Moving Beyond the Power Struggle


Remember the song that said “For everything…, turn, turn turn, there is a season…, turn turn, turn.”  This is a phrase from Ecclesiastes that provides deep reflection on some automatic behaviors in relationships.   After the “Romantic Stage” of all relationships there comes a period in which the partners feel hurt and betrayed by each other.  This is often referred to as the “Power Struggle”.  At this time conflicts are not resolved and resentments begin to build up inside both partners. 

Many people handle this stage by turning away from the other person.  It just feels safer and less fraught with frustration and grief.  The endless repetitions of all too familiar fights are avoided by shutting down, stonewalling the conversation, and turning inward.  This can have devastating effects on a love relationship.

Unbeknownst to you, your partner feels lost and abandoned.  S/he feels unimportant and unloved by you as you stop talking and control your own reactivity through silence.  What you are doing to feel secure and to avoid the conflict feels provocative and offensive to your partner.  Obviously this is not going to move the relationship closer.

 What is required here feels counter-intuitive.  You must stop your retreat and turn toward your partner.  You must abandon the security of your fortress of silence and approach your partner with an open hand and a curious mind set.  What you say is not as important as making the approach with warmth and a desire to be closer to your friend.

~ Dr. Howard Lambert





One of my favorite poets, Mary Oliver, once posed the poetic question, “What will you do with your one wild and precious life?” I have found this to be a wonder-filled, thought and action-provoking question, and one that is particularly poignant as we leap into 2012 (which coincidently happens to be a Leap Year).  Another similarly provocative question that I like to ponder around the New Year is, ‘What would you do if you had no fear and you knew that you could not fail?’

A colleague of mine (and an excellent writing coach), Andrea Costantine, recently asked the question, “What would it take to make 2012 your best year yet?”  As I consider my answer to this question, I recall the notion that what you focus on expands. In other words, if I focus on what I fear, or what I don’t want (my “NO”), I will tend to move in that direction, and that will play a large role in determining what I create and draw into my life. If, on the other hand, I focus on what I love, on what is life-affirming, and on what I do want in my life (my ‘YES!’), that will be the direction I will tend to move. As my daughter, at age 4 wisely proclaimed, “Peace attracts peace.”

 With this in mind, I challenge you to consider the following questions:

  • What is your vision of the best year ever?
  • What would you do if you were to focus on what you truly want in your life in 2012? How might that look, feel, sound?
  • Who is the person you will need to be or become in order to bring this vision into reality?
  • What support might be helpful (e.g. a friend or relative, a coach, a therapist) as you stretch into your new vision?

 As you enter the portal of this New (Leap) Year, I invite you to discover your “YES!!!” and then take the leap!

~ Suzanne Mariner