"It is important that [couples] work together in their leadership in the family." - Richard B. Miller, PhD (Miller, 2008).This week's subject is on councils as well as understanding and overcoming marital power struggles. It is natural for couples to want to try to take control in the marital relationship, but allowing yourselves to get into a power struggle will have an outcome where one or both spouses will be dissatisfied in the marriage. It is also the perfect setup for Dr. John Gottman's "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse" to infiltrate and destroy your friendship.
Areas of your relationship where power struggles often come up are:
- Parenting techniques/child discipline.
- Money issues.
- Division of chores.
- Other perpetual or solvable problems.
|Link: Woman Lecturing Husband|
- Discounting a spouse's opinion.
- Not listening to or understanding your spouse.
- Refusing to talk when a subject you don't wish to discuss is brought up.
- Dominating conversations/lecturing your partner.
- Stonewalling (giving the cold shoulder) when you are not getting your way.
- Not allowing your spouse to express their feelings or opinions.
- Making decisions that affect the family without the other spouse's input.
- Not willing to compromise, or insisting that your way is the correct way.
- Taking control of the money.
- Trying to control your spouse.
- Not allowing your spouse to be involved in parenting your children (for reasons other than protecting them from abuse).
- Doing things in the relationship that you would never allow the other partner to get away with doing.
- Making the other person feel like they cannot be happy unless they do what you want.
- Partners that will not allow each other to influence one another (as discussed in a previous post).
- Refusing to compromise.
Healthy couples work together to build their relationship and lead their families in a way that benefits all of its members. Dr. Miller says:
"In healthy, well-functioning families, there is a clear heirarchy between parents and children. Parents are the 'executive committee' and the 'board of directors' of a family. As with any other leadership position, parents should not be harsh, domineering, or dictatorial, but they are the leaders of the family, and the children need to follow that leadership" (Miller, 2008).
The bottom line to parenting children is to always present a united front. Do not allow your children to play you against one another (ex. "But, Daddy! Mommy said that I could do ______!"). Do not insult one another, especially directly to or around the children (Miller 2008). This goes for divorced couples too. Children are affected by such things more than you know, so don't do it. (If you need some recommendations for parenting books, there is a list at the end of this post.)
|Link: Parents with Adult Children|
If your children have already grown and left the nest, the rules will be different. You are no longer their leaders. They are now to govern themselves. You can give advice, but you cannot enforce any rules on them unless they are living under your roof.
If your children are married, encourage your children to seek solutions to their marital issues together with their spouse instead of coming to you for comfort or to confide in you. Their married life needs to be independent of all parents of the married couple, both his and hers (Miller, 2008). Of course, you can still counsel together, but the spouse of your child needs to be okay with it first.
Egalitarianism; Equal Partnership
Marriage should be a partnership where both partners have equal standing, even with each person having their different duties and personalities. Both spouses need to be able to share opinions, to make decisions together, and to share power equally:
A great way to make sure that you are sharing power and making decisions together is to hold regular Couple's Councils (that does not mean to go see a marriage counselor). A couple's council is where you hold a special meeting each week where you can both sit down together and make decisions on marriage and parenting matters while also keeping each other informed of weekly schedules.
Here is a basic blueprint for holding a counsel:
|Link: Counseling Together|
- Decide on a time for you both to hold a council each week.
- Make sure that each of you knows what will be on your agenda for discussions at least by the evening before the counsel. This will give you time to contemplate on matters before you meet.
- Begin your meeting with expressions of love and concern for one another.
- Open with a prayer (I suggest that you hold hands for this). Ask for divine guidance so your meeting may be without contention and that you may be guided to the best solutions for the issues on the agenda.
Link: Pray Together
- If this is not the first time you have held such a meeting, this is a good time to see how things are progressing from the previous meeting and if anything should be put on the agenda for next week. Be sure to thank and praise one another for following through on previous agreements.
- The spouse whose turn it is to open the discussion introduces the first item on the agenda.
- Have an orderly discussion (allow one spouse to share their thoughts on a solution to the issue, then the other person shares theirs).
- Keep going back and forth on the agenda item until a consensus is reached. Consensus: where each person agrees on something.
- Plan how to implement or move forward on the consensus.
- Close with a prayer of thanksgiving for helping the both of you work together to find the best solutions for the items on the agenda.
- Have a snack or treat. You guys worked hard! It's time for a reward!
(List adapted from Ballard, 2012, p. 52-53).
My husband and I tried doing a counsel recently in the manner that is outlined above. It is amazing how quickly some perpetual issues came together in a way that both of us felt was correct! I highly recommend this for any couple. Plus, you can hold councils like these with your family, where you present a family agenda, or you can have it one-on-one with a parent and a child, or both parents with a child.
Overcoming power struggles in your marriage, along with practicing the principles in previous posts and holding a regular Couple's Council, will help set and keep your marriage on the correct path. Just keep trying to do your best to come together and become as one. Keep up the good work!
- The 10 Basic Principles of Good Parenting by Laurence Steinberg, Ph.D.
- SOS, Help for Parents by Lynn Clark, Ph.D.
Ballard, M.R. (2012). Counseling with your councils. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company.
Miller, R.B., Ph.D. (Mar 28, 2009). Who is the boss? Power relationships in families. BYU Conference on Family Life, Brigham Young University.