Aretha Franklin put the concept of “Needing a Little Respect” for women right out there when she sang this song originally written and sung by Ottis Redding, in 1965. The original version of the song had a very different intention. It was written by a man who was asking for some respect from his wife when he arrived home after a long song tour. Aretha, changed the song to imply that women require respect, full stop, as things were just starting to change for women in the 1960’s as more women were entering the work force in North America and the United Kingdom and henceforth all around the world.
Women working outside of home and earning a living of her own was a very new concept in the 1960’s which completely altered women’s sense of self belief, entitlement and empowerment. This also significantly altered the power dynamic between men and women, and has therefore shifted women’s view of themselves and to a large extent how men value and appreciate women. This is true both for women who have chosen to work outside of home and for those who haven’t. Of course, earning an income alone doesn’t automatically mean that a woman will feel a greater sense of self-worth, as there are many other factors and variables at play that contribute to how people feel about themselves.
While many men have embraced the shift in the male/female power dynamic and are happy with more of an equal distribution of power between men and women, many men are still fighting this shift and struggle to give women the respect they want and need in order to feel true to who they are in this world.
Some men try to control women physically, socially, emotionally, financially, sexually and may use all sorts of ways to over-power their female partners. What many men don’t realize is that when they choose to dominate women in this way, they are actually not only devaluing their wives, but ultimately they are minimizing the possibility of creating a relationship that feels satisfying and healthy for them.
Sadly, there are still several men that mistakenly believe that by overpowering women they will feel a greater sense of happiness and entitlement in the relationship. What they don’t realize is that when one person in the relationship is unhappy, they both lose out. When people feel overpowered by their partner, they are less likely to want to give wholeheartedly and instead become miserly about giving in any way that can enrich a relationship.
While I have focused here on men overpowering women, marriage and relationship therapists the world over are starting to see more women also power tripping and trying to be “in-charge” of the relationship.
Tips on how to know your relationship power dynamic is off and potentially abusive
- You feel you have little say when it comes to major and even minor decision making processes
- You feel emotional drained because you feel unentitled to your feelings
- You feel threatened by your partner
- You feel put down by your partner either publicly or privately
- You are made to feel humiliated and ashamed
- You feel unappreciated and unloved
- Your partner criticizes you or calls you unpleasant names
- You may feel you are never on safe ground as your partner may shift from being very charming to very degrading
- Your private space, body and belongings may not be respected
- Your partner destroys things
If you have experienced any of the following then first thing you need to know is that any of these behaviours are not OK and that in order to be a part of a successful relationship you need to feel safe and respected. If you aren’t sure how that should feel, consider how you do feel. Acknowledge and consider how you would like to feel and experience life if things were different.
While some men simply can’t handle strong women, many men don’t even realize that they really long for a strong equal partner who can stand their ground. Assuming that abuse doesn’t exist and that you do feel safe, but just not as respected as you would like to feel, consider what you might do to gain the respect that you want and deserve. Consider what may be holding you back from being respected. Do you experience low self-esteem? Did you learn certain behavior patterns from the family you were raised in? If this is the case, then this can be turned around with greater levels of awareness and behavior changes.
Take some time to consider how you would like to re-jig the power dynamic in your relationship and what you can do to take charge and reassert yourself. It may feel challenging and even weird at first, but I can guarantee it will be well worth it in the long run.