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Power Plays In Relationships (13 Ways To Deal With A Bossy Partner)

Whenever the term ‘power dynamics’ is used when referring to a relationship, people think it about “wearing the pants” or “calling the shots” (when it comes to decision-making in the relationship). Yes, this is a significant aspect of relationship power dynamics, but that's not all to it. 

Power plays involve all sorts of relationship politics. It's like saying, ‘Give me what I want or else I'll withhold from you something that you like!’ It could also work the other way round. For instance, “Do what I want, or else I’ll punish you!’ Some examples of typical relationship power play include; silent treatment, passive-aggressive attitude, emotional blackmail, etc. 

Most of us learned to use these tricks quite early on in our childhood. İf you're in doubt, ask yourself if these sentences sound familiar "Mom, please come for my recital or else I'll never speak to you again!" or "Dad, please can I have cookies for breakfast or I'll run away". 

The very fact that kids use tantrums to attempt to get what they want is evidence enough that these power struggles exist.

Unfortunately, some of us have become better at this relationship politics than our partners, giving us an edge over them. Weirdly, some people like the drama that comes with the struggle; they love that it keeps them on their toes in their relationship. However, when this power plays become too much from one party, it can become unhealthy for the relationship. 

İf you’ve found yourself in a relationship with a guy who is an expert at power dynamics,  and you have no way to deal with them, then read these few tips on how to deal with a power play in your relationship.

13 Ways To Deal With Power Play In Relationships.

1. Know and recognize the power plays

İt's hard to deal with something when you don't exactly know what it is or the signs to look out for. İf you don't know the power plays people often use, you may find it challenging to protect yourself or fight back when your spouse uses them against you. 

Power plays can be very confusing, especially in romantic relationships. Sometimes, you can't tell if your partner is in a mood or being passive-aggressive because they’re upset at something you did. It’s also hard to know if your partner is dismissive because they’re tired of hearing you complain about something or if they're just really into the football match on T.V. 

Either way, it's essential to know what actions or reactions represent power play.  This way, you won't just excuse it as usual or find yourself in the position they want to put you in, but you'll know exactly how to avoid it and defend yourself.

2. Value yourself

value yourself

Self-respect is a necessity for everyone, even though most people are unaware of this. The ability to stand up for yourself requires a degree of self-worth. You’d need to know your worth and be brave enough to defend it when the odds are against you. 

Keep reminding yourself that you deserve to have a balance of power in your relationship, just as much as the next person; you also deserve to be respected.

For some people, self-worth takes a lot of effort; they find it difficult to believe they deserve way more than what people dish out to them. This is why anyone with a more healthy or exaggerated sense of self can easily lord over them, causing a power imbalance in the relationship.   

So, the next step in resisting power struggle would be to do a self-check. Ask yourself how valuable you think you are and how determined you are to refuse a power imbalance. This way, you'd be able to set boundaries in your relationship. You'd be able to let your spouse know what kind of behavior you accept and what you will not tolerate.

3. Be vocal

Try your best to end the habit of letting things slide. İt's normal to want some peace in your relationship or avoid unnecessary squabbles, but tolerating disrespect just because you want to avoid a fight would be more detrimental for you in the long run. 

Try your best to speak up even when the conversations seem hard; let your spouse know that you disagree with that kind of behavior. 

If you avoid talking to your partner about this power struggle immediately, it will become a pattern in your relationship. Speaking up, later on, won’t be as effective. Break the cycle now and speak up.

4. Use your words

İt's tempting to water down your words just because you want to avoid sounding harsh or too direct. However, doing that is almost synonymous with not addressing it at all. İf you're not thoroughly communicating your feelings, then communication becomes redundant.

It does not mean that you should air out every single thought; some things are just better left as a thought. However, make sure your feelings about certain behaviors are adequately communicated, even if It sounds harsh at that point. Avoid using curse words or unnecessarily profane language; make sure you're getting your message across clearly and adequately.

5. Don't stray from the topic

İt's important to stay focused on the issue at hand, now is not the time to entertain complaints from previous misunderstandings. Whatever you do, don't let your man or woman turn the tables on you. 

For example, if you're talking to your partner about the tone they use when they don't get what they want, make sure the conversation stays on that. Do not allow your partner to respond to your concerns with another issue.

If they bring up the fact that you have been a bit too busy to give them the attention they need, stop him/her immediately and sort out the issue at hand first. Using emotional blackmail to turn the tables is one of the most common ways people gain control; do not accept it. 

You could tell your partner that if he/she has a problem with the time you spend with them, they should have brought it up with you earlier. Not try to use your conversation as an opportunity to air out their concerns. Ensure it’s clear that if they have an issue to address, they should bring it up on their own time. Communication is key.

6. Man/woman up

It’s sometimes painful to imagine that something you say or do could make your partner (whom you love very much) upset. Realizing this could sometimes influence your decision to let serious issues slide. However, addressing this toxic power plays is for the best. You've got to be brave enough to risk hurting them temporarily and saving the relationship. 

Recognize that there are always going to be difficult moments in your relationship, and taking decisions to weather through them is what makes the relationship grow stronger. Being stern with someone you're head over heels in love with is never an easy task. So, allow yourself to feel bad for some time, but just be aware that it's for the overall good of the relationship.

