The Power Struggle Stage of a relationship, and, how to get through it…

At the beginning, you woke every morning with a smile on your face…Your mind immediately drifted to your new love…You remember feeling that warm fuzzy feeling, that tingling inside. You just couldn't wait to be around your special someone as they could do no wrong in your eyes, nor you in theirs. Every look, every touch, every utterance sent your heart a flutter! This is the first stage in a relationship, known as the Romance Stage.  The initial Romance Stage is a time of gazing adoringly at your lover through rose-tinted glasses. This is an essential bonding period, bringing you together to form the foundations of a long lasting union. However, sure enough at some point in all relationships, this so-called honeymoon period ends; the intoxicating feelings of being in love begin to fade.  This usually occurs as the Oxytocin or “love hormone” levels drop, usually between the first 3 and 18 months.

All of a sudden, like a bolt out of the blue there is that dreaded word…REALITY! The realisation that, like you, your partner has many idiosyncrasies and flaws as opposed to being the “idol” you thought they were – the halo effect is wearing off and you come to the realisation that being together is going to take a significant amount of work and compromise. 

So what on earth happened?! Now it seems like all you do is irritate one another, finding faults with the most trivial things, almost always resulting in explosive rows and child-like sulks. Being around your lover just doesn't feel as comfortable and secure anymore and you feel like you’re constantly walking on egg shells trying to avoid a fall out. You feel lost, confused and scared but before you throw in the towel…WAIT! It’s not all doom and gloom - you've just reached the inevitable next stage of your relationship, the Power Struggle Stage. That means despite feelings to the contrary, it is possible that progress is being made.

As this Power Struggle continues, even small disagreements escalate, causing each of you to tip toe around, trying not to upset each other. You both feel misunderstood, alone and disconnected from one another; relating out of fear rather than love. What’s worse, neither of you know how to make things better. Fear of abandonment may make you become needy and demanding because you desperately want to save your relationship and reconnect with your lover. Alternatively you may adopt a self-protection strategy and withdraw and distance yourself from your partner.  You're vulnerable and this can trigger a cascade of fears and feelings: rejection, abandonment, being trapped, controlled, smothered, and all by the one person we were so very recently besotted with. Will we last? Do I want this? Will I be abandoned? Will I be hurt? These are all very normal questions to ask and it is important to understand that these stages are essential in the healthy development of any long-lasting relationship…

So, how can you move beyond the Power Struggle stage to a stage of deeper more mature love?

Well you know what they say, nothing worth having comes easily. However by following these key points your relationship can develop allowing you to have a more fulfilling and mutually satisfying relationship than ever before…

1)     Acknowledgment: Recognise the problem and identify what the issues are

2)     Communicate: Share your emotions and feelings about your relationship honestly

3)     Value and Acceptance: Learn to accept and value your lover and all of their flaws and imperfections, it’s what makes them who they are. Knowing that you don’t need to change for one another will make you both feel happier and more secure

4)     Think then Respond: to avoid destructive patterns of behaviour, respond to your partner with empathic compassions

5)     Reconnect: Make effort to reconnect with your partner in ways that make you feel close again