There are seemingly no “real” struggles in the honeymoon phase, right? Just fun dates and lots of sex. There’s no arguing about who loads the dishwasher, or picks up the check(s). No one is frustrated about always initiating sex or what to eat for dinner. Life in the beginning was just easy filled with compromise.
This time in our relationship is “easy,” because we are often lost in lust and oxytocin. It’s also easy, because we are happy to forfeit our opinions in order to make the other person satisfied and to keep them interested. We don’t mind compromise because we all enjoy falling in love.
So, fast forward a few months… or even some years. You may have found yourselves unhappy and struggling with feeling fully appreciated and/or equal in your relationship. Maybe simple communication is challenging or mutual respect is declining. At times, you may feel frustrated and sad that the relationship you once had feels lost and the person you fell in love with has slipped away.
Well, you may have found yourselves in a power struggle.
You may not even realize it, but often times the petty fights you find yourselves in are just an attempt for your voices to be heard/respected, your feelings to be validated, or your contributions to be recognized and appreciated. We often get stuck in the content of “who did what” instead of communicating to each other our vulnerable desires to feel seen in the relationship. Sometimes, we get so stuck on how things used to be, that we start resenting our partners for inevitable changes.
Here are Examples of Power Struggles in a Relationship:
#1: You find yourselves easily arguing about your (subjective) experiences being a fact.
#2: You and/or your partner makes regular passive aggressive comments and says they are just “joking.”
#3: You and/or partner feels entitled to having more decision making privileges, because you/they make more money.
#4: You and/or your partner feel secretively defiant.
#5 You put each other down.
#6 You get in arguments the second you both have differing opinions.
#7 You and/or your partner constantly bring up the past to justify their actions.
#8 You and/or your partner play games to make the other one jealous.
#9 You find yourselves in competition with each other, and not in a cute way.
#10 You and/or your partner often threaten leaving the relationship in arguments.
#11 You and/or your partner withhold sex, intimacy or affection to prove a point.
#12 You and/or your partner often feels “in trouble.”
#13 You and/or your partner purposefully want to withhold offering support or help to “teach” them a lesson.
Power struggles can be a common element to a relationship, but catching them early will help you both determine a healthy way to restructure them. Sometimes, power struggles in a relationship can be due to feeling unheard and sometimes addressing them calmly can be the fix. Other times, power struggles can come from years of built up resentment and pain, which may require a lot more time and tools to heal. Either way, therapy is always a great idea to help you both unpack these negative behaviors and break the cycle for good.