Love’s journey provides us with tremendous opportunities to grow both, personally and relationally. In a conscious partnership we can develop greater intimacy with ourselves and each other. On the way we discover and face our own and each others’ potential, limitations, expectations, and develop personal power.
This path is not only sweet and smooth. Sometimes there are stormy times, challenges and crises. We enter power struggles as we learn by trial and error to develop and protect healthy boundaries and to assert our needs. These power struggles are only constructive if both partners gain glimpses of him or herself as empowered, and if both are able to appreciate and learn from each others’ strengths. Power struggles are destructive when we stay stuck in them and keep shaming and blaming each other or withdraw resentfully over long periods of time.
In our dominant culture, we have little guidance or role models for healthy and growthful use of power. What is presented as power is mainly “power over” rather than “power with”. It seems that someone else has to lose for us to win. Many of us muddle through, and “lose ourselves in the misery of power struggles, in the despair of emotional isolation, or the sleep of addiction, before we wake up” (Michael Gurian, Love’s Journey).
As we wake up we get in touch with our individuality, our unique selves. We begin to develop our adult part and to take care of our “inner child” (John Bradshaw), both physically and psychologically. This makes it possible for us to feel good about ourselves, becoming independent from worrying about how others see us. We notice our habitual patterns and internalised messages we have created in order to cope and manage.
It takes a lot of energy to reject ourselves, to hide, to fight. If conflicts are not expressed externally, they turn into an inner power struggle, where one voice in us fights another. These are our inner demons, self doubt, fear of domination, inadequacy and abandonment, our sense of feeling worthless. Without guidance and self discipline, we may throw out the baby with the bath water, leave jobs and relationships lightly, dive into obsessive distractions or escape into cults.
The support of counselling can help in confronting our dark sides. We discover the strength in our vulnerability, our soft spot, where compassion lives. We develop resilience, the ability to hang in when the going gets tough. We develop patience as we discover, “this shall pass too”. We fight our pain less and overcome it easier, when we don’t fear it so much. We don’t crumble so readily, when we experience obstacles as opportunities. We feel the joy of being alive and tremendous appreciation for the good times when we surface from a dark place with renewed strength and insights.
Meeting power struggles can initiate us into a spiritual journey. We come to places where we can do nothing else but trust and love ourselves, exactly as and where we are. This then has a positive effect on our relationship.
Couples that have survived the inner battles with their demons will have moved on from their power struggle with each other. They develop a more accepting attitude, where they stop trying to change each other and let changes happen naturally, where they know and accept each other’s limitations, where they cherish each other’s strength, where they know and feel safe to express what they feel and need, where they know how to deal with conflict constructively, and where they can apologize and appreciate.
Mirjam Busch & Rudolf Jarosewitsch
Copyright © 9/2000 by Rumijabu | Originally published in Southshore Beacon #121, September 2000