One of the greatest struggles we can experience in a marriage is an imbalance of power, or a conflict. Whether this imbalance comes as a result of a financial dispute, who uses the car while the other is in the shop, or even who is supposed to be doing dishes tonight, a power imbalance can hurt a relationship in a major way.
Yes, it is true, a marriage is a partnership. But what happens when that partnership starts to —metaphorically speaking— take on water? What happens when the power starts to shift in your spouse’s direction? That momentum can cause a lot of damage, and it is important, if you recognize that imbalance, to stop it before it gets any worse.
I have discovered a few ways that we can rebalance a relationship that might be showing signs of trouble.
The high power party can do their best to restrain the power they possess. For example, though a husband may be physically stronger than his wife, he can restrain by not being violent or abusive. That seems like an easy thing to do, given that example, but think about the power you might possess over your spouse that you might absentmindedly be using over them.
- Do you ever talk down to them when they are wrong? Do you roll your eyes?
- Do you, as the breadwinner, ever withhold financial information from your spouse for selfish reasons?
These might warrant some restraint. That is for you to evaluate.
Focus on Interdependence
A low power party can focus on their interdependence in the relationship rather than constantly claim their need isn’t being met. Yes, even low power individuals can initiate a power imbalance.
It really takes two to tango, as they say. In conflict, if you find yourself only talking about your needs and feeling powerless to do anything, you might actually be the one creating the imbalance. Each party needs to realize it is, most of the time, a give and take situation. Both can be happy, but sometimes that requires sacrifice.
One way to rebalance a relationship is through calm persistence. Through consistently doing the right thing, by not lashing out or recklessly disengaging, you can help restore balance to a relationship in a way that shows you do have power.
An example of this outside of a marriage might be something as simple as waiting on hold for that 30 minutes to get what you need. Calm persistence regularly pays off, but most see it as ineffective because there is no telling when it will pay off.
The worst thing someone can do in an imbalanced relationship is give up. That tends to throw the power from one side to the other, with the one giving up ending up with all the power, getting you nowhere. It is like stepping off a teeter totter when the other party is ten feet in the air, it will knock the wind out of you.
Stonewalling, ignoring, or walking away can sometimes be the worst thing you can do in a conflict you are invested in. Treating someone with such disrespect as to say “you are no longer worth my time” does irreparable damage and could be the end of that relationship.
This can many times be the most humbling, and therefore most difficult, thing for a high power individual to do in an imbalance. Empowering a low power individual is inviting them to take some of the power you possess to bring you further onto equal ground, and is a sign of compassion and a desire to rebuild. It might not end every conflict, but it can bring it closer to a resolution.
If you are empowered by a high power party, be sure to treat that power with respect. Using it as a launching pad for your attack assures your message to get across that you don’t care for or respect the other party’s motives for peace.
At the end of it all, a power imbalance is easily managed under the right attitude. A willing party is able to make all the difference. Making sure our homes are free of power imbalances allows us to express love meaningfully. It shows our children that conflict is natural, and so is conflict resolution.