Is your partner a power person?

We ended a previous post called “You think your partner’s just too powerful. Now what?” by asking, “But what do you do if your partner in any way seems to you like a nut as you two try to deal with a conflict?” Let’s deal with this.


Here’s what I mean by “seeming like a nut”:


  • Expressing an irrational need. Be careful here. All needs are irrational! Yes, of course, some needs seem more “normal” or prudent than others. Some not so much. One patient of mine needed to have all jars and bottles on the shelves with their labels facing outward. Her husband thought that was nutty. But he wanted to spend his time writing scholarly articles that would never make any money. She thought that was crazy. So unless a need is truly destructive or self-destructive, let it alone. You may be sure you’re right, but this is a fight that’ll go nowhere fast.


  • Acting as if you don’t exist. Calm, cool, and collected. Not crazy seeming at all. But sometimes it can hit you that the person you’re dealing with isn’t so much irrational as they are someone for whom you and your feelings and needs carry no weight. All the conflicts you’ve been having with them: they’re all about their needs and their need not for you to be happy but for you to shut up. And it’s a matter of almost complete indifference to them how they get the outcome they want—anything from appeasing you to terrorizing you. What do you do about this? Hang tight for a minute and I’ll tell you.


  • Sabotaging the relationship building you’re both committed to. It’s really crazy when someone acts against their own priorities. So suppose your partner tells you they want to work with you on making your relationship better by using some of the ideas in this book—at the very least cutting back on the power moves—and then it turns out that it’s just the same old stuff with a lot of excuses about how it’s too hard and “I just have to be myself.” It’s not that walking out on your partner in midsentence and slamming the door is crazy in itself. But when you know—and your partner knows you know—that this will sabotage the relationship building they were saying was important to them, then that really is nuts. So what do you do about this?


Now we’re getting close to the danger zone, if we’re not already there. When we feel we just don’t matter to our partner, when they consistently sabotage the well being of the relationship, it may be reasonable to suspect—or maybe it hits us over the head—that our partner is basically all about power. He or she just wants to win.


I call this being a Power Person.

What is a Power Person? Well, a Power Person is not just a powerful person. Someone may be good at getting what they want or may get a little overexcited sometimes (and do all that much better than you), but while all of that may create an imbalance that’s a real problem, it doesn’t make them a Power Person. They’re just someone who sometimes has more power.


The sign of a Power Person is the desire for control for its own sake. And how do you tell if your partner has that? Ordinary people, even if they’re good at the power game, just want what they want, and once they’ve got it, they stop. They don’t want all of the marbles; they just want their marbles.

A Power Person wants to control you. The ideal state for a Power Person is for you to have few or no needs and little ability to get your needs met. A normal politician would have wanted to be top guy in Germany in 1932. Hitler wanted total control over everyone and everything in all of Europe, at the very least.


To determine if your partner is a Power Person, answer the following questions:


  1. Is your partner basically fair? That is, if you come up with a good reason for why a certain decision should go your way, would he be able to accept that?

  2. Do you seriously believe that your partner has been trying to gain more and more control over you in your life by snooping on you, limiting your access to friends and relatives, telling you what to believe, and things like that?

  3. Do you think your partner just wants to win more than simply wanting to get her specific needs met?

  4. Do you feel that your needs and your feelings don’t really seem to exist for your partner?

If you answered no to question 1 or yes to questions 2 or 3 or 4, then you’re in a relationship with a Power Person. In which case I’d advise you to get out of the relationship. You can’t cure a Power Person or learn to live with them. Instead you need to describe your situation to an attorney who can advise you on how to extricate yourself from this relationship safely.


You may find my advice disturbing but I doubt you’ll find it shocking. You’ve been living for a long time with someone for whom their winning and your losing is the practical goal.

The only way this can be confusing is when they’ve been gaslighting you. This means they’ve been working to convince you of a reality you know isn’t true. It’s usually around the idea that “all this” is for your own good. Perhaps because there’s something supposedly wrong with you, or that you’re deficient in some way.


But you know this isn’t really true. Your answers to questions 1 through 4 should make this clear. What’s also clear to me anyway is that you’ll never be happy in this relationship, not with your living with someone for whom your needs have no weight whatsoever.


Don’t be confused by the fact that your partner may want to hang on to you with all their strength. That’s part of their need for control.


And that’s why I so strongly suggest getting the advice of a lawyer. You want an escape plan all in place, every detail, before you say a word to your partner. Your leaving this relationship can’t be a matter of discussion or debate. Your partner’s a Power Person!!

I know this is scary, but you’ve been living a nightmare. On the other side of your exit is happiness and freedom and a chance to rediscover with joy who you really are.


For a LOT more on understanding power in your relationship, do read Why Couples Fight. That’s what it’s about!

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