Article By Linda Carter
~ NOVEMBER 2021 ~ If you really want your relationships to last, make sure both of you feel that you can decide on important issues. A new study by researchers at Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg has found that how you view power dynamics within your relationship is the most important consideration for relationship satisfaction. This subjective assessment of the equality of partners is far more important than the income earned by each partner. Ensuring that your partner feels heard, has a say in both day-to-day and long-term decisions is a magnificent way to ensure that satisfaction levels remain high as the relationship passes beyond its initial, romance-filled ‘velcro stage’.
What is Power in Relationships?
‘Power’ within the context of relationships refers to influence. When present in equal amounts, it can improve the quality of a relationship. The study, carried out on 181 couples aged between 18 and 71, showed that men still had power ‘positional power’. In other words, they tended to earn a higher income and have a higher education than their female partners. However, greater equality in positional power did not actually mean that couples were more satisfied. Subjective ideas of ‘personal power’ held more sway, as did the idea of being able to act freely.
Characteristics of Happy Couples
The study backed what previous research had already shown—happy couples share common characteristics such as listening to each other, honoring promises to each other, making each other feel loved, and making time for intimacy. Within the context of power, it involved being able to assert one’s preferences.
Couples that were satisfied were those in which each partner felt that they were able to assert their preferences when making important decisions.
The researchers believed that in everyday life, partners each asserted themselves more in specific realms. For instance, one partner might be more influential in deciding where the family goes for their annual vacation, but the other might have more say with respect to places to dine.
What Happens When Power Imbalances Exist?
Another study by University at Buffalo researchers shows why it is so important to make sure that each voice is valued in a relationship, The study, undertaken on young adults, showed that power imbalances in heterosexual relationships are common and that they are more harmful to women than men. The researchers stated, “Inequality within a relationship doesn’t cost men as much because they are still cushioned by a broader system of male privilege.”
For young women, in particular, relationships can represent the union of different forms of vulnerability and injustice. It is therefore vital for parents to foster a strong sense of self-confidence in their daughters, so the latter seek out partners who value equality as strongly as they do.
If you are in love and you want it to last, make sure your partner feels heard and don’t remain silent yourself. Happy couples tend to have equal personal power. Each tends to make different types of decisions though as a whole, each feels that their voice and opinions are valued, respected, and taken into account.