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Power control and individuality issues in relationships
Power and control are two of the most significant issues in any relationship.
The more trouble the relationship is facing, the more these power and control
issues will come to the surface. The better the relationship is working the less
power and control issues will be a problem.
Number five, the "grown-up" relationship is different. This kind can only be created by both partners working together as a team to discover better ways to minimise power and control issues. At the same time both partners work just as hard to recognise and maintain a strong sense of individuality within the relationship.
1. Traditional Patriarchal.
This type of relationship is based on male dominated teachings typically found in conservative religion based societies where the male is regarded as unquestionably dominant. Patriarchal relationships are based on and justified by their traditional view which regards women as weaker, less intelligent and therefore entitled to be controlled by the stronger male. Neither men nor women question this assumption. Females are expected to be subservient to males on most matters both within and outside the family. In this kind of relationship while the male experiences many opportunities for independence, there is very little opportunity for the female to experience life as an individual. See also separate page about the Inner Patriarch and Inner Matriarch.
2. Traditional Matriarchal.
This type of relationship while theoretically acknowledging the male as the head of the partnership, in practice places the female in the position where she exercises many subtle but powerful forms of control. This results in her having the final say on many significant family issues. Matriarchal relationships tend to regard men as being at best, "little boys" who (when it comes to family matters) need to be guided by stronger women. It is commonly found in many traditional Mediterranean, Eastern European and Jewish societies. Neither male nor females feel much sense of independence or freedom to be themselves as individuals. See also separate page about the Inner Patriarch and Inner Matriarch.
3. Co-dependent relationship
Each partner is focused mainly on finding ways to make the "relationship" work. So each partner experiences a major loss of self (their individual identity.) After a while each partner recognises this loss but they each tend to blame the other partner for causing it. Typically a co-dependent relationship allows neither partner very much room to experience life or to grow as an individual. (See separate page "TheFable of the Two Codependents".)
4. Engulfment-Abandonment relationship (the Dance)
In a relationship like this, each partner would describe themselves as controlled by the other. However, what one is experiencing as "control" is almost totally opposite of what the other is experiencing as "control".
Partner A has strong abandonment issues, a fear of not being close enough to his or her partner. Partner E has the opposite, that is strong issues about being engulfed or smothered by a partner who wants to get too close too much of the time.
Partner A's aim is to continually try to get closer and closer to Partner E to make sure E will not abandon him or her.
Meanwhile Partner E is continually trying to break free from what they see as A’s engulfing, smothering and clinging.
Power and Control issues in this relationship
So Partner A’s experience of being powerless and controlled in the relationship is based on their ever-present fear that E will abandon them. However, E experiences a different sense of being controlled. Partner A who is seen as "controlling" through his or her continually trying to keep E too close.
Partner E with strong engulfment issues is overly concerned about losing his or her own identity, of being overpowered and over-controlled by Partner A. Which as we know is poor old worried A’s way of trying to reduce his or her fear of being abandoned.
Individuality issues in this relationship
There is an irreconcilable conflict here:
The more A tries to keep E close to them the more E will feel overly smothered or controlled. This increases the chance that E will naturally try to spend even less time with A in order to maintain their (E's) sense of individuality.
Interestingly, an E partner, in trying to protect their individuality may have a fear that
they will appear as "too controlling" since they do not like being
controlled themselves. So they tend to avoid methods of control like
manipulation that they regard as "dishonest".
5. The Grown up Relationship
One of the comfortable features of this kind of relationship is that issues around power and control take up very little time and seldom assume much importance for either partner. A peaceful relationship is not one that is free of conflict. It is one where both partners have the ability to deal with conflict in fair and moderate ways.
As they follow the guidelines below and other guides they work out for themselves, grown-up partners learn to define and agree on how their particular relationship can work best for them. There are no standard rules, each couple has to work their own set of rules out between them. However typically there will be some emphasis on issues like:
To achieve this kind of outcome both partners will need to become well practised in different grown-up partnership skills. These will in themselves help define the nature of their individual relationship for example:
Useful conflict resolution skills might include for example:
What is Love? What is commitment? What is the difference ?
The fable of the two codependents
Feedback - please e-mail me John Bligh Nutting - at firstname.lastname@example.org
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