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Resolving differences in sexual appetite and rhythm can be a means of attaining inner balance and overcoming self-centeredness. To achieve harmony, compromise is necessary. If your partner does not enjoy sex, you will not enjoy it fully either.


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Learning to live without unnecessary struggle is a lifelong process. For most of us, it will require shedding old thinking habits and choosing to value seeing and understanding over winning and being right. At times during this process, it may feel as if you are losing power, as others ignore your views at the same time that you are open to theirs. Don't despair. As you change your priorities from being right to understanding and acting on all relevant information, your very definition of what it means to be powerful will change. As you find room in your heart and mind for seemingly contradictory ideas and feelings to peacefully co-exist, you greatly increase the appropriateness and long-range effectiveness of your actions.

The types of relationships you attract to you can be seen as mirrors of your level of inner harmony or self-awareness.


Principles Of  Healthy Relationships

Close loving or working relationships can help you expand your consciousness and broaden your perspective. Over time you learn to include another's perspective alongside your own.

Expanding your perspective to include other viewpoints does not mean abandoning your own position. You come to see other realities in addition to your own, not instead of it.

Moving beyond power struggles, and the either-or thinking that engenders them, requires a transformation in consciousness. You must shift from Security/Control thinking to Growth/Discovery or Unity/Participation thinking.

While conflicts seem to be caused by differing needs or ways of doing things, the real cause is in the meanings people attribute to these differences. In intimate relationships, for example, rarely do two people have exactly the same need for contact at all times. But it is one's interpretation of this fact that leads to suffering or acceptance.

Many intimate fights are unconscious ways of adjusting the distance between partners. People fight when they want more closeness. They fight when they want more distance. But usually their fights seem to be about something other than these simple needs. If couples could more easily accept their differing needs, they would be able to communicate more honestly.

It's not what happens to you that makes you happy or unhappy with your life, but how you handle what happens to you.

Whatever you resist in life keeps coming back to you, demanding your attention. In relationships, our partners and co-workers often appear to be at the source of our frustrations when they are more likely just mirroring back to us those aspects of reality with which we have not yet found a satisfactory way to cope.

The power struggles between people reflect the power struggles within people. We don't get emotionally involved in a power struggle unless we are also in a state of inner conflict.

When another person's behavior or attitude evokes a negative emotional reaction in you, there is some aspect of yourself of which you are unaware or unaccepting. Through dialogue with another, you expand the boundaries of your sense of self.

Many couples are attracted to one another because each partner has qualities the other admires, and perhaps secretly wishes to have. With continued contact, you may come to learn these qualities from each other. When this occurs, there is no longer cause for struggle.

An interpersonal relationship is a living system with interdependent parts functioning to some degree as a unit. A change in one part of the system sends changes reverberating through the entire system. In a living system, one person's change does not occur in a vacuum. It is always felt and responded to in some way by the other person. If you want your partner to change, change yourself.

If you wish another to treat you in a certain manner, try treating that person in this same manner. Love engenders love. Openness engenders openness. Fear and suspicion engender fear and suspicion. Somebody has to make the first move.

Each one of us is responsible for the quality of our own inner state, no matter what happens to us in the external world.

At any moment, in a potential conflict situation, you have the choice either to de-fuse or escalate the conflict. If you wish to de-fuse a potential struggle, to "turn the heat down," don't become aggressive or defensive. Instead, try to hear what the other is saying and feeling and then, once the other feels heard and is thus able to listen, express your own viewpoint.

Positive expectations about another's motives or intentions engender positive outcomes.

To expand your range of choices, experiment with non-habitual ways of dealing with your negative emotional reactions. In order to become more fully human (conscious) and less machine-like (unconscious), it helps to intentionally behave in ways that are not your habitual or automatic (sometimes seen as your "natural") ways.


Power Struggles Are Resolved More Easily When Participants Follow Basic Communication Guidelines

* Express what you are thinking, feeling or wanting now in this relationship with this person. Do not bring in past incidents from this or other relationships to bolster your position.

* Express yourself in positive terms. Tell the other what you want, not what you don't want; what you're for, not what you're against. It is much easier for another to receive your communication without defensiveness when it is phrased positively.

* Don't interrupt. Allow the other to express his/her position fully and to feel understood, before you offer your view.

* When seeking something from the other, the phrase, "I want..." is received more easily than, "You should..." Most people resist being told how they "should" behave.


Cycle of Blame

If you are caught in a cycle of blame and counter-blame, attack and counter-attack, it may be time to look for the softer, more tender feelings which lie beneath the surface. Most harder or sharper feelings cover over deeper, softer, less easy-to-articulate feelings, such as a longing to be closer, a need for reassurance, fear of being hurt, etc. When partners are able to recognize and express the feelings underneath the feelings they are struggling over, the power struggle may dissolve right then and there.


The Personal Rewards For Learning To Resolve Power Struggles

* You feel confident and assured in a wider variety of life situations as you rediscover more and more of your personal potential.

* You have the capacity to understand and empathize with more different types of people.

