Over the last 15 years, while helping couples dissolve their marriages, I’ve noticed one glaring problem that people could easily be more cognizant of upfront, while dating: power imbalances. These are never healthy in a relationship. For example, if one person controls all the finances while the other is completely incapable of balancing a check book; if one person is far more attractive and out-going than the other, or if one person’s intellectual capacity far surpasses the other, these are all imbalances that can make the other one feel insecure, over-powered or perhaps unworthy.
Maladaptive behaviors tend to creep into these relationships, which eventually lead to their demise, and then I get to see these power imbalances play out in the divorce. Having seen enough wreckage, I would like to suggest that while dating, more people embrace the concept of M.A.D.– mutually assured destruction. It worked for years during the Cold War, and I believe it would transfer well into our vision of relationships in the 21st century, where the traditional marriage is dying out and increasingly we see people marrying their equals.
There is an incredible amount of power that stems from the knowledge that you both have other options, that neither one needs the other to survive, that either one could pull the trigger at any time. In a relationship where power imbalances do not exist, and both are aware of M.A.D. as a distinct possibility, without ever actually threatening the other. It is more of a beautiful realization of true free will– you stay with your partner not out of need, but by choice– because you choose to share your life with that other person and you relinquish the power to go nuclear.