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Power. Control. These are the reflexive muscles in a relationship. It is reflexive because orientation toward power and control comes from a deep place in the psyche. Your own orientation depends on both nature and nurture. You were born with certain personality traits and tendencies. You, the newborn, already had a certain temperament that your parents quickly discovered as you showed them how easily you rolled into being a new person in the world or maybe you showed them the exact opposite. But how you respond as a child and later as an adult in relation to power and control is also strongly influenced by your home and school environments.
Power and control exist in human interactions that are as simple as a friendly conversation between two strangers. Even before a chat begins between strangers the two have sized each other up based on clothing, body language, any extras like an expensive briefcase or a fancy car, language and regional dialect, hairstyle, eye contact or the lack thereof, attitude and energy. The viewer’s previous experiences and cultural expectations filter all of that. Romantic sizing up happens in just this way, as well.
Consider relationships that you think that you have some knowledge of. Think back to the relationships that you witnessed as a child: that of your parents and their friends, of your relatives, of your teachers and their spouses. There was power there and you knew it. You knew. Studies show that where the power between mother and father is greatly favoring one parent over the other, the children grow up with a love/hate for the lower ranking parent since survival forces them to identify more strongly with the power grabber. That’s one consequence of what happens in a One Down/Power Taking dynamic. Daughters of narcissistic mothers, for example, of which there are millions, grew up with a mom who was self-absorbed and unable to love but who held all the power in the family. The negative effects on the adult daughter’s life are extremely harmful and lasting.
Very differently, during your childhood, did you witness or really get to experience a romantic relationship between equals? Not a lot of those in effect even though popular culture and common belief holds that most romantic relationships are an equal contract. Think deeply about this one. When have you ever experienced a relationship of equals?
Seriously consider, in the relationships that you are currently aware of, where the power lies. Who has the most control over anything and, maybe, everything in that relationship? Perhaps one person manipulates the other into getting their way or uses various methods of intimidation to control the other. Or, there may exist a tacit agreement of being the one who controls the relationship without democratic decision-making. Who can really make their presence felt in the relationship and how do they do it? In answering any one or all of these questions you are focusing on power in intimate relationships from your own experience. Power. Control. You do know. —AG 2017