating world, and can have her choice of any man whom she would like to marry—hence, she has the greatest power. She has already been proposed to twice, and, in fact, is already engaged to an excellent match. Yet, in one meeting with Anatole Kuragin, a dashing young rake, all of that is forgotten.
Ought I to put it right? She looked straight into his eyes, and his nearness, self-assurance, and the good-natured tenderness of his smile vanquished her [my emphasis]. She smiled just as he was doing, gazing straight into his eyes. And again she felt with horror that no barrier lay between him and her. Later, she describes their affair herself: As soon as I saw him I felt he was my master and I his slave, and that I could not help loving him.
The Role of Power in Relationships - Dr Michael Aaron
Whatever he orders I shall do. What can I do? Anatole has to beg, plead, and prostrate himself before her to get her to do what he wants. But does his outer servility mean that he lacks power? On the contrary, he completely owns the relationship. So the simple fact that one is asking and one is answering says little or nothing about the power relationship.
My point here is twofold. First of all, power is a fickle friend, hard to hold onto and indefinable. The neo-soul artist Gnarls Barkley puts it well: The second point follows from the first: Men, if you really want power, well, you already have it.
Women, same to you. Each one of us has the potential to be both powerless and incredibly powerful, maybe even at the same time.
But power is a dangerous tool to wield. Both men and women have their own distinctive powers, but one should not seek to have power over others. Wielding power over others often hurts the wielder more than anyone else. My message is one of self-empowerment. In general in the dating world, women are empowered by being selective, keeping just enough aloof that men have to work for their respect. Men, your empowerment comes from selection. Think of it this way: If you get rejected, brush the dirt off your shoulder or shake the dust off your sandals, and ask someone else.