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The Exchange of Power and Its Effect on Relationships

November 5, 2012

In general, I prefer to ignore the exchange of power, seeing it mostly as a construct of the Ego, legitimate only in hierarchy-driven societies. But as I become more serious in my personal romance, I have come to see how undeniably essential the exchange of power is in relationships. There are so many decisions to be made, and so many responsibilities to be fulfilled, and there are many issues in which a compromise is neither practical nor optimal. In many of such cases, an exchange of power must be made to resolve conflicts in the decision-making process

For example, I plan to have at least two children, and I have very strong beliefs about their education, their health, their morality, and the structure present in their lives. There are many things (such as vaccination, working parenting, baby formula, pornography, abortion, public schooling, casual dating, promiscuity, materialist/consumerist behavior) that I am extremely against, and predictably enough, my own opinions about raising kids are often in conflict with that of my wife’s opinions.

While diversity of opinions can be a good thing, it proves to be a terrible obstacle when it comes to raising children, because compromised parenting is, at least in my firm belief, absolutely unacceptable. A consensus must be reached in all decisions regarding child-rearing, and if they cannot be, there are two options:

(1) We give up on raising the kids. It’s better to not raise kids at all, than to raise them in such a manner that compromises their future.

(2) One of us chooses to acquiesce to the other’s view(s) about parenting.

Option 2 is where  the exchange of power comes in. One of us has to submit authority over the given matter to the other, so that consensus might be reached through one of the two opinions being determined as legitimate, at the expense of illegitimizing any conflicting opinions. In some cases, I submit to her opinion. I have relented on her desire to wear heels during pregnancy, on the condition that she stop wearing them if she is feeling nauseous, pained in her feet, off-balance, or otherwise stressed. I have also agreed our kids will be placed in traditional schools, so long as they are private schools, and we provide supplementary education at home. Conversely, I have compelled her to submit to my opinion on such issues as breastfeeding and not working during pregnancy. So we both have relatively equal power in decision-making, but nevertheless, the exchange of power is an integral part of everything important decision we make.

Not just in decision-making, but also in physical expression of love, the power exchange is more prevalent than I ever thought possible. Even in such simple actions as a hug, a kiss, or holding hands, the initiator has a clear degree of physical dominance, and this influences the dynamics of that expression. These dynamics are particularly pronounced in the act of making love, where a dominant/submissive relationship is necessary for the sex to be natural, creative, and elegant. Without the exchange of power, lovemaking of any kind becomes an awkward and unsatisfactory experience.

I’m only beginning to understand the importance of these things, as until now I preferred to deny power as a legitimate existence. The truth is, I really don’t understand power at all, so I have much to learn before I can achieve a true appreciation of the exchange of power and its effects on humanity, life, and all of reality.

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