Power Struggle in Relationships
POWER STRUGGLE IN RELATIONSHIPS
Power Struggle… Solutions
Every couples counselor worth their salt has lots of experience in helping couples resolve power struggles… because they’re (unfortunately) so common. Intense, entrenched power struggles between two strong-willed people may require the intervention of marriage counseling to resolve, but sometimes you can work through power struggles on your own. In this post I’ll be sharing some hard won advice from my years of experience as a licensed marriage and family therapist and relationship coach about how to break through gridlock and find mutually acceptable solutions… even when it feels hopeless.
Meaning of “Power Struggle”
What is a power struggle in relationships? Relationship power struggles grind into being (or rather, grind things to a halt) when:
- Two people have very strong, opposing opinions about things that are important to each of them.
- Have very different perspectives due to intercultural relationship differences.
- Have conflicting desires about a particular outcome and cannot find a compromise that feels respectful to both.
Both partners hold on tightly to their position, becoming more polarized and un-budging. Compromise feels impossible, empathy plummets, emotional flooding happens, and frustration spikes. Not fun! But worse, over time, an unresolved power struggle can really damage your relationship and make it difficult to connect with each other in positive ways.
Also, what I know from years of experience as a Denver marriage counselor, and online relationship coach is that power struggles in marriage are so, so common. In fact, the power struggle phase in relationships is a real thing, and part of finding an equilibrium that can ultimately lead to deeper connection, if you know how to manage them. Power struggles can come up around parenting, family finances, and household responsibilities, as well as major life decisions around whether to have a kid, where to live, or if couples are prone to codependency, arguments around how to live. (Spoiler alert: In a healthy relationship neither of you have a lock on “The Truth.”)
Power struggles can be large and small. While power struggle is most likely to happen around things that partners consider to be really important, I have also literally had to break up a power struggle between a couple who were having persistent conflict over which way the toilet paper roll should be hung.
Personal note: I am not kidding about the above example. This actually happened, in my office. To this day when I change the roll of toilet paper at my house I think about this couple. I prefer the paper to come over to the front, but if my husband felt strongly otherwise I would be willing to at least take turns. 😉
Power Struggle In Relationships
Problems — even perpetual problems — and arguments in a romantic relationship are inevitable. As we’ve discussed in previous episodes of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast, many times productive conflict can be really healthy. But power struggles that become gridlock issues that feel unsolvable need to be managed with care, before they lead to outright combat, lingering resentments, and hurtful communication that erodes the emotional safety of your relationship.
Unresolved power struggles can impact every part of a relationship. Power struggles are relationship struggles. That’s why I’m putting on my “relationship coach” hat today, and why we’re devoting an entire episode of the podcast to marriage power struggle solutions, as well as how to avoid power struggles in the first place.
If you’re finding yourself stuck in a battle of the wills and unable to move past a relationship struggle, this relationship podcast episode is packed full of tips, advice, and help. You can work together to resolve your differences — even ones that feel big. I’m going to walk you through some steps, like how to listen with empathy, avoid jumping to negative conclusions, that can help resolve gridlocked conflicts and power struggles in romantic relationships.
I discuss what they are, why they exist, and an example illustrating gridlocked conflicts. Additionally, I touch on personality differences between couples and why they can affect relationship dynamics and ultimately lead to power struggles.
If you and your partner often have unproductive conflicts that feel like they turn into a fight to the death about who’s way is “right” … this episode is for you.
Understanding Power Struggles
First, we’ll start by digging in to what power struggles are, why power struggles happen, and what types of things you can do to start breaking down the walls.
- Discover the factors that may lead to gridlocked conflicts in a relationship.
- Learn how you and your partner can brainstorm productively to reach a solution.
- Know about personality differences that may cause power struggles in a relationship.
- Learn how to cultivate positivity in relationships to avoid power struggles.
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Gridlocked Conflicts in Romantic Relationships
- Gridlocked issues happen when a couple argues and is unable to compromise.
- These issues are common in romantic relationships.
- It is vital to address these issues so that they don’t create too much negativity and resentment between the partners.
- Sometimes it is difficult to get out of a gridlocked conflict that has turned into a power struggle.
- Knowing what gridlock and power struggles are and how to walk them back and avoid them are essential relationship skills.
When Conflicts Start to Polarize, and Power Struggles Start
- When you are not in agreement with your partner, you tend to dig more deeply.
- Couples are pushed further apart when conflicts intensify.
- It’s like struggling to untie a knot but you end up tightening it unintentionally.
- One example of conflict is when parents have to make the decision to send their child to school despite the ongoing health crisis.
- When couples campaign more actively for the other person to understand their side, they are unintentionally creating a dynamic where they will less likely resolve the conflict.
Overcoming Gridlocked Conflicts & Power Struggle in Relationships
While understanding why power struggles in relationships can happen in the first place (and how to, hopefully, avoid them) is an incredibly important relationship skill, it’s also necessary to understand how to resolve power struggles once they begin. This is because sooner or later, all couples encounter these types of problems. Knowing how to successfully work through a gridlock conflict without damaging the trust and goodwill in your relationship is vital.
Listen to this episode to learn more about how. Specifically:
- Communication strategies that allow you to find a path forward together and stay connected as a couple, even when you see things differently.
- Why stepping away can paradoxically help you move forward.
- How resolving power struggles can actually help you deepen the love, understanding, trust and compassion in your relationship.
- Ways to utilize power struggles and gridlock conflict to increase the creativity and possibilities in your shared life together.
Real Help For Your Relationship
I share SO many new ideas, strategies and relationship advice in this episode, but the key to making it all work is by having productive, emotionally safe conversations with your partner that connect you rather than pushing you further apart.
If this is feeling hard right now, a structured activity like my free, online “How Healthy is Your Relationship” Quiz can be a starting place to have a productive conversation about how you’re both feeling, and what you’re each needing to improve your communication, feel more loved and respected, and get on the same page so you can work together as a team.
Enjoy this Relationship Podcast?
We discussed so many things in today’s episode related to power struggles in relationships, how to avoid power struggles, and solutions for power struggles. I hope they help you. You can listen to the full episode using the player below.
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Wishing you both all the best on your journey of growth, together.
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Power Struggle in Relationships
The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast with Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby
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Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self. She is a licensed psychologist, a licensed marriage and family therapist, and a board-certified coach, as well as the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.
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