Egalitarian poly relationships sound great on paper: free love, boundless acceptance, equal say in decision making, and no hierarchical structure.
At the best of times they work out perfectly—everyone is happy, and no one feels powerless. At the worst of times, egos flare and power struggles ensue, all with the hope of evening some self-determined score.
So, what can you do if you find yourself locked in an ongoing emotional tug of war with a member of your polycule?
How to Deal with Power Struggles in Poly Relationships
No matter what type of issue you’re having, it’s important to remain respectful. Don’t let your struggle affect the way you behave in other areas of your poly life. Continue to honor boundaries, stick to your date-night schedule, and keep each other in the loop with regards to decisions that impact the group.
Even if things get heated and contentious, stand strong in the knowledge that above all else, you believe in the other’s right to be heard and to exist as an equal in your poly world.
Part of showing respect involves listening. Not just hearing, but really listening. If you and your opponent have a habit of talking over one another, wait for the other to finish, take a breath, then speak. Try summarizing what you heard, and be open to clarification.
In understanding the other person’s point of view, you might find that things are not as dire as they seem, or that is was all just a big misunderstanding. Failing that, you might at least gain some compassion for one another.
Power struggles feed on stubbornness. Try to soften your position a bit and find some way to compromise. Work on it together. Decide what your ideal outcome looks like, then move towards that. If your struggle revolves around planning and decision-making, break things down into categories and come to an agreement on who will handle what.
Creating clear expectations will go a long way towards curbing dramatic showdowns.
Acknowledge What You Can and Cannot Control
Another factor that contributes greatly to power struggles is the need to control everything. I’m sure you’ve heard it before, but the only thing we can ever really control is ourselves. We can choose to be cruel or kind. We can decide how we respond to others, but we cannot control how other people behave or how they choose to live their lives.
How much of your present conflict comes from your need to micromanage others? If you can let that go, life will be so much less stressful for you and your polycule.
Have you ever been locked in a poly power struggle? How did you deal? Leave us your story in the comments.
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