How power struggles can destroy any relationship, and why it's important to learn to communicate and heal before we divorce.
Matthew is predominantly a couple's relationship coach. You can be married, not married, happily married, miserable, or going through a divorce and even post-divorce to utilise his skill of encouraging and teaching a better way to communicate.
Divorce doesn't end communication, it requires more and if you didn't do it when married, it will probably be an issue after divorce.
Where it all begins.
The attraction begins long before we meet our partner. It starts from the age of 0-7/8yrs. Our parents' successes and non-successes in creating safety and belonging will influence who and what we are attracted to.
What we subliminally experience in the perceived love of our new lover is exactly the kind of love we longed to have when we were little.
When we fall in love, we are physically entwined like mother and child, fascinated by each other, totally accepting and accepted. Chemicals and hormones flood the body, similar to LSD we 'are off our faces'. We tune in to our lover through eye contact, touch, heart rate, pupil dilation, and micro-muscle movements that we make meaning of. It's our interpretation. We are obsessed, ache to be with them, miss them and are fascinated by them.
"You accept me as I truly am." and " I accept you as you truly are."
This is all great when we are high on love, but when stress and commitment come into the equation, we are catapulted back in time to our childhood, our unexpressed grief floats to the surface and we wonder what happened to that 'perfect' person we once fell in love with.
Why does marriage knock the wind out of some perfectly great relationships?
Marriage is a huge undertaking. Inviting friends and family to witness the taking of vows in front of an audience is incredibly stressful. It's a commitment. Marriage is a Big Deal. It's when a couple truly meets the whole of each other.
When we initially fall in love, all our needs are met, we are the best version of ourselves, and that ends when real life stress is introduced. Like marriage.
The power struggle.
When we start to see aspects that don't fit with the perfect person we fell in love with, it can feel like betrayal. The memory of euphoria is present, but they are no longer that person. It can be a sobering stage and it can be painful. To try and re-ignite that glow, we start to over-give, aching for what was and when that fails it becomes strategic giving and therefore, manipulative. We become the victim, create drama and start to withhold affection, kindness, or actively hurt the other. Acceptance has become conditional.
During a power struggle couples physically turn away from each other and that can lead to resentment, blaming, shaming, criticising, and sarcasm. Destroying all intimacy. Some will escape through work, proving they are a good provider. Some with put all their energy into parenting, commonly 'I am the good parent' and this cycle doesn't end until we end it. It's painful and lonely.
Loneliness is bearable when we are alone, but unbearable when we are in a relationship.
Some will continue to live an 'invisible divorce' existing together, each partaking in a role of 'yes dear'. Some will find the pain unbearable and believe that divorce will make the pain end. It doesn't. Unless you meet it head on, the power struggle remains and the status of your relationship is irrelevant. The quality of your relationship is what matters and the work we need to do to stay married is exactly the same work we need to do to have a good parting.
All good relationships have power struggles, which can feed intimacy like compost. The power struggle events don't last long.
Why we are often attracted to our opposites?
A neglected or abandoned child becomes an adult who fears abandonment.They know how to voice their needs.They demand attention, often with anger, they need passion and adventure and will speak out. They are considered maximisers.
Children who have been smothered or controlled, grow up to be adults that are considered minimisers. They are usually calm, gentle, sensitive, over giving and don't need much. They keep their distance. Their fear is being smothered and controlled; engulfed. You might hear them say 'I'm fine, I'm good.' They are secure and stable, relaxing to be around. They need the excitement of the maximiser and the maximiser needs the stability of the minimiser.
Maximisers and minimisers are attracted to one another.
When a maximiser is under stress they will feel abandoned and move towards, can become controlling and angry, blaming and critical. It's a misleading anger of deep anxiety. A minimiser under stress will be gentle and nice, but it's bullshit, it's hidden anger and they will want to retreat.
Together they drive each other bananas. The perfect power storm post being 'off their face in love.'
When we are in love giving is natural, giving is its own reward. Later on, the giving requires something in return. We do something for something, manipulate the person to be the person we want them to be.
Nobody is nourished by conditional love. We feel the insincerity.
And when this becomes unbearable we are able to be vindictive.
Vindictiveness is a drug we take to medicate the pain of loneliness and rejection. It is not anger, a defensive reaction, it's an attack. Revenge is delicious and it arouses a sense of empowerment and righteousness. You hurt me, so you lose your right to my compassion, my kindness, my affection, my body. Having an affair is vindictive. Most people would feel guilt and shame to even start one, some use alcohol as an excuse to commit adultery, they will need to feel justified.
You don't appreciate me, you don't see me, so I feel entitled to- the power of the victim - to deprive you of your rights to my good nature and I give myself special rights to act in ways I wouldn't do otherwise.
When we fall in love, our mind creates a beautiful dream for the future, and when the dream dies, the grief we experience is a real as a death. The pain of staying together will have to be so unbearable that we believe divorce is the least worst option.
It breaks our heart.
The second part of this interview is practical advice on how to get out of a power struggle and why we behave badly when we are in the flames of divorce and post divorce.
Matthew's holds a 3 day couples workshop, and this article is to share knowledge.
This does not replace professional help.
If you want to share your story or you are a professional who wants to share some insights, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org