Power and control can be an issue in all kinds of relationships. There are some in which the two parties are equals and treat each other as such. In others, however, one person might be dominant being able to influence and manipulate the other person.
Who ends up in the dominant position is sometimes dictated by the dynamics of the relationship and the type of people involved. One person has personal characteristics that make them either more forceful or more subservient. Sometimes power is derived from assets — one partner maintains control over something the other person needs.
Money is one such asset. Money can be a point of contention regardless of the couple’s financial status. That’s because it’s not always just about dollars: it can be about power and influence. Money is such an important factor in marital health — not only having enough of it, but also controlling it — that when couples argue about money, the battles are more intense than when they argue about other topics, such as children.
How money is managed suggests different degrees of power by one partner over the other. Because both men and women understand that, they have different preferences on how it’s handled. Pooled money very often implies that both partners are more invested in their relationship. However, if one partner is the manager and doles out money to the other as they see fit, that partner very often has more say in how it’s spent, more input in financial decision making, and feels a greater sense of independence.
Money can have very different meanings to men and women. When women manage the money, they treat it like a responsibility, similar to other household chores. For men, on the other hand, money translates into status. They’re prone to have their identities and sense of self-worth defined by their earning power and bank account.
Some men also believe they own all the money earned by the couple. Some wives might actually agree with that, and they can feel inhibited about spending, sometimes thinking they’re not entitled to it. Ownership is also why many men may prefer to merge money into a single pool. When it’s pooled together, he can be the sole manager, and that means he has more control in deciding how it’s spent. Wives, on the other hand, like to have at least some money kept separately if she is not the manager. In that way she can take some of her husband’s control away from him.
Of course, having one partner who controls all the money is not in itself a problem. It only becomes so if one partner believes the allocation of money between them is unfair. If a husband distributes the money and his wife believes she has equal access to it and doesn’t feel a need to justify her spending, she is fine with that. However, if he tends to indulge himself and at the same time she is on a tight budget, she will not be happy with that situation. The arguments that can occur between these partners are likely to be intense, because again they’re not actually arguing about money but about being controlled and manipulated.
Equality and fairness, whether stemming from finances or other sources, is important for a healthy marriage. When neither partner believes they are dominated, couples have stronger emotional bonds and feel like true companions. As a result, they’re nicer, more open, and supportive of each other, and have more productive ways of communicating. Partners are also more prone to feel they own their problems jointly, and that makes it easier for them to get to solutions that have both of their needs in mind.
A relationship that’s one-sided is not satisfying. When we are dominated by our partner, we may believe we have no control over our marriage, and sometimes over our own lives, and that can lead to over-dependency, feelings of helplessness, and a loss of confidence. We’re also likely to lose interest in our relationship because our own needs are secondary to our partner’s. Furthermore, very often we’ll feel angry and resentful toward our partner for being treated like a second class citizen. While we might suppress these emotions because we’re afraid of our partner’s reaction, still we’re not likely to feel intimate or emotionally connected.
Even the dominant partner is not really happy in an imbalanced relationship. If one partner is unhappy because they feel manipulated, the other will be made to feel just as unhappy. Additionally, domination often leads to discomfort. Most people who have more power than they should usually have a hunch they’re taking advantage. If they don’t get there out of a sense of righteousness, they probably will through seeing how their partner treats them.. Unfortunately, a dominating partner cannot easily realize that what they give up in the quality of their relationship is not made up for by the benefits of being the boss.
In truth, it’s really not in our best interests to control our partner. While we may believe we have their interests at heart, we’re actually working from our own agenda. We want our partner to act in a certain way because it fills our needs, not theirs. Secondly, you become responsible for what happens to them and how they feel as a result of doing what you tell them to do. Taking on the responsibility for outcomes suffered by your partner is one you should be happy to avoid, because when things don’t go according to your plan, you get and deserve all the blame.
Dealing with power issues in a marriage is not easy, and that can be in part because couples might not be aware that a power problem exists. Partners having trouble getting along might believe they’re just not suited for each other when in reality they’re actually caught up in a power struggle. For example, couples who fight about money might think they’re arguing about how it’s spent, but in fact they’re fighting about the right of each partner to spend it.
If you feel you’re at the losing end of a power struggle and don’t like it, discuss the issue with your partner. Keep in mind that such conversations are likely to be confrontational, since a domineering person will often resort to hostile tactics to stay right where they are. Be patient, stay calm, and stick to your guns. Clearly state that you expect to be treated as an equal and your partner cannot always have their way or tell you what to do. While it can take time and effort to fix this problem, it’s important for your personal well-being and the goodness of your marriage that you do something. Keep in mind that while submitting to your partner’s demands will certainly be less stressful in the short-term, in the long-term you’ll be much happier if you can find ways to make your relationship more balanced and even-handed.
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