Bridging the Communication Gap

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Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Breakdown of Your Relationship and Revolution (Published Nov 19th, '09)

Last week we detailed four models of power dynamics in relationships: The Giver and the Taker, The Mongoose versus the Cobra, The Hand, and The Dominant and Submissive. In detailing the four models, we created paradigms that appear to leave no room for change. The Taker will seemingly always take. The Mongoose is assumed to always strike at its most vulnerable moment. The Hand presumably creates an intimate tyrant. The Dominant’s name alone implies its continual dominance.

But these strict power roles are not what they appear to be. There are opportunities to change the flow of power between two people if necessary. Necessity is the key point, though. Even in a tyrannical relationship, there is not always a need to change the dynamic as long as the relationship is healthy and operating well. The tyrant is not granted free reign to do as s/he pleases even when power is stagnant. Remember, people enter into and stay in relationships because that particular power relation works for the two people involved.

The following are suggestions for transitions of power in the four models we outlined last week. If change is necessary, here is the best way to do it. We can’t tell you how to articulate the action precisely, but we can try to direct the general idea.

Altering Power: The Giver and the Taker

The Giver: You need to work on your acting skills. In order to gain more power in the relationship you will have to change a few things. First, you cannot be readily available. You must make your partner realize that he or she must cherish every moment with you because your time should not be taken for granted. Next, you must seem less interested than you already are. You cannot let your partner get too comfortable or complacent, because that leads to boredom. When your partner becomes bored, s/he no longer has your best interests in mind and is more apt to step out and find someone else.

The Taker: If you would like to maintain control, you have to be spontaneous at times. You have to sacrifice your selfish desires once in a while and do something your partner is interested in. This cannot be something you have some interest in as well. The spontaneous act must be an act that your partner knows you did only because you care. These random acts of kindness will help offset your position in the relationship as the taker. Your partner will allow you to continue some of your selfish ways because in the back of his/her mind s/he knows you are capable of showing that you care.

Altering Power: The Cobra vs. the Snake

This power dynamic doesn’t change. The mongoose cannot change its role in the relationship, but there is the possibility for change in how you and others perceive those roles. The cobra and mongoose power relationship is an illusion created for political reasons. There are only two options for changing this relationship dynamic. The first would be to avoid interacting in public. This would indicate you are no longer in a relationship but you are either just exclusive or hooking up. The second option would be to become an egalitarian couple. You all go to Richmond, so I think you know what this entails; but, for those who don’t, it implies equal opportunity for all. But, this does not isolate the dating scenario. There aren’t any other options because the mongoose will always be the submissive in the public eye and the cobra will feed off popularity.

Altering Power: The Hand

The same Seinfeld episode shows how change occurs in these relationships. George loses the Hand when his girlfriend discovers he lied to her about who was laughing and interrupting her concert. The Hand is not merely about manipulating your way to control the situation.

Altering Power: The Dominant and the Submissive

This power dynamic works perfectly for and against change simultaneously. The contradiction comes from the contradictory nature of power in this duo. The Submissive is in complete control of how dominant the Dominant can be actually. This dynamic begins with an understanding of the consensual submission to the Dominant’s use of power. That beginning is what makes change so antithetical for this pairing. When a change of power is thought to be necessary, this couple crumbles in most cases.

The most likely causes for change are the Dominant’s use of too much power, the Submissive’s loss of desire to submit (including the Dominant’s too-eager exertion of power) or the need for the Dominant to act more like his/her namesake.
In the first case, the Submissive submits to a point, but the Dominant crosses that line. The Dominant has violated the non-contractual contract that made this division of power work so well. This can be discussed and renegotiated. These kinds of relationships are built entirely on trust and open communication. Yes, we are suggesting that in some cases you might actually have to talk to someone you are hooking up with about the terms of those hookups. We recommend you do so casually.

In the second case, the Submissive loses the desire to submit. This could be for any number of reasons, but when this happens it is best merely to walk away from the relationship. There is no way to repair the dynamic.

The third case is another one that requires conversation. This conversation is easily had during the moment of play. However far you two go, the playful suggestion to be more dominant is generally enough for any Dominant worth his/her salt. The Submissive should demand a need for more submission on his or her part. But beware or this call can result in No. 1.


Because this is the last edition of The Collegian for the fall 2009 semester, the members of apartment 507 thought we would end on a positive note of possibilities. The possibility for change is optimistic, but it is not the only possibility. There are an infinite number of possibilities that we encourage you to pursue. In the Oct. 8 edition, Terance reminded us to “not let this year go by having any regrets.” Take this as a reminder that you should not just seek to change one power dynamic, but have others. Discover which model suits you best. Anthony spoke about this earlier in the Sept. 10 edition, detailing a need to not reject the possibility of being “it” or “IT.” Embrace that which entertains you. If your position as the submissive places you in a position of comfort and happiness, there is nothing wrong with that.

Neither is the desire to “pursue other activities,” a condemnable want. Take heed in Lamarc’s concluding sentence in the Sept. 24 edition: “You gotta know how to look [for the right delicious apple].” But before you can really heed that, you must first know to look. Mycal is not as direct in his advice, sadly. The assumption in his Oct. 29 article is that the Hunt is a desirable act, but he assumes this knowing there is more than just the Hunt.

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