Power with rather than power over.
Posted Jan 29, 2020
“Where love rules, there is no will to power, and where power predominates, there love is lacking.” —Carl Jung
Linda: What does it mean to share power? How well do you share power? What issues inside yourself need to be addressed for you to feel inner peace? What issues between you and your partner are indicating an inner struggle?
There are many issues that couples fight about, without realizing that whatever fight they are having has at least a component that is about power. If they are fighting about money, it is really about the power of decision-making as to how much will be spent, and on what items, and how much will be saved. When they fight about sex, it is really about who has the power to decide when sex will take place, how often, and what kind of sex they will have. When they fight over disciplining the kids, decisions about being lenient or strict, it is really a power struggle over whose parenting style will prevail.
Frequently both parties are so frightened that the struggle for power shows up in many places. Before trust becomes solid, both members of the couple are fearful of being dominated by the other. There can be so much fear around being so different in so many ways that the relationship can’t last. There can be fear too about not having their needs met to the point where they will have to break up. Power struggling can continue for a long time if the couple stays on the surface of things and doesn’t get down to their core issues.
What can break the negative cycle is to appreciate that a phase of power struggle is part of every couple’s journey. Learning how to handle differences, manage fear and reactivity, and negotiate for their needs, are all requirements to build a foundation of trust. The sooner both people understand that sharing power well is going to enhance their life, the better off everyone will be.
There is usually one of the pair who is stronger in co-operation and matters of the heart. The one on this end of the spectrum is wise to be careful not to value the other’s preferences over their own well-being. If too much accommodation takes place, the end result can be a feeling of being disadvantaged and exploited which will lead to resentment. The one that is strong in flexibility has the responsibility to learn assertiveness and boundary setting.
Since opposites attract, the other partner is likely to be strong in assertiveness, boundary-setting, leadership, and personal power. This partner is wise to not overpower the other by being so competitive that they become oppressive. It is easy for those on the assertive end of the spectrum to become bossy and to subtly or not so subtly insist on having their way. Eventually, this orientation is bound to break down. Too much leadership can end up causing a feeling of being burdened and way too responsible.
There is a method where both members of the couple rest into the certainty that their partnership is balanced. When both partners are grounded in a win-win orientation, they figure out how power is shared. Only then can both people feel that they are powerful and can live in their hearts.
Sharing power well is beyond the limited method of compromise, where neither partner gets what they really want. Both partners may feel that they have sacrificed too much. The presenting problems, whatever they are, are addressed with a spirit of goodwill. A dialogue and negotiation take place until a state of creative synthesis is achieved. With creative synthesis, the communication evolves to the point where a solution is found where both people can feel successful. In the process of exploration, it is likely that they have discovered some hidden aspects of each other that can be exciting and enlivening.
The combination of safety and closeness, coupled with the spaciousness that comes with strong trust, allows relationships to operate at their ultimate potential. Learning how to learn from each other’s areas of strength allows us to develop individuality. As a couple, we are not required to give up who we are but to become more of who we are.
There comes a new respect for the aspects of ourselves that had previously been disowned. The part that the assertive member of the pair may have judged as weak is now viewed as co-operative. The one who the cooperative partner may have viewed as too bossy is now appreciated as powerful in a positive way.
When the warring factions inside ourselves begin to peacefully co-exist, we find an immediate spillover effect into our relationship. The old areas of painful gridlock dissolve. Instead of struggling for power, we begin to share power. In our newly remodeled relationships, we practice taking turns being in the leadership role. The level of fluidity becomes natural, and we hardly notice who becomes leader and then changing to follow.
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