Mutuality

Recently I was discussing the concept of mutuality as a relationship concept with someone special to me.  Trying to find a better definition than the one my brain was giving me I did an Internet search and found one much better than I could come up with on my own.  I pulled this from a web site called heart relationships.

The bold are my comments.  What I've underlined is emphasis that spoke to me about a SM.  So much of this had similar themes as many of our situations that I really wanted to share it with you all.

"There are two kinds of power. The first is POWER OVER. The other is PERSONAL POWER.

POWER OVER shows up as control and dominance: someone expects to get what he or she wants through the use of power over another. POWER OVER closes the door to true communication and intimacy, according to Patricia Evans in the book "The Verbally Abusive Relationship" (Bob Adams, Inc., 1992).

Intimacy in a relationship requires mutuality. Mutuality requires good will, openness, a willingness to share one's self, and a willingness to share decision making and how resources (time, money, etc.) are used. Mutuality is a respectfulness for one another based on the belief that each individual is an equal partner in the relationship. Any act that involves controlling or dominating a partner, or that disregards consideration of your mate's opinions and desires --unilateral decisions about cutting off sexual expression in the relationship fits here--, or that forces a spouse to do something against his or her will, demonstrates a lack of mutuality. Behaviors that indicate a lack of mutuality are chronic criticism, inability to compromise, attempts to alienate your spouse's friends, jealous behaviors, psychological/emotional smothering, or physically and/or emotionally abusive behaviors.

In an in-depth analysis of 49 spouses who fell out of love with each other, Karen Kayser, in the book "When Love Dies" (Guildford Press, 1993), discovered that more than one half of the couples cited their partner's attempt to control them as the turning point in their marriages. Typical examples of a partner's controlling behavior were situations in which a major decision, was made unilaterally, such as deciding where they should live or how they should spend their money. Some were major life decisions--others were quite minor. But the common element was the lack of consideration for the other person's input, opinions and feelings in the decision-making process.

A controlling partner doesn't desire a mutual relationship, but only a relationship that serves his or her needs. Therefore, a controlling partner (or parent for that matter) will not care about their spouse's (or children's) feelings. A controlling partner fears a spouse's feelings and ideas because the differentness is perceived as interfering with what the controlling person wants. By discounting, ignoring or minimizing the spouses's feelings and desires, the controlling partner can do with what he or she wants to. Such as deciding the sexual relationship is over and then mocking the spouse's feelings about that.

A likely consequence of this imbalance of power is that the discounted person will feel devalued and controlled, and is then likely to harbor resentment and withdraw. --such as when many of us begin to counter-refuse. You cannot control your partner and be intimate with him/her at the same time. If there is little equality, partnership and mutuality, intimacy will be lacking.

PERSONAL POWER is about being in charge of yourself. It is not about power over others, it is about power over self. Personal power fosters mutuality and co-creation in a relationship. It values all family members' happiness, satisfaction and sense of empowerment, not just one person's.

Whenever a decision needs to made in a relationship, an opportunity arises for control issues to get triggered. How you handle such disagreements -- like how you handle conversations about the lack of intimate expression in the relationship-- speaks volumes about whether you have a mutual relationship (and therefore a happier and healthier relationship), or whether your spouse sees you as a "control freak," and therefore harbors resentment and anger toward you."
Changewilldoyougood Changewilldoyougood
31-35, F
11 Responses May 20, 2012

Mutuality involves a fairness. It is not that we treat each other the same, but we get what we want and we place equal spiritual capital into the union. What this spiritual capital looks like on the outside can appear very different to those outside the marriage, and may not even appear fair or mutual. What matters is that the weights feel the same to the two partners involved.

I get your comments on power. I have been a kind, and quiet person. I grew up largely introvert and sheltered. I have been successful academically, and got tremendous praise professionally. I have been told I was a nice, intelligent, and considerate. My previous marriage was kind, calm, adventurous, but lacked a certain passion. It ended after my wife suffered after a late term miscarriage after what would have been our first child. I fell apart when she left and ultimately found someone who would verbally abuse me who had violent mood swings. Acclaimed college professors are not supposed to act that way, so I figured I would stick things out. She got pregnant, and I figured we would get married, and things would work out. That was almost fourteen years ago, and I am still in the marriage.

