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Those who seek the security of marriage do not find romance.

— Karmayogi

Barchester towers

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Level 3 Domination

Relationships at this level are characterized by a constant struggle of wills between the partners. One or both partners tries to dominate the other. On or both tries and hopes to make the other person change.

Each of us looks at the world through our own special set of colored glasses from our own vantage point with ourselves as the center. That is the essence of ego. Ego regards itself as the most important character and superstar in is own mega-movie, the story of its life. Everyone else is part of the supporting cast. According to the ego, life is a battle and every relationship is an opportunity to enjoy the exercise of power or authority over others. Or when it meets a person who is stronger and more dominating, it agrees to subordinate itself and submit to that person, basking in the security or glory of the other person's strength and importance. Ego gives us that special feeling of self-importance, superiority and the right to dominate over those around us in any way we can.

Domination is natural to human relations. Leaders dominate their followers. Bosses dominate their subordinates. Nowadays, customers have become powerful so they dominate over sellers by making endless demands. Domination is a natural urge but it can be poisonous to intimate human relationships. Harmony, affection and romance are founded on mutual respect, admiration and self-giving, not on domination and submission. Where there is domination there can be no true love and romance. People dominate one another out of selfishness and out of the enjoyment that comes from exercising power. In many relationships, there is a constant struggle of wills between the partners, one partner establishing authority in some areas or activities. The other partner exerting power in other areas. Conflicts and quarrels invariably arise over issues in which one person unilaterally insists on being right or having their way and the other refuses to give in or go along.

Human relationships are an occasion for mutuality and self-giving. Yet often they are reduced to a struggle of egos for domination over one another. Relationships based on domination may last for a lifetime, but they can never generate true love and romance. Romance is born only in an atmosphere of security, freedom and respect. Harmony and joy are possible only when the ego's urge to dominate is removed and when the basic motive is to please and help one another rather than exercise control over the relationship.

Quarrels regarding who is right, what should be done or I told you so usually arise because one or both partners seek to dominate the relationship and prove their superiority over the other. Some partners openly resist domination leading to violent quarrels. Others resist by silently opposing their partner's will and intentions in their thoughts and feelings and taking satisfaction when things go wrong. Neither of these will ever generate harmonious, fulfilling relationships. The best response to a partner's attempt to dominate is to completely give up the corresponding urge in oneself and to accept and submit to your partner out of commitment to the person and the relationship. Trying to correct the other person never works. Changing the corresponding behavior in oneself never fails to evoke a change in the other. Focus your attention on pleasing the other person, take joy in making them happy, even if it means doing everything the way they want to do it, even if you know that way is not the best.

Giving freedom to the other person to be as they are without trying to change them is the very opposite of the urge to dominate. It is an act of affirmation, acceptance and self-giving that will surely evoke a positive response from the partner. The happier you feel in doing it, the more quicker and more dramatic the results.

The Proudies (Barchester Towers)

Bishop Proudie and his wife are among the most famous characters among the seventy odd novels of Anthony Trollope. When Mr. Proudie was appointed to the prestigious and powerful post of Bishop of Barchester, no one realized that behind the man was a more powerful woman, the real power behind the throne and sometimes even sitting on it. Mr. Proudie was weak, vain, mild man who cared for nothing as much as regular meals, timely tea and a drop or two of alcohol within permissible limits. Left to himself he would have done his best to avoid controversy of any kind and allow the world to go on its way without leaving any impress of his own personality upon it. Mrs. Proudie, on the other hand, was a born leader, an avid reformer, a dogmatic ideologue who was determined to root out sin wherever she found it, establish a the reign of heaven on earth by the benevolent exercise of absolute power over all church underlings within her grasp and as many of the lay public who would submit to her authority.

The two partners perfectly complemented one another, at least as far as Mrs. Proudie was concerned. She wanted a free hand to govern wisely on behalf of her husband. He was inclined to be guided by her forceful convictions, so long as it did not impose hardships or generate confrontation that he would find it difficult to manage. Unfortunately, almost everything Mrs. Proudie did provoked controversy, resentment and, occasionally, outright rebellion. This compelled the mild-mannered bishop to temporarily wrest power from his mate and act against her advice on many occasions. Discovering that the task of dealing was his wife was far more onerous than that of running a large clerical establishment, he frequently dreamed of ruling the roost single-handedly like the absolute monarchs of old. The bishops dream was a futile one, for whatever influence his wife failed to exercise during the day, she more than made up for when their heads lay next to each other on the pillow at night. So tortuous and demanding was her dominion over the good bishop, that he found himself praying frequently for a stroke of fortune that should make any honest clergyman blush with guilt and shame. His prayers were answered when his wife died an early death and he hastened immediately to eat his next meal in peace and quiet.

Jenna’s Endurance (The Waitress)

Domination is one issue on which neither of the sexes has a monopoly. Either partner can be the dominating one in the relationship. Mrs. Proudie dominated the bishop by her strength of personality. Earl dominates his wife by brute force and physical tyranny. A dominating partner may succeed for long without significant resistance and then find the tables suddenly turned. Jenna has been living for years as the psychologically abused wife of a dominating, suspicious, possessive, jealous husband, so jealous of her attention that he fears even his own baby will steal it away from him. He controls all the money so she has no freedom of action, demands that she agree with his every thought and sentiment, and forces her into a self-defensive shell of passive conciliation and submission. Although she is oppressed and resentful, she maintains the outer semblance of acceptance without openly protesting.

A careful observation shows that it is really Earl who is dependent on the relationship, starved for attention and affection, which Jenna pretends to give outwardly but has long ago ceased to feel. Aware that something is lacking in her attitude toward him, Earl constantly demands more. The more he demands, the more she submits outwardly and withdraws inwardly as the relationship spirals downhill. The true weakness of his position is revealed when he discovers she has been hiding part of her salary earnings from him. He feels betrayed and falls on his knees asking for her affection. After conceiving and giving birth to a baby girl, she finally decides to assert herself. When Earl learns of her pregnancy, he expresses his deep need for her attention.

With strength Earl never imagined she possesses, Jenna finally banishes the tyrant from her life with a power and decisiveness he is unable to oppose. Life responded to the strength and purity of her decision, as it always does. When her externally rough and ornery former employer passed away, he left her a large inheritance and ownership of the restaurant where she worked. Jenna’s is an instance of a failed relationship in which a woman had the strength and freedom to escape domination. Many are neither in the position to do so or willing to subject their children to the pain of parental separation. For them another solution is needed and there is one. The key lies in understanding the inner psychological dynamics of Jenna's relationship with Earl and the way to reverse it. For more on their relationship, see the Movie Forum discussion on Dominating Partner.

To raise your relationship to a higher level of harmony, see Strategies to Increase Harmony in Your Relationship

If you would like to raise general questions on romance, love, marriage and relationship or about any of the content in this article, please post your entry in the appropriate forums

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