Power Struggle, More Trouble

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There are many types of power that we tap into in order to fulfill our everyday needs and responsibilities. Hydropower, solar power and wind power are just some of the sources that we employ to make it possible for us to eat, breathe, communicate and live. However, there is one power source that seems to be becoming increasingly important…relationship power.

Establishing and maintaining power is a victory that both parties in a relationship strive to achieve. A man doesn’t want to appear like he’s a punching bag and a woman doesn’t want to appear that she bows down to her husband every time he enters the room. Just like animals, people want to prove their dominance. This is why it is hard for both parties involved to give in or to even compromise during an argument.

When the threat of losing power is on the horizon, an argument is sure to arise. Researcher Keith Sanford, Ph.D., an associate professor of psychology and neuroscience at Baylor University, found that power struggles were the main reason for conflict amongst the thousands of couples he interviewed for his research pertaining to conflict in relationships. Following right behind was the desire for the partner to show more of an investment in the relationship including sharing intimate emotions, listening, and sharing household tasks.

Sanford then went on to illustrate the additional factors in producing conflict that his couples experienced which were: adversarial behavior, lack of communication and affection; and scarce apologies. Interestingly enough, when you inspect all of these individual conflict instigators, power struggles are essentially at the root of all of them. The most evident one listed is apologies. An apology is in essence, admitting that you are guilty or that something was your fault. If this is the case, the power slowly diminishes from your hand.

Cutting off communication and affection are quite common when you don’t want to “give in” to your partner. It’s an easy technique that is used by many who want to stand their ground or attempt to ignore the issue. This way, power is still maintained even though the issue is unresolved.

Lastly, adversarial behavior which basically means to act in a manner that is resisting or opposing is eerily similar to someone who is trying to maintain their power.

As one can see, power lies within part of each of the conflicts that Sanford found amongst his couples. It is fair to speculate that omitting the yearning to hold power would in turn, produce the desired behaviors that the individuals sought after in Sanford’s study. If someone is willing to give up their power in a relationship, it can show that they are truly invested in it, possibly decrease adversarial behavior, increase communication and affection and increase the likelihood of an apology.

Relinquishing power may be one of the toughest obstacles to conquer. However, it seems as though once it’s been done, many conflicts can be avoided therefore, paving a way for a healthier relationship.

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