* You may come to develop a deep almost telepathic rapport with some people, thus giving you more complete insight into what it means to be a human being.

* People will enjoy being in your presence because you treat them with respect. Being with you enhances others' self-esteem.

* If people come to believe and act as if other people are friends rather than adversaries, we are likely to see more relationships where resources are shared rather than hoarded. When this occurs, more resources actually become available to more people. The world starts to feel like a friendlier place and we become less fearful.

From: Beyond the Power Struggle. (1984). Susan M. Campbell, Ph.D.



Judith Wallerstein is a well-respected researcher in the area of divorce. But in her 1995 book, The Good Marriage, she turns her attention to understanding the elements in marriages that have survived and flourished. She has conceptualized nine tasks that are actualized over the course of a lifetime and distinguish good marriages. These tasks build a relationship with integrity and staying power that can withstand inevitable life stresses.


  1. To separate emotionally from the family of one's childhood so as to invest fully in the marriage and, at the same time, to redefine the lines of connection with both families of origin.

  2. To build togetherness by creating the intimacy that supports it while carving out each partner's autonomy. These issues are central throughout the marriage but loom especially large at the outset, at midlife, and at retirement.
  3. To embrace the daunting roles of parents and to absorb the impact of Her Majesty the Baby's dramatic entrance. At the same time the couple must work to protect their own privacy.
  4. To confront and master the inevitable crises of life, maintaining the strength of the bond in the face of adversity.
  5. To create safe havens for the expression of differences, anger, and conflict.
  6. To establish a rich and pleasurable sexual relationship and protect it from the incursions of the workplace and family obligations.
  7. To use laughter and humor to keep things in perspective and to avoid boredom by sharing fun, interests, and friends.
  8. To provide nurturance and comfort to each other, satisfying each partner's needs for dependency and offering continuing encouragement and support.
  9. To keep alive the early romantic, idealized images of falling in love while facing the sober realities of the changes wrought by time.



May 2000
By Carol Boulware, Ph.D.

Where Does Your Relationship Stand?

Here is a short self-quiz that can give you a general indication of your relationship's potential for long-lasting fidelity. This quiz is intended only for greater awareness and not as a diagnostic tool.

Ideally, both partners will take the quiz so that you have the benefit of comparing and discussing your answers. If you feel you need an in-depth evaluation of your specific situation, consider having a consultation with a professional therapist or relationship counselor.

Answer YES or NO to these questions, then total your YES answers. Check your total with the Key at the end of the list of questions.

  1. Do you rarely tell your partner what you need or want in your relationship? YES NO
  2. Do you rarely ask your partner what they need or want in your relationship? YES NO
  3. Do you often blame your partner when things go wrong or you feel unhappy? YES NO
  4. Does one of you have a greater need for sexual intimacy than the other? YES NO
  5. Do you often think about ways in which your partner can met your needs? YES NO
  6. Do you feel that you got "pushed" into committing to your relationship? YES NO
  7. Do you often feel bored with your sex life? YES NO
  8. Is sexual activity the main focus of your time together? YES NO
  9. Is it difficult for you to be honest with your partner? YES NO
  10. Do you often tell "white lies" to spare feelings or "keep the peace"? YES NO
  11. Do you spend at least 10 minutes a day talking with your partner? YES NO
  12. Do you often fantasize about sexual encounters with other people? YES NO
  13. Is there an "unspoken pact" between you not to discuss certain subjects? YES NO
  14. Is it difficult to accept the things you dislike about your partner? YES NO
  15. Have either of you ever threatened to leave each other if the other strayed? YES NO
  16. Are you able to express your anger or displeasure with your partner? YES NO
  17. Does your partner make a lot of demands on you? YES NO
  18. Do you often feel resentful towards your partner? YES NO


1-4 YES's -- indicate your relationship is strong right now

5-9 YES's -- indicate that you and/or your partner may be vulnerable at this time. You should give serious consideration to the guidelines that appear later in this article.

10 + YES's -- indicates you may be headed for serious problems and should consider professional counseling.

Your answers should give you more awareness of your actions and motivations in your relationship. Hopefully, they will stimulate open and honest discussion between you and your partner.




John Gottman in his book Why Marriages Succeed or Fail provides a number of self-tests to determine various aspects of the marital relationship. One of the most important he includes is a self-test for determining if there is enough love and respect in your marriage. I provide this test here to help couples assess the state of their relationship. Please do not assume this is a definitive assessment. It is just a quick check, nothing more.

Answer "yes" or "no" to each of the following statement, depending on whether you mostly agree or disagree. If your partner is not willing or able to take the test, you can take it for him or her.


