Bella Vida Therapy

Molly Papp, MS, MPH, CSAT, LMFT #88196

Bella Vida Therapy

Molly Papp, LMFT

You deserve a beautiful life

Sex, intimacy, and relationship therapy

Who's the Boss?

Have you ever had the conversation with your partner about who "wears the pants" in the relationship? Most of us have, and while we may argue over who calls the shots, in reality many relationships are a balance of compromise between two people. At least, that's the goal! What I have found is there is often a battle in the relationship. For power, control and decision-making. It's hard to give that up without feeling you're 'losing' in a way, or compromising your wants and needs for someone else's.

But then again, don't all healthy relationships involve some bit of compromise? This is where it gets tricky. So yes, in order to have a long, happy marriage you do have to admit when you're wrong and not always get your way. If you cannot do those things, your partner will likely become resentful towards you over time. Even if they appear on the outside to be fairly passive or it's your style to defer power to one person more than the other. No one likes a control freak. We all need to feel heard in a relationship for two simple reasons: respect and empathy. We need to feel our partner respects us and is understanding of our feelings (even if they don't agree with us).

Think about this: when you were growing up, you listened (for the most part) to your teachers. Why? Because you respected their power. You knew they were above you in a sense, being adults and authority figures. In a relationship, if that respect is 1-sided, as in one person is the teacher/authority figure and the other is the student, a divide will occur. The war begins. But how many of us have had that 1 teacher who made us feel really heard, respected and understood? That's when the dynamic shifts. In a relationship, if you can trade off between being the student and being the teacher, at times leading and other times following, your union will bloom. The reason is because you will feel validated when you bring up your concerns to your partner. They don't have to agree with you, they just have to listen. That is the empathy part. Many times they won't agree! This is just real life. But all the negative things people do in an argument (rolling eyes, giving the silent treatment, being sarcastic or defensive, name-calling) place you at odds with your mate. You are not being respectful or empathetic when you call someone a name, period. Instead you become that problem kid in class, breaking the rules just because he did not get his way. 

Instead, be that teacher who listened, even when the student was crying over forgetting their lunch. Be that student who sat silently while his teacher lectured on something he did not ever understand. You will have to lose many battles in a relationship to ultimately win the war of a mutually satisfying union. So put down those weapons and lean into your partner. Teach them, let them teach you. Respect them, and empathize with how they feel. It may not always be your views, but as long as it's not compromsing your values to let them lead sometimes, there's no harm in keeping any negative opinions to yourself. Remember you are not at war: you're fighting on the same side.