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You're More Powerful Than You Think

By Marilyn Graman and Maureen Walsh
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"Don, why can't you ever remember to take out the garbage without me reminding you?" Susan grouched as she tied the corners of the bulging trash bag. "You'd think after nine years you'd be able to remember just once."

"But, honey, I have so much on my mind, and I like it when you remind me," Don said, leaning in to give Susan a kiss.

Susan pushed him away. "It's not a joke, Don. I'm serious. You have no idea how much I do around here. Why do I have to do everything? Being married to you is like living with a teenage boy."

"Well, maybe I'd do more if you didn't act so much like my mother," Don retorted, bristling and stung.

"Oh, please, you obviously need someone to tell you what to do." Susan felt her blood pressure rising, and her voice along with it. "I swear, if I didn't remind you to get dressed in the morning, you'd go to work half-naked."

Don shook his head, speechless. Grabbing his briefcase, he headed down the hall. "Take out your own garbage," he yelled, slamming the front door behind him. Susan stood in the hallway looking at the bag of trash. She felt tears welling up.

"It's so unfair," she thought, grabbing the bag and dragging it outside. "Every time I try to get him to do something, World War Three breaks out. Then he just leaves, and I'm stuck with the trash or the leaky faucet or the dead car. I don't know why I even bother. He doesn't appreciate what I do anyway."

Powerful You

It's often the seemingly insignificant, everyday things like taking out the garbage that become challenging in a relationship, isn't it? That's because they point out the larger problems. Why did Susan get so upset about something so seemingly insignificant as the garbage? Because she felt powerless. Like many of us, she was busy, overworked, had too many responsibilities, and was doing more than her share. She found herself focusing on all the things *she* did and discounting Don's contribution, which kept her poised to get angry. She felt as if things were just happening to her, and the only way she could control them was to hold on tightly. The more she tried to control the situation, the unhappier she became. She ended up feeling like a victim in her own relationship and not knowing what to do about it.

Like Susan, many of us don't feel powerful in relationship. We spend time feeling angry and resentful, either toward our men or toward ourselves. We ask ourselves how we could have let it come to this, and we look for someone to blame. If we blame him, we end up fighting with him all the time. If we blame ourselves, we end up harming ourselves with criticism and feeling hopeless -- maybe even depressed. Either way, we wind up unhappy, dissatisfied, and wondering what we could do.

Kind of daunting, isn't it? Here comes the good news: It's not true that we are powerless. In fact, women are the ones with the power to have our relationships be the way we want them to be. If our relationships are not already that way, it's partly because we may be accustomed to handing the power to men -- no matter how independent we feel. Sometimes we only see ourselves as victims. We are attached to our men and don't want them to leave, so it seems like they have the power. Indeed, some of us were trained to think men are the powerful ones -- even if we grew up during or after the women's movement. We might believe we are equal to men, yet there is still a pull to expect them to lead a relationship. Sometimes it seems that our only option is to respond to the tone the man is setting. We get in the habit of allowing his moods, needs, and desires to drive the relationship. And we end up resenting it.

We know from our work at LifeWorks that a lot of us are angry. We're angry at men and angry in our relationships. Sometimes we even enjoy feeling angry, because anger feels powerful. Yet the truth is, being angry is not being powerful. Anger is a defense mechanism, a reaction against a person or situation that makes us feel powerless. When we're angry, we lose our ability to see what's really happening, and we lose touch with our natural insight. That leaves us only able to react, rather than to have a considered response. And when we only have that option, we're powerless.

It's not that we don't have good reasons for being angry. Yet staying angry doesn't leave room for things to shift in our relationships. Anger is a disguise for other feelings we are having -- disappointment, rejection, hurt, and frustration that our needs aren't being met. Because anger covers up the feelings we really need to be addressing, it leaves us powerless to change anything. You're reading this book because you want things to be different, but you're not sure how to change them. We are here to help you find what works, and being angry at your man isn't working for you. What will make a difference is beginning to realize that *you're* the one with the power to have your relationship go in a different direction.

~ The Nature of Your Power ~

Women are the true keepers of relationship. Leaving relationships up to men can be dangerous. Men are silently praying that we know what we're doing, because they are not generally as relationship-oriented as we are. They don't know a lot about how to have a relationship work. As a woman, relationships in all forms are central to your life. Being in relationship comes more naturally to you. You are different from men. You have talents and gifts they don't possess and abilities that come easily to you. These we refer to as your female power. Because these talents come easily, you might think everyone can do them -- yet not everyone can. Your man can't manage a relationship as well as you can. Your power in relationship comes from your innate ability to do the following:

COMMUNICATE: You can be a good listener and also good at getting your point across effectively. When you and your man are talking, you're the one who can set the tone of the discussion and have it be a safe place for you both to air your feelings. He may not be as good at getting his point across as you are, and when you have patience and willingness to listen, you create a productive environment that can truly benefit your relationship.

COOPERATE: You have the ability to work in harmony with someone to have things go smoothly. Your relationship needs your cooperative skills. You are good at putting yourself on the same team as your man and facilitating partnership.

