How to identify your partnership tug-of-war, before your partnership turns into a battle.
By Orna & Matthew Walters — Written on Apr 22, 2023
Photo: Lightfield Studios / shutterstock
We all want the type of love that creates a true partnership — one that can last and be fulfilling for both partners over a lifetime. So why do some relationships that start out great grow and evolve, while others drift apart? The answer may lie in how the couple responds to the “power struggle” stage of a relationship.
Lasting love isn’t something that just happens when you meet some mythical right person. Love requires you regularly take action to nurture it. Falling out of love isn’t a mysterious process that just happens, it’s the result of ignoring issues that come between you.
Conflict is inevitable in an intimate relationship. This doesn’t mean that it has to blow up into an argument, but you’ll have to deal with challenges, miscommunication, and differences. Unfortunately, too many people avoid conflict as much as possible and may defer to someone to get some peace.
Or, they may continue a long fight in order to reach an agreement that may not be possible.
Rather than looking for agreement, simply be authentic and share how you feel. Use “I” language to avoid pointing the finger at your partner.
Regardless of how you do it, you need to meet your challenges head-on. Ignoring a rising power struggle in your relationship can cause a serious rift.
Once you recognize the signs of a power struggle problem in your relationship, you can do the work to get back on track with your partner toward a lasting, collaborative love.
Here are six warning signs that you’re in a power struggle with your partner
1. You don’t move past one essential stage in your relationship
Every relationship will progress from the romance stage to the power struggle stage. When the chemical high of falling in love wears off, you’re left with a bit of a hangover. A lot of people mistake this for falling out of love. Hence, the phrase, “I love you but I’m not in love with you.”
The power struggle stage allows each person to individuate within the relationship. It can be a battle of egos with both of you fighting to be right. You want your partner to agree with you or see things your way. It feels like the two of you are at odds and you’re in a tug of war. It’s easy to think that because you’re in a power struggle this is not your person. This stage is a natural occurrence and not a sign that you’re falling out of love. No couple will skip the power struggle stage of a relationship!
Instead, let go of the rope and make a choice to put aside your ego. It only takes one person to change the dynamic and find your way out of the power struggle stage. Breaking the cycle occurs when you both choose the relationship over your ego desires and create a new habit of deferring to one another’s strengths.
2. You’ve sacrificed your needs
Putting aside your needs to keep the peace and avoid conflict at all costs will only breed anger and resentment. You can’t go without your needs being met for too long; it will eat away at your self-worth and your happiness.
Going into sacrifice as a strategy to earn love causes an imbalance in the relationship. Only one person’s needs are being met causing an imbalance that is not sustainable and eventually, you’ll fall out of love.
To avoid growing resentment and falling out of love, speak up and ask for what you need. This risk will pay off because you can connect emotionally with your partner. They may surprise you and gladly step up to meet your needs. Someone who loves you wants you to feel happy and is more than willing to give you what you need.
3. You’re not expressing your feelings
Whether you’re feeling loving toward your partner or frustrated if you don’t say something they won’t know. Emotional intimacy is created by speaking about your feelings regularly. You can fall out of love when you don’t connect emotionally and fall into the trap of making assumptions.
Your partner doesn’t come with special mind-reading powers. Just because you’re thinking of your partner or doing things for them, doesn’t mean that they are feeling loved.
Conversely, if you are upset about something don’t swallow your feelings. Speak up. Keep your emotional sink clean by regularly cleaning up your disagreements and sharing your upset, no matter how minor. You’ll feel better having expressed it and you can use the situation to create stronger emotional intimacy ensuring you don’t fall out of love.
4. You’ve removed the rose-colored glasses
During the high of the romance phase of a relationship, you’ll see your partner in their best light and ignore the things that could be an issue. You end up giving this person you barely know the benefit of the doubt before they’ve earned it. Once the romance fades, you may notice that you’ve become critical of your partner.
It’s like you took off your rose-colored glasses and now you see your partner in the harsh light. You’ve stopped giving them the benefit of the doubt, even though they’ve probably earned it. Focusing on all the small things that annoy you about your partner will cause you to fall out of love.
Instead, don’t wear rose-colored glasses from the beginning. Wait until your partner has proven themselves and earned the benefit of the doubt. Once you’ve made it through the power struggle stage, you can put your rose-colored glasses on and focus on what you love about them.
5. Feedback feels more like criticism
When requests or suggestions start to feel like criticisms, you’re in danger of falling out of love. In your defensiveness, you’re shifting the blame onto your partner for your feelings of criticism, or you take their feedback as an accusation. It becomes impossible for your partner to discuss issues between the two of you.
Speaking how you feel and making requests is important in a relationship. You both won’t come together intuitively knowing what the other wants or needs. Most people share love in the way they want to receive it without being curious about what their partner desires.
Stop taking your partner’s feedback as criticism and get curious about what they need. There is usually a deeper need underneath the request that is putting extra energy into their communication. Or you may have a sensitivity about their suggestion. Taking things personally will create a wedge between you and you’re in danger of falling out of love.
6. You’re not managing your triggers well
Everyone has triggers from their childhood wounds. Issues around safety, communication, or personal space can become flashpoints for conflict. When triggered your conscious mind goes offline, and you’re operating from a survival instinct of fight, flight, or freeze.
Your partner is not responsible for your triggers. They weren’t in your life when the circumstances that created them occurred. If you’re blaming your partner for your triggers then you will fall out of love because you don’t feel safe.
Acknowledging your triggers and discussing them with your partner can help create empathy and compassion. Having tools to calm yourself down and becoming a master of your emotional life will allow you to manage your triggers. It’s unrealistic to think you won’t get triggered in a relationship. Being open with each other will create more intimacy and trust between you, allowing you to stay connected and not fall out of love.
An intimate romantic relationship requires continual care and attention. Love doesn’t last because of luck, fate, or destiny. Love lasts because you don’t take your partner for granted, stay curious about them, and regularly take risks to be authentic.
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Orna and Matthew Walters are soulmate coaches who have been featured guest experts on Bravo’s The Millionaire Matchmaker. They’re the authors of the free ebook, 7 Steps To Soulmating.
This article was originally published at Creating Love On Purpose. Reprinted with permission from the author.