How Power Hungry Partners Ruin People & Relationships

power addict chessboard

Power-hungry women and, most often, men, can make your relationship a living hell.

Unless you fully submit to them, that is.

But if you prefer a more equitable, supportive, and win-win relationship, this article is here to help.

We will explore:

  • The psychology of power-hungry individuals
  • Examples of power-hungry behavior
  • What you can do with power-hungry people

Power Hunger In Genders

Power-hungry women are less common than power-hungry men.

But it can happen to a few male readers that they ended up here because of a power-hungry girlfriend, sometimes referred to as a “domineering girlfriend”.
Don’t worry whether I will use “he” or “she” as the concepts apply to both genders.

In case we need to make exceptions for genders, I will specifically write so.

Also, sometimes I will refer to “power hungry’ as “power addict”: they largely mean the same, except that “addicts” are an extreme form of power hunger.
While power hunger wants and craves power, power addicts need to win and exercise power just like, you guessed it, a drug addict.

How People Become Power Hungry

Let’s start with some backstory, shall we?

Mira Kirshenbaum, author of Too Good to Leave Too Bad to Stay says there are two major influences in the formative years of power-hungry people:

  1. A powerful, power-hungry parent

In the first case, the power-hungry parent will act toward the child the same way they act toward their partner.
The child acquires a mindset that in life it’s either escape or victory: cooperation is not possible.
As children they seek the escape route but, as they grow, they start seeking victory, too.

  1. A parent schooled in the art of manipulation

The second case is the same, but instead of using more direct raw power and dominance, it uses covert manipulation, covert aggression, and passive-aggressiveness.
Manipulation comes to be seen as normal, as simply the way with which you relate to the world.
This second route takes hold even quicker in children as it fits their style even better: it’s easier for a child to win with tears and manipulation than through raw dominance.

  1. Innate talent & predisposition

And of course, it’s not fashion these days to talk about genes and nature, but that does not make it any less real.
A good chunk of the power angry personality is simply nature.

Psychopaths and sociopaths often are genetically predisposed to power-hungry partners.

For more on manipulation, see:

Manipulation: Techniques, Strategies, & Ethics

Can You Date Power-Hungry Men?

This is the general rule:

The more power hungry they are, the more undateable they are.

To be precise, you can still date them.
And you can also marry them. Many women do.

But many women also realize it was a mistake. The problem is that the relationship with a power-hungry personality pretty much sucks.

The problem with power addiction is that it can truly work as an addiction.
Power addicts feel unsafe unless they’re in control. In a relationship, that means that your needs will never be cared for -unless they overlap with his need for power-.

Power Hungry Are Always In Fight Mode

It’s hard having true intimacy with power-hungry men.

For them everything is a fight to win, starting with the toxic mindset of “who needs whom the least”.
Power-hungry men are focused not on win-win and adding more to the pie, but on taking as much as possible from that pie.
If the pie shrinks, such as if the relationship suffers, power-hungry men don’t care: all they care is that they keep getting bigger slices… Until there is no pie left.

Sometimes it’s hard for normal people to understand power-hungry men. These people fight for a whole host of things that make no sense to others.

Needless Fights: An Example

For example, imagine Kate, the wife, asks him to take her home when she asks so. Kate has a sister in the other part of the world and she wants to show Kate the newborn baby. Since Kate cares so much about family, she wants to take the Skype call on the big screen.

The power-hungry man might say yes.

If you’re a normal person and your wife would tell you in advance that being home on time is crucial for her, you would do so because she pleaded to do so and you agreed.

But a power-hungry person?
On the way home, he might stop at the office. Or stop the car to make a call.

Why on earth would he do that?

It’s because he sees a power struggle in going straight home and doing what she asked for.
If she gets home on time when she asked so, in his mind she acquires power. To avoid that, he comes up with an excuse to reassert his power.

In his mind, it’s as if he was making this statement:

Power Hungry Mindset: “I matter more in this relationship and I can do whatever I please. I am going to prove it to you now but thwarting your plans and wishes”.

They Never Switch Off “Fight Mode”

They have the same mindset in the office and in their job, too.

There, they come across as dic*heads, but they can manage to be successful (see Trump’s mindset in “The Art of The Deal“):

office power play

But they cannot manage to switch off.
They carry that “need to win attitude” home. But there, it doesn’t work. And they end up with truly poor relationships

Power Hungry Men Don’t Allow Improvements

The most maddening part of dating a power-hungry man?

You can’t discuss your issues.

