I hate the word power. It’s a weighty noun that’s hard to get your mind wrapped around without wanting to croon that Kanye line “No one man should have all that powahhh.”
Nonetheless, I’ve thought about power a lot as of late. A few weeks ago, I sat in on an afternoon-long presentation by communications guru David Grossman discussing the difference between power and influence. That same week I read an essay about power in relationships from a male perspective. I decided it was time to gather my thoughts and spew them per usual.
I polled for today’s post, but received a sparse response from the already limited population of individuals who actually give a fuck what I have to say. Thank goodness I usually have a POV before I poll. Power in relationships is clearly a panty twister of a topic.
This is the part where I am supposed to go on some feminist rant about gender roles, right? You’ve read this blog enough (or maybe you haven’t) so you know I don’t do well with people (people pronounced men) having much power over me. You already know when it comes to male dominance, I’m akin to a five year old dressed in plastic heels yelling at her mother that yes, she will wear these shoes to church today. You already know my views on that “You complete me” bullshit. So, we can move on from the gender conversation.
I opted for the Merriam Webster Online Dictionary definition of power, just so I wouldn’t get my brain frazzled distinguishing among power, influence, dominance, control and a host of other loaded nouns that I use interchangeably. So, for all intents and purposes, Merriam defines power as “the ability to produce an effect.” I can work with that. The dictionary also defined power as “possession of control, authority or influence over others.” Oh, so all those words are basically interchangeable. Great.
I think it would be easy to rant about the tangible forms of power in relationships such as money or sex. But, if you want more information about that topic, I recommend you consult The LOX. Instead, I’m going to do my best Dr. Phil impersonation and talk about emotional power. Emotional power is probably coined in some psychology book. It’s probably fully operationalized. However, I don’t have access to that psychology book so I’m going to go on my normal rant.
In unhealthy relationships, and perhaps even healthy ones at times, there is someone with emotional reign. And, because I use my last relationship as the perpetual poster child for not-so-great relationships, I’ll pull that out of my bag of tricks once more. My ex had the bulk of the emotional power. Some people have a way of letting their misery spill over and stain everything in sight. Some people are the kind of god awful human beings whose moods can dictate the entire trajectory of a conversation, an evening out, or a relationship. Those people exist in relationships, marriages, friendships, offices, everywhere. They are the kind of people who do not know how to contain their choler, trampling over all the cupcakes and rainbows in the world if they are simply in a pissy mood.
Emotional power is the worst kind of power.
You find yourself tip-toeing around the people who host the emotional power. The outcome of your day is merely a byproduct of their mood. You live on the end of a tug of war rope, your fingers bloodied from holding on to your sanity for dear life, only to be yanked across the center line at a moment’s notice. You’re constantly asking “What’s wrong?” or “Are you OK?” and only half of the time are your interrogations met with truth.
Yes, emotional power is the worst kind of power.
I think it’s a safe generalization that we all aspire to equal life partnerships. But, for many of us, we have existed in relationships that are anything but equal. When power reveals itself in both tangible and intangible ways, establishing a genuinely 50/50 connection is the true mark of maturity.