Sunday, April 21st, 2019

R Relationships by Dr. Bill Austin
Dealing with a Power Struggle


No doubt, most of us have been in an argument where neither one would give an inch. We were caught up in a power struggle. As we look back at the argument, we see that it could have been easily resolved if each of us were willing to compromise. Why weren’t we willing to compromise?

Perhaps one belief that keeps some of us from compromising is how we define compromise; we may believe that to compromise is to lose while our partner wins. When it is a win/lose contest in our relationship, the relationship loses. We want to deal with conflicts in such a way that the relationship wins.

Most of the time, how we see and hear things comes down to our interpretation. There may be other interpretations but we argue as though ours is the only interpretation. The problem occurs when that interpretation becomes a fact. The other person is wrong until they agree with our “truth.” But in a power struggle we are not willing to concede that there are other interpretations. So we are stuck. We may refuse to compromise.

When it is a win/lose contest in our relationship,
the relationship loses.
We want to deal with conflicts in such a way
that the relationship wins.

The definition of compromise is:  to make a deal between different parties where each party gives up part of their demand. In arguments, compromise is a concept of finding agreement through communication, through a mutual acceptance of terms—often involving variations from an original goal or desire. The definition included this sentence which is worth our reflection: Most people don't communicate—instead they try to manipulate their partner. This invades his/her personal boundary.

Compromise is not giving in or losing. It is a gift to our partner and should be seen as a gift. We are compromising because we see the other person’s point of view and are willing to move to the middle.

There is a communication exercise couples can do when we are stuck. We both write down what we think the problem is. We have to agree on what the problem is before we can resolve it. Sometimes, we are not arguing about the same issue even though it sounds like it. So it is important that we focus on the real issue. Our goal is to resolve the problem.

When that is done, each of us writes down three possible solutions and ranks them. We should be specific. When we come back together, one of us will read our list and tell why we think it will work. Our partner, instead of shooting them down, will mention the merits of the possible solutions. Then the other partner does the same. Now we have six possible solutions to our problem. We pick one and try it for a week. We will be very specific as to who does what and when. If it doesn’t work, we will do the exercise over again or pick another possible solution.

Dr. William E. Austin is a licensed psychotherapist and holds a Doctor of Divinity degree. He is a therapist with Tidewater Pastoral Counseling Services . He is well known for his warmth and sense of humor. His book, Creating Our Safe Place - Articles on Healthy Relationships, can be purchased through

Tidewater Pastoral Counseling: 623-2700