Is Your Relationship Going through a Power Struggle Phase?

Any romantic relationship that brings two people from different backgrounds, opinions, and ways of doing things together is bound to go through some push and pull. There will be the inevitable miscommunications, frustrations, and – yes – power struggles.

You and your spouse may be struggling with some conflicts of your own. But with communication, mutual respect, and a few tools, your power struggles could quite possibly become new ways for your relationship to grow.

What is a power struggle phase in a relationship?

After the wedding vows are recited and the gifts put away, the honeymoon phase of a relationship can fade quickly. Spouses begin to fall into their individual habits, and communication flaws become apparent when dealing with differences, sometimes in the form of power dynamics.

Whether the conflict is over trivial matters or more deep-rooted issues, power struggles can throw off the delicate balance of couplehood, leaving partners at odds. This can cause tension and, eventually, resentment. 

You and your spouse may have found an imbalance after bickering over insignificant issues like who takes out the garbage. Or, you may have hit a roadblock on a bigger issue; perhaps you have discovered that one of you doesn’t want kids after all.

Finding your way through your power imbalances is essential for achieving respectful communication throughout your relationship.

Signs your relationship is in a power struggle phase

How do you know if you’ve come to a power imbalance in your relationship? Here are some types of power struggles you might experience.

  • You’re constantly bickering over the most minor things, and compromises are rare.
  • You can’t see things from the other’s point of view. 
  • Your conversations feel like contests, with one or both of you having an overwhelming need to be right instead of trying to understand each other.
  • One or both of you resort to manipulation or the silent treatment to avoid communication that could lead to a mutual resolution. 
  • One or both of you hold grudges, play the victim card, or become vindictive.
  • This pulling away and lack of communication has created both emotional and physical distance from each other.

In the end, power struggles cause spouses to feel unheard and unappreciated. Each may believe the other no longer values their perspective or input. 

If this has happened to you, it’s time to learn how to be an individual while sharing your life together in a healthy way so neither person feels trapped or abandoned.

With effort and understanding, what begins as a power struggle could lead to two strong and happy individuals who respect and support each other’s differences.

How to resolve power struggles peacefully with your partner

Redistribution of a power imbalance can take some finesse, especially if you’re the less assertive partner. If you’re embroiled in a power imbalance with your spouse, you can try these ways of resetting the balance so you can go back to playing on the same team:

  • Be calmly assertive. Power imbalance often involves one spouse who is used to running the show. The less assertive spouse may need to find ways to calmly assert themselves to get the respect they deserve.
  • Don’t get trapped in an argument. An argument is a surefire way to escalate conflict or result in one of you shutting down and feeling resentful. If the discussion goes into argument mode, table it for when you can both return in a calmer frame of mind. 
  • Encourage communication, actively listen, and don’t interrupt. It’s tempting to talk over each other. Take a breath, listen so your partner feels heard, and then take your turn.
  • Employ empathy. While you might not agree with your spouse, you can at least understand their point of view. 
  • Avoid blame. Nobody ever assumes a cooperative attitude after being blamed for the problem.
  • Focus on resolution, not winning. After all, this isn’t a football game. Understanding and finding cooperative ways to resolve differences will support you throughout your entire marriage. Winning, not so much. 
  • Learn to forgive. These things take time, and tomorrow’s another day. 

Power imbalances can happen when one spouse struggles with self-love and feels unable to speak up for themselves and the other spouse takes advantage of that. A more powerful spouse may take a condescending approach and play armchair therapist to put their partner in their place. 

If you’re navigating a power imbalance in your relationship, couples therapy or counseling can offer strategies and relationship skills that help you reach a more equitable place in your marriage. Getting professional insight can provide opportunities for understanding, growth, and the emotional well-being of you both.

How does your style of interacting with others impact your relationships? Learn about avoidant, anxious, disorganized, and secure attachment styles in relationships here.

Is a power struggle unavoidable?

Every long-term relationship is as unique as the individuals in it. Some couples experience intense power struggles; others are affected very little. While some couples take the time and effort to face their power imbalances head-on, others allow them to chip away at their marriage year after year. 

Have your power struggles led to a breakdown in your marriage? At Hello Divorce, we can help. We offer hourly mediation and coaching services that may help navigate an impasse. If you are set on ending the marriage, our online divorce plans make the process easier and less costly. Schedule a free 15-minute phone call with an account coordinator to learn more about our offerings. 


Divorce Content Specialist
Mediation, Divorce Strategy, Divorce Process, Mental Health
Candice is a former paralegal and has spent the last 16 years in the digital landscape, writing website content, blog posts, and articles for the legal industry. Now, at Hello Divorce, she is helping demystify the complex legal and emotional world of divorce. Away from the keyboard, she’s a devoted wife, mom, and grandmother to two awesome granddaughters who are already forces to be reckoned with. Based in Florida, she’s an avid traveler, painter, ceramic artist, and self-avowed bookish nerd.