Life Works Pages
You’re More Powerful Than You Think, Part 1 Powerful You
It’s often everyday things like taking out the garbage that become challenging in a relationship, isn’t it? That’s because they point out the larger problems. Why do we get so upset about something so seemingly insignificant as the garbage? Because we feel powerless.
Many of us don’t feel powerful in relationship. We spend time feeling angry and resentful, either toward our men or toward ourselves. We ask ourselves how we could have let it come to this, and we look for someone to blame. If we blame him, we end up fighting with him all the time. If we blame ourselves, we end up harming ourselves with criticism and feeling hopeless—maybe even becoming depressed. Either way, we wind up unhappy, dissatisfied, and wondering what we could do.
But here comes the good news: It’s not true that we are powerless. In fact, women are the ones with the power to have our relationships be the way we want them to be. If our relationships are not already that way, it’s partly because we may be accustomed to handing the power to men—no matter how independent we feel. Sometimes we only see ourselves as victims. We are attached to our men and don’t want them to leave, so it seems like they have the power. Indeed, some of us were trained to think men are the powerful ones—even if we grew up during or after the women’s movement. We might believe we are equal to men, yet there is still a pull to expect them to lead a relationship. We get in the habit of allowing his moods, needs, and desires to drive the relationship. And we end up resenting it.
A lot of us are angry at men and angry in our relationships. Sometimes we even enjoy feeling angry, because anger feels powerful. But being angry is not being powerful. Anger is a defense mechanism, a reaction against a person or situation that makes us feel powerless. When we’re angry, we lose our ability to see what’s really happening, and we lose touch with our natural insight. That leaves us only able to react, rather than to have a considered response. And when we only have that option, we’re powerless.
Anger is a disguise for other feelings we are having—disappointment, rejection, hurt, and frustration that our needs aren’t being met. Because anger covers up the feelings we really need to be addressing, it leaves us powerless to change anything.
If things aren’t the way you want them to be right now, it may be partly because you have become distanced from the natural female qualities that empower you to have a good relationship. It is only natural to shut down the softer parts of yourself when you don’t feel safe enough, loved enough, appreciated enough, respected enough, or cherished enough. Closing off your heart and getting defensive are ways of protecting yourself. When you are closed off, though, it can backfire because it becomes increasingly difficult to communicate effectively, listen fully, find ways to arrive at a solution, treat yourself and your man with tenderness, and let yourself be vulnerable instead of defensive. In short, when you close off your heart, it gets harder and harder to access the very qualities that have a relationship work well. Problems begin to escalate, and a damaging cycle begins.
When you forget not only that you are powerful but how powerful you are, it’s easy to get gripped about things and feel trapped. In all likelihood you start to feel like he is the problem. You get focused on what he says and what he does, forgetting that you are also saying and doing things that contribute to the atmosphere of the relationship. In fact, what you say, do, and even think affects your relationship profoundly.
Excerpted from the book, How to Be Cherished By Marilyn Graman and Maureen Walsh