By R.S. Leger
One might be tempted to think that marriage power struggles are not that common, but anyone who has ever been in a relationship where one is present, is fully aware that power struggles are very real, troublesome, and potentially as destructive modern day marriages as it ever was!
Marriage power struggles go way beyond one person wanting to be the deciding factor in topics of disagreement– a true power-struggle exists when one partner insists on “running the show.” When this kind of marriage problem exists, the result is that there is really no “marriage relationship” at all, and the other partner begins to lose more and more of his or her personal selfhood.
Marriage power struggles usually begin from one person’s ingrained beliefs about what is “right.” Some extreme examples are when a man believes that he must assert his “dominate authority” over his wife and his home. On the opposite side of the same coin, is the idea that a “modern woman” is one-hundred-percent on her own, with little “use” for her husband’s authority. Needless to say, these are not very positive beliefs on which to build a marriage relationship that will last a lifetime!
When these extreme marriage power struggles exist, unless they are resolved there can be only two possible results– either the marriage will fail, or one spouse will fall apart. If both spouses have the willingness and motivation to resolve the marriage problems, as well as the intelligence and personality traits needed to make doing so possible, it can often be resolved. In many cases, however, marriage counseling is necessary– because it is very difficult to shake destructive beliefs from a person when he has held them for much of his life.
There are generally two forms of marriage power struggles.
1. The type where one person insists on “running things”.
2. The type where one person shuts the spouse out of his or her life.
The ability to resolve either problem rests in both spouses’ willingness and readiness to acknowledge two main points: first, that a true marriage “takes two,” and, as such, each person’s beliefs, needs, feelings, and input are equally essential; and second, that each is an individual person who cannot be taken advantage of, silenced, or dismissed.
Whether you have been married for a short period of time or many decades, a common factor in this problem is that many fail to recognize when a marriage power struggle becomes actual abuse. The sad part is that it often exists without a person being fully aware of it.
A marriage power struggle does not have to result in physical, sexual, or even verbal violence in order to be “abuse.” This fact is the reason why many– usually, but not always, women– are in the position of being abused for years and even decades. They believe, erroneously, that if the person has not hit them, they are not being abused.
However, even if a marriage power struggle never escalates to physical violence, other forms of abuse which often occur are equally devastating, and equally destructive. If this sounds odd, the fact is that if a person is abused for a period of time, it has a damaging effect on her mind, her emotions, and her self-esteem.
It is abuse if your spouse exerts control over you, your actions, your life; this can range from telling you what you can and cannot wear, with whom you can and cannot associate, or where you can and cannot go. It is abusive if he monitors your actions, your whereabouts, and your privacy. It is abusive if your feelings, thoughts, beliefs and needs are dismissed as irrelevant or inconsequential. It is abusive if you are frequently put-down, ridiculed, accused or threatened. It is abusive if you are made to feel that you are accountable to your spouse, or if you are made to feel weak, small, helpless, afraid, unintelligent, unattractive, or unworthy.
While these actions are the foundation of an extreme power-struggle, they are also abuse. It is not something which you should tolerate; it is not something which you should ask marriage advice from your friends about; it is a life-diminishing situation for which you need professional assistance.
R.S. Leger is the author of numerous articles on relationships and marriages that help people find common ground and resolve marriage differences and also some solid marriage tips to get both spouses thinking and working together.