In Conflict

If you’re anything like me, when you fell in love, your relationship felt like a series of magical moments… 

…each one punctuated by your heart pounding and a nervous excitement that set your spirit soaring and your stomach doing flip-flops just at the thought of seeing him or her?

You felt alive and wanted to share every waking moment with your lover, right?

Remember those moments of being joined at the hip?

And then, a terrible thing happens to two people in love.

The primal panic of the Power Struggle stage

Somewhere between 2 months and 2 years into your relationship, the intoxicating feelings of being in love begin to fade…

…and are slowly replaced with a primal panic inside as it dawns on us that we feel trapped or abandoned by the very person we thought would make us happy and look after our heart.

This is the beginning of a relationship stage that all relationships face, called the Power Struggle stage.

At this point, if you don’t run for the hills and try find a new relationship, you attempt to get your needs met by trying to change your partner to be more like you want them to be (like you) and more like when you first met.

Or, you’ll try to punish them for not being who you thought they were.

Of course, they do the same to you and before you know it, you begin to feel like you can’t be yourself around your partner anymore.

You both walk on eggshells around each other, feeling scared, misunderstood and not knowing what to do to change it.

After a while of this power struggle, even the smallest disagreements get blown out of proportion leaving you feeling alone, abandoned and totally disconnected from the one person you love most.

Once you feel disconnected, you most likely become needy and demanding, desperately trying to reconnect with your lover…

…or you become withdrawn and distant, shutting down to protect yourself and taking time alone to process how you’re feeling.

Whatever the case, your relationship no longer feels safe.

Does this sound kinda familiar?

Am I close? Maybe you’re wondering if I’m psychic!

Everything’s OK

If you can relate to any of what I’ve just described, you’re normal.

I’ll say that again: You are normal and it’s OK that you’re fighting.

What I’ve described above is the inevitable journey from the Romance Stage of relationship to the Power Struggle stage of relationship. It’s not your fault – it’s designed by nature this way.

To some degree you lost yourself in your relationship while falling in love and have become dependent on your partner. This is not actually a “bad” thing and is a necessary part of the bonding process that happens when we fall in love.

However, it is not a sustainable way to live, so nature forces you to energetically separate and establish a new, more healthy shared power between you.

If you succeed, you graduate with flying colors to the next stage of relationship – mature love. If you don’t, you break up.

The Paradox of LOVE

Paradoxically, it takes falling out of love to spark the next stage of your growth, both individually and as a couple.

If you’re both willing to grow, you can get beyond the tug of war and learn how to share power between you in a fluid, productive way.

Only then can you move beyond the Power Struggle stage of relationship into a deeper, more mature love that can be even more passionate, exciting and connected that what you’ve experienced in the Romance Stage.

How to overcome the Power Struggle Stage and move into Mature Love

Couple Fighting
The first step on any healing journey is acknowledging that you’ve got a problem and clearly defining what that problem is.

The surface problem is that you’re no longer able to sustain a stable intimate connection between you and your loved one and that nothing you try is making it better.

The deeper problem both of you face is that you are triggering each other’s deepest attachments fears – most likely the fear of being rejected or abandoned, or the fear of being trapped, controlled or smothered.

Are you willing to acknowledge that you have a problem you don’t know how to solve?

If you are, then you’ve taken the first step towards healing your relationship.

The next steps in your journey will involve learning:

  • Counter-intuitive communication skills that we weren’t taught at school, so that you can share your heart openly without rubbing each other’s emotional raw spots
  • How to safely connect with each other in a way that makes you feel close
  • How to end recurring conflict, so that you’re not repeating the same old destructive relationship patterns over and over
  • How to heal and forgive past wounds so that trust is restored between you
  • How to understand and appreciate each other’s differences so that both of you can be yourselves with each other and live an authentic life together, without needing to change to please your partner or keep the peace is designed for one purpose only: To help you take these next steps and overcome the Power Struggle stage of your relationship, so you get on with your lives together and be happy.

If what you’ve read above resonates with you, and you’re ready to take these next steps to healing your relationship and getting past the Power Struggle stage, check out our online relationship skills training program, designed to end your power struggle.

If you have any questions about the Power Struggle stage, please ask them below and I’ll do my best to answer them.

