Jun 282016 2 Responses

Avoiding Power Struggles in Marriage

Power struggles are a common characteristic of unhealthy marriages.

As a relationship goes bad, couples stop interacting with one another on an equal plane and start trying to get the upper-hand in the relationship. Money, morality, and intelligence are all used to show why I should have control of the relationship. (See: Appreciation in Marriage)

  • I’m smarter than you, so I’m in control.
  • You are immoral, so I get to say what we do.
  • I make all the money, so you have to do what I say.

Power struggles are an attempt to control one another. Often out of fear, each individual tries to take control of the relationship so that they can minimize the potential of pain. Of course it never works. The presence of power struggles actually increase the pain, but neither individual can see how they are contributing to the problem. Instead, they try even harder to gain control.

Eventually the relationship begins a toxic spiral.

The Byproduct of Power Struggles

The presence of power struggles within a relationship have a devastating effect.

Power struggles:

Separate Friends. A couple is supposed to walk hand-in-hand through life. Friendship is born of equality; it’s a relationship between peers. When power struggles occur, friends are separated. One has power and the other doesn’t; this prevents the shared experience which friendship demands. No longer do the spouses respect and admire one another as equals. Instead, they demean and disrespect each other in an attempt to gain power.

Alienate Partners. In a healthy marriage, husbands and wives have each other’s back. We protect one another from a plethora of external threats. When power struggles appear, internal threats become more of a concern than external ones. The very people who are supposed to protect us threaten to injure us. This alienates partners. They have to spend so much time worrying about the motives of one another that they have no ability to trust each other.

Kill Intimacy. As the struggle for power increases, the presence of trust decreases. Where there is no trust, true intimacy cannot be present. The couple might continue to have sex, but even sex can be a tool to gain power. It might be withheld or demanded as an attempt to control the other person. Each individual loses sight of giving pleasure to the other and makes sex all about themselves. No matter the amount of physical contact, intimacy is absent.

Mercy, the Antidote to Power Struggles

Thankfully, there is a simple solution to power struggles. It isn’t an easy solution, but it is simple. Giving and receiving mercy within the marital relationship destroys any semblance for the struggle for power.

Where power struggles exist, mercy does not. Where mercy is present, the struggle for power is absent.

Within marriage, mercy is the recognition of our imperfections and the willingness to choose loving actions no matter what we feel or what our spouse has done. (See: The Lowest Bar for Marital Success)

The gift of mercy does not free a person from all the consequences of their decisions, but it does release them from any debt which is owed to me because of their choices.

Mercy chooses:

  • To support our spouse’s well-being even if they haven’t supported our own
  • To act in love toward our spouse even if their words or actions haven’t been lovable
  • To have a deep empathy and compassion for the humanness of our husband or wife
  • To know how often we make bad choices and to understand others do the same
  • To refuse to manipulate or exploit our spouse for our own good
  • To reject the temptation of acting out of fear or trying to protect our own hearts
  • Friendship, partnership, and intimacy with our spouse over control
  • To speak kindly and with restraint to one another
  • To keep disagreements on topic and not to stray into past issues
  • To attack problems together rather than use problems as an opportunity to attack one another
  • To confront problems rather than living in denial or overlooking issues
  • To extend grace far beyond any human reason

When couples choose to give and receive mercy, the struggle for power disappears and a meaningful relationship grows. Sadly, this requires participation from both spouses. Gladly, it can start with just one spouse choosing mercy. (See: When Power Intersects Lack of Appreciation)

How do you avoid power struggles in marriage? Daily choose to love one another rather than trying to control each other.



2 Responses to Avoiding Power Struggles in Marriage
  1. […] In most situations, a couple is unaware of the power struggle taking place between them. A husband t... https://www.kevinathompson.com/phrases-that-reveal-inequality-in-marriage

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