I remember just enough of last year’s Dallas reunion TV special to know that I do not want to watch another. It did, however, get me to thinking about J.R. Ewing and his relationships. His trail of failed relationships was the result of the use and misuse of power and control.

The bottom line for many of us in life and relationships is power and control. The teenagers and young adults I work with call it “having hand,” as in “I’ve got hand” or “She’s got hand,” as in having the upper hand. Almost all of us are guilty of this from time to time. Some more than others.

Here are a few signs that the bottom line is power and control:

• making unreasonable demands

• having unreasonable expectations

• taking the infamous “way or the highway” approach

• having to be right, whether you are or not

• frequent and never ending power struggles

The opposite of power in relationships in connection, and the influence it brings. Take, for example, the character of Cliff Huxtable, played by Bill Cosby in “The Cosby Show.” Cliff was able to keep a connection between himself and his wife and his five kids.

Here are some signs of connection in relationships:

• a trail of successful relationships

• a sense of cooperation instead of competition

• allow others to lead in their area(s) of strength

• creates an “our way,” instead of my way (Phyllis McGinley, in “The Province of the Heart,” said “In a successful marriage, there is no such thing as one’s way. There is only the way of both, only the bumpy, dusty, difficult, but always mutual.”)

• frequent use of humor to relieve tension, gently but firmly make points, and create and maintain connection

In my experience, when a person tries to move from power and control to connection, it can be quite a struggle. Old habits can die hard, especially when the old habits provided a sense of security.

I think it comes down to control or connection, and the results of both in long term relationships. Which one would you like to focus on in your relationships, and with which set of results would you like to live and grow old?

Jeff Herring, MS, LMFT, is a marriage and family therapist.

E-mail him at [email protected] or visit his Web site at www.jeffherring.com.

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