Power Struggles in a Relationship

balanceI would like to preface this post by mentioning Freud/psych-stuff, that when we are dealing with power struggles in a romantic relationship – it is not our significant other who is causing the maddening feelings and reactions in us, they simply an ‘activator’ of earlier struggles we had with our parents, and we deal with them the way we did in our childhood: rebel or comply.

The Anatomy of a Power Struggle

The ‘honeymoon’ period of an early relationship is said to be the most exciting (and since most of us don’t make it to ‘mature love’ is most fulfilling).  Here, each partner wants to please the other, by giving them what they want to give to themselves.  Hence, they are ‘investing’ in the relationship, hoping for a huge windfall of comforts down the line.

Power Struggles commence when one partner feels they have been ‘short-changed’ by the other – aka, they didn’t get what they wanted.  From now on – it’s Game on!

Let’s assume a common theory that at the beginning:

  • Men want Sex (sex, and only sex… maybe throw in some cooking, care-taking, etc.)
  • Women want a Relationship/Romance (dinners out, hand-holding, walks on the park, kissing on the beach, etc.)

[Note that women “want more” from the guy, as the laundry list is un-balanced, LOL]

At some point in dating, both parties feels the other is ‘warm enough’ to give them what they want and often a sense of entitlement develops.   So, let’s say… after a passionate kiss, the guy gets really turned on and starts testing if he can get sex by putting on the ‘moves’.  If the girl is not ready (or feels the relationship is ‘not there yet’) she’ll deny him sex.  The guy may appear ok with her decision, but often times feels ‘defeated’ – the girl is controlling how things progress.  And this, is not ok with him.  😉  He senses that she ‘wants more’, so he retaliates by holding back on the relationship-stuff.

In addition [from a recent experience],  if a guy is really attracted to a girl  — a passionate kiss will not only set his pants on fire; he’ll also experience some other uncomfortable [and often ‘unwelcomed’] sensations in his knees and his chest area.  At this point, he’s super-embarrassed that this particular girl has that much effect on him, where he thinks he’s losing control of himself.  He must get himself back to being cool, calm and collected.

While from holding back on the relationship-stuff, he will also attempt to regain the upper hand by clandestinely yet persistently proposing ‘opportunities’ [for things to escalate physically – sex].  Hoping that the sooner he gets what he wants, the ‘uncomfortable symptoms’ will go away.  It looks something like this:

  • He’ll take you on a date [ but never call it a ‘date’], so you’ll size each other up
  • Your interactions are initally causal and pressure-free
  • Then you engage in some passionate kissing
  • Her: “It’s nice, I am really liking this guy!”
  • Him: “Holy crap, me feeling mushy?! Must get “man-hood” back!  Mission: Sex!”
  • Mission attempt is swarted
  • New Mission: Make Her Feel Un-Special
  • He starts to ‘act out’ in retaliation:
    • Stops asking you out on dates
    • Takes forever to return communications [or goes completely offline]
    • Talks about other women
    • Makes up excuses
    • He’s stingy with his time and attention to the girl
    • Forgets stuff, or that the girl even exists

This is the Pivotal Moment

He Pushed you, to see if you’ll run back to him, because you’ll feel hurt and ignored, looking for re-assurance that he’s still interested.  [His hurtful actions are bestowing the crown of Insecurity on you, and you want no part of it].  Though it feels natural and even rational, to openly ask the guy: “What’s up?  Is something wrong?”.

This is a trap!

Notice how men rarely ‘ask’ for anything verbally… let alone for a reassurance of their status with you.  Why?  To spell it out is not a position of power – the opposite.  If a girl plays into his hand [as he expects], he now has the upper hand, knows you are ‘very’ interested, and how to push your buttons.

This is why so many women are labeled as “insecure” [the guy just pulled the rug from under them, duh].  And this is also why so many women are not satisfied in their relationships that drag on for months or years.

Games are Tiresome

But, what if someone ‘challenges’ you to a duel of wits… You have 3 options:

  1. “Sir, you have offended my honor, and I demand satisfaction!” [Modern version: Challenge accepted!]
  2. Decline the challenge and sever all ties
  3. Eh, wave the white flag – NOT RECOMMENDED

The 3 options above will achieve the following likely outcomes:

  1. Balance of Power
  2. Void and Null
  3. Zero-Sum

How to Achieve the Balance of Power

The tricky thing about the term ‘balance’ is that it implies stability.  However, much like the animal kingdom and nature appear balanced and harmonious, there’s a continuing undercurrent of battle for survival.

Now, who wants a continuing struggle for balance?  The good news is that we are humans, and not even the Caesar’s army would need to battle 24/7.  It is only when someone attempts to influence your actions that are not in your best interest, or serve you any positive purpose that you put on the red cape of the general and defend your boundaries.

It is surprisingly simple to do – just ‘do unto others as they do unto you’.

  • If he’s non-responsive – let him wonder why he hasn’t heard from you in a while
  • If he’s not booking you for dates out – don’t ask ‘when will I see you?’, let him wonder why you’re not “interested” in going out with him
  • If he makes up excuses for not spending time with you — oops, you’re busy too
  • If he calls/asks last minute [or late at night] to “hang out” or crash at you’re place – you’re grandma is visiting. 😉

However, I also know it is extremely hard to do, since you do want to see him and be around him and shower him with affection [in between rare those moments when you don’t think about as a complete ass****].  The longevity and quality of your relationship will depend on your emotional fortitude.

As a last piece of my humble romance advice:

Know them before you love them

Don’t rush things, and however tempting – do not fall in love with a fantasy of what a relationship “should” be like.  You’re in it with another separate creature, who may have an agenda of their own.

Give in proportion to what they give

This will spare you from feeling depleted, short-changed, unappreciated and taken for granted.

Have fun

If this person in your life is adding richness to your daily life – enjoy it!  Even if the two of you are enjoying each other’s company in a non-date setting [working on a project, chatting at a coffee shop, etc.], it can be more spontaneous and fun [not talking sex here] then the ‘scripted’ dates of movie-dinner-smooch-at-the-door-[followed-by-guy-attempting-to-gain-entry].

Yours Truly,


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