How To Turn The 'Power Struggle' Stage Of Your Relationship Into A Lifetime Bond

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How To Turn The 'Power Struggle' Stage Of Your Relationship Into A Lifetime Bond

If we no longer feel any love for our partner, if we fight continuously, or we live together in mutual silence, why shouldn’t we call it quits? If we are convinced that we are with the “wrong” person (different values, different goals, different parenting styles, different everything) why bother trying to work it out? 

Although research supports the economic, emotional and physical health aspects of being in a committed partnership and the adverse consequences of divorce on the partners as well as their children, research becomes meaningless when we are suffering.

Embedded in a “quick fix” culture, our minds want an immediate alleviation from what we perceive as causing us pain. We become convinced that our partners cause us great distress and unhappiness. Divorce, we reason, will free us from our pain and provide us with the motivation to take care of ourselves and be more available to our children.

When the mind works this way, why would someone want to take the hard road, the road less traveled, to face relational conflict in order to get to the other side?

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Conflict in love is just another facet of being alive

Joseph Campbell once wrote that what humans are seeking, “is an experience of being alive … so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.”

Many of our actions and dreams are geared towards arriving at a day when we will feel such glorious fulfillment. Some put the emphasis on outside resources to fill the emptiness that is gnawing deep inside. Some sustain themselves in “busy-ness” to drown out the silence within.



Others may indulge in alcohol, drugs, or affairs to try to capture and sustain the peak moments of oneness they can temporarily (and falsely) bring. But the majority of us look toward relationships to fulfill a strong, personal goal of making us feel complete. We live and ache for love. And when we first fall in love, the deep yearning is momentarily satisfied.

But before long, the love chemicals that once pumped throughout our body begin to wane.

Soon enough, conflict occurs. And sooner still, we find ourselves wondering what happened to the effortless experience of romance.

Welcome to the second stage of relationships: the Power Struggle.

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Struggling for power, looking for answers

But we reframe the Power Struggle as the opportunity to ask, “What is going on here?” not so we can question who we fell in love with but so we can understand why we fell in love. It is our fundamental belief that falling in love is nature’s design for us to heal and grow.

Romance bonds us. Conflict awakens us. If we don’t seek to understand the why, it will only resurface somewhere else as a client once described:

“If we are willing to wade into the fire, it’s our best opportunity to heal. But we need to stay with or explore the reactivity. If we run from it, or we medicate it against it, it just keeps being stuck back down. It’s like those styrene balls. You’ve got all these balls under the water, and pretty soon you’re going to get tired and one is going to pop up and the other is going to pop up. The more I suppress them, the bigger they get so they really become a crisis.”

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Indulge your inner Robert Frost

The road less traveled — the road to a conscious relationship — is, to us, the only way thru the Power Struggle. Otherwise, every aspect of our life becomes distorted and crippled under the weight of our own demons.



Once we can love maturely and perfectly with our partner, we can tap into the pure and perfect love of the universe. Why choose a relationship? Because love is our salvation.

If you travel the difficult road beyond romantic love, through the Power Struggle, and into a conscious relationship, you and your partner will experience “the rapture of being alive.”

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Harville Hendrix, Ph. D. and Helen LaKelly Hunt, Ph.D. are partners in life and work. They are co-creators of Imago Relationship Theory & Therapy practiced in 62 countries by over 2500 therapists and co-founders of Safe Conversations LLC, a social movement and relational intervention based on the latest relational sciences to facilitate the creation of a relational civilization.

This article was originally published at Harville & Helen. Reprinted with permission from the author.