Welcome To The Power Struggle

Dear Dr. Darcy:

Lately my girlfriend and I fight constantly. I don’t know how this happened because we used to get along so well but suddenly, like within the last couple of months, everything she says pisses me off and judging from the way she snaps at me, I’m guessing I evoke the same feeling in her.  She’s constantly criticizing what I do and then complains when I don’t want to touch her at night. How am I supposed to forget what a bitch she is during the day and have sex at night?  

Now she’s saying that if we don’t start having sex daily, she’s going to break up because she didn’t sign up for a sexless relationship and we’ve only been dating 7 months. She’s totally threatening to abandon me at this point. I’m not sure this can be fixed but I’m paralyzed with fear over losing her. And did I mention she refuses to go to couples counseling?  Is this hopeless?

ANSWER

It’s not hopeless.

You’ve recently exited the honeymoon phase of your relationship, which generally lasts 5-7 months, and you’re now in the power struggle phase: You want her to be nice and in exchange you’ll give her sex – she wants to have sex and in exchange she’ll be nice.

The power struggle phase is where most relationships live and die. If they live, the couple tends to exist in a state of warfare, endlessly criticizing and fighting with one another, or the relationship better resembles a cold war where partners are sexless, quietly hostile, devoid of warmth and are likely sleeping in separate rooms.

The power struggle phase is natural and it occurs because there’s trust between you which is allowing you each to engage in some unconscious testing. If you’re to get through this and transition to the mature love phase, you’re going to have to cultivate some compassion for one another and practice the art of feeling annoyed and not acting on it. Every thought that comes into your head doesn’t have to be expressed. And every feeling that you have doesn’t need to register on your face. Some things are better left unexpressed because in the final analysis, they really don’t matter.

Which brings me to my final thought: When you’re fighting about everything, you’re actually fighting about nothing.  The things that are provoking conflict are likely historical and do warrant couple’s counseling.

Gender & Orientation: Female, Lesbian.