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Marriage And Family Course


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#1 scifiohmy

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Posted 24 April 2014 - 02:23 PM

I just finished a college course about marriage and family. One of the issues we discussed was power within a relationship. According to the text, the most successful relationships are those where both partners have equal or near equal power. The less power one spouse perceives he or she has, the more likely they are to be unhappy or dissatisfied within the relationship. Thoughts?



#2 Buffy

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Posted 24 April 2014 - 02:50 PM

Indubitably.

 

Be aware that the word there is "power" and not "intelligence" or "strength" or "social skills" or any other commonly perceived human trait....

 

 

Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power, :phones:

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#3 Under the Rose

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Posted 25 April 2014 - 07:53 PM

A personal relationship, in this case marriage, is a conjoined entity created by the two individuals within the relationship.

 

Sharing the responsibilities within a marriage or cohabitation relationship is determined through mutual respect, individual abilities and the circumstances, bearing in mind that circumstances and abilities are in constant flux. The balance of power should be such that couples remain in a relationship because they choose to be together, not because either party has no other options. Not so many decades ago, it was very difficult for a woman to be independent and many women were in relationships because that was the expectation of the times and there were few other opportunities.

 

The stigma of living alone, for either gender, is all but gone in North American society at least, and the expectations of a lasting relationship in this day and age demands more compromise or sharing of power than even just one generation ago. Technology and employment equity have changed far more than just the workplace. :)

 

"A long marriage is two people trying to dance a duet and two solos at the same time."

-Anne Taylor Flemming


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#4 scifiohmy

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Posted 26 April 2014 - 04:52 PM

"Technology and employment equity have changed far more than just the workplace." -- Well said, Under the Rose! I took this marriage and family class over the past few months and it's really made me think about the nature of relationships. I never thought about things like power within a relationship before, but that really stuck with me as a woman, because we haven't traditionally held any power within our marriages. At least, not until recently.



#5 CraigD

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Posted 27 April 2014 - 12:52 PM

According to the text, the most successful relationships are those where both partners have equal or near equal power. The less power one spouse perceives he or she has, the more likely they are to be unhappy or dissatisfied within the relationship. Thoughts?

I agree (somewhat - see below), and believe the principle that power equality (which I like to term symmetry) is necessary for happy relationships applies not just of spousal ones, but employer/boss-employee, parent-child, government-citizen, and even nation-to-nation relationships, because what the principle addresses is the need for a check and balance.  When a party in a bi or multilateral relationship is much weaker than another, checks to assure the stronger party doesn't abuse the weaker are less effective.

 

Focusing on 2-party marriage relationships (which I take to include both gender combinations, state and church recognized and less official cohabitating), I think a deep understanding of equality requires thinking about the sources of power in relationships. 

 

Perhaps the most important, I think, is psychological, which can be described well by the term “dominance hierarchy”, as it’s usually applied by scientists to non-human apes.  The dominant member of a troop of chimpanzees or bonobos may not be the strongest or smartest.  The dominant human spouse may not be the one with the most personally controlled money or highest income, social standing, physical strength or beauty, or the one better chess player.  Establishing dominance is a usually mostly or entirely unconscious skill, which appears to me to be in part learned, and in part result from innate neurophysiology.

 

The reason I qualified my agreement as “somewhat”, is that dominance is a social behavior that has been biologically selected for in our species, and along with other behaviors, is a large part of what makes us the biologically successful species we are, and what makes us “human”.  I don’t think it’s psychologically healthy to deny that dominance hierarchies occur in marriages, or try to suppress them, but rather to understand them and their consequences.

 

Though at first glance it seems out of place in a discussion of marriage and family, I find it hard to discuss power, even merely inter-personal power, without referencing Mao Zedong’s famous observation that it “grows out of the barrel of a gun,” meaning that, ultimately, power is physical, even violent.  Though it’s unpleasant to think about, power in marriage, especially in the case of disagreements ranging from the trivial, like “what will we have on the big screen tonight”, to the profound, like where geographically we will live and what major capitol goods (cars, land, houses, etc.) will we buy with our pooled money, can come down to physical confrontation.  Such confrontation may involve intimidation (fairly synonymous with dominance), violence (which by my reckoning is the worst scenario), or threaten to break up the marriage.  Money is often involved.

 

So, accepting that dominance establishing behavior in marriage should be accepted and embraced, that dominance behavior is rooted in physical, “barrel of a gun” power, and the need for balance of power, I think the ultimate question is often how to assure that balance happens.

 

In my experience, preserving that balance requires the involvement of more people than the two spouses.  Unofficially, siblings, parents, and other family members of the spouses can help (the standard wedding joke “if you mistreat my daughter/sister, I’ll kill you”, is, IMHO, a useful dab of social lubricant), Officially, counselors, courts, and police.

 

As with most subjects, practical knowledge can be key.  I’ve seen several cases of bad marriage power imbalances that occurred because the under-spouse simply lacked knowledge of the power available to them - specifically, a spouse with lower income or income potential didn’t understand divorce law, and felt they would be destitute without their higher wealth/income spouse.


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#6 Under the Rose

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Posted 27 April 2014 - 05:02 PM

It might be interesting to explore the many aspects of what power within a marriage or similar living arrangement (since this is the example in the OP) actually entails or means to various individuals.

 

What are the dynamics of power when two persons with average jobs and incomes decide to set up house together? In this example, we are working from the premise that neither one is from a wealthy or privileged family and that both have high school and possibly some course work but no academic credentials but are of roughly equal IQ. Let's also accept that this is a heterosexual relationship with the possibility of children at some point. How does the potential of pregnancy, planned or by happenstance, affect the balance of power?


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#7 scifiohmy

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Posted 28 April 2014 - 04:55 AM

In asking about the dynamics of power "when two person with average jobs and incomes" live together, I think personalities play a significant role. Much like Craig said, I think dominant/submissive personalities are brought out when other sources of power (like money) don't reveal themselves.



#8 arissa

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Posted 28 April 2014 - 09:30 AM

I don't think this always has to be the case. There are times when I am more successfully than my partner and other times when the roles are reversed. It might work for some but it does not work for all.



#9 Buffy

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Posted 28 April 2014 - 09:57 AM

I don't think this always has to be the case. There are times when I am more successfully than my partner and other times when the roles are reversed. It might work for some but it does not work for all.

 

Success is to weather as power is to climate. Power really evolves over time, so the moving average is more important than any instantaneous measurement of a single component of one member's power quotient.

 

I was a hausfrau for a while after my daughter was born, and although I was no longer a major breadwinner, the source of my "power" simply shifted.

 

Not that major shifts in power in a relationship can't happen, just that it's usually slowly and usually as a result of a whole lot of factors.

 

 

Marriage is a great institution, but I'm not ready for an institution yet, :phones:

Buffy


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#10 scifiohmy

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Posted 29 April 2014 - 10:35 PM

Another component of the text/course that I found interesting spoke not only of the more 'powerful' spouse considering the relationship more satisfying but also of the different types of power there are. 

 

*Grabs Kindle.*

 

Let's see, we've got coercive power, reward power, expert power, informational power, referent power, and legitimate power. 

 

In other words, it's not just about who makes the most money or has the most dominant personality.