Sources of Power in Relationships
1. Higher education, income, and occupational status, especially in marriage relationships when men make more money. Both partners tend to feel that a man should have more say since he contributes greater resources to the family.
When wives are economically dependent and fear they can’t support themselves, husbands can become especially powerful. Some abusive men purposely get their wives pregnant (by destroying their birth control) to increase their wives’ dependency – and their control over their partners.
Women are less likely to become more powerful than their husbands when they make more money because most don’t like feeling like they are emasculating their partners.
2. Relationship options. Perhaps a woman is economically dependent, but she is beautiful and she knows it. She also knows that if she leaves the relationship, she can quickly find someone else. This gives her a lot of clout.
3. Traditional gender roles. People who hold traditional notions about gender are more likely to accept male authority. While our society has achieved greater equality, men still typically have a bit more power in relationships.
Interestingly, young men today more often say they prefer equal partnerships.
4. Strong personalities. Even among the traditional-minded, some women just have stronger personalities. The couple will often deem the man, “head of home” when really, the woman is in charge.
5. Whoever cares least about the relationship has more power because the partner who cares more is more likely to cave in.
There are two ways of looking at this. On the one hand it may simply be a sad, but true, fact of life.
Yet there may be some poetic justice. If one person is poorly treated, he or she will be more likely to leave. And this can create an incentive to change. If the relationship moves back into a better balance of happiness, equality can be regained.
This was origninally posted Sept. 22, 2010