Resentful Men: Power Dynamics in a Relationship

If, as I discussed in an earlier article, men are trained to be entitled (one-up) and women are generally trained to be (one-down) in this culture, why are men so often resentful in their intimate relationships?

This question addresses an insidious dimension of the state of intimate relationships in this culture.

Men, most often in the one-up position in this culture, are trained not to SEE the power dynamics in an intimate relationship, and women are trained not to SAY anything about the power dynamics in their relationships. When an individual’s entitlements (usually the man’s) are finally challenged, they often become angry and then RESENTFUL. “You’re crazy!” or “How dare you criticize me!” is often the initial reaction to an entitlement challenge. Part of the upset may be that the woman went along with her partner’s entitlements without challenging them for a long time. The unequal power arrangement was the “normal” state of things, even if the woman was resentful and unhappy. The traditional marriage contract was often we are one (and I am the one for the man) and yes, we are one (and you are the one, for the woman). This agreement is usually unconscious until the “we are one” myth is challenged and debunked!

coupleIf the woman begins to find her voice and starts complaining about her partner’s entitlements (sometimes louder and louder) and moves to blaming her partner, he is likely to become more and more resentful as well as entitled. Men often feel entitled to leave energetically and emotionally if they don’t like what’s going on, rather than talking about problems in relationships. Sadly, men are usually more unconsciously accepting of being lonely and disconnected in relationships than are most women. And then they wonder why a woman chooses to divorce them rather than stay in a situation where she is more lonely in the relationship than out of it.

So, in summary, many men get angry and resentful at the point where a woman begins to confront their unconscious entitlements. He may truly believe she has no right to do that or she has no right to do so in the WAY she is doing it, which is by yelling, complaining or blaming him. He has a point. Her complaining is not an effective way to bring about the change she wants in the relationship. Instead of complaining, she needs to find out if she has leverage with him meaning finding out whether he cares enough about her to make some changes in his behavior that she requests or, in some instances, demands.

By John Mariner,
Licensed Clinical Social Worker

3 Responses - click here to join the conversation to “Resentful Men: Power Dynamics in a Relationship”

  1. very insightful and helpful article.

  2. Sandi Schnoebelen says:

    I really ejoyed reading your article/blog. After being in a relationship for over 20 years I have found that recognizing patterns and accepting difference has been a key coponent in helping us support one another. When I am upset I tend to approach from a feeling place. I just want to be heard and acknowledged. My husband appears to come from a logical place, He tends to feel like I am blaming. When I express emotions they are generally received by him as something he has to fix. His complaint is usually recieved by myself as many things stuffed, and I am being attacked. Because men grow up typically feeling that it is weak to have feelings, and have limited outlets to express those feelings, they generally feel them much stronger. And women appear more bitchy or or complainant because we let them out more. With that being said when my husband is upset with me it is usually because he feels like I don’t listen and generally wants to be told that he is right. Now I try harder to listen until he is done,even if I feel hurt or offended. For his part he tries to listen until I am done even if he feels like I am blaming him. In the end he does not really want to hear about it unless he can fix it and I don’t want to feel ambushed by all he has stuffed. The compromise is acceptance and recognition that we are each different in our method of expression. Knowing that we love each other and want to be avaiable for one another is important, if I am patient and can listen from a loving place I get amazed about how strongly he feels. If he can do the same he becomes amazed that I am really not blaming him. Then we experiece joy and peace until the next time.

  3. Brenda says:

    Great article, although I was ADD men also carry over feelings of entitlement from another woman or women when your just starting things out too and totally don’t get they are on one hand attracted to you being different than their previous partner, yet threatened by you being different even of your being different is actually healthier and more honest and upfront, They can’t let go of those unhealthy dynamics. I’ve even had an ex try and make me more like his mother who nagged a LOT, I didn’t want to be anything like her and when I confronted him he totally wouldn’t see it, That’s what he was used to and wanted although he simultaneously didn’t like his mother.

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