NURTURE: You have the innate ability to know what someone needs, when they need it, and how to give it to them. When you're nurturing your relationship, you are gently helping both of you to heal, grow, and flourish.

BE TENDER: You have a natural gentleness when you are feeling open and loving. Your relationship needs this softness like a pillow that cushions the blows of life. When you are tender, your man will respond in kind. It's wonderful to generate an exchange of tenderness. After all, if you don't get it in your relationship, where will you get it?

BE CREATIVE: You can easily come up with solutions for problems, and if one thing doesn't work, you can come up with another from your endless store of ideas. Your man appreciates your creative ability. He counts on you to come up with the exciting ideas that keep your relationship vibrant and comforting at the same time.

BE VULNERABLE: When you're feeling safe in a relationship, it's easy for you to open up to someone and reveal yourself. Being vulnerable is actually very powerful because you're not closing off or getting defensive. It's like holding out your open hands and saying, "Here I am."

BE OPEN: When you're being vulnerable, you are allowing yourself to open to someone else. When you're open, you create space for your relationship to be wonderful. Opening your heart and mind to your man allows him to be himself, feel accepted, and give you his best.

RECEIVE: As a woman, you are a natural receiver. Think about the sexual act. Whatever position you assume, you are receiving him into your body. You may tend to think receiving isn't as powerful as giving, yet receiving is actually very powerful. It's impossible to give fully without a receiver. Your ability to receive is a valuable gift because it allows your man to be a generous giver.

HEAL: Women are the natural healers of the world. You know how to kiss a child's boo-boo and make it better, and how to soothe a friend's pain. When your man is hurt, you can help him heal by being your tender, loving, open self. You can also help yourself heal your wounds from the past by being gentle with yourself. When you do this, you create more space for your relationship to be wonderful.

INTUIT: "Women's intuition" is not a myth. You have enormous powers of intuition. When you know what you know but not how you know it, that's your sixth sense at work. You can use that special psychic ability to understand your man, see what he needs, and see what your relationship needs. When you follow your intuition, it may lead you into places you hadn't dreamed you could go.

EMPOWER: You have an enormous capacity to empower yourself and others. When you empower someone, you're helping them to realize their potential. You can gently help your man be all he wants to be, help yourself be all you want to be, and have your relationship flower into its full potential.

ENVISION: Your intuition allows you to easily imagine the future -- and when you can envision it, you can have it happen. You can see your relationship as rich, warm, fun, loving . . . or as anything you want it to be. And if you can imagine it, you can have it. When you can really see the future, it's because it's available to you. Your vision is extremely powerful. When you use your powers of envisioning, you can have the life and the relationship you want.

When you are feeling comfortable in your own skin and confident in yourself, you know how to feed your relationship what it needs to flourish and how to nurture it so it stays luscious. You can sense when it's time for something to change and you instinctively know how to go about it. It is easier to know how to manage a relationship when you are feeling good about yourself and believing in yourself. Then you can manage a relationship smoothly and gracefully.

If things aren't the way you want them to be right now, it may be partly because you have become distanced from the natural female qualities that empower you to have a good relationship. It is only natural to shut down the softer parts of yourself when you don't feel safe enough, loved enough, appreciated enough, respected enough, or cherished enough. When you are feeling disappointed, frustrated, afraid, angry, or dissatisfied, you naturally feel the need to protect yourself. Closing off your heart and getting defensive are ways of protecting yourself. When you are closed off, though, it can backfire because it becomes increasingly difficult to communicate effectively, listen fully, find ways to cooperate to arrive at a solution, treat yourself and your man with tenderness, and let yourself be vulnerable instead of defensive. In short, when you close off your heart, it gets harder and harder to access the very qualities that have a relationship work well. Problems begin to escalate, and a damaging cycle begins.

When you forget not only that you are powerful but how powerful you are, it's easy to get gripped about things, blow problems out of proportion, and feel trapped. In all likelihood you start to feel like *he* is the problem. You get focused on what *he* says and what *he* does, forgetting that you are also saying and doing things that contribute to the atmosphere of the relationship. In fact, what you say, do, and even think affects your relationship profoundly.

We tend to get it backwards. When Don snapped at Susan, she thought he was being mean -- when in fact he was following her lead by responding to her critical tone. She thought he was starting a fight, when in reality he was the one who wanted to make light of the situation at first. It was Susan's continuing criticism that forced him to defend himself. Yet Susan didn't realize her own power in the situation. She didn't see that she was setting the tone and Don was responding to it.

If Susan had recognized that she was setting the tone, what would have happened? She could have stopped the criticism before it reached her mouth, allowed him to kiss her, and said something like, "Honey, it's great that you take out the garbage." Then the entire tenor of her day would have shifted. After all, if he takes out the garbage every time she asks and even gives her a kiss -- why not ask him every day?

* Notice women around you using their female power.
* Notice when you are being powerful in a female way.
* How do you feel?
* Meditate on the qualities of female power.
* Write about it.

Copyright ©2004 by Marilyn Graman and Maureen Walsh. All rights reserved. Please feel free to duplicate or distribute this file, as long as the content is not changed and this copyright notice is intact. Thank you.