Power, Control and What Is Our Responsibility

Power, Control and What Is Our Responsibility

The best relationships are ones built on a foundation of trust and mutual respect. In those relationships, couples are willing to communicate openly, disagree when necessary, and reach compromises.  Ideally, we should all strive for this, but what happens when trust issues enter the picture?  What happens when the power dynamics shift and remain unequal?  This article will explore warning signs and how to deal with each issue.

  • Mutually Beneficial Relationships.
  • Power Imbalances.
  • Signs of a Power Imbalance.
  • Three Signs of Trust Issues.
  • How to Build Trust in Relationships.

Mutually Beneficial Relationships:

Several key components make up a mutually beneficial relationship.  Among them is the ability of each party to take ownership of their mistakes.  Taking responsibility for mistakes can be uncomfortable and induce anxiety, but it’s essential for maintaining trust and honesty in the relationship.  Owning up to your mistakes also helps you grow and reaffirms your partner’s trust.

Another aspect of mutually beneficial relationships is the ability to make decisions together.  In those types of relationships, couples are willing to talk openly with each other and come to an agreement.  While these conversations could quickly become an argument, it’s essential to realize that name-calling, yelling, and other aggressive behaviors are detrimental to the decision-making process and the relationship.

“Communication is to a relationship like oxygen is to life.”

One of the areas where couples struggle the most is communication.  In the age of texting, social media, and non-verbal cues, understanding each other has become infinitely more complicated.  With your partner, you should feel like you are in a safe place where you can openly share anything and everything without fear of judgment or ridicule.  Feeling comfortable expressing your needs is the hallmark of a solid relationship.

Girl Stop Apologizing

Girl Stop Apologizing


Power Imbalances:

An imbalance of power within a relationship can have devastating consequences, such as abuse of power, depression, co-dependency, etc.  One of the ways we can combat these power imbalances is to not think of situations in binary terms – more simply, we should stop trying to view our decisions as black and white, win or lose. 

When situations are either win or lose, one person in the relationship will have more power than the other.  For the less powerful person, this can lead to depressive thoughts, anxiety, lowered self-esteem, etc.  On the other hand, the more powerful person in the relationship may start to feel entitled, dominant, and controlling.  Instead, consider these situations more of a spectrum – what are you comfortable conceding to reach a mutual understanding? 

Signs of a Power Imbalance:

Dozens of signs indicate an imbalance of power within a relationship.  Here are a few of the most common ones.  If these sound familiar, it might be time to take new stock of your relationship.

  1. One partner always has to have the last word. No matter the discussion, one partner feels compelled to have the final word every time. Arguments should not be win or lost, and both parties should feel comfortable voicing their opinions to reach a mutual understanding.
  2. One partner is expected to pay for everything. While relationships don’t always reach the point of mixing finances, no party should feel as though they are compelled to pay for meals or activities or gifts to gain the other’s attention.

                      “If the feelings are mutual, the effort will be equal.”

  1. One partner refuses to compromise. If you disagree on a subject matter, only to find that one of you always gets your way, it might be time to re-evaluate your willingness (or theirs) to compromise.
  2. One partner makes all the decisions. This can range from significant choices like where you will live to more minor decisions such as plans for the weekend or who is responsible for household chores.

Three Signs of Trust Issues

Trust issues often stem from power imbalances or previous relationships that garnered negative consequences from a power imbalance.  Here are three signs that trust issues may be a concern: 

You keep people at arm’s length – This coping mechanism is a means of keeping yourself protected. If your trust has been betrayed in the past, you may tend to put more space between yourself and others to lessen the odds of being hurt again.

  1. You don’t trust what other people tell you – Much like keeping people at arm’s length, the inability to believe what others tell you is another defense mechanism. While unquestioningly trusting everyone in the world would be ill-advised, it is best to give people the benefit of the doubt to create mutual trust in a relationship. 
  2. You always expect the worst – If you always expect the worst, you’ll never be disappointed. This pessimistic point of view is a strategy to prevent situations that imbue sadness, regret, and disappointment.  However, entering a relationship with such an ideology will lead to tension and misunderstanding between the two partners.

“Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.”

If trust issues are a chronic problem, psychotherapy and counseling may help.  Often, trust issues arise because of underlying problems, such as past traumatic events or underlying mental illness.  This can manifest in the form of narcissistic abuse.  Fortunately, there are programs in place to assist and help with narcissistic abuse recovery.  Professionals in counseling and psychology can help you understand the basis of your trust issues, equip you with the means to reverse them, and build healthier bridges with your partner. It is essential to know how a narcissist becomes a narcissist to prevent getting involved in a relationship with one.  

How to Build Trust in a Relationship

Building trust is one of the most challenging and rewarding things you can do for your relationship.  This type of relationship means opening yourself up – becoming vulnerable and hoping your partner doesn’t hurt you.  Here are a few ways that you can build trust in your relationship:

  1. Let go of the past – Don’t carry it if you’ve been hurt. Your identity is more than what’s happened to you.  Remember the lessons from prior experiences, but forgive yourself and others.  This is the key to moving forward.  You’re human; you make mistakes.  Other people make mistakes as well.  No one is perfect, so decide to forgive yourself and let what happened in the past remain in the past.  
  2. Be honest with one another – Say what you mean and mean what you say. If you need to, ask for clarification.  Try to empathize and understand why your partner feels the way they do.  Be patient during your conversations.  Feel free to ask for a break if things are becoming heated or heading in the wrong direction.  Give the subject a rest and return to it later.  In addition, try to give your partner the benefit of the doubt whenever you can.  It will help to build trust and understanding. 
  3. Be vulnerable – This is one of the most challenging things to do, especially if you’ve been hurt. Try opening up slowly and explain your reservations to your partner. Let them honestly get to know you one detail at a time.  This will allow you to unburden yourself of any secrets without fear of judgment.

“Without communication, there is no relationship. Without respect, there is no love. Without trust, there is no reason to continue.”

Power, control, and responsibility can define your relationship with others.  The key to a mutually beneficial relationship is to strike a balance of power between the two parties.  If you and your partner are willing to expend the time and effort, you can utilize the abovementioned techniques to create a robust and balanced relationship.