Relationship Fitness

S18: Action E5: Whomever Can Say “No” Holds the Power

In Season 18, Episode 5 of “Relationship Workout for Men,” the podcast delves into the intricate power dynamics of relationships, challenging the notion that power lies solely in traditional factors like income or strength. Instead, it puts forward the compelling idea that the true arbiter of power is the capacity to say “no.” Through relatable examples, this episode explores how wielding this power impacts partnership responsibilities and intimacy, and how to navigate its use to avoid imbalance and resentment. The conversation encourages setting clear expectations and finding equitable compromises, especially when considering a long-term commitment.

Welcome to Relationship Workout for Men, a podcast dedicated to helping men be intentional in choosing a better partner, and being a better partner for the person they choose.

Season 18 Episode 5: Whomever Can Say No Holds the Power

When considering whether to stay in a relationship for the long-term, it’s helpful to understand power dynamics. For the most part, we no longer live in the male dominated era where the man holds 100% of the power and control in the relationship.

So, then who holds the power in a modern long-term relationship? The person who makes the most money? The person who is more physically strong and intimidating? The person who yells the loudest.

While these attributes may very well contribute to the level of power a person has, let me make a simple observation: What shifts the balance of power in what actions are taken in response to a specific situation is the ability to say “no.”

In other words, whomever can say “no,” holds the power over a particular topic in a committed relationship. 

Let me illustrate the point with an example. When dating, a guy might say that if you have children together, he’ll be first in line changing diapers. He essentially says that this is the loving thing to do, and he’s a loving guy. 

But fast forward a few years later to a 3 am crying baby in tears over a poopy diaper that reeks something fierce. If this supposedly loving guy – now the baby-daddy — responds with a dismissive “not me” and rolls over to go back to sleep — even though she may be exhausted from around the clock breast feeding —the mother has no option but to get up and tend to her child. She’s not going to just let her baby lie in poop the rest of the night. 

In this scenario, the baby-daddy has the power to say no, which gives mommy no option but to change the diaper – he has the power in that exchange. Of course, he also runs the risk of her developing feelings of resentment, remembering those words her now husband spoke when they were early on dating.

Understanding all this, the mom might do well to set expectations and guidelines before the next middle of the night poopy diaper incident. If there’s no way he’s going to get up and change the diaper, then she might do well to propose some other form of compromise to even the playing field.

Another classic example is sex. The woman you’re dating can never hesitate to get naked when you give her your special “let’s make love” look. Night after night while you’re dating, you can enjoy going to sleep happy ending style. 

But after being married for several years, if she says, “No, I have a headache” day-after-day, week-after-week, month-after-month, then you might be left with no choice but to become master of your own happy ending domain. She has the power to say no which gives her control when it comes to having sex together. If this is the case, you may also build feelings of resentment, remembering how willing she once was to be intimate with you before you put a ring on her finger.

To help avoid this scenario, it can be crucial to have an ongoing discussion with her setting expectations around sex. It may not seem the romantic thing to do, but after many years being together, you’ll likely be more than happy to trade-off some romance for an agreed upon under the sheets game plan.

Of course, these are two somewhat sexist, black and white examples, whereas life and marriage are rarely black and white. There may be very good reasons why the husband doesn’t want to change the diapers, or the wife doesn’t want to have sex at a pace even remotely resembling the days prior to speaking your wedding vows. 

However, the point remains that once it’s more difficult to get out of the relationship, then people can feel more empowered (whether consciously or unconsciously) to act in ways that more serve their needs and wants at the expense of truly caring for the needs and wants of the person they say they love.

The point is to reserve “no” for moments that genuinely matter to you, ensuring your partner understands that your “no’s” carry significant weight. When the decision isn’t crucial to you, consider yielding to your partner’s preference. In essence, opt for harmony and to lessen the chance of fostering resentment from frequent objections, rather than consistently insisting on having things your way.

Of course, it would be fantastic if she did the same!

In any case, if you’re still in the dating phase and she seem to be ruling the roost with her use of the word “no” then this may give you something to think about it. If you do commit long-term with her, it may not be a wise strategy to hope her “no’s” will turn to “yes’s” post wedding day.

This leads me to the next point: If you’re considering committing for the long-term, then you’d be well served to understand if any conflict in the relationship is coming from incompatibility versus relationship skills, and that’s the topic of our next episode.

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