Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Power to the People

I think most people (of any of the genders) will tend to take and wield power when the opportunity is there, including in marriage. And in some cases they may not really be trying to accumulate "power" -- it just sort of works out that way...

Example 1: Husband likes to be the in-charge guy, likes to be thought of as knowledgeable. Wife doesn’t really care about that. Gradually, husband will assume the role of the authority/expert on everything. More and more conversations will take the form of husband educating the wife. He will direct the family’s activities more and more, will offer stronger and more frequent opinions about the wife’s activities. Wife will gradually make fewer decisions on her own, will second-guess herself more, will stand up for herself less.
Conversations where husband is *not* the authority – or situations where he turns out to be wrong – will come to seem unfamiliar and wrong and might make him feel cranky.

Example 2: Husband values peace and harmony over power; wife (consciously or not) operates differently. When deciding where to eat, what color to paint the dining room, etc, husband says “I don’t care, whatever you want” a lot. Eventually, wife will begin direct the majority of family activities. She will begin to have strong opinions about – or even actually direct – activities that would ordinarily be the husband’s responsibility to decide for himself (clothing, grooming, diet, exercise, leisure activities, etc.)
The husband, operating under the “Happy wife, happy life” theory, will contradict her less and less, which in turn will make him seem even weaker and in more need of direction.

Example 3 (sort of related): Husband grew up in an environment where the conflict/stress was higher than in the wife’s home, which was more peaceful. As a child, he develops a much higher “strife tolerance” than the wife does. Husband may actually feel comfortable with conflict, or he may just not know any other way to get what he needs/wants. From the wife’s POV, there is a high price to be paid for disagreeing with the husband, so she will do it less and less. Disagreements are not negotiated, but rather take the form of husband getting annoyed and wife trying to placate him. He may make the wife feel the anger is her fault (“see how you make me feel/what you make me do”), and/or she may buy into that view on her own. Eventually he becomes a serious ***hole and she becomes co-dependent and verbally abused (or worse).

Disclaimer: a lot of male-female stuff I’ve thought/written about is really just “people stuff” -- it’s really about differences in personalities. It’s just that some behaviors do tend to shake out along gender lines even if they’re not tied unvaryingly to a particular sex. And I write from a guy’s POV.
But anyway, my point is:

1) I know we (or you) are not ALL like that, all the time,
2) I know my writing is guy-centric;
3) Not everything I write about is about me or my marriage.


At Wed Aug 15, 11:58:00 AM PDT, Blogger jay are said...

good stuff there...sometimes it makes ya think that maybe we should all just individually live on our own a lot easier. But then who would we boss around? Nah, I guess it'd be boring...
If we could just more often see the root of the behavior, it'd be so much easier to redirect it, mold it, shape it into something productive (when it's a negative, that is). But it takes so much work (to look beyond the behavior and---when it's you---to CHANGE the behavior) that it's often easier to leave things as they are and deal with it. Sigh.

At Wed Aug 15, 03:35:00 PM PDT, Blogger dkgoodman said...

What you're talking about is what I think of as "power dynamics", the balance of power in a relationship, and the source and behavior of those different types of dynamics.

Personally, I like a flexible, balanced dynamic. If something matters more to me, I'll be a little more assertive, and vice versa. I don't like being assertive all the time, nor do I like being passive all the time, nor people who fall one or the other all the time.

If a group is trying to decide where to have lunch, it's so much nicer when people state their preferences, but without trying to dominate. If someone doesn't state a preference but has one, they're gonna be constantly disappointed, and that's not good either. I like a balance, and one that shifts with the circumstance.

At Thu Aug 16, 04:51:00 PM PDT, Blogger blogball said...

I would have to generally agree with your comments. Of course there are conditions such as certain priorities that might change the dynamics once in a while as dkgoodman pointed out. But I do think someone can identify more with one of your three examples over the other two.

I don’t want to say what example I fall into because that’s kind of personal but its right in-between the 1st one and the 3rd one just to giver you a hint.

At Fri Aug 17, 01:52:00 AM PDT, Blogger bryan torre said...

jr - change IS hard. credit is due to all who attempt it.

dkg - i agree, balance is essential

bb - i feel bad that i got kind of carried away elaborating on aspects of #2-like issues, THEN i noticed that you claimed to identify with that example. didn't want you to think the negative parts of my next post applied to you (or anyone else). i think every relationship is different, and none can be neatly summarized.

At Fri Aug 17, 02:06:00 PM PDT, Blogger blogball said...

No worries Bryan, after 17 years I am very comfortable in my # 2 skin.


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