What's the power struggle stage of a relationship?

The honeymoon stage of any relationship is dreamy.

It’s that ‘can’t eat, can’t sleep, reach-for-the-stars, over-the-fence, World Series kinda stuff.’

You love everything about your new beau, even their annoying habits are cute.

But the honeymoon stage is exactly that: just a stage. Every relationship is different, but as time moves on, those initial intense feelings begin to fade.

So what comes next?

TikTok is currently obsessed with the notion of the ‘power struggle stage.’ An idea originally coined by psychologist, Dr. Susan Campbell, in the 1980s, the hashtag #powerstrugglestage currently has 94.1k views on the social media platform.

#tiktok #therapist #foryoupage #loveyou #loveadvice #breakupadvice

It refers to the point when the honeymoon is over, and as Dr. Susan defines: ‘When your partner’s flaws become apparent, and the focus turns to trying to change your partner, punish them for not being what you think they once were, or both.’

Essentially, it’s when you start to learn a little more about who your partner really is.

Clinical sexologist and therapist, Ness Cooper, says: ‘During the honeymoon stage, you are seeing mostly just the joint identity of the relationship rather than each other as individuals. For some couples this can last around one to two years.

‘But when one or both within the relationship start noticing their own need and identity more again, this can feel as if the relationship is dysregulated and the power balance can feel off.’

This can often happen when you start to spend more time with each other, or perhaps when you move in together.

So what does the power struggle stage look like?

Ness says: ‘Sometimes you may notice that there are certain things that are bugging you about your partner that didn’t before, these can be known as icks.

‘Often they are harmless differences influenced by someone’s generation and sociocultural background that differs from yours.’

You may also notice that you’re vying for your partner’s affection in a way that you weren’t before. It’s no secret that the ‘ripping your clothes off’ phase at the beginning of a relationship can’t last.

Ness says: ‘The way you like to receive affection may become less fulfilled.

‘When this happens, we can sometimes respond in ways to challenge our partner to get a response, it can sometimes look like a game from the outside.

‘Often these relational games can seem like you are trying to push and pull with your partner to get them to go in the right direction, which can be frustrating.

‘The relationship may begin to feel overwhelming and on the edge.’

But this doesn’t mean you need to call it quits. It’s a chance to learn more about your partner, and fall in love with them, without the rose-tinted glasses.

‘Discover your partner’s needs and the emotions behind them and share yours too,’ says Ness. ‘And find ways to comprise, rather than problem solving – not all relationship issues require problem solving and some just need deeper understanding.’

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