Albeit normal, power struggles in a relationship is not healthy. Thwarting it is one of the best things that you can do to stay happy with your partner.
As your relationship develops and ages, you will probably find yourself being a part of a power struggle with your partner. This happens when you try to maintain a happy and harmonious relationship while still holding onto your sense of identity and independence. Arguments that spawn from things like overspending at IKEA or not offering to help clean the house are indicative of a power struggle. This is because despite being a team, neither party wants to be questioned or told what to do.
Couples involved in power struggles usually fight more, and there is an overall sense of unhappiness in the relationship. Sadly, many couples are unable to work through these issues and end up breaking up.
Before taking that extreme step, you need to do all you can to resolve this struggle. You also have to determine whether the problems you’re facing run deeper than you may have initially thought. You may be dealing with issues that are far larger than a mere power struggle, but once you sort them out, you will be able to maintain a healthy relationship.
14 tips to overcome power struggles in a relationship
If you’re stuck and have no idea where to start, here are 14 ways to overcome power struggles in a relationship. Although these steps are easier said than done, there is no reason why you shouldn’t try your best.
#1 Set new goals
When both parties have nothing new to work towards, they end up picking on each other in a bid to “improve” things. This is when discord occurs. Once you set new goals and work towards them together, you will find that the little things are all part and parcel of being in a relationship and that there are bigger things to worry about. [Read: 18 critical signs of an unhealthy relationship]
#2 Stop manipulating each other
Another way to overcome the power struggle in a relationship is to stop manipulating each other. You are a team and need to operate as such. You should also realize that there is no right or wrong side when trying to make things work. There is no need for competition, no need to one-up each other, and certainly no need to resort to lying. [Read: 12 signs you’re being subtly manipulated by your lover]
#3 Communicate often
If your partner does something that bothers you, don’t resort to a shouting match. Be calm about it and communicate like adults. For example, if your husband lets your teen daughter off for breaking curfew when you clearly stated that she should be grounded, don’t argue with each other. Let it go and have a civil conversation about working as a team and not as individuals.
#4 Make the rules and roles clear
The best way to end a power struggle in a relationship is to clearly establish who does what. This way, there will be little room for argument, and both parties will have tasks to focus on without the need to invade each other’s territories or jobs. Be sure to stick to it, though, and don’t nitpick because that’s when you will fall back into your old ways of struggling and arguing with each other.
For example, Andrea will do the cooking and cleaning, and Tommy will be in charge of the kids’ carpooling and groceries. Sure, they can help each other out, but under no circumstances should one party try to hijack and take control of what the other is doing. [Read: 20 things happy couples don’t ever do in a perfect relationship]
#5 Observe other couples
The only way to learn is to observe other couples who look like they have it all figured out. Don’t be embarrassed to ask them for tips. I’m sure that others aren’t perfect, but there is no harm in learning a thing or two from them. It may just give you an idea of how to tackle your unique power struggle. [Read: 16 secrets to a perfectly happy relationship]
#6 Seek professional help
Don’t be afraid to seek professional help, as these individuals are specifically trained to help couples work through issues such as these. Counselors and therapists are a goldmine of tips and tricks, and seeing one will do your relationship a whole world of good. Plus, it’s a good idea to have an unbiased third party to act as the referee.
#7 Take some time off
Perhaps one of the reasons why you’re constantly in a power struggle is because of the overwhelming stresses of everyday life. Kids, work, the mortgage, and everything else will take a toll on even the strongest of relationships. If you can manage it, go somewhere completely new with your partner to take your minds off the real world. Focus on each other and learn to communicate again. Think of it as couple’s therapy without the therapist. [Read: The 10 most romantic vacation destinations for troubled couples]
#8 Reevaluate your life
Take a moment to think about where you are in life. Have you accomplished what you set out to do? Are you happy with the life that you have forged together? What else do you want to do? Ask yourself these questions, take a step back, and look at the big picture. Once you reevaluate your life, you will probably find reasons for the ongoing power struggle that you’re experiencing with your partner. Address these issues and make a conscious effort to work through them.
#9 Do new things together
As mentioned above, power struggles usually develop over time. This may be because both parties focus on different things on a daily basis. For example, you both have different jobs that drain your time and energy and at the end of the day, you don’t have time for each other. Everything from signing up for salsa classes to cooking together twice a week will put both of you on the same page and give you the chance to reconnect. [Read: 16 non-sexual touches to feel really connected and loved]
#10 Understand that you’re a team
You are not playing against each other. Everything you do should be to benefit the relationship. Sure, there are things that you can indulge in without your partner, such as heading for a fishing trip with the boys or getting your nails done with the girls; but at the end of the day, your routine needs to reflect your ability to operate as a team.
#11 Don’t expect anything
Expecting something, whether it’s from yourself or from your partner, is a straight road to disappointment. Set goals instead of expectations and work towards them together.
By now, you should know that saying what’s on your mind in the heat of the moment does nothing but harm. Remember that you are not a teenager, so there is no need to lash out and hurl hurtful words at your partner. If you feel like you are about to explode, remove yourself from the situation. Take a walk or head to another part of the house to think and compose yourself before reconvening to calmly work through problem. [Read: 15 rules to be a really good partner in a relationship]
#14 Rediscover each other
Remind yourselves of why you fell in love in the first place. Recreate what it was like when you first got together before the career, before the house, before the kids. Go back to a time when it was just about the two of you and appreciate the fact that you have made it this far. Once you put things into perspective, something like a power struggle will seem silly in comparison.
Struggling for power is not unusual in a relationship. There are a myriad of ways that you can combat this to bring things back to the way they were. Figuring it out together is the best thing that you can do for your relationship. Don’t give up on your partner, because nothing worth keeping is easy.
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Born in Singapore and raised in Malaysia to multi-racial parents, Lianne is a self-proclaimed travel and food junkie. Having traveled extensively around the wor...