Love is not about having power over people, nor is it about giving over your personal power like some sort of shady dowry in exchange for the love, validation and identity that you need, nor is it about having a relationship on ‘your terms’. If you were in a truly mutually respectful relationship where you are both in reality, you’d have both gone through the discovery phase of dating, moved on into a relationship and organically come together to work on your relationship and the direction. When power plays creep in, disaster is soon to follow.
You are mistaking love for power and so relationships become about you gaining power from someone or having the power to influence and change them, or feeling that because things haven’t gone your way that the only way that you can feel ‘whole’ again or proceed is if you forcibly or passive aggressively grab your power back from them. This is the essence of power plays.
The great English philosopher Bertram Russell argued that power is the fundamental ‘stuff’ of human relationships in the way that energy is to physics. Whether we like it or not, power plays are at the heart of all our relationships. It is impossible to have a meaningful relationship with someone without having some power over that person, and he or she must also have some power over you. The problem is, power plays corrupts, and so for relationships to survive, a balance must be found which will temper that potential corruption.
The case of Brad and Jen
Brenda Schaeffer gave us this wonderful case study on power plays to identify with in our own relationships. Let’s look at the case of Jennifer and Brad. Jennifer and Brad had a potentially good relationship. But Brad was obsessed with his role as rescuer and adviser to many people; a role indicative of one trying to hold power over others. Thus Brad had many ‘victim’ friends demanding his time and energy, people Jennifer called ‘hangers-on’, and not true friends. Though Brad often complained these people ate up his time, he also said he could not say no to them.
Jennifer often felt neglected and lonely, but she said little for several years, always hoping the situation would change. Her style, one she had learned from her family, was to say nothing and feel bad. Since she had not experienced power-sharing in her family, her fear of confronting Brad, and possibly causing him to grow angry and reject her, was very real.
When she finally gathered the courage to confront him, she did so with great feeling and honesty. She told Brad she was no longer willing to postpone her own needs for those of his acquaintances, saying, “When you cancel our weekend plans because a friend wants you to help him move, I feel unimportant to you, hurt and very angry.” She had begun to recognize that her behavior was a pattern carried over from childhood, when she had often bowed to the needs of others in her family. She no longer wanted to do this.
At first, Brad listened sympathetically; later he verbally attacked Jennifer, accusing her of manipulating him with tears and trying to control their relationship. To regain his equilibrium, Brad began to criticize her, withhold affection from her, and lecture her on how their marriage ‘should and would’ be from then on.
Jennifer knew she could comply, stand and affirm her personal dignity, or leave the marriage. Fortunately, she was strong enough to recognize that, although Brad’s behavior hurt her, it stemmed from his fear of losing control and being hurt himself. Determined not to stay a victim, Jennifer managed to maintain detachment and not take his criticism personally.
When opportune times arose, she told Brad how his behavior affected her, although she knew she could not realistically expect to change him. She also made it clear she wanted a healthy marriage where both of them could contribute their own thoughts, feelings, and ways of doing things as equals, without fear of reprisal. Jennifer hoped such an ideal could be achieved; if it couldn’t, she would have no choice but to consider how or if she would remain in this relationship.
Fortunately, both Jennifer and Brad are now working to achieve a stronger, freer relationship. It hasn’t been easy for them; but an improving atmosphere of mutual respect has allowed them to move from a controlling, dependent relationship to one that supports- yet frees- them both. The power plays are less, and they are better for that- individually and as a couple.
Power Plays Within
Winning is an internal process: power is within ourselves and results in self-confidence, self-love, and a desire to give to another. With a sense of confidence, we no longer need to ‘win’ externally. Our chances of achieving fulfillment in a healthy love relationship increase when we finally realize power need not be something one person has at another’s expense. For more help with power plays get in touch with us. We work with depression and wellness whether physical, psychological or spiritual. +27824424779