All relationships are built on some sort of inherent power balance, whether initially equal or not. With the parent-child relationship, parents hold all the power up front, and this is why it’s important to use that power for good and not harm. As children grow into adults and become parents themselves, they no longer have “no power” and must learn how to use their own personal power well. And part of using our personal power well is to engage with others in a way that is equitable in terms of power balance.
With romantic and non-romantic relationships alike, if both parties don’t hold and exercise their fair share of power, then dysfunction sets in, and the relationship is not as healthy as is could be and should be. Advocating for power equality in any relationship, whether parent-child, romantic, or non-romantic, is kind of like eating a meal at a table. There is a place for everyone, and there is a purpose for joining the table. If things aren’t going the way we would like for them to, we can get up and leave the table, as can others. But the meal (perhaps “the conversation” at hand, whatever it might be about or involve or require) remains. And will remain until all parties are willing to return to the table to continue partaking of the meal that is theirs to share.
If it remains uneaten (i.e., undone, unsaid, un-worked-through), then so be it. And if it takes an eternity to get through it, then that’s just the way it goes. But the point is to understand that there’s a place for everyone at the table, a place for everyone to eat, to talk, to be heard, to be listened to, to be seen, to be acknowledged, to be enjoyed, and to enjoy.
We all have our own “table,” and if eating at someone else’s table doesn’t allow for everyone’s dignity and personhood to be acknowledged, then we don’t have to eat at that table anymore. We can go where there is a fair power balance at play. We can make sure that anyone eating at our table is treated respectfully and considerately. We can teach our children by example how to make space for everyone and how to be aware (and to embrace the importance of) mutual empathy in relationships.