Relationships can force us to see things in new and ever-changing ways. We must always be asking questions — of ourselves and of our partners. The answers we find can very much help us identify the strengths and weaknesses of our current connections. If our questions are met with resistance, it could mean you are experiencing communication issues or power struggles.
But how do we know which scenario is accurate?
Some Common Communication Issues
- Avoidance and/or indirectness: We may simply dodge tough conversations. In other cases, we might fall back on passive aggressive replies or expect our partner to read our mind.
- Allowing emotions to dominate: Relationships stir emotions. If we cannot control them, it makes healthy communication virtually impossible.
- Ineffective listening: You may be distracted (cough, phone, cough) or assuming you know what is about to be said and often interrupting.
- “You” statements: “I” statements give us ownership of our perspectives and feelings and do not put our partners on the defensive.
- Getting personal: This is when one person opts to attack character instead of addressing the behavior.
Signs You Are in a Power Struggle
This includes petty ways of making each other jealous. In today’s social media world, these counterproductive games can play out in vague, passive aggressive posts. The mere act of not “liking” your partner’s post may be an unhealthy way to send a message.
Couples may come from different backgrounds, resulting in wide financial and/or educational gaps. Does your partner often disrespect where you are in your life or what you do for work? Such an uneven power dynamic can be exploited to the point of abuse.
Is everything a contest that one or both of you take much too seriously?
Insults as Conversation
Put-downs and one-liners have their place — once in a blue moon. If they become your language, it’s time for an urgent re-evaluation of the underlying issues.
Lack of Intimacy
Many couples “settle” differences within the realm of their sex life. What they do or don’t do — and when they do it — can speaks volumes.
Fear of Speaking Your Mind
If you have an opinion but feel nervous about stating it, this is far more than a communication issue. You are in a power struggle and you are not winning.
A Few Ways to Resolve a Power Struggle
If all signs point to more than a communication issue, it is essential that you both begin working to change. Power struggles may be exciting in viral TV shows. In relationships, they are toxic. Some suggestions to consider:
- Clear the Air: Create a safe space where power imbalances can be called out.
- Regain Perspective: Re-establish your status as a team. Pledge to reject the pettiness and competition and treat each other with respect.
- Accountability: If one partner has been abusive, they must take responsibility for this behavior. They must apologize, show remorse, and do the work to ensure it does not happen again.
- Be Realistic: Conflict and disagreements are inevitable and normal. Create a protocol for dealing with these differences in a productive manner.
- Communicate: Bringing things back to the top, communication still plays a major role. Commit to honing and refining your communication as an ongoing process.
Calling in an “Outside Power” For Both Power Struggles and Communication Issues
Finally, power struggles can be difficult to identify and even tougher to manage. To be clear, in cases of abuse or exploitation, it’s crucial that the victim prioritize safety. For those instances that are less dire, couples may desire to reconcile but not know where to start. This is where counseling is a viable option. An unbiased, professional mediator is ideally placed to help you balance out the power and find a resolution.
Posted by Counseling Wise on May 13, 2019