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WHY DO WE NEED A POWER STRUGGLE PHASE IN OUR RELATIONSHIP?

By Lynne Foote

Some people say that a relationship doesn't begin until after the falling-in-love bubble bursts. I disagree. While not all viable and healthy relationships begin by falling in love (think arranged marriages or long term friendships that suddenly bloom), I feel strongly that an important bonding happens when two people fall in love. This bond, which shows us the vast potential for connection that is possible, and which fulfills a deep Soul need in us, can carry a couple through the troubled waters of the inevitable next stage, the Power Struggle.

What, essentially, is this state of falling in love? It is a time when our ego boundaries expand and we move beyond our limited sense of self to taste the Divine. We are at One with our partner and open to Life's Mysteries. Pleasure is heightened. The heart is open and receptive. We are curious, engaged, and alive in the moment. Our boundaries have also opened and what we "love" about our partner is now felt as part of our own makeup. Words like bliss, ecstasy, wholeness, and ultimate happiness capture the essence of this condition. While it lasts, we are at peace with all that is arising in the moment and we don't need anything to be other than it is.

But this state, this Heaven Realm, can't last. We need to also live in this human world with all of its limitations, disappointments and difficulties. We need to balance the expansiveness of our Bliss with the grounding of the Earth Realm. This often comes in a shocking way as the Power Struggle Stage. This stage begins when our partner begins to disappoint us, when he/she begins to not be who I thought they were and needed them to be. Slowly, and not so subtly, the human frailties, the neurotic tendencies, and the very qualities that we fell in love with become annoyances. The bubble of our union has popped and we are face to face with a person who has needs, is not perfect, and threatens our sense of security and happiness.

For the longest time, I struggled to understand why we needed this power struggle stage which can be so painful, so deeply challenging. One day the answer became clear … it is only through the friction of this power struggle dynamic that we can LEARN to love and accept the other person for who they truly are. It is not going to happen when we are dwelling in the flow of our symbiotic union, rather it comes from the repeated baptisms-by-fire that arise naturally when two people are trying to co-create a life together with their different temperaments, life experiences, values, and family of origin rules of relationship.

It is here that we grow. We learn, through the raw conflicts of daily life, the loose toothpaste cap, the dishes left on the counter, the bad breath, to stay. In staying, we repeatedly confront our fears, those conditions that make us want to run from our beloved, and perhaps more importantly, from ourselves. This is relationship as a Sacred Path, our opportunity through the love in our hearts, to wake up.

But sometime we choose to leave, to run away with the next promise of Paradise. We find ourselves in the addictive pattern of chasing an Ideal Dream. In this state, we have lost our freedom and are hostage to our longing, our passion, our changing fancies. Our culture, which teaches us to throw things away and to move on, externally reinforces our unquenchable longing. We have only to stand in a grocery store line to see over and over again the dramas of this infidelity.

Sometimes we stay, but the price we pay is we deaden our aliveness and we cross paths with our partner only in that small corner of connection that does not stir up differences. We live superficially, behind armor that protects our hearts and vulnerability. We may be comfortable but this is only a half-life. David Whyte closes his poignant poem "Sweet Darkness" by saying:

You must learn one thing.

The world was made to be free in.

Give up all the other worlds

except the one to which you belong.

Sometime it takes darkness and the sweet

confinement of your aloneness

to learn

anything or anyone

that does not bring you alive

is too small for you.


Some essential questions arise here: Is my beloved truly too small for me? Perhaps. Or does he/she feel too small because my heart is shut down? What responsibility do I have in the discord and unhappiness of my relationship? How am I encrusted in a point of view that sees my partner, not as my ally, but as the enemy? What am I doing every day that shuts the door of my heart and pushes my beloved out?

Carl Jung says that love and the will to power are mutually exclusive. Where there is power and control, love is absent. One of the most difficult tasks of our lifetime is finding our way through our fears, our need to control, our tendency to find fault and to blame, the narcissism of our own needs, to come to a place of innocence and surrender where abiding Love can arise. Intimacy, as the poet Rilke noted, "Calls us to vast things."

It is in this Power Struggle Phase that we forge a strong, enduring connection with our partner. We come face to face with our tendency to fight, flee, or submit. It is through these commonplace struggles that we can mature beyond our instinctive reaction and come to a conscious loving. It is in learning to stay, when we open to a dimension greater than the limits of our small egoic self, and when we foster a love and compassion for both our partner and our Self, that we are transformed and our relationship becomes sacred.

Your feedback and ideas are welcome.


Contact Lynne Foote

Phone: 303-447-2987

Email: Lynne@LynneFoote.com


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