7 Subtle Signs of Unhealthy Power Dynamics in a Marriage
You and your partner are head over heels - but when was the last time you thought about the power dynamic in your union? It's actually something to watch out for, especially because a truly healthy relationship cannot thrive without a balanced breakup. In other words, when a person has the final say on everything - thoughts, opinions, finances - feelings of love are quickly replaced by resentment, anger, and conflict. What are the subtle signs of a problem? We asked William Schroeder and Kelly Edwards of Just Mind Counseling to weigh up.
1. Your actions make you feel isolated and alone.
Does your husband refuse all plans with other couples? Does your wife make fun of you when you call your mother for advice? According to Edwards, some people feel isolated from friends and family in unhealthy relationships because their partner finds an excuse not to go or pout or not have a good time while they are there. This has the potential to alter your self-esteem and cut you off from the support systems that exist outside of your relationship - a serious red flag. It's okay if your partner is less social than you are. You just need to find ways to meet your own social needs without them getting upset about you.
2. You don't respect your privacy.
If your partner is regularly going over your personal stuff - think email, text messages, social media accounts - it is a sign that the power dynamics are off. "If you have a relationship culture where you feel this is okay or promote transparency, you need to make sure that you have a very explicit agreement about it, and not just assume it," Edwards explains. If you're the sniff, it is also worth considering your own role in facilitating an unhealthy balance of power. Instead, try to pinpoint exactly what is making you insecure (e.g., your concern that your sister-in-law is a better sounding board for your spouse than you) and address this matter head-on so that you can and must respect each other's privacy do not know the details of each exchange.
3. They don't care about your interests.
One of the biggest signs of a healthy power dynamic is when the two of you have different hobbies or interests, Edwards says. However, when your partner changes the way he treats you because of the things you do yourself, it shows an unhealthy attachment or insecurity that is a form of suspicion. You may have recently learned tennis but your partner doesn't know - or isn't interested - in how to play. If they find you guilty of the time you spend in court or berate you for skipping the occasional dinner to go to your lesson, that is a sign that something is wrong.
4. You rely on shame as a tool for change.
When one partner is doing above average and the other is not advancing, it is often frustrating. But if you or your spouse shame the other, that's a red flag. For example, if your passive husband aggressively proclaims, "Gosh, it must be nice never having to worry about meal planning," while juggling multiple pots and pans on the burner, it is an indication that he is expects you to change without actually having a conversation about what you need from each other. A more productive approach would be to sit down and say, “Hey, do you think we could find a way to split up the cooking? I'm really drowning and try to think about it every night. "
5. You regularly threaten to end the relationship in order to stop certain behaviors.
You may have to work late at night. Or you are frustrated that your spouse always makes a point of going out with friends. If the "solution" to this problem is threatening a separation or divorce, dangle the outcome of your relationship as punishment - a sign that the power dynamic is off.
6. You focus on a problem and focus on your hurt feelings.
You ask your husband why he is leaving your toddler unattended in the yard. He starts moaning (or screaming in anger) in ways you never trust him or think he's a bad father. That's a problem, says Edwards. "Feelings of temper and hurt can be used as a form of control when the conversation is being moved away from problematic behavior or difficult conversation, so that all of the energy is directed towards nurturing those feelings instead."
7. You refuse to discuss or avoid matters that are important to you.
You really want to create a budget. They keep stabbing or saying this is not a priority. "Unnecessary avoidance or unwillingness to have conversations about important things are more likely to be red flags for power imbalances in a relationship," added Edwards. A thoughtful spouse will come together to create a plan of action on how to divide and conquer to achieve your goal. This can mean that you take on most of the responsibility (e.g., "Why not do some research on what your ideal budget is, then we can sit down and put the numbers in?"), But what does it matter? They support your efforts and are ready to at least try to try things out your way.
The solution may require outside help
Edwards explains that these types of unhealthy behaviors - or power imbalances - were generally modeled on individuals in their childhood or early teens. "They come from a deep fear of feeling not worthy of love and protection," he says. You can try to discuss things together, but it may be worthwhile to seek help from a couples therapist who can help you understand and appreciate each other's differences. After all, you don't have to react the same way to life, but you have to respect where the other person is from and work to strike a balance.
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