Power Play

My roommate once said the person who cares the most in a relationship has the least power. I hope that’s not true.

The one time I babysat another person’s kids was an example of this. Babysitting is like being in a hostage situation. You try not to meet the demands of the captors too fast while constantly trying to calm them down. The whole day was spent entertaining these kids in the hopes they didn’t realize they could walk all over me. I had the least amount of power in that situation.

I would hate to think the only relationships I can have are ones where I maintain leverage over others. It’s not my personality to make people do what I want them to. I’d rather be with those who genuinely want to be with me. A relationship where the majority of your time is spent trying to not lose the other person is not a great relationship to be in. I call these socially abusive relationships.

A socially abusive relationship is when another person threatens to change the nature of your personal relationship with them because of failing to meet their expectations. Physical abuse attacks the body and verbal abuse attacks self-esteem, but social abuse attacks the relationship. I’ve met many people who would call me friend as long as I did what was expected. It took some time for me to realize these weren’t truly friends at all.

Take a good look at yourself to see if you are in a socially abusive relationship. Do you have to hold back your opinions and feelings for fear of offending your loved ones? Do your friends dispense punishment by spending less time with you when they get upset? Do people simply allow you to be around them instead of eagerly seeking you out? Be honest with yourself. The truth will set you free.

Each of us is guilty of being socially abusive when we give up on someone we have a personal relationship with. Are you refusing to talk to family because you are upset with them? Do you gossip about friends who are no longer in your favor? Do you tell people they are your friends and then convince yourself they aren’t really that close to you? You were never friends with someone if all you brought to the relationship was an end to it. Threatening to run out on friends is being nothing more than a social bully.

Instead of having leverage over friends I would rather be equal with them. They stay because they want to. They leave because they have to. I would never threaten my friends with thinking less of them just to make them stay by my side. No one has ever had to fear losing me because I have always been the one to care the most. This may give me no power over the relationship, but it makes me a powerful friend.

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One thought on “Power Play

  1. You’ve really cut to the quick here with your penetrating insight. You are right when you say we have all been guilty of social abuse. It is something I will be mindful of from this moment forward. Thank you for broadening my awareness.

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