Ending the conflict between you and your partner is not the most important thing for healing to occur. Rather, ending the wounds that contribute to the conflict is the most important thing for true and lasting healing to occur in your relationship.
In yesterday’s article, the concept of Attraction was discussed. To review, even though we are born whole and whole, we were injured by our primary caregivers between birth and early adulthood (usually unintentionally). These hurts can result in fears such as abandonment, rejection, suffocation, shame, or helplessness.
We have a composite picture of all the positive and negative traits of our primary caregivers deep within our unconscious mind. This is called our Imago or image. We are attracted to a person who fits our Imago. Our unconscious mind chooses our partner for the purpose of healing childhood wounds.
After Attraction we moved to Fight for power.
During the power struggle phase, no one is listening; partners interrupt each other frequently and are very reactive. Empathy, understanding and compassion, so desperately needed, are nowhere to be found. It can be the scariest and most painful stage of a relationship.
Why does the power struggle phase occur?
Think about what your children do when they want your attention. When mine were younger, they cried, screamed, or screamed in an attempt to get what they wanted.
As adults in our relationships, the struggle for power is actually a cry for connection that is communicated through guilt, shame, and criticism. More importantly, it is letting your partner know that your needs are not being met and that you are also very angry about it.
Here’s a typical exchange of how this power struggle plays out in this scenario:
“You have to know exactly what I need so I don’t have to ask for it. If I ask you, then you really don’t want to give it to me because I had to ask.”
Without a doubt, a vicious and unproductive circle of communication. Let’s break this down to explore the underlying struggle here.
First, there is an assumption by one partner that the other partner should intrinsically know everybody of the needs of the other. This is, of course, impossible. Second, it is implied that certain needs should not be requested. Perhaps the person who does not want to ask about the need is really saying that they feel it is not worth having that particular need met.
Then, if the need is requested, it loses its value: its root. It is possible that the need begins to seem that it is no longer so important because apparently the other partner does not have it in importance.
A power struggle soon ensues over these unmet and unarticulated needs. The struggle is really about a couple being frustrated, and perhaps provoked, by the way a previous caregiver responded (or didn’t respond) to needs.
In the context of their existing relationship, of their “here and now”, the couple wants the new caregiver to know everything and to reach out to automatically satisfy their unspoken needs and heal these wounds. When this does not occur, then tension, conflict and the struggle for power are exaggerated.
Power struggle for the power to love
These struggles, conflicts, and clamoring for one’s needs to be met is learned behavior that just doesn’t work well in adult relationships and leaves couples feeling incomprehensible, unhappy, and disconnected.
To heal and grow in relationships, couples must learn a different way of communicating that will help them build and maintain a safe, supportive, and loving relationship. Couples must learn to go beyond these struggles. The couple must learn to use love as an anchor, a rock, to turn to when the world seems to be crumbling around them and they need something to hold onto for safety.
However, to do this there must be a commitment to change. Tomorrow we will explore how change can start to happen.