In another relationship, a couple agreed to follow a budget. However, he violates their agreement. His hobby is restoring his car. Frequently, he would buy expensive items for his car without conferring with her. What was interesting is his explanation as to why he violated their agreement. He did not want to be controlled! To him buying what he wanted was a sign of independence. His strong need for independence came from growing up in a home where his parents were controlling. His lack of influence caused him to become hypersensitive about being controlled by others. He reacts to anything that feels like control. The problem is that he often confuses acts of caring as controlling. When he feels controlled, he exerts his independence. When independence is such a strong issue, there is often a power struggle over the most trivial of actions.
The above examples are illustrations of the issues of power and status. One partner is in control and makes most of the decisions, while the other partner doesn't feel he or she has any say or influence.
Power struggles are often found in the second stage of a relationship. It is during this stage that we struggle with trying to balance between what we want or need and what our partner wants or needs. Some couples are not good at handling this struggle so the relationship becomes gridlocked.
Dr. Gottman, a University of Washington professor who has studied marriages, discovered something very interesting among 130 newlyweds. In his long term study of newlywed couples, he found that even in the first few months of marriage, men who allow their wives to influence them have happier marriages and are less likely to divorce than men who resist their wives' influence. When a man is not willing to share power with his partner, there is an 81% chance that the marriage will self-destruct.
Gottman's research discovered that the most stable marriages/relationships are those where the husband treats his wife with respect and does not resist power-sharing and decision-making. The study pointed out that when the couple disagree, these husbands actively search for common ground rather than insist on getting their way.
Next month we will continue with this issue and others that couples are called to handle.