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Power Struggles In a Relationship: 19 Signs & Ways to Overcome It

One of the things to avoid is power struggles in a relationship. It’s the opposite of what a partnership is. But how do you avoid this struggle?

power struggles in a relationship

As your relationship develops and grows, you will probably find yourself being a part of a power struggle with your partner. But what are power struggles in a relationship, and why do they happen?

A power struggle sneaks into a relationship when you try to maintain a happy and harmonious relationship, while still holding onto your sense of identity and independence, at the same time.

When you try to be above your partner in some way or you feel threatened when they’re better than you, that’s when a power struggle occurs. [Read: Not happy in a relationship? How to choose the right path for you]

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 shouldn’t call it quits immediately just because you see the signs of power struggles in a relationship.

[Read: 16 signs you’re settling in an unhappy relationship]

How do you define power struggles in a relationship?

When one feels more superior than the other, that’s where the power struggle begins. Arguments that spawn from things like overspending at IKEA or not offering to help clean the house indicate a power struggle. Despite being a team, neither party wants to be questioned or told what to do.

If your girlfriend earns more than you *and you feel threatened by this* or your boyfriend is always controlling you, these are also possible indicators of a power struggle.

This is an issue because a relationship is supposed to be about partnership, so when one feels threatened, then it affects everything in the relationship.

What one lacks, the other makes up for – that’s a relationship. [Read: 15 signs of a lack of respect in a relationship you can’t ignore]

Why does power struggle occur?

It occurs when both partners have either a strong personality and end up clashing or when there’s an issue of partnership and equality in the relationship.

While this can happen in some relationships, you’ll be surprised that some relationships don’t experience this problem.

Instances of a power struggle are when one is obliged to do all the housework, earn more than the other *and you or they get upset with this*, or make all the decisions.

It occurs because there’s clearly a lack of friendship and cooperation in the relationship, and one person thinks they should be above because they play a”more important” role than the other partner. [Read: 15 rules to be a good partner in a relationship & wow your lover]

The most obvious signs of a power struggle

We’ve defined what power struggles in a relationship are, but what are the signs? Keep reading to find out. Some of these, you can spot early on in the relationship.

1. Your strong personalities are both clashing

One of the concrete signs of power struggles in a relationship is when both your strong personalities are clashing. No matter how minor the issue is, you both want to get things your way.

There’s no compromise for either of you. This is one of the most common signs you can spot, even early on in the relationship. [Read: What does being compatible mean in a relationship? The honest truth]

2. They can’t see your point of view

If your partner can’t see things from your point of view, it’s a classic sign of power struggle. They can’t comprehend that there could be a different approach than theirs.

Maybe it’s their ego or pride getting in the way, but the power struggle only grows stronger. [Read: How to develop empathy and master the art of growing a real heart]

3. They always take the lead

When your partner consistently takes the lead in everything *and doesn’t ask you to*, it’s evident there are power struggles in the relationship.

They want to dominate the relationship in every aspect, and they don’t bother asking your opinion or thoughts before making a decision.

4. They’re passionate to a fault

Passion is one of the most endearing qualities anyone can have, except if it causes power struggles.

If their passion makes them believe they’re always in the right and always voice out their emotions and beliefs on you and the relationship, leaving you to have no room to voice on your own, then that’s where the problem begins.

5. They hold grudges

It doesn’t matter how long it’s been or what the grudges are. If there is a power struggle, they’ll hold grudges as this is how they know they’ll gain control over the relationship.

They’ll bring up something from the past and make you feel guilty over it – classic power struggle move. [Read: How to let go of resentment, stop feeding the hate and start living]

14 tips to overcome power struggles in a relationship

If you’re stuck and have no idea where to start, here are the best 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 partners have nothing new to work towards, they end up picking on each other in a bid to “improve” things. This is when discord occurs. You often see this in stagnant relationships or when one person is generally more goal-oriented than the other.

This is why it’s essential to set goals together to overcome power struggles in a relationship.

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.