It’s hard fixing issues with them because guess how they interpret any attempt to bring the issue to the table?
Exactly, like a power struggle they need to win.
They’ll see it as an assault on them and will fight to win.

Power-hungry men have different responses to your attempts at discussing problems.
Some of the most common:

  • Fly off in a rage
  • Pretend they agree and then do nothing (or the opposite)
  • Agree in front of the therapist and then refuse to do any more therapy

Some relationship therapists report power-hungry men agreeing with their spouses and the therapist on the need to change.
Then they do the opposite of what they agreed, refuse to see the therapist again, or fly in a rage at home (the most abusive of them).

The more manipulative might lie, saying that the therapist is “destroying their marriage”, and they will try to pitch the therapist as the common enemy.
In truth, of course, they just see the therapist as a threat to their dominance and hold of power.

In truth, power-hungry men are powerless to change and improve. And, often, they are powerless to save their relationships.

Power hungry men are powerless with their need for power

Power Hungry, Domineering Women

Now let’s differentiate a bit between genders.

Power-hungry men are more about winning and exercising control over her, which is the typical abusive style.

There is certainly an overlap indeed between abuse and hunger for power.

But the way power-hungry women seek power is different.
Women seek to control their men in two ways:

  1. Securing his commitment
  2. Securing his resources

Sometimes you will see online “funny” videos of women scolding or even hitting their husbands for dancing with other women.
Those are the women who pussy-whip their men to stay committed.

And I have written a popular article on how women control relationships and their resources.
But here are two video examples to give you an idea of how power-hungry women exercise relationship control:

Have you noticed the difference?
The first time is the power-hungry woman who is direct and uses raw power. That’s what you’d call a “domineering girlfriend”.
The second one instead is using manipulation and soft power.

Power Hungry’s Power Moves

Let’s not review the tools of influence of power-hungry people.

We have already seen in different articles how jealous paranoids and controlling and abusive partners use power.
So let’s focus here more on the covert aggression techniques.

Here are some of them:

#1. There’s Something Wrong With You

When you talk about something you need, they will say or make you feel like there’s something wrong with you.

They will label people with that same need are “bitchy”, “neurotic”, “amoral” or whatever.
So to distance yourself from that category you will automatically want to give up your need.


This is my own example, where I unconsciously used a power-hungry tactic:

My ex-girlfriend wanted a gift for Saint Valentine.
I gave the usual spiel about “imposed holidays” and how I felt about them.
But most of all,  I told her that asking for a gift made me feel like those trashy white guys traveling in poor Asian countries where trashy local girls ask for gifts in exchange for sex.
My girlfriend was half-Asian.

At that one, she gave up.

Note: back then those were my real feelings. Now I realize a compromise like a dinner out would have been fairer instead of going full-on with my influencing power.
Curing oneself of power-hungry shortcomings is also about awareness, self-awareness, and maturity.

#2. Says Yes – But Don’t Do It

Another great -sarcastic great of course- technique is pretending to go along with it.
And then not doing it. Or doing it their own way.

This is mostly used by less assertive and more submissive partners. And that’s why it’s more common for power-hungry women.

For example, in her book Why Men Marry Bitches, the author recommends women do exactly this: say yes and then find a way to do it her way.

#3. Overwhelm Power

The overwhelming tactic can be used in a variety of ways:

  • Emotional meltdown
  • Verbal aggression
  • A litany of “rational reasons”
  • Ethical impossibilities

Whatever the technique, it’s a barrage that confuses everything.
What’s sure is that, unless you give up, the consequences will be uncleanly dire.

#4. Badgering Power Move

The power-hungry partner will keep coming and coming at you without end.

They will exasperate you so much that giving in seems like the only viable option.

As the example suggests, this is a favorite one for very young, budding power personalities.

#5. Power Through Fear

Another technique for power-hungry is to browbeat the partner with fear.

Power-hungry men might go mad to the point of scaring her.
And power-hungry women might threaten to break up to keep him on his toes.

#6. Victim Manipulation

They will pretend that you are making them sick.

#7. One-Up Power Move

This is the most childish and annoying.

But alas, it exists.

Whatever you say or do, they take it one step further.
You talk about a promotion, they talk about a big career change they have in mind.
You’re tired from work, they are exhausted from work.

Whatever you want to celebrate, they have to make it seem like it’s nothing compared to what they did.

Is Your Partner a Power Addict?

If you have read so far, you have an idea already.

However, there could be some confusion between power addicts and dominant or strong-willed personalities.

This section is to help you come up with an answer.

