Since the use and abuse of power are such critical issues in derailed relationships, there are two skills couples must develop to work effectively on power imbalances: empowerment and empathy.
If you have been engaged for any length of time,you know it’s impossible to share every task and responsibility equally.Each of you have different skills and abilities.However,an important goal of marriage is to empower your spouse.Empowerment means establishing power in the other.The way to do this is to recognize the strengths your partner brought into the marriage and encourage him or her to deploy these skills.Urge him or her to become all they can become.Where there is a weakness,work to strengthen it rather than reinforcing the weakness.The goal here is for two people to empower each other to live up to their full potential.
In our culture,power is a precious commodity. More power means more influence. When Jesus came to the earth,He did not deploy his power for selfish gains.Instead,He aimed at lifting the downtrodden,forgiving the offenders,and encouraging.This is the exact pattern to emulate in your relationships.
God’s model of power is about equal access and equal opportunity.His resources are inexhaustible.Knowing this,you don’t need to struggle for more of God’s power just for yourself.There is abundance for everyone. You only need to encourage your partner to tap into same.
Unfortunately,empowering others takes a conscious effort.It’s far easier to take control and misuse power of insecurities and mistrust.Most partners struggle with these issues and eventually must come to terms on power distribution within their marriage.
Empathy is about putting yourself in the shoes of someone else,understanding their issues from their point of view.
Couples need to address power issues by feeling each other’s pain.
Since you and your partner come from different backgrounds and experiences,you need emphathy.You may lack it because you are unaware of each other’s experiences,or you prematurely attempt to solve problems before understanding all the elements of the problems,or because you have negative expectations for each other.
Women generally believe men lack empathy. Some do,but men are just as capable of empathy as women. The difference is that men often must be motivated to use it.
Lack of empathy between partners is often as a result of their belief system or perhaps their way of thinking. For example,wives want husbands to listen.Men feel they show empathy by giving solutions. Take for instance, Jack and Jill. Jack tries to solve Jill’s problem,thinking he is really helping. Jill wants to solve her own problem and is disturbed that is Jack is telling her what to do.Both become upset and complain that the other has no emphathy for the situation.She says, “Listen,hold my hand and give me eye contact,then I know you care.Let me try to solve the problem before you jump in with advice.” Jack is relieved because he doesn’t seem to always have an answer.But he wants action to follow listening.He may have useful ideas,but he knows he is engaged to a competent woman.
Jack wants Jill to know , “Because I don’t extricate my feelings as much as you wanted doesn’t mean I don’t have them.Give me time to think about what is going on,and don’t jump over me for not immediately sharing. I am not as swift as you think when it comes to processing my feelings.So don’t assume I don’t ever feel.Sometimes,I just need time to think about it.”
The truth is,both Jack and Jill must define their expectations and what is helpful to their wellbeing.
In addition to defining their expectations,partners must realize that men have been raised as men and women as women.As obvious as this statement is,it means you and your partner come from different gender biases.You need to appreciate these differences and work through them.Partners who share their gender experiences and feelings are most likely to excel in their marriages or relationships.