I could not deal with her power over me. I was not ever trained to fight, and she was not prepared to go to a place of mutuality. She said she loved me and loves me deeply. I suppose abusers do. Back then I was too closed and internally damaged to learn to get my power back through therapy. I dedicated myself to learning and growing and gaining spiritual insight and in turn getting my power. I did this, but at a subconscious level. I could have left, but with two babies, that felt impossible. To get my power back, i had affairs and fell in love. All awhile, I was growing as a person, gaining self awareness, and getting in touch with the man I am.

Our marriage has the baggage of her past abuse and my affairs. I love her, but really she is not the soulmate I would ultimately seek. My soulmate embraces mutuality, and uses her power to protect and love me as well as grow herself. Taking the step to move on is so hard, shameful and so lonely.

You have benefited many people by doing that research.That is very informative and can help couples work through their sexless ,emotionless,and stale marriages.Thanks you.

This is fascinating. Thank you for sharing.

I think the lack of mutuality stems from a flawed understanding of the concept of love. Real love is not a feeling, an emotion, a state of mind, or a set of relationally favorable circumstances. Real love is action that is undertaken for the benefit of another. Real love involves forgetting oneself and focusing on the needs of the other person, without any ulterior motives of receiving reciprocation. If we were really truthful to the definition of love, what we are really saying when we say "I love you" is "I am willing to forget myself for you." This is the kind of love that marriage should be ba<x>sed on from the very beginning, and should be mutual between both parties. Anything less than this falls into the category of either puppy love, lust, or infatuation, all of which will perish with time. What if you are in a sexless marriage right now and want to recover the intimacy you once shared with your spouse? Make the first move to forget yourself and focus on your spouse's needs, without any ulterior motives of receiving reciprocation. And when the eyebrow is raised toward your efforts, communicate! Be honest about what you discovered concerning the definition of real love, and how you want this definition of love to permeate every single aspect of your marriage. And go from there.

aggie, I did that. He didn't raise an eyebrow to what I was doing... he sighed in relief and pushed for more. You can't have a healthy relationship with a broken person.

Aggie, apologies for my harshness, but it is quite obvious you are either not living in a sexless marriage or, if you are, that you are the one refusing. Your advice is sound only if the other partner is prepared to meet you half way. This sentiment ""I am willing to forget myself for you." is only of value if BOTH partners adhere to it and recognise it as important. Where one partner controls the relationship through avoiding sex, the other partner is reduced to a secondary role. That is NOT a marriage IMO.

I agree with the exceptions you posit above. But I disagree with the position that it is a potentially dangerous and very unhealthy model for love and relationships. A model, by definition, should be an ideal. How much we are able to live up to the model is an entirely different discussion. If we continue to exalt the model, which only sounds romantic because of the terrible level to which so many romantic relationships have stooped, then we will always have something to aspire to. Self-forgetting is the essence of real love, and self-forgetting is one of the absolute hardest lifestyle traits to master. It's not easy, and it must be mutual, in order for the relationship to work. But just because a model may not apply in a few cases does not mean we need to get rid of the model. A model is descriptive, not prescriptive.

No apologies necessary. I fully understand where you are coming from. And I fully agree with your assessment. Thank you for your honesty and openness.

I have discovered in my own life that conflict of any kind can be largely resolved when the parties to a conflict ask and answer one simple but difficult question: What did I do to contribute to the problem?"

When the person who is being victimized answers this question, the answer usually lies in a negative attitude, or nonverbal cues, or something hidden like desires, demands, and expectations for/from the victimizer. But when the victimizer answers this question, the answer always lies in the actual cause of the problem. In both instances, the complications that have been posed by the victim and the causes that have been enabled by the victimizer, it is necessary to first sort out personal contributions to the existence of the problem as opposed to playing a blame game. Truly, at some point along the way, someone, somehow, someway in the relationship needs to stand up on their hind legs and break the destructive cycle by asking and honestly answering this one single question.