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7. Understand him, but don't excuse him

understand him, but don't excuse him

When addressing power-play issues, it's normal to get heart-melting excuses from your partner, making you feel tempted to excuse their behavior. The truth is everyone has a touching and sometimes valid reason for doing something wrong or hurtful. 

Once you listen to their logic, you may get tempted to let the issue go. Don’t do this! If you allow your partner to influence your thinking this one time, you'd be enabling more toxic power play behaviors. they’ll always think that once they give you one sob story or the other, you’d let them do whatever it is that they want. 

To avoid these situations, hear your partner out. Listen to what he/she has to say and understand their reasons (if they're valid). However, let your partner know that you will not tolerate that type of reaction in the future as much as you understand their reasons. Empathize with him/her but don't excuse his bad behavior. It would only make the power imbalance worse. 

8. Stay calm

Sometimes, certain power plays may tick you off way more than others. They may get you to the point where you're fuming, and so you're tempted to act irrationally. However, try to stay as calm as possible. 

As soon as you decide to address an issue that has made you extremely angry, try your best to separate your feelings of anger and irritation from what your partner is saying. İt's quite challenging but it's possible, and it'll help you listen properly to what your partner has to say so you’d know exactly how to sort out the issue.

9. Develop immunity to power-playing behaviors

Whatever you do, do not allow your partner's power-play to make you bend over backward for them. Resist the urge to give in, especially when it's a behavior that you've previously addressed. Let's take the silent treatment, for example; as disengaging as the silent treatment is, it's one of the most dynamic power plays.

Many people in relationships use this to blackmail their partners into giving them what they want. This is because silence can be very uncomfortable and hard to ignore. In this case, it could be very tempting to change your mind about whatever it is you decided on previously. 

Doing this would disarm your partner when they see that they cannot control you by ignoring you.

10. Surround yourself with positivity

Maintaining positive energy is one reason you need to maintain good friendships even when you start a new relationship. When things go wrong with your partner, you'd need your friends' positive energies to lift your spirits. Hang around people who genuinely care about you and who aren't just out to get something selfish from their association with you. 

Your long time friends or family members are such people. There's hardly ever a power struggle with them. So anytime you feel overwhelmed, call and talk to them or spend time with them. They may also help you stay strong, so you’d be able to withstand any power-play tricks.

11. Reconsider your relationship

Let's all be honest, anyone who would put their own selfish needs above yours, even if it means punishing you in one way or the other, does not really like you. This is true, especially if it happens very often. Power play stems from greed and selfishness. 

If your spouse does not care that your feelings could get hurt if they ignore you, then it means that they may not truly like or love you as much as you thought they did. You may need to sit down and decide if you'd still like to continue in the relationship with this person.

12. Be ready to leave

be ready to leave

Never be afraid to walk away from a relationship that isn't serving you. If you have spoken to your partner about their actions and how it affects you, yet they're still bent on struggling for the upper hand in the relationship, you may need to bow out.

The moment your partner notices that you are fed up with all the mind games and you're not afraid to walk away if the circumstances call for it, they will be inclined to change their behavior.

13. Redefine yourself

Change is the only constant thing, don't ever be afraid to change your mind, redefine your boundaries or your ideals. İf your previous mindset isn't serving you, then it's ok for you to change. If the boundaries you set previously seem to be too weak, change them and be bold enough to stand by them. 

It's almost impossible to fulfill all the needs a person has. If, for example, your spouse starts to ignore you because he wants you to stay home and watch Netflix with them instead of going out with the girls/guys, say no to him this time. 

If you do not do this, they’re going to want something else some other time. They will also use the same mind games to put you in a corner so they can get what they want.


What is a power play in relationships?

Power plays involve certain mind games, techniques, or actions taken to gain an advantage or an edge over the other party in a relationship. Some examples include making your partner believe they're always at fault for everything that goes wrong in the relationship or turning the tables to distract them from your flaws.

How do you respond to power plays?

To overcome power plays, it's best to try and be more assertive. During conversations, make sure to repeat your sentences for emphasis and stress your words, so you don't sound scared or weak. Make brief sentences. Don’t be tricked into explaining yourself excessively. In some situations, you don't need to talk at all, stay silent and let them wonder what's in your mind.

What are power struggles in relationships?

Power struggles come into play in relationships when both partners realize that they have very different opinions and views of life and have strong personalities. Examples of power plays include stonewalling, ghosting, stirring up jealousy, threatening to leave the relationship, shaming you, putting the blame on you, and leaving you hanging.

What is power and control in relationships?

Power in a relationship represents influence. It's the leverage used by one or both parties to gain control and move the relationship in whatever direction they choose, instead of working with their partner to navigate life together as a unit. Every partnership should have a balance of power equally distributed between both parties.

How do you deal with a power-hungry person?

The first step to dealing with power-hungry people is to be aware that they are power-hungry in the first place. Then try your best not to respond to them too rapidly; try to find out their motive. They may sometimes act or do some hurtful things out of fear that they're underperforming.


I hope you found this article helpful. Remember, the best way to deal with power plays is to refuse to give in to your man or woman. Do not enable your partner by giving them what they want all the time. Please let me know what you think about this topic in the comment section below, and be sure to share the article.

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