Power Struggle: When Love is a Boxing Match

Do you and your partner constantly go toe-to-toe with one another? Do you find yourselves keeping score? Is the power struggle consuming your relationship? If so, it sounds as though the battle lines have been drawn.

Relational conflict becomes destructive when a couple begins to treat it as a competition. Like boxers in the ring, two contenders vie for the ultimate prize—ego restoration. They use below the belt tactics, such as verbal jabs, to gain the upper hand and knock down their partner. The power struggle becomes the main event, precariously waiting for a victor. But when the goal is to simply “win” the argument, does anyone really prevail?

This repeated pattern of unhealthy conflict promotes tension and animosity, evokes feelings of uncertainty and insecurity, and threatens the level of trust in the relationship. The couple is no longer subscribing to the “we are on the same team” mentality. This negative cycle needs to either be tripped-up or timed-out before the battlefield wounds become irreparable.

There is truth to the old saying, “We can’t choose our family.” And for many, this reality has caused them years and years of pain, frustration, and disappointment. Fortunately, we CAN choose our partners. So why do some choose to spend their lives in a relationship that is filled with contention and rivalry?

If this article is resonating with you, now may be a good time to hit the gong, step out of the ring, and reflect on what is keeping you both at odds. Ask yourselves these questions:

Are you perpetuating old familiar patterns?
Does fighting give you adrenaline/make you feel alive?
Is this learned behavior from childhood?
Does having the last word and being “right” make you feel secure?
Are you masking hurt feelings with anger?
Do you struggle with intimacy?
Are you grappling with addiction?
Does the idea of not being in control scare you?

In evaluating your responses to these prompts, perhaps the two of you can reconfigure the boxing ring or call off the fight and come together to create a healthier existence. In doing so, personal and relational growth is possible.

Alternatively, if you continually find yourselves on the ropes or sitting in opposite corners, have the wisdom and courage to throw in the towel. Sometimes ending a relationship is the healthiest thing you can do for it.

When executed correctly, conflict can be a healthy component to a relationship. When used improperly, conflict can destroy a relationship. True victory comes in knowing how to recognize the difference.