Have you ever been in a relationship and felt like the honeymoon phase was ending?
You probably felt it was hanging on by a thread, and things could blow up any day.
The cute things that used to make you giggle with your partner can now annoy you.
The conflicts that used to happen once in a while are more prevalent.
Don’t panic. We have all been here before.
Relationships go through phases, and while we would like to live in a forever-lasting honeymoon phase, it does end at some point.
The good news is you can get the feeling of the honeymoon phase back.
The mid-grade news is that you have to make it through the next phase of the relationship: The power struggle phase.
What’s the power struggle phase?
The power struggle phase has a complex set of pillars. That is because it appears in many forms and creates different directions in the relationship.
We all want our boundaries and needs to be valued and respected.
- The power struggle phase arises when meeting those needs and boundaries requires extra attention and energy from one partner.
- The power struggle continues if someone’s desire for their needs becomes controlling.
- One person will feel unseen and unheard if there is an imbalance of attention and energy.
There will be constant conflict. The irony is that both partners will feel justified in saying the other person doesn’t care about them.
The goal is to recognize when the honeymoon passes and create a structure to survive the power struggle phase.
So how do we do that?
Demand vs. action item
One form of the power struggle conflict is demanding behavior.
We have formed our boundaries and needs based on our experiences in our dating life but also through the lens of relationships we viewed in our young years.
It is fair that we have particular needs as we learn to grow and communicate with a new partner.
The keywords are growth and communication.
I have said this in past articles, but voicing a need and creating a specific action item are different tasks.
“I need to be able to vent” is different than saying, “I would like it if I had an open floor to talk. I don’t want your opinion at first. I would love it if you heard what I had to say. Then we work it out after I processed more.” communication.
You cannot quit there. You have to be accountable and acknowledge that you’re asking for extra patience and energy for your partner as you learn to transition and allow space for their opinion. Remember, the growth.
We get caught up in this fantasy idea that a partner that is a perfect match will go the extra mile and take us for who we are. That is not fair.
I agree we should be with someone attentive to our needs and boundaries.
If you are not on a path to meet your partner in the middle with a healthy action item for them to meet your needs as you grow, I can’t rock with you.
Stop over-valuing YOUR needs
Before you start throwing rotten tomatoes at me and boo me off stage, hear me out.
I am not saying that your needs don’t have value and are ridiculous.
We tend to take the value of our needs and boundaries and forget that they are specific to us.
What happens is that you view things through the lens of your boundaries and needs instead of the common occurrence of someone making a simple mistake.
Now, when someone goes to chipotle and gets pico on your burrito, you think they don’t care about you enough to remember you don’t like it.
I hope we can take a moment to laugh because I am kidding a little.
What that example means is that we take things that we value and put ten times the amount of weight on a mistake when the reality is that it is a simple everyday mistake.
Look at this list and tell me you have never dealt with conflict from a common occurrence: someone being late, forgetting to call you back, cutting you off mid-sentence, complaining, or setting a reservation.
While this is not the whole list, you get my point.
No, your partner does not get a free pass to constantly miss a chance to show up and meet the needs that are specific to you.
No, you do not get to create a detailed list of unrelated events, all equating to them not meeting the same need.
In the power struggle phase, people tend to compound issues to all be a part of the bigger picture. You are subconsciously looking for a reason not to trust someone.
Cross the bridge
In step one, we created action items for our partner to execute while we transition and find the middle ground. In step two, we released the tension and weight we put on our specific needs.
Now, the glue that holds it together. We talk.
But you already talked about communication. Guess what? We are going to communicate until we cannot breathe anymore.
In the honeymoon phase, we release the best parts of ourselves. Even when we find someone we can be open with, we do not overload them with our life history. It’s natural.
The last step of the power struggle phase is opening up and discussing the core of our needs and boundaries.
Even if you have not sorted through the core of it, we all know what triggers us, even if we are not 100% certain why. That’s ok for now.
Have conversations that strip you from hiding, leaving you feeling naked.
You have to have another conversation. I say this jokingly, but I say; I’ll be ready to marry someone when I know everything I hate.
Be open and honest about what your partner does that does not rub you the right way.
Remember to be sensitive in these conversations. It’s about how you say things, not what you are saying.
“I hate when you walk out in the morning and don’t hug goodbye.” vs. “I love a good hug in the morning, and sometimes we miss it.”
Take a mutual bonding stance rather than an accusatory one. Remember, an everyday mistake is not as personal as someone knowingly not meeting a need.
I love watching people grow in their relationships, but it breaks my heart to see something salvageable end.
Relationships end in this stage because people do not have a technique or a method to build together in this period.
It is not simple, and it takes practice. People should take weeks to months at this stage, but some spend years here.
Get past this hurdle and remember that this is a partnership, not a you-ship.
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