Work together as a team and stop trying to attack each other. There’s no room for being better than the other in a relationship because this won’t work. You complement each other with your differences as well as your similarities.  [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, don’t argue with each other if your husband lets your teen daughter off for breaking curfew when you clearly stated that she should be grounded.

You can communicate without going at each other’s throats. Talk about it with each other first before yelling. If your partner does something that bothers you, don’t resort to a shouting match. Be calm about it and communicate like adults. [Read: How to communicate in a relationship – 14 steps to a better love]

4. Make the rules and roles clear

The best way to end power struggles in a relationship is to establish who does what clearly. 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.

For instance, one can be focused on working while the other will be focused on household chores.

That’s what you call working together. You can help each other, but don’t 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 to deal with power struggles is to observe other couples who look like they have it all figured out.

Don’t be embarrassed to ask them for tips. Sure, others aren’t perfect, but there is no harm in learning a thing or two from them.

If your best friend and her partner seem to have it together in acting like partners, then observe what they’re doing right.

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. 

It doesn’t automatically mean something’s wrong with you if you seek couples therapy or counseling because of a power struggle.

You’ll be surprised how many couples actually deal with this sort of thing. Counselors and therapists are a goldmine of tips and tricks, and seeing one will do your relationship a whole world of good. [Read: Relationship therapy – 25 clues to know if it’ll help your romance]

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 relationships.

The burden can certainly feel overwhelming, so having a break and prioritizing your mental health could positively impact your relationship. 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?

These questions are important in assessing why there are power struggles in your relationship and how to fix it. Address these issues and make a conscious effort to work through them. [Read: How to find yourself when you feel like you’ve lost your way]

9. Do new things together

As mentioned above, power struggles usually develop over time. This may be because both parties focus on different things daily. Doing things together helps you practice being a team and partners.

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: Things to do with your girlfriend – 45 sweetest things to bring you closer]

10. Understand that you’re a team

A relationship should never be competitive, no matter what. If that happens, why are you in a relationship? They’re your partner, which means you should be in a team.

You’re not playing against each other. Everything you do should be to benefit the relationship. So stop playing against one another, and start playing with each other. If there’s conflict, fix the problem without attacking one another.

11. Don’t expect anything

Expecting something, whether it’s from yourself or your partner, is a straight road to disappointment. Set goals instead of secret expectations and work towards them together.

If you don’t expect anything, you won’t demand too much and put unnecessary pressure on your partner or yourself. The minute you expect a lot from them without making it clear what your expectations are, that’s precisely when a power struggle occurs in a relationship.

12. Let things go

You must learn to let things go. Don’t hold a grudge or bring up the past, and learn to forgive. The more you hold on to grudges, the more you’re trying to assert control in a relationship, and this kind of thing never works out.  [Read: 16 silly habits that can really hurt your relationship]

13. Hold your tongue

By now, you should know that saying what’s on your mind in the heat of the moment does nothing but harm. Remember, you are not a teenager, so there is no need to lash out and hurl hurtful words at your partner. [Read: 10 ways to handle dating someone with anger issues]

It’s tough when you’re so used to expressing your anger to hurt someone with your words to make sure the other person knows you’re angry.

But as you get older, you realize that this is no longer an option for healthy relationships. 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 work through the problem calmly. [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.

Remember why you fell in love in the first place and what it was like when you fell in love. Once you put things into perspective, something like a power struggle will seem silly in comparison.

[Read: 25 must-follow relationship rules for a truly successful romance]

So, how do you overcome power struggles in a relationship?

By acting as a team and putting things in perspective, you learn to value the relationship rather than being above them.

Stop competing with your partner and instead, be in union with them. Better yet, be their best friend, and you both won’t be threatened by one another.

Power struggles in a relationship are not unusual. There are several ways to combat this, but the best way is to still act as a team with them on your side. Don’t attack each other or try to outdo them, but love each other instead. That’s how you defeat a power struggle in love. 

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Preeti Tewari Serai
Preeti Serai
Preeti, the founder of LovePanky, is an eternal optimist and believer in the beauty of love and life. With an exhaustive experience in love, relationships, and ...