Money affects every part of our lives, including our relationships. Even with efforts to equalize each partner’s roles, financial contributions affect the power dynamic. When one person earns more than the other, it creates an imbalance. It adds even more tension when one partner is unemployed and completely dependent on the other. To avoid conflict, it is important that you recognize and discuss financial issues that shift the power dynamic in your relationship. Open and honest communication is the key to navigating these difficult topics with your partner.
What the Experts Say About the Power Dynamic
According to couples’ therapist, Dr. Assael Romanelli, money and power affect every relationship. This isn’t necessarily a negative thing, just simply a fact. Sometimes it is apparent and openly acknowledged. Others times it manifests as passive aggressive behavior and unconscious expectations. Therefore, he states it is best to directly address the issue instead of letting it become a recurring theme of your relationship.
Negative Effects on Relationships
Let’s take a look at a few examples of how this can negatively impact the power dynamic of a relationship. When one person earns more money, it creates dependence on their partner. This can impact each partner differently. The breadwinner may unconsciously expect their partner to contribute more at home since they are paying the bills. On the other hand, the other person sometimes feels guilty and needs to demonstrate that they are essential to the household. There is also the expectation of showing gratitude for each partner’s contributions.
These issues put couples at odds. It can sour even the best relationship. Tension arises from the resentment, criticisms, and defensiveness it creates. These feelings become more extreme with time, exacerbating the imbalance in the power dynamic. The only way to restore balance is through open communication and clear steps to address the problem.
The Power Dynamic in Personal Relationships
In my experience, there was a period of time where I was the one with the steady source of income. My partner had a job, but his income fluctuated greatly from month to month. This created a serious imbalance in our power dynamic. There was tension every time he had to ask me for money. We also argued over how money was spent. Neither one of us was comfortable or able to fix the problem.
Eventually, we reached a boiling point and everything came to light. We sat down to tally up our expenses and create a budget. We decided to split everything right down the middle. However, our spending cash remained separate. I can honestly say that was the best decision we could have made for our relationship. Not only did we each have more financial independence, but it alleviated a great deal of conflict. The imbalance in our power dynamic had created systemic problems in our relationship. One honest conversation resolved all the other corollary arguments. Sometimes the simplest solution is the most effective.