Power Dynamics in Relationships - How to Resolve the Conflicts?
In a world where we are all striving for equality in education, pay, opportunities, respect, and status, every relationship faces power struggles. There is a need for shared love, respect, and power.
The power dynamic is all about how we as partners influence our better halves in a relationship. Shared power dynamics can create a positive influence leading to growth and blissfulness, where both partners feel understood and cared for. In case of any turbulence in this balance, there is resentment, arguments, and even emotional barriers that shouldn’t be there in love.
Money matters, intimacy, distributing responsibilities, and making decisions are where this turbulence in power dynamics can occur. It's important to be mindful of the power we hold over our partners. The small words and actions we take can really affect them, even if it’s not directly about them.
It's important to validate your partner from time to time and make sense of their reality.
When trying to handle such power imbalances, 3 common dynamics or signs are:
- Demand/withdrawal -
- Distancer/pursuer -
- Fear/shame -
One person in the relationship feels like they keep telling their partner what they want and requesting time and attention. But it feels like talking to someone who doesn’t truly see them or their needs. They get called being demanding or “the demander” for constantly just trying to seek a resolution to the gap they feel within the relationship.
While the other person trying to set their boundaries or avoid conflict withdraws from the situation going into their shell. While the other partner feels ignored by this behaviour and that the other withdrawn partner is avoiding their responsibilities.
“I love them more, I'm the only one who does everything and cares about them.” Have you ever said or heard these lines, this happens when one person is more invested in the relationship and is always taking initiative. “The Pursuer” pulls to maintain a certain degree of intimacy with their partner. While the other keep their distance or pushes away, feeling smothered “The Distancer”, this might depend on their attachment styles.
Attachment styles are formed in childhood with bonds we form with our parents, it impacts our love language in our relationships as adults. Knowing your attachment style and working on it helps you understand your love language.
Not working on these unhealthy dynamics, the constant push and pull, the Pursuer can feel lonely, rejected, and feel like their partner is being cold and withholding the affection that they want on purpose. While the Distancer feels that their partner is annoyingly clingy and demanding it creates constant dissatisfaction in the relationship
This might play on both partner’s insecurities and past trauma, without proper and open communication, both partners might be unaware of what's happening. Our comments can at times strike a nerve with others’ past trauma or insecurity and that might help us win an upper hand in a fight, without realising the real damage we are causing. We enjoy winning so much that we might repeat it without questioning our actions. If it continues, then the relationship turns bitter, aggressive and is no longer safe.
When two people first start dating, in their honeymoon phase they tend to overlook differences and focus only on what can make their love grow. But, as the relationship progresses, we start noticing the difference between us, our own ideas, opinions, needs, preferences, and goals. This leads to clashes and imbalances in the relationship. It’s important to maintain a healthy line of communication to prevent power imbalances.
How to Revive a Healthy Power Balance in Your Relationship
Sharing your power and not overwhelming someone, rather accepting them can result in a healthy balance of power. Couples can make decisions together by respecting others' opinions and taking on the subject. Both men and women can be vulnerable when communicating with each other and keeping it open and working through their issues in a healthy way rather than exerting power or putting blame.
Both should have an equal say or similar level of influence over the relationship to keep it positive and reciprocal. Being honest with each other and yourself can help make relationships more strong and emotionally intimate. Be ready to put in the work where required to maintain the balance as it’s natural to have turbulence in times of storm.
Setting such boundaries should be followed by communicating them and listening to your partner’s preferences and respecting them. You might have disagreements but keep it fair, without trying to play dirty to win fights. You feel you need time to cool off, then take a break, and walk off your anger, but inform your partner that you are available and around rather than storming off.
Exercise as Conflict resolution techniques
To help you resolve conflicts write responses to these 6 questions:
- What are my negative feelings?
- What’s the fairest way to describe the problem?
- Why do I want to work things out?
- How would I like things to be between us? (Not things you want the other person to do or change but how you see the relationship to be?)
- How can I actually get that? ( What can you personally do, what are your roadblocks and what can you do to overcome them?) Basically having dialogues that will get both of you thinking about solving things instead of blaming each other for the mess.
- And if it doesn’t work, what else can I do? (Nothing extreme, just different approaches to reach their goal)
Focus your attention on the realistic and specific things your partner can do to help you resolve problems in the relationship. Specify the realistic actions in detail you’d like the other person to take. Replace the statement of what you “don’t want” with what “ you do want”. Answering these questions prepares you to make a specific, blame-free request of your partner and to deal with anything that holds you back.
Decide when, where, and how you will set things in motion. Specify each and every action you will take to handle your problem. By adding in the specific and detailed steps you will take that lead to your goal.
Rehearse what and how you will say it, but in a blame-free manner. This prepares you to communicate in a way that will be easiest for your partner to take in without feeling the need to defend themselves. Review your choice of words, and your tone of voice and rehearse it out loud.
Relationship Conflict Resolution | When to Seek Help
If you find it hard to find the balance in your relationship, getting support from a couples therapist may help. Here you must remember that whatever the situation is you must take good care of your mental health. Because equitable conflict resolution and building healthy relationships completely depend on your own mental health. Mpower, the mental health care organisation in India is working with the Best Mental Health Counsellors In India and they are always ready to help you during your tough times.
Some other signs that it may be time for help include
- Being stuck in the same argument again and again.
- Being angry and distant from your partner
- Wanting to give up on the relationship every other day
- Going through emotional upheaval because of the relationship.
image credit : freepik