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Power v. Respect in Healthy Relationships
6 months ago · · Relationships,
At some point in relationships, the discussion of power is brought up. If it's come up in yours, think about what the conversation entailed and apply it to what you are about to read. If you and your partner have not gotten there yet, still read on and ponder what "power" in a relationship truly means.
My boyfriend of a year once joked about how he had the power in bed, but I had the power everywhere else. We are both college students in neighboring universities and met through a phone app you are all probably familiar with-- Tinder. I’m set to graduate this December and he’s set to graduate next May. After we get our Bachelor’s Degrees we are both applying to law school, with the hopes of getting into the same one. My strengths as a student are what he lacks as a student. I am task-oriented and punctual whereas he, let’s call him Mr. X, is more laid back and tend to get tangential. However, his strengths as a person are what I lack. Example A, he’s a very confrontational person and I am not. He prefers to face problems immediately and offer a quick, effective solution. Me? I’m the opposite. I like to play hide and seek with my problems. I only come out of hiding when a) I’m ready to surrender or b) I have a case I can win.
But that’s beside the point… back to power. Mr. X works full time as a car salesman and his hours are ridiculous. I make it a point to make sure that when he gets home at night, before he gets just enough rest where his brain can no longer function, he gets at least one or two homework done, depending on the assignment due dates. No ifs nor buts, he must get it done. I know him well enough that when he lays down in bed, there’s no way he’s getting back up. If he does, it wouldn’t be for homework because his body has already fooled his brain into thinking it’s bedtime. In the moment, I’m gonna be honest, words come out of his mouth that I know he doesn’t mean. He gets upset that I’m too “harsh” on him and that I didn’t let him rest, but like I said, I know him. After he gets his work done, he thanks me with a kiss and admits he wouldn’t have done it if I hadn’t pushed him into doing so.After that, we go to bed and that’s where the dynamic changes. As soon as I hop in bed, he has the “power.” No questions asked.
We didn’t discuss this before the relationship got serious. It somehow just magically happened, but it didn’t happen immediately. The first six months were kind of a trial period. I was poking around, testing where his boundaries were. I had hits and misses, tons of hits and misses. I had days where I felt like I was walking on eggshells because of something I said or did that crossed the line, but that’s all part of new relationships. It happened to him too. In our six months of trial period, he learned that some words, in a given situation, are hurtful and therefore should not be said during said situation.
When summer ended things changed. Our dynamics changed. After the school year ended, I moved back home and worked. We were away from each other for about three months. When I moved back the city, I spent more time with him and even started getting permission to stay the night at his parents’ place whenever I wanted too. So, basically, I was given free access to Mr. X. His room became ours and his home, weirdly, became mind as well. I slowly started to leave clothes in his drawers and combined our laundry. Every morning, even though my classes were in the afternoon, I made it a point to get up with him and make sure his coffee was ready by the time he got out of the shower. After class, I would drive back to his parents’ house, we would do our homework together, go to bed, and do it all over again the next day.
I used to make it a point to ask him if he wanted me to come over. Now? I’m there every night, eating dinner with his family (even when he was still at work), and waiting for him to come home.
Having said all of this… do our roles in this relationship really possess “power”? Is power something we have over each other? Or is it respect? Over the course of six months, did we learn to respect and allow each other to make righteous decisions for one another? Did Mr. X trust me enough to let me make decisions in regards to our education and our future? Did I trust Mr. X enough to let him take control once we’re both in bed?
The word “power” tends to have a negative connotation in any context it’s placed in. You can abuse power, but you can’t abuse respect. Respect is a mutual understanding, whereas, some believe that power is autocratic or obtrusive.
So, no… I don’t have power over Mr. X in our relationship. Neither does he. We have respect and trust for one another, which is why our relationship works. He doesn’t have to do homework when I tell him to. He can do whatever he wants. He is his own person and he knows that. He has a choice to not listen to me. We are not married, therefore, he is not tied down. He lets me do that because he knows I’m just thinking of what’s best for us in the long run. Similarly, I don’t have to do anything he says when we’re in bed, or anywhere in this world. I let him tell me what to do because I know he wouldn’t do anything to put me in any sort of danger or let me do anything I’m not comfortable doing. At the end of the day, it all comes down to respect.
Do you respect your partner enough to allow him/her make decisions regarding your life? Does your partner allow you to make decisions regarding his/hers? If the answer to these questions are both “yes,” then I salute your relationship for making it this far and allowing your lives converge, while also leaving room for individuality, which is what I’ll talk about on my next post!