May 30, 2023

Jewish Matchmaker Journal: Giving Up Your Power

In recent discussions with clients, the concept of “giving up power” has come up a number of times so I thought I’d address it to a wider audience in this month’s blog post.

The idea of “giving up our power” is mostly discussed with regard to women and the wording I use here is directed to my female audience. However, men can also give up their personal power in relationships, so if you’re a man reading this and you see yourself in the examples, you may also benefit from the advice.

What does it mean to give up your power? In dating, giving up power means negating your needs, desires, boundaries, and self-worth in order to excessively accommodate or please your partner. I’m not talking about healthy compromise, giving up power is about consistently sacrificing personal goals, disregarding your boundaries, accepting mistreatment, or suppressing your voice and opinions to maintain the relationship or please the other person.

Power in Dating

Before getting into the ways women surrender their power, let’s define power dynamics in dating. Personal power refers to the ability to assert your needs, make choices aligned with your values, and maintain your self-worth and autonomy. All relationships with others require a balance between your needs and the needs of the other person. If your needs are repeatedly ignored or dismissed in favor of the needs of the other, there is a power imbalance in the relationship dynamic.

Here are some reasons why a woman may give up power when dating or in a relationship:

Society, Gender, Culture, and Religion

Societal and gender expectations significantly impact the behavior that is expected from women in relationships. Believe it or not, women are often still expected to be passive, receptive, and pleasing, often deferring to a man when it comes to decision making and control.

Cultural and religious beliefs and practices also shape a woman’s behavior in a relationship. Some cultures and religions prioritize obedience, submission, or selflessness by women which can contribute to power surrender. The expectation that a woman be nurturing, accommodating, and self-sacrificing can lead you to prioritize the needs of your partner over your own and diminish your personal power.

Seeking Validation and Approval

One way women give up their power in dating is by seeking constant validation and approval from their partner. This dependence on external approval causes women to suppress their wants and needs. Have you ever changed your hairstyle or stopped wearing a favorite color or favorite outfit because your partner didn’t like or approve or it? Or gave up on a goal, dream, or hobby because your partner belittled it? If you are regularly stifling your preferences and interests for the approval of someone else, you are giving up your power.

Fear of Rejection and Abandonment

The fear of rejection and abandonment is a major reason that a woman might relinquish her power. This fear can lead to “over-accommodating” by ignoring red flags, not enforcing personal boundaries, or stifling your opinions when you are afraid that speaking up might cause the other person to stop liking you and/or to end the relationship.

Staying in a relationship out of fear of being alone or fear that you won’t find someone else is a strong indicator of lack of self-esteem and self-confidence and this lack of self-esteem often leads women to give up their power.

Prioritizing the Needs of Others

The need for intimacy and to feel emotionally connected to your partner is natural. Women often feel responsible for maintaining harmony and managing the well-being of the relationship. This can lead to a scenario where the woman is hyper-focused on the emotional needs of her partner while disregarding her own. Routinely putting the needs of others first is another way of giving up power.

Emotional health is showing as much care and concern for your own needs as you do for the needs of others. Self-neglect is not healthy for you or for the relationship and a healthy partner will be as interested in fulfilling your needs as you are in fulfilling his. Again, the goal is to seek a balance of power - not to be a martyr or a door mat.

Self-Devaluation and Fear of Conflict

A lack of self-worth and self-devaluation can also lead women to give up their power. This may manifest as tolerating disrespectful behavior, accepting mistreatment, or settling for less than you deserve, all of which erode personal power. Fear of conflict causes women to avoid expressing their true feelings in order to maintain peace within the relationship. This avoidance of conflict results in the surrender of power as your thoughts, opinions, and needs are ignored and your voice is stifled.

Communication Patterns and Assertiveness

Communication styles and assertiveness play a significant role in power dynamics within dating. Women may struggle to assert their needs, desires and boundaries, often deferring to their partner’s preferences and accommodating his wishes. Ineffective communication skills or a lack of assertiveness can contribute to power surrender leading to your opinions being dismissed or ignored in the relationship and feeling as though you aren’t being “heard”.

Reclaiming Your Power: Empowering Dating Dynamics

The goal in relationships is to have a balance of power with both of you participating in the decision making. Balance of power shows respect for the fact that you are two autonomous individuals with your own likes, dislikes, wants, needs, and desires. Dating dynamics focused on balance foster equality, mutual respect, and open communication. Optimally you want to cultivate healthy and balanced relationships where both partners can comfortably express their needs, boundaries, and desires. If you are with a partner with whom you do NOT feel comfortable in such discussion, you may need to rethink the partnership. A healthy partner will also seek an equal balance and will be concerned with how you feel and what you want.

Navigating Rejection and Embracing Resilience: Rejection is an inevitable part of dating and relationships. Learning to accept this without fear is crucial to reclaiming personal power. The tools for handling rejection are also the tools you need to reclaim your personal power and they include developing your confidence and communication skills, setting boundaries, and prioritizing self-care.

Developing Self-Confidence and Self-Worth: Building self-confidence and self-worth is crucial in reclaiming personal power in dating. A self-confident woman who understand her self-worth does not need validation from the outside; she validates herself and doesn’t remain in relationships with a power imbalance. You may need to seek out a good talk therapist to help you enhance your self-esteem, develop a positive self-image, and embrace your own inherent value.

Cultivating Healthy Communication Skills: Effective communication is key to maintaining personal power in dating. This will require you to adopt a more assertive communication style where you express your needs and desires in an honest, healthy, receptive and nonjudgmental way. Speaking your truth, sharing your perspective, and communicating your needs in a relationship is just as important as considering those of your partner.

Setting Boundaries and Prioritizing Self-Care: Establishing and enforcing personal boundaries is essential for maintaining personal power in dating. This requires getting to know yourself so you can set clear boundaries, communicate them to your partner, enforce those boundaries, and prioritize your own self-care and well-being. Neediness, insecurity, and fluid or non-existent boundaries are the foundation of giving up personal power.

Power dynamics in relationships are complex. Each woman’s experiences and reasons for power surrender vary. Building awareness, fostering healthy communication, setting boundaries, and prioritizing self-care are essential steps towards empowering yourself when dating or in a relationship.

If you understand the meaning of personal power, you will recognize when you are in an unbalanced relationship and reclaim your power through conversation with your partner, enforcing healthy boundaries, sharing your wants, needs, and desires, and seeking an equal power dynamic in your relationship.