I work with couples regularly who are stuck in the power struggle. They fight with each other over which one is going to act and behave according to the other’s worldview. It sounds something like this “I know how the world works, and if you would just get on board with what I want you to do, then our marriage or relationship would be fine.”
Wouldn’t that be nice? Wouldn’t it be great if it was just as easy as telling our partner what we wanted them to do and they would do it? So, if you answered yes to that question let me ask you this, would you be willing to let your partner make those rules and not yourself, and YOU be the one who does everything you are told? Now everything that they ask you to do, say, want, and believe…is your job to do it. You are expected to perform within their view of the world and do what they want and what they need and have no needs or wants for yourself. Sound good?
No one would voluntarily sign up for that. It is not a love relationship. That is servitude. Love is not love unless it is a choice, and there is no choice in this kind of setup. Yet oftentimes that is exactly what I see in my office. A couple comes in and says that they want their partner to just do or act or behave a certain way and then everything would be fine. There is an expectation, many times even an unspoken expectation, that we want our partners to live up to.
Here’s the problem with that though, both partners have completely different worldviews, and they each want the other to perform in accordance with their own worldview. When there is a disagreement about which one of you is in charge, which worldview the two of you will follow, the power struggle ensues. (A little side note here, if you’re in the power struggle for years and eventually one or the other of you gives up the fight, it is also a marital disaster. The person who loses the power struggle ceases to be a whole person. They become a broken shell, an automaton at best. The one who wins loses all respect for the other who refuses to stand up to them and ultimately resents having to decide everything. No one wants to win the power struggle because it will not be what you expected and your marriage will end just the same.)
So then the question becomes, “How can I get my needs met or let my partner know the things that are most important to me?” There is a line to be walked in this area, because there absolutely is such a thing as asking for too much. There is also a method for how you can safely approach the situation. If someone expects you to do something that you don’t want to do and that you don’t have to do, what is your first reaction? Isn’t it resistance? Don’t you resist someone telling you what to do even if you think what they’re telling you to do is the best thing to do? You resist them for no other reason than because they’re trying to tell you what to do. They’re giving you something to resist.
What if you approach the situation differently? What if you approach your partner with an invitation to take care of your needs and your feelings instead of an expectation, or even in some cases, a direct order? If you can ask and invite, it becomes a “want to” because I want to take care of your feelings and meet your needs, instead of a “have to”, which I’m going to resist on principle.
HOW you approach people with your needs and feelings is even more important than WHAT you are asking. By allowing people the space to have their own worldview that is different from your own, you give them the safety that they need in order to choose to meet your needs and take care of your feelings. In a mature, respectful, safe relationship one partner is not the servant of the other. Both worldviews are honored simultaneously and valued for what they bring to the relationship.
It takes a lot of strength and humility to allow your partner to have a completely different worldview from your own, and it’s a big risk to allow your partner to choose whether or not they would like to love you or take care of your feelings. We’re so needy and fearful that they will choose not to, that we try to force people, and in the process, alienate them. Do you have the strength, the courage, and the humility to risk asking by invitation that your partner meet your needs? Are the needs that you have reasonable? Or do they have too much expectation on your partner behaving a certain way so that you can feel okay? (This is the definition of enmeshment, by the way)
If you’re not sure how to go about making these changes, give us a call at 317-218-3038 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org . I would be happy to help you find the way, and heal the fears and over-neediness underneath so you can risk the invitation instead of forcing the expectation.
Please feel free to forward this blog to anyone you know who might like to read it. Thank you so much for supporting my work!
Healing Hearts provides counseling services to the surrounding communities of Indianapolis, Fishers, Carmel, Zionsville, Westfield, Noblesville, and Geist. E-Counseling is available for residents of Indiana. Call or text today to set up your appointment. 317-218-3038
© 2015 Nancy Eisenman, MSW, LSW