Balance of Power in Romantic Relationships
By Jennifer Lane
As a psychologist/author (psycho author), I’m fascinated by relationship dynamics. What’s the age difference between partners? Who wears the pants in the relationship? Does one partner need to be the alpha (more dominant) to the other partner’s beta (more submissive)? Can two oldest children make a relationship work?
I believe we learn how to navigate relationships in our families. Repetitive emotional interactions in our families teach us boundaries, communication, and expectations in relationships. For example, if a girl’s mother was unreliable, it may be difficult for the girl to ask for help when she’s an adult. If family members were emotionally uninvolved, it might be a challenge to be vulnerable and close with one’s partner. Boundary crossings like abuse often make it difficult for individuals to ask for what they need or to say no.
There are several reasons I prefer a more even balance of power in romantic relationships, and those reasons tie into my family experiences. My mother and father are almost the exact same age, and that makes me suspicious when one partner is significantly older than the other. I question how partners can share interests if they’re from different generations, and I sometimes wonder if unresolved issues with parents make individuals seek lovers their parents’ ages. But others might be more familiar with age-discrepant partners making it work.
Even though my parents are the same age, there is a definite power imbalance in their relationship. My mother wears the pants. She grew up as the oldest child of a domineering father, and she sought an easygoing, “beta” partner who was very different from her dad. She found him when she met my father, who was the younger child in his family. My mother’s alpha personality is one reason I’m a feminist and have trouble appreciating women who are shrinking violets.
But I’ve seen how a power imbalance can cause problems. Sometimes alphas can be downright cruel to betas, and it’s frustrating when betas don’t stand up for themselves. At the same time, it’s probably impossible to have an exactly even power balance. Naturally one partner will take the lead at times.
How does birth order affect relationship dynamics? I have two older sisters, and my oldest sister’s husband grew up as the oldest of three boys. Despite both being the oldest children, my sister and brother-in-law really impress me by their relationship. There might be occasional tiffs over who’s in charge, but their wonderful communication quickly resolves that conflict. Amidst the chaos of their three sons shouting and running around them, they set aside time to discuss thoughts and feelings.
What type of power balance is your favorite in romantic relationships? How might your family experiences influence your preferences? What works or doesn’t work in your relationship?
After surviving the rigors of writing a psychology dissertation, the author known as Jennifer Lane has happily turned to writing fiction. She still maintains her psychology practice in Ohio, but please rest assured that she’s not psychoanalyzing you right now. The tales of healing and resilience from her career have inspired her to write her own stories: The Conduct Series. With Good Behavior began with two cons trying to make it on the outside: running from the Mafia, joking about sexy vegetables, and just maybe falling in love. Bad Behavior, the next in line, reveals that it’s not so easy to escape the past, but the plucky parolees once again strive to persevere. Jen is currently at work on the third and final installment of the series: On Best Behavior. Jen’s also excited for the release of her first Young Adult novel in March of 2012: Streamline. She’s found that whether writing or reading, she loves stories that make her laugh and cry. In her spare time Jen enjoys competitive swimming, attending book club, and hanging out with her sisters and their families in Chicago.
ABOUT THE CONDUCT SERIES
It’s been a lot of fun to play with “con” words in my stories, and my friend Janine helped me come up with the name for the trilogy of books featuring parolees Sophie and Grant: The Conduct Series. The romantic leads in The Conduct Series are two law-abiding citizens who unwittingly got mixed up with a Mafia capo, Logan Barberi, which led them both to prison sentences. The story begins as Sophie and Grant are starting parole and attempting to rebuild their lives and their dignity.
Sophie Taylor is a former psychologist who’s an intelligent, spunky, strawberry-blond beauty. She has a tendency to open her heart to wounded people, including the “bad-boy” boyfriends littering her past. Grant Madsen is a former Navy lieutenant who’s hard-working and kind, with dark Italian features and stunning crystal-blue eyes. He has a penchant for brooding and self-sacrifice.
Their paths collide outside their parole officer’s door, and both have no idea about the explosive hidden connection waiting for them like a ticking bomb down the road. I’m now writing book three, titled On Best Behavior. As of November, 2011, I’m about 30% done. Please check her blog for updates!