Compatibility and Power

Continuing our discussion of compatibility and needs, let’s look at power.  The word “power” can have negative connotations, but everyone has some need for it. In choice theory, power refers to the perfectly natural need for appreciation and recognition: knowing that you have value.

Choice theory suggests that relationships can be challenging for people who have a high level of the power need. Let’s see how…

In Chris and Kayla’s relationship, friends joke that Kayla “wears the pants.” Kayla has a high need for power and she knows it.

This article is one in a series  
You can find the first article in the series here.

Kayla works in retail, and she feels powerless at work: forced to smile at unpleasant customers, her boss giving her a hard time. It’s not just work, either. Her parents are proud of her sister’s career, while Kayla feels stuck at a cash register.

So when Kayla is home, she wants things done right (her way.) If Chris doesn’t comply, sparks fly. She wants the last word and even something trivial, like hanging the toilet paper improperly, can send her into a tirade. You might label Kayla’s behaviour as “controlling.”

Can this be a good relationship? It depends on the choices that Chris and Kayla make, doesn’t it? Let’s start with Chris.

If Chris has a relatively low need for power, if he’s easygoing and perceives that Kayla makes good decisions, he may like the relationship this way. And if being with Kayla satisfies his needs for fun and love, they may have a great relationship as is.

But what if Chris has a high need for power? If he can satisfy that need elsewhere, all may be fine. For example, if Chris is a successful sales manager, respected by his colleagues, earning high pay that reflects his success, then having Kayla direct the household may be fine with him; Chris gets his power need satisfied by work.

When is there an issue with power and compatibility? If Chris has a high need for power but feels powerless, then he may try to satisfy that need by attempting to control Kayla. It doesn’t bode well for a relationship when both people feel they aren’t getting the power and recognition that they need.

What could Kayla do differently? Remember that the need for power is genetic, so suggesting, “turn it off” or “tone it down” isn’t going to help! Is there anything she could do differently to support a more satisfying relationship? Yes!

For example, Kayla could look for ways to get the recognition and appreciation she needs. Developing skills, education, or achievements outside the relationship can be helpful. A different job or volunteer work could satisfy her need in constructive, effective ways rather than through the relationship-harming behaviour of trying to control Chris.

There’s nothing wrong with satisfying the power need. The difficulty arises when you try to satisfy it by attempting to control each other. Rather than thinking that you can only become powerful by making someone else powerless, look for ways to satisfy that need through recognition and achievement, not through coercing or controlling.

Do you think that a relationship with a high-power need person can work? How?

The next article in this series is here.
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