Dating and Relationship Advice

It’s easy to feel out of control in relationships, especially at the beginning. Will they text you back? Do they like you? Do they have the qualities you need in a partner?

When we feel out of control, we can feel powerless. If you’ve been through several breakups before, this feeling might hit you extra hard.

And on the dangerous side, there are domestic violence situations where abusers exert power over their partners and create an extremely unhealthy relationship.

Regardless of which situation you see yourself in, you may wonder, “Can their love for me overcome their need to be in control?” Letting go of a relationship is often tricky, especially when we want to have hope. To answer your question, a couple of therapists shared their input.

What do “the power of love” and “the love of power” look like?

Love is powerful in how it makes us feel and what comes with it. “It can finally bring us the peace, joy, and inspiration that we have sought, which can lead to new ideas, hope, connections, collaborations, and opportunities,” said Anahid Lisa Derbabian, a licensed professional counselor.

On the more science-y and serious side, we can get hooked on the hormones we feel from affection. “Our bodies create oxytocin, the ‘love drug,’ [in] which [we] can see many love addicts or those prone to addiction striving to stay in the honeymoon stage,” said Cristina Perera, a licensed marriage and family therapist at Thriveworks in New Haven, Conn.

The love of power comes from our ego, fears, competitiveness, comparison, need to be dominant, and more, according to Derbabian. Perera added that insecurity often comes with that dynamic, leading to domestic violence. “The abused searching for the feeling of beginning again finds themselves tolerating far more than many people would. The one carrying the power becomes empowered by this, and will provide this intermittently to ensure their partner doesn’t leave.”

Can the power of love overcome the love of power?

In non-abusive relationships, love can sometimes overcome our insistence on having control. “When we are willing to shift away from a love of power… We release fear and doubt, and we create the space for joy,” Derbabian explained.

Seeing a therapist and talking about what’s underlying your desire for control can help with this, as long as you’re genuinely committed to working on yourself, healthy and honest communication, and fostering a healthy relationship.

But, with abusive relationships especially, it’s not so simple. According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, a very low percentage of abusers change their ways, and changing is a decades-long process.

If you’re not sure if you’re in an abusive relationship, a helpful first step can be looking at the signs and speaking to someone at The Hotline by calling 1-800-799-SAFE (7233), texting START to 88788, or using the online chatline.

The bottom line

“Healthy couples typically aren’t looking to control the other,” Perera said. “Having a choice and a voice ensures that both people are getting their needs met.”

So can the power of love overcome anything? It depends, according to Perera. “The old expression ‘love conquers all’ is only applicable if one party isn’t seeking power over the partnership.”

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