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Power struggles start early in life – between parents and children and between siblings. A parent wants his or her child to do something and the child resists being controlled.

The parent gets angry and the child resists even more or complies but resists in some other area, such as not learning in school. The pattern of control and resist can become so deeply entrenched that it follows you into your adult relationships. Your end of the power struggle depends upon whether you identified with an overtly controlling parent, became a covertly controlling resistant child, or both.

Power struggles insidiously undermine the love and caring in relationships.

When you are intent on being in control or not being controlled, all your focus and energy goes into winning or not losing. Since you cannot be caring and be trying to control or not be controlled at the same time, caring diminishes as power struggles increase.

When controlling or not being controlled is the primary intent in a relationship, conflict can occur over the most minor of situations.

It is not the issue itself that is the problem, but the intent regarding how the issue is handled. Minor situations such as one partner leaving dishes unwashed until morning can explode into full-blown fighting when partners get locked into power struggles. Caring about a partner who doesn’t dirty dishes left out overnight becomes incidental when you are protecting against losing yourself through being controlled by your partner.

The need to be in control and the resistance to being controlled come from the same source – fear. The controlling partner fears that he or she will not be cared about, while the resistant partner fears losing his or her sense of self – being engulfed and smothered by the other person.

When two people are in a power struggle, their wounded selves are totally in charge, each with their own fears. As long as both of them get triggered into their fear of rejection and fear of engulfment, they will continue to have power struggles.


Power struggles will continue until one person develops enough of a loving Adult self to change his or her intent from controlling/resisting to caring. When it is more important to be kind to yourself and the other person than it is to control or resist being controlled, then you will disengage from the power struggle. Instead of trying to change the other person in the face of the other’s resistance, you will decide how to take care of yourself. Instead of being reactive and automatically resisting in the face of the other’s controlling behavior, you will tune into what is in your highest good and take the loving action in your own behalf. While it is always wonderful when both people learn how take responsibility for their end of the power struggle, it is not necessary for the power struggle to end. One person disengaging from his or her end of the power struggle will totally change the system.

If you are the overtly controlling one, letting go of trying to change the other person and taking care of yourself will stop power struggles.
If you are the resistant one – the covertly controlling one – choosing kindness rather than resistance will cause power struggles to cease.

It is important to understand that both people in a power struggle are trying to control – one overtly and one covertly.
Resistance is an attempt to have control over not being controlled. When caring about yourself and the other person is more important than controlling, then kindness will prevail and power struggles will become a thing of the past.