Have you ever observed relationships of people and initially perceived them one way but then had your eyes opened and realized you were totally off base? I have. It’s been quite an interesting experience too and one that has reinforced the concept of not judging books by their covers.
It usually happens when I come across what I would describe as a solar/lunar (or almost stereotypical male-dominated relationship). You know the type I mean – the male/yang/alpha partner appears to be the dominant one while the female/yin/beta partner seems to cater, kowtow and reflect the alpha partner’s glory. Now, I also have to admit that my life experiences have primed me to recognize these types of relationships because they’re the ones with which I’m most familiar. They were the type most common in the blue collar neighborhood in which I grew up. Unfortunately, they were also the ones I saw become abusive (although let me be clear, I’m not saying all of these types of relationships become abusive). It is the kind of relationship I was determined to avoid,
Of course, one’s perceptions as a child and those as an adult are quite different. Watching these types of relationships now I have come to realize that the power dynamic is not as imbalanced as I once believed. I have learned that a more yin/beta partner can be just as controlling and domineering as a yang/alpha partner. They just use different techniques to ensure their goals are met. For example, I’ve watched the “passive” partner use subtle and sometimes not so subtle behaviors to influence their partners. The most frequent one I’ve noticed is almost a temper tantrum. The more passive partner will become upset because something is not to their liking (for example their food is not prepared correctly). Instead of addressing it with the wait staff, the beta partner will complain to the alpha partner. This will cause the more assertive partner to take up the banner and charge into the fray to ensure things are corrected to the beta partner’s liking. Or the passive/beta partner will push buttons that will result in the outcomes they desire but allow them to look blameless. Things turned out this way because of the alpha/assertive partner’s insistence. It can be fascinating to watch.
It’s an interesting dynamic and requires a subtly of which I’m not capable. I can admire it and acknowledge its effectiveness while accepting that it’s beyond my capabilities. The major realization I’ve taken away from these observations is that I’ve misread these relationships. Due to my own blinders and prejudices, I didn’t realize that just because the passive/beta partner is assertively challenging situations or fighting whenever their partner did something insulting, domineering or just not to their liking, that doesn’t mean they’re not handling it. They simply use a less confrontational (and possibly more effective) approach.