Sociologist, Dr. Anthony Campolo, says that the big three pursuits of the world are power, fame, and wealth. He says the three are synergistic in that the wealthy often become famous and powerful, the powerful often become famous and wealthy, and the famous often become powerful and wealthy. Do you agree with Dr. Campolo? In this article I want to focus on power because Elsie and I see a number of couples whose marriages struggle with power and control issues.
The old adage says, “The one who cares the least has the most power.” Take, for example, a failing marriage. One partner wants to seek marriage counseling and save the marriage, the other doesn’t care. Perhaps the one who doesn’t care has already given up on the marriage or has a third party waiting in the wings. Because they care less, they have the power in the relationship. They have the power to refuse to get marriage counseling and the power to obstruct any effort by the caring one to save the marriage. No matter what the caring partner does unless the non-caring partner changes and buys into salvaging the marriage it won’t succeed.
Let’s pretend that both partners in the above example come for marriage counseling. When there is a power differential in a marriage, a wise counselor will want to equalize the power between the two partners. This may involve encouraging the partner with less power to speak up and voice how they truly feel, be more decisive and defer less to their partner in decision-making, or take action instead of passively talking or complaining.
With power comes control. If your partner has most of the power in the marriage, he/she controls the marriage. Feeling controlled by your partner is a telltale sign that there is a power differential in your marriage. What are the signs that you’re married to a controller? You always defer to your partner when it comes to making decisions. You cannot express how you truly feel because you fear your partner’s wrath. When there are arguments you are the one who always gives in and apologizes first. Controlling partners usually want to control the finances, how money is spent. Controlling partners hate boundaries; they resist them.
If there is a power differential in your marriage and your partner is controlling, what can you do? First, get marriage counseling. Counselors can help you strategize on equalizing the power. Second, read the book, Boundaries in Marriage, by Henry Cloud and John Townsend. The authors give you practical ways to restore balance to the power in the marriage and give specific strategies for breaking the grip of control in your marriage. Finally, pray and create a plan for yourself. Your counselor should be able to help you in creating this plan. Pray for your partner and your marriage. Your partner is not the enemy. The Lord can help you and your partner make the needed changes to have the satisfying, Christ-honoring, joyful marriage your heart craves.
Only Jesus is Lord,