The Paradox of Relationship Commitment: Who Holds the Power?

The balance of power is not held by who you think it might be.

Posted Nov 17, 2017

When it comes to relationships, the partner who is the least invested in making the relationship work is actually the one who holds the greatest power.

Think about it, when you’re deeply in love with someone who doesn’t love you back, your intense commitment to “making it work” might be the least of the concerns of your significant other. Their lack of interest, in effect, gives them the power to walk away and leave you heartbroken or broke.

Some people mistakenly believe that anger is an opposite of love, but apathy and lack of respect are the truest enemies of caring. When a partner no longer feels invested enough to argue or dignify comments with a response, it’s likely that their heart has shifted and the connection is no more. If a person has no concern for the partner's feelings, that person now holds the balance of power regarding the future of your relationship.

If you feel that your relationship power is shifting – that you are losing ground or you feel a frisson of ennui or a burgeoning sense of apathy towards your partner – take preventive action before the relationship loses its vitality.

  1. All couples will have disagreements or conflict; the difference between a healthy or unhealthy relationship lies in the ability to address differences and manage conflict. Lesson: It’s okay to fight, but fight fair.
  2. Being a couple isn’t about 1 + 1 = 2; it’s about 1 + 1 + 1 = 3 – you, your partner, AND the relationship. You have three entities that must be considered in any decision you’re making – you can’t just ask, “Is this good for me?” or “Is this good for my partner?” You also have to ask, “Is this good for our relationship?” The last one is one that some couples forget to explore and that is when decisions that are good for the individual turn into fire starters for the couple. Lesson: Don't neglect the needs of your relationship when you're choosing the best course of action.
  3. Don’t forget that relationships are not “done deals” for life – taking someone’s fidelity and devotion for granted is not going to guarantee it lasts. Recognize that relationships require tending and maintenance just as do other living things. Lesson: Guarantees are worthless if the guidelines aren't followed.
  4. The old saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” makes good sense about most things in life, but that doesn’t mean that if something needs maintenance, you ignore it. You don’t know if the tread on your tires has worn thin unless you check it out – if the relationship or your partner’s patience is wearing thin, it’s clear that maintenance is needed before something is broke and does need fixing. Lesson: Sometimes it's true that "if you ignore something, it'll go away." You just don't want that to be your relationship.
  5. Be willing to make time for activities you might sometimes feel are a waste of time, but are essential to relational longevity. Communicate face-to-face and with intention. While we’re able to share so much information via technology today, the human mind and heart still need the social connection that face-to-face presence offers. We also need human touch and to be wrapped up in the arms of someone who cares about us. Our bodies don’t necessarily keep up with the ridiculous speed of technological advancement. Human evolution is a very slow process – and physical affection, intimate conversation, and lovemaking still comprise a large swath of our basic primal needs. Sex is an excellent stress reliever and health-promoting activity – make the time and benefits accrue across time. Lesson: Physical shows of support – in whatever form they take – are key to survival!