Who has the power in your relationship? the sexologue.ca

In a couple, the power can be declined in several ways. Who decides? Who will do what? Who will go where and when?

There are also more insidious forms of power within a couple, for example who is right? Who chooses how a conflict is resolved? Who will feel like they are making sacrifices? Power struggles and conflicts are an integral part of married life. At one point or another, it will be necessary to face an emotional impasse.

Emotional stalemate: when partners want to respond to diametrically opposed desires / needs. For example, one of the couple insists on trying new sexual practices, while the other is very uncomfortable with it. Thus, one partner’s need for novelty is in conflict with the other’s need for security. Usually in an emotional impasse, partners are at the point where their respective positions have become rigid.

Decision-making position vs demand position

For each dispute (sexual or not) in a couple, there is a person in position decision-making and one in demand. The person in demand is the one who wants something (to do more housework, to have more sexuality, to increase intimacy, to go on a couple trip, to have one or more children, etc.) Unless you force the other, the person in demand n’a not really the last word. She can argue, blame, denigrate, convince, but never make the final decision. It is submitted to the partner with the decision-making position.

The person in decision-making position in other words: “The big end of the stick”, because she wants the said thing less. She may not feel like she is in this position, but she does. His choice will then be put in place, so imposing Where collaborative. She can also acquiesce in the wishes of the other in a way conformist, to avoid baffle or breakage.

What is your strategy in each of these positions?

Are you abusing your decision-making power?

Are you handling the request position badly?

Are you trying to collaborate or take revenge on the other?

What are your partner’s strategies?

On what subjects do you have the decision-making position? Of request?

Two strategies are possible in each position, be there imposing strategy or the conformist strategy.

The imposing strategy is used by the partner being typically more dominant. This strategy usually comes with the reflex of managing the problems or disagreements in the couple by erasing the needs of the other. This person is used to being very rigid in his decision-making and will have a lot of influence on the choice to be made. And this, even in the demand position, because it crushes the other by different means. That person which imposes itself will often be the favored person in conflicts. With this habit, that person may feel:

  • A feeling ofentitlement, or that everything is due to him
  • The desire to abuse their decision-making power (to settle the conflict faster, to move on, etc.)
  • Wanting revenge on his partner in a demand position
  • Do not easily accept the position of demand and the feeling of injustice
  • Be angry often
  • Invalidate / minimize the needs and feelings of his partner

With the imposing strategy, comes the need for approval of the other through emotional fusion (being the same). As the imposing person does not tolerate difference, he crushes it by forcing the other to conform to his desires and needs. This is how the feeling of “entitlement” is built.

The conformist strategy is characterized by submission to the other. The conformist person will tend to be trop flexible in conflict resolution, even if it is in the decision-making position. As she often feels insecure, she will abdicate her choices in order to resolve conflicts quickly. By always suppressing their desires, this person will be able to develop the feelings of:

  • Living from injustice
  • Feeling at the mercy of the person using the tax strategy
  • Not to feel important in the eyes of the partner
  • Want to make the other miserable, insist too much
  • Seeking a lot of attention

With the conformist strategy Often comes an increased sensitivity to feeling ignored. Due to the reflex of this person to forget himself, the chances are that the more he tries to communicate his needs to the other, the more he will do it in an “aggressive” way (screaming, crying, verbal or psychological violence, etc. .) This way of reacting, in reaction to the rigidity of the other partner, will have the effect of placing the couple in a circle where the same discussions and conflicts seem to always reappear.

“Most marital quarrels are insoluble (…) We must rather seek to understand the difference that underlies the conflict – and learn to live with it, honoring and respecting each other. “

John Gottman, psychology researcher and clinician

A step (👣) towards collaboration

How to come to the end of a conflict, with all its strategies and positions? This is the way to react to theemotional dead end which will matter most, not the resolution of the conflict as such. A necessary first step is to accept that we cannot meet all of our partner’s needs perfectly. Also, we must therefore accept that our needs will probably not be met perfectly. Then, it is about putting everyone’s needs on an equal footing, even if we can only meet the needs of one partner at a time..

It also means recognizing that the members of the couple are full people interacting, not a single entity with a single common reality. Each person has different values, realities and needs. Occasionally, your desire will be the one that takes precedence and in other circumstances, that of the other will take precedence, it is then simply necessary to balance the frequency of each one. This can only happen when partners are ready to face the possible risks of disagreements, rejection or misunderstandings. They must also be prepared to tolerate the anxiety it brings, to be able to overcome it and reach new horizons in the couple. And to do this, specific challenges await each partner.

The main challenge of the person in decision-making position will be to accept the guilt felt for not always having known how to meet the needs of the other. She must stopabuse one’s decision-making power always taking their choice as a priority and having the humility to offer others what they want. It is legitimate to choose your desire in certain situations, it is a question of doing it with compassion towards the person in position of request. To leave more room for the other and make them feel appreciated and recognized, the person in the decision-making position can:

  • Asking each other or responding with questions to foster dialogue and connection
  • Practice putting yourself in the other’s shoes, promoting compassion
  • Focus on listening to the needs of the other, even if we do not respond to their request
  • Accept being influenced by the other person, if you usually use the tax strategy
  • Feeling legitimate to meet your needs before those of your partner, if you generally use a conformist strategy

the challenge of the person in demand position will be to accept that the partner does not meet their desires, in this particular situation. More specifically, he helps:

  • Avoid awesome strategies so that the other abdicates (make guilty, get angry, shout, denigrate, play the victim)
  • Prevent negative feelings and thoughts towards the other
  • Resist a desire for revenge when we find ourselves in the decision-making position
  • To be grateful when the partner in decision-making position chosen to respond to the desire of the person in demand
  • Be and to stay firm, in a respectful manner, on elements that are not subject to discussion / compromise, if our strategy is typically to be conformist

A step towards collaboration starts with knowing yourself

To get out of the dynamic brought about by imposing and conformist strategies, it is possible to move towards a new method, namely strategy collaborative. Start by questioning who is more imposing, who is more conformist and under what circumstances! In addition, it is about being aware that the roles will be reversed in other circumstances and that your strategy used during the last conflict will probably color the next ones.

We want to say thanks to the author of this post for this outstanding content

Who has the power in your relationship? the sexologue.ca

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