“Every relationship is fundamentally a power struggle, and the individual in power is whoever likes the other person less” -Chuck Klosterman
There is a power dynamic in every relationship. Whether we like to admit or not, that underlying dynamic dictates who has the power and who doesn’t.
We can romanticize relationships however we want, but at the end of the day, they are heavily influenced by worldly symbols of power: money, beauty, status, and influence. In history, it was customary to arrange advantageous marriages between royal families as a way to merge kingdoms, build territory, or form alliances. In the modern world, we’re less inclined to choose a partner based on practical reasons, but it still impacts our choices. People often end up with someone within their league of ’power symbols.’
Studies show that physically mismatched couples (where one partner is significantly more attractive than the other) tend to have less successful relationships. This happens because the more attractive person is less committed, and/or the less attractive one is insecure and jealous. The exception to this is if one party is considerably wealthier than the other.
Imbalances of power are not only determined by external symbols. They are also affected by our internal sense of power, i.e., our self-esteem, beliefs, and concept of self. Our inner sense of power plays a vital role in how we relate to others and how we let them treat us.
When someone’s personal power is invested in another, they develop an unhealthy attachment to them. In her book, “Anatomy of the Spirit,” intuitive healer, Caroline Myss, refers to this type of person as an “acquisitioner.” This is a person who feels they must acquire power from a source outside themselves – a relationship, money, material objects, or a professional title,
An acquisitioner has a deep-seated belief of “alone, I am nothing” that’s rooted in their feelings of inadequacy. People like this are scared to express their needs. They compromise and tolerate bad behavior from their partner because their entire sense of worth and identity is based on being accepted. Losing their relationship would mean losing themselves.
As a recovered acquisitioner, I found the most effective way to restore balance and find my way back to power was by investigating what led me to that point. I looked at my family history, beliefs, and attitudes from a place of self-compassion, knowing I did the best I could at that time.
I had to actively develop mental stamina and strength to discard the unhealthy ways of thinking that made me sell out in my relationships. My healing journey began when I started seeing myself as an individual with goals and dreams that did not require another person to validate them.
Detaching from a love connection you’ve invested in isn’t easy, no matter how dysfunctional it is. In fact, it can be terrifying. On a conceptual level, we may understand it, but our minds can’t compete with our emotions. The heart wants what it wants, and it’s hard to override its passions.
No amount of convincing will work on someone who is knee-deep in a toxic connection and who is under the illusion that they are in love. They’ll find a way to rationalize their behavior because they’re essentially ‘hooked’ on the other person so they can’t see clearly, like an addiction.
In her book, Myss, who investigates this dynamic on the level of the human energy system, found that acquisitions essentially connect their energetic circuits to their “power targets.”
When this happens, the person who represents our power target draws power away from our energy field and into themselves. We literally lose power to the person because our circuits are attached to that person’s energy field.
In situations like that, recovery starts with the acknowledgment that we are energetic beings who are responsible for who we allow into our energetic space. We need to actively evaluate the dynamics of power in all our relationships and become attuned to who gives and takes it away.
Your intuition and body are the best guides when it comes to evaluating power sources. Look out for these five warning signs that you’re giving away your power in your relationships:
1. You don’t feel like yourself anymore: A tell-tale sign that you’re losing power is feeling disconnected from your true self. Your whole life and identity have become so tied up to the other person that you have lost touch with everything that makes you, you: your interests, hobbies, your friends, and community. You might feel uncomfortable to speak up and express your real thoughts because you’re worried about what the other person might think. When you allow them to call the shots in your life, you gradually drift away from your essence.
2. You feel the need to sacrifice what’s important to you: There is always one partner in an imbalanced relationship that must make sacrifices that negatively affect their energy and wellbeing. While all relationships require some degree of compromise, you’ll know you’re over-giving when you have to give up the things that are most important to you. This could include a self-care practice like a 15-minute meditation in the morning or spending time on a passion project. If another person asks you to abandon those activities to be at their beck and call, you’ll eventually feel depleted because of your unmet needs and desires.
3. You don’t feel heard, understood, or appreciated: Relationships are supposed to be safe harbors where we can get our emotional needs met and reciprocate. A glacial and impersonal partner who makes little or no effort to make you feel fully understood and appreciated is not meeting their end of the bargain. Both partners should be active listeners who pay attention to what the other person says and helps to meet their needs. Being seen and heard makes a person feel important. Everyone should feel special and like they matter. It’s the hallmark of a genuine intimate connection.
4. You’re drained from stressing out about them liking you: I’m a firm believer that the body never lies. You’ll feel it when a relationship is taking your power away. It’s one of the biggest energy sappers out there because it triggers deep emotions. If you’re tired, drained, and irritable, you need to pay attention because it’s your body’s cry for help. In addition to feelings of deprivation, you may experience anxiety from fears of them losing interest in you. You’ll do whatever it takes to make them like you – this can mess with your head and leave you feeling unbalanced.
5. You’re resentful because you’re constantly giving and getting nothing back: The mechanism of ‘give and take’ is inherent to all relationships. You receive something after you’ve offered something. When the balance is broken, resentment arises in one or both partners. If you’re in a relationship where you’re always giving, and the other person is selfishly receiving, you can be sure you’re losing power. Being a caring and considerate person is admirable, but if you’re continually prioritizing the needs of others above your own, you’ll feel neglected and shortchanged. The injustice and feelings of unfairness can leave you feeling like a victim.
The quality of the relationships that you have in your life reflects the quality of the relationship that you have with yourself. When you believe that you are worthy of love and that you deserve someone who will treat you with respect and dignity, you’ll no longer tolerate bad behavior. Know that your heart is precious, and whoever you share it with should prove that they see the value in what you have to offer. They must be willing to give you a piece of their heart in return.
All my best on your journey,
Question for you: Are you, or have you ever been in a relationship where you gave away your power? How did it make you feel? What did you learn from it?
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