The Power Hungry Test

Try this test.

Pick an issue where it’s blatantly obvious that they are the one always deciding and then say this:

You: “it’s not fair that you always decide”.

For example, if they always decide what meal to eat, tell them it’s not fair they always pick.
And then watch where it goes from there.

How do they react to your appeal to fairness? Do they take this into account? If they try to have you say that you like their choices, say you like it indeed, but one evening per week you would like to pick.

If they accept your appeal, then maybe you’re not dealing with a power addict.
If they resort to one of the above techniques to have it their way, then they are dealing with a power addict.

Diagnostic Question

Some power-hungry personalities are great at their game.

So good indeed that they will stop just one whisker away from you quitting the relationship.

They will just give you that one thing every once in a while right before you were about to go.

If that’s the case, then you should ask yourself Mira Kirshenbaum’s diagnostic question:

Diagnostic Question: Do you often feel humiliated? Do you often feel in rage or depressed? Do you often feel like you’re invisible or that your wants and needs don’t count at all?

People react to power addicts in two ways:

  • They want to destroy themselves
  • They want to destroy their partners

Both are common answers to humiliation.

If the answer to the above question is yes, then you are probably dealing with a power addict.
And don’t feel ashamed if you have thoughts of killing your partner, it’s actually rather common with power addicts.

And it’s how Melania Trump probably feels every day:

Melania Trump provides a glimpse of how it is to be in a relationship with a power-hungry partner: constant bickering.

Should You Break Up From a Power Hungry?

As we said, there is an overlap between power-hunger and abuse.

To be precise: abusive men seek power and control over their partner, which makes them almost by definition power-hungry.
Power-hungry men, on the other hand, are not always abusive, but that also depends on how hungry for power they are. Hunger for power is a scale after all, and at high levels, it almost always becomes somewhat abusive.

If that’s the case, and I don’t usually make recommendations here, you are probably better off breaking up.
As George Simon explains in “In Sheep’s Clothing“, change is not easy. It requires you to acquaint yourself with the dynamics of power and take a big, assertive stand.

If your partner is “only” power-hungry and not abusive, you can first try together counseling.
But he has to be open to admitting that he has a power addiction first.

For more information read:

Why Do People Stay With Power Hungry?

The question comes naturally:

Why do people even stick it out so long in a relationship with a power addict?

Well, deep down many of us admire power.
And of course, that’s especially true for women.

They will tell themselves “of course he’s domineering, but he’s also smart, capable, and blablabla”.
In a world with a lot of too many too-nice men, a man who “always wins” might seem like a strong man to rely on, after all.

And as much as they hate their power-hungry men, they also admire them.

After years of living in the shadows of their power addict husband, some women might even think they wouldn’t be able to handle life by themselves.

Don’t Fall For The Gambler’s Trap

Another reason why people stay with power-hungry addicts is the revenge factor.

Similarly to the gambler who keeps playing even while losing in the hope of scoring a big win, the dominant partner stays in the hope of getting their revenge.

Partners of domineering women or men can indeed develop the mindset that the only way to get back your pride and make up for your humiliation lies in undercutting your power-addict partner.

And that’s why they stay: to score a win, save face, and get back their pride.

Fixing a Power Hungry

If your partner’s need to win means that you will not get any of your needs met, it’s tough to find a solution.

If you already calmly discussed the issue with him multiple times, I would suggest you try two things:

  1. Therapy
  2. Stubborn giving

Therapy means you bring your power-hungry partner for couple therapy and see if you can get anything out of it.
Stubborn giving is something I talked about in the vicious circle of negativity that destroys relationships.

It means you give and give and give and see if anything changes.
Try it out for two months and see if any changes happen.

If that fails, too, it’s time to pull out the big guns. Tell them this:

You: Either you change, or we must break up

And if he still doesn’t change, then follow through with your breakup threat.
Make sure you set timelines for change.

If nothing changes and you still feel humiliated, engaging in violent fantasies towards yourself or your power-addict partner, then it might be time to break up.

Indeed, it’s a mistake to think that the worst relationship ends in divorce. The worst relationships keep going in the face of the daily horror they dish out.


Sadly, relationships with power-hungry personalities are very difficult to fix.

The power-hungry see a battle of will everywhere, including in discussing how their power addiction makes your relationship a living hell.

If you’ve done everything you can and you still feel humiliated with recurring thoughts of violence, then it’s time to say goodbye to them.

I don’t say this often, but power addicts are really terrible people to have around. Let alone having a relationship with them.

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