Every one of us wants to be in a happy, healthy relationship. For that to happen, we have to understand the difference between healthy relationship dynamics and unhealthy relationship dynamics. The main difference is in the balance of power that we see in healthy relationships.
Healthy relationship dynamics are when both partners are able to equally contribute their feelings, thoughts, and opinions and that means that it’s unhealthy when one person takes complete control of the relationship.
Every relationship therapist will agree that the balance of power is essential for a healthy relationship. In any case, whatever you are fighting about could be just a symptom of relationship dynamic issues such as power, affect, or respect. You need to like and respect each other, but also have a balance of power.
Let’s find out what relationship dynamics are and learn more about power dynamics in a relationship and we will then focus on the signs of unhealthy power dynamics in a relationship. If there is a problem with the balance of power in your relationship, try relationship counseling; don’t hesitate to seek help from a relationship therapist.
What are relationship dynamics?
So what are relationship dynamics? Let’s first make it clear what a relationship is. I know you know that, but relationships aren’t just romantic ones, as you have relationships with your colleagues, friends, family members, children…
At any rate, the way you communicate, interact, and work with the people you have a relationship with is the foundation of your experience of life and that’s what creates your relationship dynamics. It’s a part of relationship growth, relationship development, and relationship building. In this article, we are going to focus on power dynamics.
The word dynamics actually means the history or the pattern of change, growth, and development. There are three basic relationship dynamics: power, affect, and respect. Most of the time, when couples fight, it has less to do with what they’re discussing and more to do with the relationship dynamics.
A lot of relationships have issues of control and power. Every one of us likes to influence our partner, but we don’t like being influenced by our partner. We don’t like to be controlled, but we would like to control what our partner does.
Most conflicts in relationships actually have nothing to do with what’s being discussed, but with a fight over control and power. Who’s in charge? We actually fight about that.
Instead of addressing the true problem, which is a struggle for control, couples argue over issues such as household tasks.
Another issue relationships experience is that of liking and disliking. You are actually always signaling how you feel about the person you’re talking to. Your nonverbal behavior, such as your facial expressions, eye contact, and posture, signal your feelings.
Whether it’s acceptance and warmth or indifference and hostility, you’re constantly signaling something. So, the problems in a relationship are often about how you two feel about each other instead of what you’re discussing. When you’re fighting about something trivial, you’re actually saying to your partner that you don’t really like them right now.
View the problems in terms of affect – whether you like each other or dislike each other – and it will help you see what’s really going on.
Respect is another issue that could be behind relationship problems. You can demonstrate either respect or disrespect for your partner and their values.
When you two fight about something, consider whether it is really about the topic at hand or if it is about dismissing the other person. Both partners need to feel like their opinions matter, and that their thoughts are heard.
11 signs of unhealthy relationship dynamics
1. You feel like you can’t speak up for yourself
Do you feel comfortable expressing your opinions? How about speaking up for yourself if necessary? If that’s the case, you are in a healthy relationship, but if it isn’t, you have a problem in your relationship.
The reason why you feel like you can’t speak up for yourself is that you are afraid of your partner rejecting a part of you. It’s either that or you’re afraid that they will retaliate against you somehow. You don’t feel comfortable with expressing your opinions because your partner has control over you.
This is not the way a relationship should work. You can’t be afraid of your partner and let them have such control over you. Find help, and always try to speak up for yourself.
2. They always have to be right and win the argument
Let’s be honest, all couples fight sometimes. The difference is that healthy couples always fight fair so if your partner always has to have the last word in every argument, it’s a major red flag.
When your partner always has to be right and win the argument, it means that they don’t care about resolving the issue. All they care about is being right and ending the fight in a way that will give them the upper hand.
Your partner doesn’t care if you are heard as long as they win the argument. That is a very unhealthy pattern of behavior, and it has to stop.
3. They make decisions without you
Not only does your partner make decisions without you, but they also don’t take your feelings into account and don’t ask you for your input. This can really make you feel left out and unappreciated, so it’s very unhealthy.
If your partner doesn’t consult you before they make decisions, they only care about getting their own way and that’s especially true if they don’t incorporate your desires, preferences, or needs into the process of making a decision.
Your partner’s needs are always prioritized, which gives them more power in the relationship. All they care about is getting their own way, and it’s not fair to you.
4. They don’t respect you
A foundation of mutual respect is necessary for the survival of a relationship so if your partner doesn’t respect you the same as you respect them, it’s a big problem.
