In any relationship, the person with the most power is the one who needs the other the least.
This is a foundation of any relationship, not just intersexual ones, but family, business, etc. relationships as well. It is a dynamic that is always in effect. For my own well being and that of my family’s, I need my employer more than he needs me, ergo I get up for work in the morning and work for him. And while I am also a vital part for the uninterrupted continuance of his company and endeavours, he simply needs me less than I need him. Now I could win the lottery tomorrow or he may decide to cut my pay or limit my benefits, or I may complete my Masters Degree and decide that I can do better than to keep myself yoked to his cart indefinitely, thereby, through some condition either initiated by myself or not, I am put into a position of needing him less than he needs me. At this point he is forced into a position of deciding how much I am worth to his ambitions and either part ways with me or negotiate a furtherance of our relationship.
The same plays true for intersexual relationships. Whether you want to base your relationship on ‘power’ or not isn’t the issue; it’s already in play from your first point of attraction. You are acceptable to her for meeting any number of criteria and she meets your own as well. If this weren’t the case you simply would not initiate a mutual relationship. This is the first comparisson we make with another individual – call it ‘sizing up’ if you like – but we make innate (and often unconscious) comparissons about everything and in the case of initial attraction we decide if the the other person is acceptable for our own intimacy. From this point it becomes a cooperative negotiation.
This principle isn’t so much about ‘power’ as it is about control. This might sound like semantics, but it makes a difference. It’s very easy to slip into binary arguments and think that what I mean by the cardinal rule of relationships is that one participant must absolutely rule over the other – a domineering dominate to a doormat submissive. Control in a healthy relationship passes back and forth as desire and need dictate for each partner. In an unhealthy realationship you have an unbalanced manipulation of this control by a partner. Although control is never in complete balance, it becomes manipulation when one partner, in essence blackmails, the other with what would otherwise be a reinforcer for the manipulated under a healthy circumstance. This happens for a plethora differenet reasons, but the condition comes about by two ways – the submissive participant becomes conditioned to allow the manipulation to occur and/or the dominate initiates the manipulation. In either case the rule still holds true – the one who needs the other the least has the most control. Nowhere is this more evident than in interpersonal relationships.
Too many people who I counsel and read my posts (here and elsewhere) assume that this Rule means that I’m advocating the maintaining a position of dominance at the expense of their partners; far from it. I do however advocate that people – young men in particular – develop a better sense of self-worth and a better understanding of their true efficacy in their relationships (assuming you decide to become involved in one). Don’t get me wrong, both sexes are guilty of manipulation; Battered women go back to their abusive boyfriends/husbands and pussy whipped men compromise themselves and their ambitions to better serve their girlfriends insecurities. My intent in promoting this Rule is to open the eyes of young men who are already predisposed to devaluing themselves and placing women as the goal of their lives rather than seeing themselves as the PRIZE to be sought after. Compromise is always going to be a part of any relationship, but what’s key is realizing when that compromise becomes the result of manipulation, what is in effect and developing the confidence to be uncompromising in those situations. This is where a firm understanding of the cardinal rule of relationships becomes essential.
There’s nothing wrong with backing down from an argument you have with your girlfriend, but there is something wrong when you continually compromise yourself in order to ‘keep the peace’ with the understanding that she’ll withhold intimacy as a result of you holding your ground. That is a power play, also known as a ‘sh!t test’. She initiates it thus becoming the controlling party. No woman’s intimacy (i.e. sex) is ever worth that compromise because in doing so you devalue your own worth to her. Once this precident is set, she will progressively have less respect for you – exactly opposite of the popular conception that she’ll appreciate your compromising for her and reward you for this. And really what are you compromising in order to achieve? Set in this condition, her intimacy. That isn’t genuine desire or real interest in you, it’s a subtle psychological test (that all too many men are unaware of) meant to determine who needs the other more. There is no more a superior confidence for a man than one with the self-understanding that he will not compromise himself for the recognized manipulations of a woman, and the fortitude to walk away knowing he can and will find a better prospect than her. This is the man who passes the sh!t test. It’s called ‘enlightened self-interest’, and a principle I wholely endorse.