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Power Over Your Partner

A strange phenomena can occur in intimate relationships.  You can go along being a friendly even tempered person all day at work and with friends and then walk through the door at home and turn into an angry demanding ogre.

Reflecting on your behavior you are startled at the metamorphosis.  Who is this other you that gets angry and tries to control your partner with demands, stone-walling or criticism?  What are you really trying to do with this reactive behavior?

In a deeper sense, this type of reactivity is attempting to avoid feeling hurt, fear or sadness and to meet specific needs like:  love, safety, acceptance, belonging, and/or autonomy.  It is helpful to name the specific feelings and needs underneath your reactive behavior for each instance that it occurs.

It's equally important to look at the superficial layer of need with this reactive pattern which is to have power.  I don't include the word power on the needs list because it is so often hijacked by the "power over" mind set.  

Power as a universal need simply means that you are capable of interacting with the world in a way that consistently meets your needs while living in harmony with others.

Right before you metamorphize into an angry ogre some part of you perceives that you have lost power or that your power is threatened.  In this moment, asking yourself to shift to the seemingly vulnerable position of communicating from a NVC consciousness, is like asking yourself to move a mountain.  Your whole system is geared toward power - follow it.  You can do a sort of psychological aikido move and go with the move toward power while adjusting the definition of what it really means to have power in your life.

Real power means that you have the ability to choose how you behave moment by moment according to your values. Rather than being taken over by an angry ogre, you have the power to notice the anger arising.  You have the power to see through it to what's actually happening in the moment.  You have the power to pause and breath deeply for five minutes restoring equilibrium to your physiology.  As the angry ogre part of yourself demands that you tell your partner off, you have the power to turn toward that ogre and say, "Thank you for trying to take care of me.  I am powerful.  I get to decide what's next.  Nobody is taking my choice away."

Like a powerful martial artist, you reside in your center and decide where and how to direct your energy in accord with your values.  From this place of power in yourself, you know that having power over your partner is the last thing you really want.  You want your partner to love and consider you because it comes from their heart and is given freely, not from some fear of what you will do if he or she doesn't behave as you like.

Take a moment to reflect on the last time you were caught in the reactive pattern of trying to control another person.  As you replay the scene this time see yourself doing the aikido move to cultivate your own sense of internal power.  What would you do or say with yourself in that moment?  How might you behave differently from this place of power in yourself?

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2 Responses

  1. Jan 03, 2013

    Another true gem; made me weep to consider the times I was hijacked by the ogre inside. Would love a little more discussion or clue on the akido moves. Not much of an athlete yet!
    Thanks so much for elucidating what power really is.

  2. Feb 15, 2013

    Dear Chris,

    Thank you for your comment and feedback. Yea, the akido I am referring to here is the practice of noticing your inner experience with compassion and curiosity. When we react in aversion to our inner experience we are drained by yet another inner conflict and it's more difficult to access wisdom.

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