On the road to find love, friend, we have to spend time dating and getting to know other people. Along the way we find some incredible, and – sometimes – some not so incredible people. Additionally, we have some amazing experiences along the way.
One experience that deserves some conversation is the dating power struggle.
This is the struggle that occurs when one person within the dating dynamic feels that they give up some of their power by doing a major first. A ‘major first’ – in essence – is an act that reveals the hand a person holds and exposes a little bit of the ol’ heart, thus making one person in the duo vulnerable. These firsts could take the guise of asking someone out, initiating the first kiss, saying the first I love you, or a multitude of things in between.
The person that takes these steps is, effectively, leaning in and saying I want you, please want me too. When someone does this, there is always the risk of rejection, of not being wanted or desired in the same way. Of the revealed sentiment not being returned.
In this lies a power struggle, not only with the object of your desire, but within yourself. How much of yourself do you allow another to see? How much of yourself do you feel safe allowing another person to see? These are often complicated and difficult questions to answer. When these questions pop up I often find myself breaking out in a cold sweat and wanting to take off at full speed towards the nearest exit. Often times I’d rather run away from a potential relationship, then risk the injury that could occur by revealing myself fully.
The severity of my flight response in these situations is striking to me, and perhaps I am not alone in my fear of vulnerability. I cannot help but wonder why it is that a ‘major first’ causes me to panic. Perhaps it is the fear of losing control and the risk of rejection in this vulnerability that I find to be particularly frightening.
I am reminded of a quote by Dr. Robert Anthony , a self-help guru who said, “The one who loves the least, controls the relationship.” This quote seems applicable to this situation. In the dating power struggle, someone has to be courageous enough to risk giving up their power and control in order to ‘test the waters’, to see if the other person in the relationship feels and is experiencing the same emotions and state of mind. Someone has to take that first step. Someone has to risk rejection and become vulnerable.
However, this risk – which can result in rejection – can also reap the reward of something special. When the reward is worth the risk, that is when a ‘major first’ is worth it. For really, what is lost when you allow yourself to be vulnerable, to lean it, to take the first step, and make the initial move? The only thing that is lost is a relationship that wasn’t going to go the distance anyways. Better to voice your desires, and wants, reveal the hand you’re holding in order to accurately ascertain if the person you’re pursuing is even worth the investment of your time, effort, and energy.
Until we start living believing that this risk is worthwhile, however, relationships become trapped in the power struggle. Waiting to see who will lean in first for the first kiss, open up about their worst fears, show their ‘underbelly’ — so to speak. Someone has to start the process of shaking off the polite visage shown at the beginning of the relationship, and start being 100 percent genuinely them (warts and all).
Though why we can’t just say what we think, and admit what we feel, and genuinely be who we are, I will never know. I will never fully understand how fear became such a dominant feature in the landscape of my, and other’s, personal relationships. I just know it’s there, and something that I must constantly contend with when I think about my own major firsts. Perhaps, someday, my relationships will not be a struggle at all — but a companionable give and take.
Until then I will merely make one challenge for myself, and that is to not bolt for the door at the first sign of discomfort. Maybe, just maybe I will allow myself to be vulnerable and commit to initiating a first of my own,
or maybe not.
Your Trusted Friend ❤