Does your partner express contempt for you, your feelings, ideas, desires, needs… ? The reason why your partner puts you down is because they build themselves up that way. It shows that they have more power in the relationship than you, and it’s not a way to have a healthy relationship. Respect is almost equally important as love in a relationship.
5. You don’t feel connected to them
Not only that you don’t always feel connected to them as you should in a healthy relationship, but you feel alone and that is a very bad sign that your relationship isn’t healthy.
Unhealthy power dynamics make you lose your ability to affect the changes that you want and need in the relationship. That makes you feel isolated because it makes you feel like you have no impact on your life.
You should never feel alone when you’re in a relationship. Happy couples always feel connected to each other, and you should work on achieving that.
6. They threaten you with physical violence
Does your partner physically intimidate you? Physical violence or threats of it are unacceptable so if you are physically intimidated or abused, leave the relationship right now.
Make a plan to leave safely, and don’t ever look back. This sort of thing is your partner’s way of silencing you so they can get what they want.
The worst case of an unhealthy power dynamic is abuse, and it should never be tolerated. There is no excuse for violence, and you should find help immediately.
7. They want you to attend to their needs with no regard for yours
Meeting each other’s needs is something all happy couples strive to do. Of course, it’s unfair when your partner wants you to meet their needs, but would never do the same for you.
Does your partner expect you to cater to them without ever returning the favor? When your partner demands from you to attend to their needs without caring the same for yours, it’s a classic power play.
What you should do in this case is take care of your own needs and leave them to deal with theirs. It’s not fair for them to expect you to do everything for them while they wouldn’t lift a finger for you.
8. Your partner is always content and you never are
Of course, no one in a couple is happy all the time, but if your partner feels content much more often than you, it’s a red flag. If you’re regularly disappointed while your partner is regularly content, it’s a clear sign of an unhealthy power dynamic.
Consider what happens after arguments and conversations. Do you feel disappointed about your relationship while your partner is happy with how things are? It shows that their needs are being met while they are neglecting yours.
You have to understand that you and your partner need to be equals in the relationship. Anything but that is an unhealthy power dynamic, which will always leave one of you disappointed.
9. You always take the blame for their actions
Knowing when to say you’re sorry is important in a relationship but it’s also important to know when you don’t have anything to apologize for. Do you regularly take responsibility for the problems that are a result of your partner’s actions, words, or thoughts?
Taking all the responsibility in a relationship is a clear sign you’re giving them more power. It makes them think that whatever they do, they can pin it on you and have their way.
This isn’t fair, and you shouldn’t tolerate it. Stop taking the blame for what your partner should obviously take responsibility for; it’s the only way for you two to ever be equals.
10. You put a lot more effort into the relationship
Couples need to put an equal amount of work into their relationship. It’s understood that both partners need to be willing to improve it; that is what healthy relationships are all about.
You must realize that maintaining a relationship takes energy, effort, time, and attention. If your partner does less than you, it isn’t fair. It seems like they feel entitled to not putting in the same amount of effort into the relationship. It leaves you doing all the work in the relationship while they sit and watch.
That isn’t going to work, and neither is your relationship unless your partner snaps out of it. They have to start working on your relationship as much as you do.
11. They are a selfish lover
Does your partner care only about their experience when it comes to the bedroom? A selfish lover cares only about their own pleasure, which shows that there’s a power imbalance in your relationship.
That might be because of selfishness or a lack of awareness but if your partner is a selfish lover, it shows that they only care about their own needs. In their opinion, you’re only there to please them and serve their needs. It might be subconscious, but it’s definitely a sign of a power imbalance.
Selfish lovers expect you to care about their pleasure, but they don’t care about yours, which is a big problem that you two need to start working on before it gets out of hand.
Now that you know how to spot an imbalance of power, you can work on it and try to achieve healthy relationship dynamics.
If you want to learn more about unhealthy relationships, be sure to read our other article and you’ll find out whether yours is one of them. Till then, try to work on your relationship and create a balance of power for it to be healthy.
You can always find professional help if you can’t do it on your own. The most important thing is that your partner wants to change. If they don’t, you’re really just wasting your time with someone who will always control the relationship and have all the power. Such a relationship will never succeed so if they refuse to change, leave the relationship for good.
You have to put yourself first even if they don’t… In fact, especially then. Good luck!