Leave a comment and let me know what you think...


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7 comments so far
  • Prince

    What if my partner is not aware that our relationship is on the power struggle stage and already she’s pushing me away shutting down to protect herself and I was also doing the same to her. How do I therefore make her aware and we work on solving our relationship?

  • To Prince

    Prince, talk to her! Or send her this article! Or both. Open up the conversation. Communication is always the first step.

  • Ev

    I’m in an 8 month long distance relationship. At the beginning, for the first 6 months or so, we spoke/Skype and texted every day throughout the day. Among other things, we often spoke about the importance of communication. Then we had a disagreement and things changed. He seems to have withdrawn and contact has lessened drastically. While I understand that relationships change over time, I know that this is due to the fight. He’s distanced himself and his whole vibe has changed; he doesn’t speak or look at me the same as before, even though he’s said nothing has changed for him and he still loves me and wants to be with me. I should also mention that recently he started gaming and I suspect that’s taking up time that was once used for us to talk or Skype. Now here’s my problem: It seemed to me that I was the one doing most of the initial texting and calling daily, so I wanted to see if he would pick up the slack if I stopped. A day or two went by and nothing lol, so then I got mad and stubborn and didn’t contact him. He’s either being stubborn too or he’s fading out the relationship, I don’t know, but this power struggle article has me intrigued. I acknowledge that from my end I’m “struggling for the power” and now it just feels silly (it’s been about 4 days of no contact). But I’m wondering if I should make contact to address this or just let it go . I’m hurt and annoyed by this, yes, even though I initiated it lol. Any advice would be appreciated.

    • Bruce Muzik

      Hi Ev,

      Thanks for reaching out. I don’t coach over email or chat as it’s ineffective and slow. If you’d like some help with this, please check out my relationship coaching packages.


  • Simon

    Hello Bruce.

    I am most probably in the power struggle with my boyfriend… I have come to terms with our differences mostly and able to see and appreciate what we can give each other…

    It’s just this one thing; I have doubts of whether I still love him or not. I fell out of love about a year ago, and went through a lot of panic of where my feelings went and whatnot… Been so close to breaking things up because of my thinking that it’s all “wrong”; that I don’t love him back strongly enough.

    I do feel certain that we can grow together, we have clear similarities but also differences (e.g. I am a perfectionist and he’s a “settler”)… Objectively I see our relationship to be a good thing, and I strongly (probably TOO strongly) WANT us to be together…

    But I have this constant feeling that my “love” is just being more and more drained out of my body… Like it’s dying. The longing for him has disappeared. And just as I gain some hope one night and feel like “maybe we can get through this”, I wake up the next morning and feel even MORE empty.

    I should mention it took us a year of being in love until we could finally get together because he was already in a relationship, and by the time his boyfriend agreed to polygamy (please no judgments), making it able for us two to love each other, the romance stage was over… Without me never being able to fully experience it due to him already being in a relationship then. So there’s a deep disappointment in me since I was never able to express my “high” with him. I am aware of it though, and have accepted it… I think.

    I have finally understood that I need to stop fighting, which is hard but I am getting better it. However I am scared that I have analyzed my love for him “to death”, because now after endless reasoning and thinking it feels like I crumbled everything apart…

    My final question to you is: can love “die”? If you feel like you have stopped loving – can you learn to love the same person again?
    I know I can’t get back to the romance stage but it would be nice to at least have some small love feelings… I feel like a statue with no love left in it whatsoever… The warmth is all gone.

    I want to be him very badly but I’m haunted by thoughts constantly saying things to stop allowing myself to… “It’s wrong – you don’t love him anymore – it’s impossible – you’re fooling yourself – you’re in denial” et.c. et.c….

    Please help me, I want to find my love again…

    (the third part is NOT a problem)

  • Jade

    Hi there I need some advice I’ve been with my partner two months now we live together and although we are young I love him truly and so does he deep down we have had an amazing relationship but things have started to get really rocky he’s changed he doesn’t show me love or affection as much as he used to were arguing 247 and I try so hard to put it right but he just doesn’t seem happy and sleeping back to back in bed is actually horrible because when we first met we never let go of each other I don’t know what to do anymore or what I’m doing so wrong and I just can’t get through to him 🙁

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