The Battle For Power & Control In Relationships

Power and control are often present in most relationships, even if we may not be always aware of their influence. The need to control and exert power over other people and the environment is a natural human instinct. Unfortunately, the balance of power in relationships is frequently disrupted, with one partner feeling helpless and powerless next to the other. 

Power imbalances in relationships are incredibly common, especially among couples who suffer from emotional intimacy issues, attachment wounds, and various mental health problems stemming from childhood, adolescence, and/or adult life trauma. 

If you can’t strike a healthy balance of power and control with your partner, you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we will shed light on some frequently utilized abusive tactics and see how they are used to exert power and control. Read on. 

Is Power And Control The Same Thing?

What Is Power And Control In Relationships?

Power and control typically go hand in hand. Because these two concepts are often so closely related, most of us rarely stop to think about the difference between them. But are power and control really the same? 

When you have power, you are able to make something happen, that is, when you have power, you tend to have control. However, it is often those without power that feel the need to control their environment and other people. 

With this in mind, individuals who are in power, or better yet, who feel empowered don’t feel the urge to control as their basic needs are already met. On the other hand, if you feel a strong need to control, it is very likely that there is something missing from your life, and you should look inside rather than outside if you want to find balance in your life. 

What Is Power And Control In Relationships?

A healthy relationship is based on mutual respect between the two partners. Neither one of them should exert too much power over the other, and both of them should have a say when making decisions. Unfortunately, such a healthy balance of power is not always present in relationships. 

The Causes Of Power Imbalances In Relationships

Due to deeply rooted insecurities and childhood wounds, many individuals tend to feel helpless and powerless in their lives, often willingly giving up their power to others. This is quite understandable – if you have felt worthless and incapable of making decisions all your life, it is only natural that you will seek out somebody else to fill the void. 

This often happens in codependent relationships, where one partner wields substantial power over the other and often engages in abusive or narcissistic behaviors. The codependent partner feels entirely reliant on the “abuser” for their sense of worth and identity. Such an imbalance of power can result in a wide array of conflicting emotions for the codependent, including an intense sense of anxiety and fear, grief, anger, shame, and guilt. 

What Is The Power And Control Wheel?

The Power and Control Wheel, otherwise known as the Duluth Model, is a tool used in the field of domestic violence to identify and understand the manipulation and control tactics abusers employ to exert power and control over their victims. The wheel has Power and Control at its center with the following abusive tactics surrounding it: 

  • Sexual and physical violence forming the outer ring of the wheel: all the other abusive tactics work alongside these forms of violence in order to exert control over the victim. 
  • Threats and coercion: the abusive partner makes and sometimes carries out threats. They may threaten to leave the victim, commit suicide, or speak up to their friends and family about the relationship. 
  • Intimidation: the abuser strives to instill fear in the victim through acts of physical violence or other intimidating gestures. 
  • Economic abuse: the goal is to make the victim completely dependent on the abuser for financial support. This may involve withholding money from the victim, sabotaging their job opportunities, and so on.
  • Emotional abuse: the abusive partner may put the victim down, invalidate their feelings, or resort to gaslighting in order to confuse and exert control. Other emotional abuse tactics include love bombing, the silent treatment, and other mind games. 
  • Male privilege: in cases where the abuser is male and the victim female, the abuser can make use of male privilege to control the victim. He may be the only one to make important decisions or treat the victim like his servant. 
  • Children: the abusive partner may make the victim feel guilty for not taking good enough care of the children and threaten to take them away, which can be an extremely effective manipulation tactic. 
  • Blaming and denying: it is very common for abusers to try and shift responsibility and blame for the abuse on the victim. They may also laugh off the abuse allegations and pretend the abuse never happened. 
  • Isolation: with the aim to make the victim completely dependent on them, the abuser will control and limit the actions of the victim, separating them from their friends, family, and other sources of support. 

If you feel like these abuse tactics are present in your own relationship, it is essential that you understand that overcoming your emotional wounds and finding strength inside yourself, instead of relying on others for validation, is entirely possible. Contacting a professional relationship coach may be just what you need to take that first step which can also point you in the right direction if you need a higher level of care. 

Find Your Power In Our Codependent Relationship Retreat

What Is The Power And Control Wheel?

At PIVOT, we understand how hard it can be to break the bubble of codependency and start looking for your own power and strength. That is why we work hard to provide individuals and couples with the tools they need to heal their attachment wounds and create balance in their relationships. 

If you wish to take back control of your life, then contact PIVOT. We offer experience and expertise-based relationship coaching for individuals, as well as a wide array of intensive codependency workshops and retreats you can choose from. Reach out to PIVOT Advocates today and start working on creating a stronger, happier you.