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What does it take to have a passionate, intimate, and vibrant relationship? Finding the right balance of power in a relationship and achieving it can be very difficult. Having power doesn’t necessarily involve domination or control, but instead should involve equality and fairness. Researcher John Gottman believes that fairness requires flexibility and responsiveness to each other’s emotions and needs. Sociologist Pepper Schwartz found in her research that couples define a good relationship as having a good friendship based on mutual respect and equal dignity. Respect means that each person’s opinion counts and is worthy of expression without the risk of negative consequences. Another aspect of respect is being aware of and interested in the needs of your partner. Shared power means sharing in responsibilities and having equal authority over major decisions.
In some relationships, couples undermine each other’s decisions and also get caught up in keeping score of how many tasks each person completes. Obviously this can create anger, resentment, and eventually lead to independent decision-making along with detachment. In other situations, one person is continuously accommodating the other person and giving in to their demands. They have lost or given up their voice and allow their spouse to make all of the major decisions. The balance in the relationship is totally off and negative feelings develop probably from both individuals. Couples can quickly become disconnected when the imbalance lingers.
So how do you achieve a balance of power in your relationship? Being responsive to each other’s needs, feelings, and opinions though conversation, connection, and attention fosters equality in the relationship. Practice mutual respect by allowing each person to maintain an individual identity and actively support the well-being of each other. Shared power also requires both parties to work at conflict management and replace defensiveness with listening and validating each other’s emotions. Lastly, achieving fairness and equality requires trust and the ability to be vulnerable without fear of attack. Those in healthy relationships have learned how to share the power and value the input of their spouse.