When this perspective becomes mutual, a marriage can reverse course from being doomed to becoming a delight.

So, you can have a relationship with a broken person if 1) the person admits they are broken and in need of change; 2) the person takes personal responsibility for all the damage they have caused in the relationship and is now seeking 3) forgiveness, reconciliation, and restitution.

2 More Responses

You certainly have put a lot of thought into this post. For me, I can't seem to find fault with any of the concepts. All I can say is... your mind is mighty sexy to me!

Nothing to add except Thanks! Rated up.

Wonderful post. I had recently wrote a piece on the supply-demand imbalance in an SM. the idea is similar in that when one spouse has absolute control over the other, the marriage becomes unstable and unsustainable.

This is a great post, and also very good comments. All I can add is that there comes a point when we all have to find a way to look at our relationship with our spouse ob<x>jectively to recognize patterns of behavior, and determine whether the relationship is equitable, whether are are power and control issues, emanating from either person. I think that perhaps finding enough ob<x>jectivity to see it all clearly.....is the most difficult part. We are very good at justifying our own actions, but so is the spouse. Thank you for sharing this! I think all of us need all the opportunities we come across to learn, and focus, and better ourselves, if we can. We damn sure can't change other people, but understanding their motives is hugely important!!!

To me, this is the same concept I wrote about in a story called "You, Me and Us" a while back.<br />
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The theoretical example of a worthwhile relationship was where Me contributed to the Us, and You contributed to the Us. Us being the over riding focus of both Me and You. Us grows stronger and stronger as a result. And from Us, both You and Me draw our needs from the individually contributed reservoir of goodwill.<br />
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When it works, it's brilliant.<br />
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But if either Me, or You, stops contributing to Us, yet reserves the right to keep making withdrawals from the reservoir of goodwill, the Us chokes to death. Then there is no Us. There is just You and Me. And that, is as far from brilliant as you can get. That's an ILIASM marriage.<br />
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You and Me is not a functional adult relationship. That is two individuals co-habitating, possibly with wildly different aims and aspirations as individuals. It is simply NOT sustainable as an adult relationship.<br />
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It's a great post you have put up there CWDYG. Rated up.<br />
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Tread your own path.

I've read that story you reference Baz and yes, you are spot on! Us has to be consciously built or it is unconsciously torn down.

I think this issue of mutuality is central to "good", worthwhile, or growing marriages.<br />
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And there are many more ways of it going bad than there are of getting it worthwhile, because that needs focus and generosity by both. I'm not convinced that all refusers are controlling or power-mad, and that's a why anyway. The problem is that the dynamic is set up to give effective power to the refuser until you reclaim your own agency.<br />
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One of the very helpful things for me in reinventing my marriage was to figure out a basis for marriage that was emphatically mutual and applied to me as much as to her. This was that "we help each other get what we want, individually and together, at high priority". Not only was and is this challenging in a good way, it made it obvious that that was not what we had, because so obviously it was not mutual.

Control was definitely an issue in my relationship with my Ex. How I handled it though was not very helpful. I swayed between sucking it up and being resentful. Neither advanced my cause. It is very important IMO that we (the refused, the sex people, whatever) recognise and acknowledge the issue of mutuality as valid and therefore worthy of addressing seriously with our partners.<br />
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"A controlling partner doesn't desire a mutual relationship, but only a relationship that serves his or her needs."<br />
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Our problem (in general) seems to be that we are not sure we are "allowed" to want mutuality or if it is in fact expecting too much. This leads us to insecurity. That insecurity can mean we often swing between resentment (resulting in criticism of and complaining to our spouses) and feeling we are expecting "too much" and should therefore accept our "lot in life". Neither outlook is sustainable or useful.<br />
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Articles like this one clearly articulate the importance of mutuality and the necessity for both partners to respect and to honour "the other person's input, opinions and feelings in the decision-making process".<br />
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This validation can help us to stop vacillating between resentment and feeling guilty. Clarity allows us to deal with imbalances of power in ways that are more productive - and that HAS to be a good thing!!<br />
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Thanks for this CWDYG. It is a really helpful addition to ILIASM in my opinion.