Breaking A Power Struggle

Giving Your Partner What S/he Most Wants

Eric and Candy, who have been together two years, are not getting along.  Candy says she needs more emotional support and sensitivity.  Eric wants a more willing and nurturing lover.  Neither of them feels that their needs are being met by the other, and both of them are refusing to give what the other person has asked for until their needs are attended to first.

Sound familiar?  In fact, an intimate relationship is our emotional attempt to get our lifelong needs and desires met that were not met earlier in life.

To have a relationship with another person means you are also having a relationship with the person’s past—and his/her lifelong pain, hurts, angers, fears and disappointments. Most people are looking for someone to repair the past.  They are seeking the nurturing and approval that will, in essence, compensate for what they did not get growing up.

You are just trying to work through unresolved issues and unmet needs from childhood—in an attempt to satisfy your lifelong desire for approval, affection, attention and love.  But your partner, typically, has no idea that he or she is expected to compensate for what you went through long ago.

In the beginning of a relationship, we are more open to giving and being receptive to the other person’s needs and desires.  After the relationship progresses and stabilizes, each person’s needs and unmet lifelong desires emerge.

At that point, we cease primarily wanting to be caregivers in the relationship, and we expect and feel entitled to finally become care receivers.  Now it is our turn to get our needs met.  The only problem with that is that our partners are thinking, feeling and expecting the same thing.  Now two people expect that it’s their turn to receive, and both feel entitled.

You can guess what happens then:  both people will feel cheated.  Both feel the other is intentionally withholding what they rightfully deserve and have waited patiently for all these years to receive.

In most intimate relationships, there’s an unacknowledged and unspoken exchange:  I’ll give you what you want if you’ll give me what I want.  If, therefore, I feel you’re not meeting my needs, I may respond by refusing to give you what I know you want.  The relationship then becomes a power struggle between the two parties over whose needs and desires take priority.   Unfortunately, there are no winners in this battle.  Both people feel righteous and justified in blaming the other person for the lack of closeness in their relationship.

There’s a way out of this trap.  It’s about doing what we are so resistant to: giving the other person what s/he most wants.  You could single handedly break the impasse between the two of you and give your partner what s/he wants—without asking for anything in return.  In other words, you could unlink what you’re giving from what you want to receive, thus ending the tired, old, dead-end power struggles between the two of you.

What is the essence of what s/he needs or has been asking for?  This could be the opportunity for the two of you to break into a brand-new level of intimacy, closeness and happiness.

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