Personal Power & Consensual Authority in Relationships

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Personal Power & Consensual Authority in Relationships

Greetings, Friend.

I’m writing today to share with you what I believe to be one of the most important distinctions consenting adults can use in their intimate relationships, and that’s the distinction between personal power and consensual authority. I just shared this with a psychologist, and it blew his mind, as he had not yet considered that there is a distinction between power and authority. I’m writing about interpersonal relationships between consenting adults in this article.

Personal Power

Personal Power is all that you’re capable of: the resources you have, the amount of time you have, the messes you make, your needs — anything personal and specific to you that impacts the relationship. All the power you have will affect the relationship, regardless of what it is. For example, if you have wealth, you might be able to pay for a vacation for you and your sweetie. If you live with chronic pain, the power of that pain might impact how active you are able to be and for how long on any given day. You might have the power of responsibility to your children, as another example.

Consensual Authority

Consensual Authority has to do with who makes what decisions, and the rules/agreements you make together. As an example, you might agree with your partner about ‘veto power’ when you go swinging — if you want to swing with someone, but your partner is uncomfortable with that, they might have the authority to say ‘no.’ Another way authority might show up is when part of your sex that day is you are in charge — you can tell them what to do and ‘have your way’ with your partner. You are the authority in that moment — they, of course, have the authority to say no, because you are operating consensually. *winks*

Where things can get tricky is when one person’s power impacts the consensual authority that has been established. With regard to bedroom games, if you are both in full agreement that your partner is going to take charge in your lovemaking, and you are fully on board with it intellectually and in your heart but the power of your chronic pain has another agenda… Well, you might need to listen to that power. I have seen many a sticky situation with kinky people conflating power exchange and authority exchange.

In my next article, I’ll begin delving into those conflicts, opportunities, and also begin sharing some strategies for problem-solving.

Until then, my Friend…

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