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[“Unequal Partnership,” “leading partner,” “implementing partner” are references to my book, Unequal Partnership: a dating guide to loving non-egalitarian relationships.]
We, all, know examples from our own lives or, perhaps, only from the newspapers, of power in the domineering, controlling sense. Have you experienced the will of a person who did not mean well by you but claimed to have your best interest in mind? Too many of us have been at the mercy of a controlling personality determined to dictate reality to us. I have spent a lot of therapy hours on this because of my narcissistic mother and then because of the man that I married. Such a situation can introduce a range of experiences from annoyance to feeling abused. Keep in mind that abuse is not always physical. Emotional/psychological is just as damaging. Conversely, too many of us are that controlling, obnoxious, domineering person who needs to have a person that they can run ragged and drive crazy. If that’s you, please, raise your hand.
A true partnership has shared power between the two partners whether it is an egalitarian arrangement or a non-egalitarian relationship. In an Unequal Partnership or non-egalitarian relationship, no leading partner has any desire or will to dominate, as in take advantage of, his or her partner or anyone else. Leading partners tend to be nurturers who feel a great deal of responsibility for their family’s well-being. The implementing partner is far from a pushover looking to be dominated. The two partners use their different roles to allocate their labor and energy across necessary responsibilities and duties. They keep the needs of their partner first in their minds. Both partners are trusted mature adults working toward the good of the relationship. We refer to their mutual trust plus the execution of their individual set of responsibilities in concert with their partner as a Power With arrangement.
Power Over would look like micromanaging, harassing, possibly belittling, and other strategies aimed at controlling the other person’s behavior. A controlling personality isn’t likely to be introspective and self-correcting. Because of their controlling nature they are unlikely to consider contrasting points of view. The domineering personality is unlikely to really listen to their partner. This out of control personality will not show continuous respect for the partner by taking the partner’s opinions and needs seriously. Make sure that you are spending your precious time with someone who feels secure in himself/herself and, therefore, has no need or desire to try to control you.
Power Over is anathema to the tenets of a partnership. Controlling behavior can be expected to interfere with a person’s freedom to behave naturally at home. Controlling behavior can be expected to destroy trust between the two.
A Power Over arrangement is always a set of implicit agreements that the two parties slid into. No one ever explicitly signs over his or her rights to a bully.
Power With is all about sharing and jointly holding the weight of responsibilities of the relationship. Power With in a partnership is all about respecting each other’s needs. When a partner speaks, the other partner listens and cares. The decision making of the couple is inclusive and ultimately reflects the needs of both partners. —AG 2017