Relationship Psychology: Behind Any Power Struggle There Is a Need for Control


Behind every argument, there is a hidden power struggle. At the early stages of a relationship, getting into a fight resembles a small crack in a water dam. Initially, the crack can be easily fixed, but with the passing of time, the water penetrates the crack and widens it.

As time passes by, couples who have neglected to deal with the core of their dispute or disagreements, find it more and more difficult to do so. In order to avoid the “crack” from becoming wider, it is significant for a couple to aim at resolving disputes or disagreements right at the beginning of their relationship. The best scenario is if the dam has not yet fallen apart, but, if it has already happened, it is best to deal with it as soon as possible. A long quarrel or recurring ones turn into an ongoing crisis that can lead to a divorce.

Many couples get caught up in power struggles for the purpose of gaining control in some areas of their lives. Some try to control the expenditures or economic resources of the family. Others try to control the decision-making process, social and family ties, or how to raise the children. In extreme cases, there are those who seek control of their partner’s behavior, as well as their partner’s thoughts and inner world.

The need to control (by one partner or both) indicates that the relationship is not perceived as a partnership. Namely, each person contributes their share and skills to the relationship, and each one has the legitimacy to be themselves. In displaying power struggles, the opposite is true. It suggests that one (or both) considers themselves the more powerful, understanding, smart, talented, and successful partner of the two, aiming to determine how things will be carried out, without consulting the partner and without the partner’s consent.

A “pattern of power” has been found in people who have a high need for control due to the fact that experiencing loss of control triggers a feeling of helplessness, which evokes anxiety. This is a learned pattern, where a person experiences throughout their life that they must take care of things alone because they have no one to rely upon. This perception results from unresolved past experiences that originated from experiencing a lack of basic trust.

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