  1. My spouse seeks out my opinions.
    You:    Yes     No
    Your Partner:    Yes     No
  2. My spouse cares about my feelings.
    You:    Yes     No
    Your Partner:    Yes     No
  3. I don't feel ignored very often.
    You:    Yes     No
    Your Partner:    Yes     No
  4. We touch each other a lot.
    You:    Yes     No
    Your Partner:    Yes     No
  5. We listen to each other.
    You:    Yes     No
    Your Partner:    Yes     No
  6. We respect each other's ideas.
    You:    Yes     No
    Your Partner:    Yes     No
  7. We are affectionate toward one another.
    You:    Yes     No
    Your Partner:    Yes     No
  8. I feel that my partner takes good care of me.
    You:    Yes     No
    Your Partner:    Yes     No
  9. What I say counts.
    You:    Yes     No
    Your Partner:    Yes     No
  10. I am important in our decisions.
    You:    Yes     No
    Your Partner:    Yes     No
  11. There's lots of love in our marriage.
    You:    Yes     No
    Your Partner:    Yes     No
  12. We are genuinely interested in one another.
    You:    Yes     No
    Your Partner:    Yes     No
  13. I just love spending time with my partner.
    You:    Yes     No
    Your Partner:    Yes     No
  14. We are very good friends.
    You:    Yes     No
    Your Partner:    Yes     No
  15. Even during rough times, we can be empathic.
    You:    Yes     No
    Your Partner:    Yes     No
  16. My spouse is considerate of my viewpoint.
    You:    Yes     No
    Your Partner:    Yes     No
  17. My spouse finds me physically attractive.
    You:    Yes     No
    Your Partner:    Yes     No
  18. My partner expresses warmth toward me.
    You:    Yes     No
    Your Partner:    Yes     No
  19. I feel included in my partner's life.
    You:    Yes     No
    Your Partner:    Yes     No
  20. My spouse admires me.
    You:    Yes     No
    Your Partner:    Yes     No
Scoring: If you checked "yes" to fewer than seven items, then it is likely you are not feeling adequately loved and respected in your marriage. You may also be having problems resolving conflicts effectively. You need to be far more active and creative in adding affection to your relationship.





From article, How Women Experience Battering: The Process of Victimization, by Kathleen Ferraro and John Johnson Arizona State University

  1. The appeal of the salvation ethic: This rationalization is grounded in a woman's desire to be of service to others. Abusing husbands are viewed as deeply troubled, dependent on their wives nurturance for survival. Battered women place their own safety and happiness below the commitment to "saving my man".
  2. The denial of victimizer: This technique is similar to the salvation ethic, except that victims do not assume responsibility for solving their abusers' problems. Women perceive battering as an event beyond the control of both spouses, and blame it on some external force. The violence is therefore seen as situational and temporary.
  3. The denial of injury: For some women, the experience of being battered by a spouse is so discordant with their expectations that they simply refuse to acknowledge it. routines quickly return to normal. Men may refuse to discuss or acknowledge the event..
  4. The denial of victimization: Victims often blame themselves for the violence, thereby neutralizing the responsibility of the spouse. Battered women don't generally believe that violence against them is justified, but some feel it could have been avoided if they had been more passive and conciliatory.
  5. The denial of options: This rationalization is composed of two elements: practical options and emotional options. Practical options, including alternative housing, sources of income, and protection from an abuser, are clearly limited by the patriarchal structure of Western society. However, there are differences in the ways battered women respond to these obstacles, ranging from determined struggle to acquiescence. For a variety of reasons, some battered women do not take full advantage of the practical opportunities which are available to escape, and some return to abusers voluntarily even after establishing an independent lifestyle.
  6. The appeal to higher loyalties: This appeal involves enduring battering for the sake of some higher commitment, either religious or traditional. The Christian belief that women would serve their husbands as men serve God is invoked as a rationalization to endure a husband's violence for later rewards in the afterlife. clergy may support this view by advising women to pray and try harder to please their husbands.

Catalysts for Change

  1. A change in the level of violence: The severity of abuse is an important factor in women's decision to leave violent situations. A sudden change in the relative level of violence is often the catalyst for change.
  2. A change in resources: Although some women rationalize cohabiting with an abuser by claiming they have no options, others begin reinterpreting violence when the resources necessary for escape become available.
  3. A change in the relationship: Violent incidents are usually followed by periods of remorse and solicitude. Such phases deepen the emotional bonds, and make rejection of an abuser more difficult. But as battering progresses, periods of remorse may shorten, or disappear, eliminating the basis for maintaining a positive outlook on the marriage.
  4. Despair: Changes in the relationship may result in loss of hope that "things will get better." When hope is destroyed and replaced by despair, rationalization of violence may give way to the recognition of victimization.
  5. A change in the visibility of violence: Creating a web of rationalizations to overlook violence is accomplished more easily if no intruders are present to question their validity. Since most violence between couples occurs in private, there are seldom conflicting interpretations of the event from outsiders. If violence does occur in the presence of others, it may trigger a reinterpretation process.
  6. External definitions of the relationship: A change in visibility is usually accomplished by the interjection of external definitions of abuse. External definitions vary depending on their source and the situation; they either reinforce or undermine rationalizations. Battered women who request help frequently find others- and especially officials- don't believe their story or are unsympathetic. When outsiders respond with unqualified support of the victim and condemnation of violent men, their definitions can be a potent catalyst. Friends and relatives who show genuine concern for a woman's well being may initiate an awareness of danger, which contradicts previous rationalizations.