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Fam Process. 2013 Mar;52(1):5-18. doi: 10.1111/famp.12011. Epub 2012 Dec 7.

Why power matters: creating a foundation of mutual support in couple relationships.

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Department of Counseling and Family Sciences, Loma Linda University, Loma Linda, CA.


Research shows that equal power helps couples create intimacy and relationship success. However, though couples increasingly desire equal relationships, cultural models of mutual support are not well developed. Clinicians often approach heterosexual couple therapy as though partners are inherently equal, thus reinforcing unacknowledged gender inequities. This article examines research that shows why power imbalances are destructive to intimate relationships and focuses on four gender-related aspects of mutual support: (a) shared relational responsibility, (b) mutual vulnerability, (c) mutual attunement, and (d) shared influence. Case examples illustrate how socio-emotional attunement, interrupting the flow of power, and introducing alternative relational experience help couple therapists identify and address power disparities in these important relational processes. Encouraging the powerful person to take relational initiative and introducing alternative gender discourse are especially important.


Couple Therapy; Emotional Attunement; Equality; Gender; Intimacy; Power

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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