This time, Jewel and husband Ty Murray are divorcing after 6 years of marriage. As I looked through this article it listed more celebrity breakups of couples who have been together somewhere between 3 and 25 years.
Reading about such long relationships ending in divorce or separation can’t help but make one wonder what’s going on. Is it that celebrity relationships and marriages are doomed, or is there something else going on with all relationships and marriages?
I believe the latter is the case. Here’s exactly what is going on with all these loving relationships and marriages falling apart: they are failing to work through the Power Struggle Stage, a normal, unavoidable stage of relationships.
Every relationship of any sort goes through a power struggle as the two people negotiate whose agenda will run the relationship. This happens in jobs, in businesses, in families, in friendships and in romantic relationships. Power struggles even happen with pets! Any two beings need to work out how they are going to function together and this often starts with a clash of agendas and wills.
How couples deal with the power struggle either sets them up for a lifetime of growth and love or sets them up for an exhausting relationship that eventually ends. The end can be amicable, where the two people still like and love each other, but just can’t seem to make it work. Or the end can be conflict-ridden, with one or both people hating each other. The end can also be the end of love and affection, but not the trappings of the relationship, such as a couple staying in a marriage for the sake of the children.
No matter the scenario, power struggle that is not well worked through leads to the death of romantic love and romantic feelings in the couple. Given that every relationship goes through a power struggle stage, shouldn’t learning how to work through it effectively be basic knowledge that all of us are taught? It should be, but it is not.
We don’t learn how to do healthy relationships, but instead think that if there’s enough love in the relationship it will carry us through whatever comes. This is exactly why I wrote the 8+ Stages of Relationships Guide, to help men and women learn how to successfully do healthy, life-long relationships. Looking at the celebrity couples in the article above, many of them, if not all, were deeply in love. Many of them were deeply committed to each other, speaking about this commitment publicly. And yet even this love was not enough. Here’s why.
When couples hit the power struggle stage they often flat-out refuse to give each other what is needed, or at best try to compromise and negotiate through the struggle. However, when you negotiate and compromise neither partner gets what they want. A relationship is not sustainable when one partner begrudgingly gets some of what he or she wants, while the other is strong-armed into providing that thing against his or her will.
I talk much about the subject of how to successfully negotiate the power struggle in the 8+ Stages of Relationships Guide. I suggest that if you want to learn to work through the power struggle in your current, or in your next relationship, you get the Guide and learn exactly what to do.
In this article I want to address one important aspect of what it takes to save your relationship by successfully working through the power struggle, the one thing that the celebrity couples obviously miss, and the key reason for all these divorces:
In order to negotiate the power struggle successfully a couple must find a way to give each other exactly what each partner needs. To do this each partner must give not out of giving in, accommodation, obligation or even compromise. Each partner must grow bigger and more capable; become more of an emotionally mature person, to be able to give each other exactly what is needed in the relationship.
Harville Hendrix, in his classic Keeping the Love You Find says it well: “We must change to become the kind of person that our partner needs…” Interestingly, when we do that, we also grow into more of who we are meant to be, rather than becoming less of ourselves.
The refusal to change to meet our partner’s needs means we win the Power Struggle, maintaining our tight identity, but lose the possibility of great, positive, beneficial growth for ourselves and for our partner. And it often means we lose the relationship.
Opening up and growing within the relationship is a better path that not only leads to a wonderful life-time relationship but also to deep personal satisfaction for each partner.
To learn exactly how to do this, and make certain your current or next relationship lasts, you can set up a Get Clarity Coaching Session with me. Or you can get the 8+ Stages of Relationships Guide – it contains guidance on how to negotiate the power struggle stage and all stage of a relationship, at a fraction of the cost of a coaching session.