In a perfect world, all relationships would be healthy, happy ones where both partners feel like equals in every sense. In the *actual* world, the existence of
unhealthy power dynamics in relationships means that not every partnership is one that's balanced and mutually fulfilling. You might not initially see it as a big deal if your partner tends to take the lead more than you, but if it becomes clear that they wield all the power in your relationship, it can lead to conflict down the road — conflict brought on by feelings of anger, resentment, neglect, sadness, and more. But what does it mean to have power in a relationship in the first place?
"Power and choice are inextricably linked,"
Adam Maynard, a relationship coach who specializes in helping people navigate relationship challenges, tells Bustle. "Your power in relationships comes from your ability to make empowered choices about them, so that you can effect the change you want and need. There’s always something you can do to feel better about your relationships. You always have a choice. It’s just a matter of figuring out what that choice is."
Simply put, you shouldn't let anyone — especially your partner — make you believe that you don't have the power to make the best choices for yourself, regarding your relationship and beyond. If you feel like you need to regain some
power in your relationship, here are nine steps that can help you feel confident as you venture to take your power back into your own hands.
Learning how to feel comfortable and confident asserting your power in your relationship isn't easy, and while it's understandably tempting to just ignore the problem altogether, this won't do your relationship any favors in the long run.
"If you’re not being honest with yourself about what’s going on or how you really feel, you’ll be limited in your ability to find a satisfying solution to your pain and discomfort," Maynard says. "Any effort you do put in won’t bring you the relief you’re looking for because it won’t address the root of the actual issue."
In order to start your journey to self-empowerment, it's crucial to be honest with yourself about what you're feeling — whether that's helpless, upset, angry, or even afraid that you don't have power in your relationship.
"Your emotions provide essential clues about what’s true for you about the situations and circumstances you face," Maynard says. "If you ignore, deny, or invalidate them, you’re charting a course without one of your best navigational tools. You’re also a more effective relationship participant when you can process your emotions — an effectiveness that lends itself to feeling powerful."
Challenge Your Assumptions About Where Your Power Lies
As cliche as it might sound, it's so important to remember that, even if you're 'attached' to someone else, your power lies within you, and you alone — and you don't need anyone else's permission to access that power.
"So much of our ability to access our power depends on where we think it resides," Maynard says. "Any relationship advice that dangles the solution to your problems somewhere outside yourself will be disempowering because you can’t always effect change there. ‘Reclaiming your power’ is the steady practice of shifting your understanding of where the generative source of your life lies, from that elusive external place to within yourself and your abilities."
Focus On The Choices *You* Are Making
One hack to help you rediscover your power in a relationship? Stop spending so much time worrying about the choices your partner makes, and instead focus on the choices
you make in your relationship.
"You’ll feel powerless in relationship if you’re only focusing on what the other person is or isn’t doing," Maynard says. "They have free will — the power to choose — which by definition you have no control over. But you have free will too. So, what are you choosing?"
Take Responsibility For Your Portion
Part of being in a relationship means taking responsibility for your words and actions and, while it might not always be easy,
taking accountability in your relationship can actually be empowering.
"There’s no quicker way to help yourself feel better about your relationships than owning the parts of them that you’re responsible for," Maynard says. "Why? Because you’re investing your time, energy, and attention in the parts you actually have control over."
Put Energy Into Changing What's Bothering You
We all need to vent from time to time, but if you want to feel
truly empowered, make a habit of nipping your relationship complaints in the bud — and use that energy instead to actually change the things that irk you.
"Complaining suggests that you can’t feel the way you want to until someone or something changes," Maynard says. "It breeds self-victimization, and there’s no position of lesser power in relationships than that. When you interrupt the impulse to complain, you recenter your agency in the situation — and empower yourself to actually do something about what’s bothering you."
Everyone has their own
struggles with self-esteem, but in order to assert your power in a relationship, it's important to get to a place where you know your own worth — because then you'll be less likely to let a partner trounce all over you.
"Low self-esteem manifests as weakness," Maynard says. "A loss of self-determination. You’re more likely to let someone else take the reigns of a relationship if you feel like their needs matter more than yours do. Knowing your worth restores your ability to stand up for yourself, and advocate for the parts of the relationship that are important to you."
Use The Relationship As A Catalyst For Growth
We've all been through relationships that are difficult or challenging in some way. If you can dig through the rubble of your past relationships and find lessons that can help you grow, you can retroactively take some of your power back.
"If you can mine challenging relationships for meaning, you’ll feel like the experience has a greater purpose — that it’s serving you in some way," Maynard says. "You’ll feel more powerful when you do, because you’ve turned something that dragged you down into something that supports you."
If you're serious about feeling more empowered — in your relationship or just in general — it's OK (actually, it's healthy!) to seek help in others, whether that's your friends and family or a professional.
"Sometimes the first step to reclaiming your power is to admit that you feel like you have none — and to seek out the people who can help you sort out where it’s broken down," Maynard says. "If you can at least do this much in your moments of powerlessness, you’ll always be able to find your way through to the other side."
Ultimately, the only way to find and assert your power in a relationship is to first find it within yourself. It can be a long process, but once you do that, you'll be
confident and empowered enough to make healthy choices in your relationships — and in life — that will bring you true happiness, on your own terms.