I’ve blogged before about the balance of power in relationships, specifically in the context of interviewing for jobs. I’ve been thinking lately about the balance of power more in the context of personal relationships – more specifically how I always seem to assume that the balance is tilted against me.
I’ve nailed down two ideas that I think cause that distortion:
- I always assume everyone knows and thinks about everything as much as I do. All those other distortions that like to float around in my head are not floating around in everyone else’s heads. “If they knew it all,” I tell myself, “they would find a way to use it against me and keep the power in the relationship in their corner.”
- I assume that people are as concerned and fearful of that balance as I am. I’ll talk about why I am as aware of it as I am, but as I’ve listened to people around me, I’ve realized that I am likely more aware it the whole concept of balancing power than others are.
Side note: It’s not surprising that when I’m digging to the root of thought distortions, the word “assume” often enters the equation.
So why do I care about balance in power so greatly? Mainly it’s because it’s not always a distortion. It is a very real concept that an effective abuser will use to manipulate – even subtly or unintentionally – to keep the relationship working to their advantage. I’ve experienced this in churches, social settings and professional settings. It happened on the playground in elementary school and the locker room in middle and high schools. Its impacted my physical relationships, drives my people pleasing habits, and is often at the root of my social anxiety.
With these patterns and habbits firmly in place in my life, I’ve also noticed that I have a tendency to just hand over the upper hand in relationships. “You are going to loose it eventually anyway,” I tell myself, “Just save everyone the time and trouble.” As I said, more often than not this is the product of my own hurts and habbits, not necessarily the product of the actual relationship. On a fine scale, there is going to be a constant shift in that balance even in the best of relationships, but I think (in theory – I look forward to practicing and finding out) that a truly healthy relationship will not be as aware of it as I seem to have been.
The question is (and this is often my question after thinking too much about a thing): What do I do about it? Lists are fun – I’ll make another one:
- Recognize the difference between the real thing and the distortion or mere perception of it.
- Commit to change what I can (the distorted thoughts and my submission to needless imbalances) and accept what i cannot (the behaviors and thoughts of others).
- If I see that i have given the power away for what ever reason, I can either remove myself from the relationship to the greatest extent possible and limit the impact it has on my daily life OR I can prayerfully and patiently wait for the balance to be restored. In a healthy relationship, I believe it always will be.