Power in Relationships Over 50
You Can't Always Get What You Want, But . . .

Power in relationships isn't always an easy subject to talk about, but that is exactly what we have to do if we are to use it wisely and compassionately. It is something that is best given and accepted with a good bit of humility and awareness.

Generally, social power is defined as the ability to affect the behavior of another person. This kind of power only exists when there is a relationship and it is takes shape within the context of that relationship.

Exactly what power in relationships is allocated to whom seems to be less important than that it is done in a way that serves the best long term interests of the people involved. When it does not serve these ends it is an abusive relationship which is a losing proposition for everyone involved.

Whether we know it or not, all of us have some template for who is supposed to do what and how in various kinds of relationships. And therein lies a potential problem. Since we each have one of those templates and since we rarely enter into a relationship with a clone of ourselves, the templates are seldom exactly the same. Even if our visions of how it is "supposed to be" are very similar, there still can be problems when

--We both assumed we would be taking on the same role.

--We face a new situation that neither of us considered before.

--One or both of us changes in our beliefs or capabilities over time.

One simple way to start is by agreeing on how we will divide up the authority to make decisions:

who decides what,

who does what,

under what circumstances,

and with what degree of collaboration.

Sometimes we don't even realize that we are deciding something, even if it is by deciding not to talk about it or do anything about it one way or the other. The clearer we are about as many things as we can identify as involving decisions, the cleaner we can be in our use of power and the stronger our relationship becomes. The non-decision can lead to more resentment than the clear decisions we don't particularly like.

This a very personal thing. What you choose to do with it in your relationship is none of anyone else's business, but doing it in ways that work for the two of you is central to relationship success.

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