“If you don’t cook me pizza for dinner,
I’m not going to love you anymore.”
This line was delivered to me convincingly last week… by my 5-year-old son. He is usually cuddly and cruisy and all sorts of adorable. But recently he’s starting to experiment with power-dynamics. And he really likes pizza. So he pulled out the biggest gun in his arsenal—the weapon of withholding love.
Because he is five, this didn’t bother me.
I stayed calm. In fact, I had to work hard not to laugh at him.
It’s easy to stay calm when it’s a five-year-old
who’s pulling a power play or trying on emotional blackmail for size. You know
they love you. You know they don’t really mean what they are saying in the
moment. And it’s (usually) easy to come up with a firm, but loving, response
that lets them know that what they just said is not OK.
It’s a different story when someone you’re dating (or married to) pulls a grown-up version of the same maneuver.
For starters, it’s much harder to figure out what’s actually going on. Are they tired and preoccupied or are you
getting the silent treatment? Are you being insecure and needy or are
they dishing out passive-aggressive jabs? Are they pointing out genuine
issues you need to be aware of and work on, or are they blaming you for
something to deflect attention or avoid facing up to their own issues?
Yeah. It can all get pretty confusing. And once you DO know what’s going on, and you think they’re out of line, it’s still difficult to know what to say and do about it all.
A couple of weeks ago I wrote an in-depth post about how you can spot some of the most common and destructive power plays in long distance relationships. We covered stonewalling, ghosting, hanging up, stirring up jealousy, blaming, shaming, and much more.
This week I
want to talk to you about how you protect yourself from these sorts of power
plays becoming a big problem in your relationship.
Sound good? OK, here are 7 smart steps to protecting yourself from power-plays.
1. Learn about the most common power plays that show up in relationships
If you haven’t already, go and read that
post that deep-dives
into the most common power plays that show up in long distance relationships.
Well, because if you’ve thought about these sorts of things
in advance, you’ll have a much better chance of recognizing something as a
power play if it happens to you.
And if you can recognize it as a power play, you’ll be less tempted to excuse the behavior and let it slide. You’ll be more likely to stand up for yourself and tell them (nicely) to stop acting like a jerk.
2. Remember that you are valuable
And while we’re talking about standing up
for yourself… Remember that YOU ARE VALUABLE.
You are worthy of love, and of respect.
Reminding yourself of these truths will
help you set good boundaries around what is acceptable behavior in your
If someone you’re in a long distance relationship with is pulling power plays on you or otherwise routinely not treating you well, they are not valuing you as they should. They are not valuing you in the way that will lead to healthy, balanced relationship. In that case, you need to value yourself and seriously consider…
3. Be prepared to walk away
Always be prepared to walk away from your
dating relationship if someone is not treating you well.
It is not worth staying in a relationship with someone who is not treating you with affection and respect. Do NOT stay in a relationship because you are scared of being alone. Do NOT stay because you feel like you just can’t live without them. You WILL survive. You WILL be better off in the long run.
4. Speak up
When you spot a power play, speak up. If
you let it slide, it is more likely to happen again. And if it happens again
and again, it will become a pattern in your relationship…