Are You Telling Me I Can Get My Groove Back?

Stage 2 of Relationships – Power Plays

Neither of us entered marriage thinking it wouldn’t be a strain.Life has strains in it, and he’s the person I want to strain with.
-Patricia Arquette

In a word, yes I am.  Let’s take a few minutes to look a little deeper at the Power Play Stage.

All relationships begin with that goofy romantic stage we talked about earlier.  About the only goofier stage is that first baby where normally sophisticated adults begin using sounds to communicate with this new person in nothing that resembles language.

Invariably relationships move beyond the romantic stage where there is much more heat than light.  When they do, some subtle creeping power-play moves seep into the relationship.  It often sounds something like this…

“I should not have ask you to do _________.  If I have to ask for it, it just won’t mean the same.”

“If you don’t read my mind and guess what I want then I’m going to punish you by…” pick your punishment…silent treatment…withholding sex…angry words.

“Your job is to know what I want and what I need and meet my fantasy without my having to ask.”

The battle is about who is going to meet whose needs first.

Pain in this stage frequently leads to painful acting out, parallel marriages or divorce.  (BTW, a parallel marriage is when a couple gets their mail, washes their clothes, eats meals and sleeps at the same place, but they are more like roommates than they are Soul Mates.

Remember the falling in love thing?  Well in this stage I can just fall OUT of love.” The logical progression of that is that since I am not in love, I can addictively go out and FALL in LOVE all over again.  My favorite four-letter word becomes NEXT!

There are an infinite number of people with whom I can fall in love.  Many of these new relationships occur on the rebound after a very brief period of time.  This gives a lie to the notion that you can find your soul mate.  Soul mates are forged in the crucible of learning and practicing the skills necessary to create a lifelong satisfying relationship.  They are not found, they are hammered out by two people who are attracted to each other and committed to figuring out how to get it right.

Margaret Mead (December 16, 1901 – November 15, 1978) icon of  cultural anthropology, made a statement in an obscure textbook that I used in a freshman course in sociology back in the late 1950s.  I wrote down the quote because it was such a shocking thing to me at the time, but I cannot for the life of me find either the text or where to cite the quote.  She said there are as many as “1400 people you will meet in your lifetime with whom you could make a healthy marriage relationship.”

Back to my point, however, during this power struggle stage of relationships, people frequently decide, as I mentioned in the previous NUGGET, the person I am now married to obviously isn’t Mr. Right or Ms. Right…just Mr./Ms. Right Now.

So, with lots of cultural and media encouragement, we practice repetitive serial monogamy.  The tacit assumption is I just made a bad choice and re-choosing is the answer until I can finally get it right.

People who get caught in this trap spend their lives repeating the romance stage, power play stage, quit, re-choose, repeat…ad infinitum.  How many of the glamorous people have 4-5-6-7 or even more marriages in their lifetimes trying to get it right by the luck of the draw? 

Wrong on lots of levels.

If you want to have a relationship that works, it will be important to recognize that both the romantic stage and the power-play stage are NORMAL and that ALL…did you get that…ALL relationships go through these stages to a greater or lesser extent.

The question is do you want to throw away what you have started and hope that you can FIND a new one that will be better?  Not highly likely, but good luck trying.  When you get tired of that come back to this chapter and pick up right here. I’ll wait till you get back.

Stage 3 in Relationships – Awareness

Here is the first wake-up call.

Let me ask you a serious question.  Who is the only person who has ever been in all the relationships you have been in?

Ummmm, let me see, that would be YOU (reading this for yourself, insert the word ME), correct?

What if the problem is not who you picked for relationship, but it’s YOU?!

Here are some reflective questions for you to camp out on for a while.

  • What is your mental picture of relationships that work? What sort of family did you grow up in? How did your Mom treat your Dad? How did your Dad treat your Mom?When you read novels, watch TV, see movies, what “models” of marriage resonate with you?If you were to write down your ideal marriage, what would it look like? If you have a number of failed relationships, could the problem be you and not your partner(s)?

Some reflection on these may turn your attention to what it is you need to DO or to BECOME in order to BE a good relationship partner.

I’m sure there will be some changes that will become apparent as you make this, sometimes painful, inquiry.

Once you come to the realization that you have to BECOME a better relationship/marriage partner before you FIND a better partner, you will be on your way.  Then is a matter of learning how.

Stage 4 in Relationships – Transformation

Part of it will include learning how to speak differently to each other and getting a firm grip on a servant’s heart.

Lots of the stuff that follows in succeeding NUGGETS has been designed to help you learn how to talk differently, to resolve problems quickly and amicably, to serve each other, and to create an atmosphere of joy in which to live out your life.

Stage 5 in Relationships – The Burger King Approach

Come on along and let us show you how to get to that ultimate state of relationships that we like to call THE BURGER KING approach.  It’s where each partner makes a permanent commitment that sounds an awfully lot like this:  “I promise to learn to love you the way you want to be loved and not the way I might choose to do it.”  So…you can HAVE IT YOUR WAY, AND RIGHT AWAY!– Burger King.

That’s how you will ultimately GET IT RIGHT.


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