Power hungry partners can make your relationship a living hell.
With this article, you will understand what’s the psychology of power addict people (I will use addict/hungry interchangeably), what makes them behave the way they do and what you can do about it.
- Power Hungry In Genders
- How People Become Power Hungry
- Why Power Hungry Are Un-Datable
- Power Hungry’s Power Moves
- Is Your Partner a Power Addict?
- Should You Breakup From a Power Hungry?
- Why Do People Stay With Power Hungry?
- Fixing a Power Addict
Power Hungry In Genders
More commonly the power hungry partner is actually a power hungry man.
However, more rarely, it can also happen you have a power hungry girlfriend (domineering girlfriend) or a power addict wife.
Dont worry about the gender though: the dynamic is pretty much the same.
How People Become Power Hungry
Mira Kirshenbaum, author of Too Good to Leave Too Bad to Stay says there are two major influencing in the formative years of power hungry people:
- A powerful, power hungry parent
- A parent schooled in the art of social power moves
Often the parent will act as power hungry towards the child as well. And the child learns that it’s either escape or victory: cooperation is not possible with a power hungry parent.
In the latter case, using all tricks in the books to win came to be seen as normal, as in it’s simply what you do. As these children started adopting power games in their life, they also got early win, which further encouraged them to proceed down the power moves road.
A budding power move.
And of course, as much as it’s not all nature, it’s also not all nurture:
- Innate talent & predisposition
But power hungry people are different than most people good at power moves which, you could say, are people like you and I who are actively taking care of their social skills.
Power People cannot stop!
Why Power Hungry Are Un-Datable
The power hungry people I’m talking about, we could actually call them “power addicts” .
And it’s because these breed of power movers are out of control with their need to be in control.
Power addiction is a real addiction. They feel unsafe unless they’re in control. In a relationship, that unluckily means that your needs will never be cared for.
Everything’s a Fight to Win
These people fight for a whole host of things that make no sense to normal people. Their wife asks them to agree to take her straight back home when she asks so?
They say yes.
If you’re a normal person and your wife would ask you to take her home, you would do so because she pleaded to do so and you agreed.
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 do what she asked for. Some he comes up with an excuse to re-assert his power.
You Can’t Improve
It’s hard fixing the issue 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’s Power Moves
Most will think power hungry people exert power through sheer dominance and power displays.
And that’s certainly possible.
But most of the times power addicts use covert aggression techniques.
Here are some of them:
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.
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 countries where trashy local girls ask for gifts in exchange of sex.
And 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 than going full on with my influencing power.
Says Yes – But Don’t Do It
Another great -sarcastic great of course- technique used especially by passive aggressive power movers is that of saying yes.
And then not doing it. Or doing it their own way.
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.
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.
Bullying Power Moves
Some people will start going mad to the point that they will scare you about your personal safety and your family’s safety.
Holding the relationship hostage and threatening to break up is such an example.
Victim Power Moves
They will pretend that you are making them sick.
One Up Power Move
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?
There could be a bit of confusion between power addicts and dominant or strong willed personalities.
Try this test.
Pick an issue where it’s blatantly obvious that they are the one always deciding and then say “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 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 hungry addict.
If they resort to one of the above techniques to have it their way, then you do are dealing with a power addict.
The Humiliation Question
Some power addicts got so good 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:
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.
Should You Breakup From a Power Hungry?
Often -but not always- a power hungry personality overlaps with that of a abusive partner.
To be precise: abusive men are not always power addicts, but power addicts are almost always 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 admit that he has a power addiction first.
For more information read:
- When to breakup diagnostics
- Ending a toxic relationship
- Signs of an abusive relationship
- Accepting influence (and sharing power)
Why Do People Stay With Power Hungry?
The question comes natural: why do people even stuck 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.
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 domineered partner stay in the hope of getting their revenge.
You can indeed develop the idea that the only way to get back your pride and make for your humiliation lies in undercutting your power addict partner.
Fixing a Power Addict
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:
- 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.
It might not fix a power-addict, but it will ensure that at least you know you’ve tried it at all and that you are not mis-diagnosing a turbulent period in your relationship, which can be fixed, with a relationship with a power addict, which is more difficult to fix.
If that fails, to, it’s time to pull out the big guns:
- 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.
What if nothing changes?
Therapy didn’t go anywhere?
After a month of giving all the love, you can muster he is still domineering?
Do you still feel humiliated, and recurringly engaging in violent fantasies towards yourself or your power addict partner?
If so, then it might be time to break up.
Indeed it’s a mistake to think that the worst relationship ends in divorce. The worst relationship keep going in the face of the daily horror they dish out.
Sadly, relationships with power addicts are very difficult to fix.
The power addict sees 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.