In Tyler Perry’s movie, “Why did I get married?” actor Malik Yoba plays Gavin, the inconsiderate selfish husband of Jill Scott’s character, Sheila. In the film, Gavin, Sheila and her friend, Trina (Denise Boutte) go on a vacation and after Sheila is asked to pay for another airline seat due to her large waistline and ends up driving to the retreat alone, while Gavin and Trina fly, he admits that he and Trina had been having an affair. He was pushed to confess by Tasha Smith’s character who was also a close friend to his wife, Sheila. Sheila was shocked and the imbalance of power was evident when Sheila repeatedly ignored her husband’s insults about her weight and refused to accompany her when she was forced to drive instead of fly to the vacation. He would matter-a factly say “I told your fat a** to lose some weight.” Sheila did not respond. She was embarrassed and she expressed that her husband was right. She was overweight and she felt deserving of his degrading remarks.
Her husband was cocky, confident, in great physical shape, handsome and he acted as if he was entitled to treat his wife bad and sleep with her best friend. “Those who abuse power may find that the other person responds in passive or passive-aggressive ways in order to avoid threats and abuse. Although it is difficult to embrace the idea of giving up power, sometimes doing so is ones best option in resolving conflict”(Cahn, 2011, p. 116). Sheila was subservient to her husband in an effort to be what she perceived to be a “good wife”, but her husband did not judge her by her heart, he judged her by her physical appearance and he was not in love with what he saw. Chan stated; “If we feel safe enough to assert our interests, needs, and goals; listen to others; and collaborate in interpersonal conflicts, we are more likely to achieve mutually satisfying outcomes”(116).
In a marriage there must be a mutual desire to succeed in making things work, however, Gavin had given up on his marriage to Sheila. He did not tell her he had given up so she was living the lie believing that there was still hope for them to stay married. Creating a safe environment where Sheila could express her interests, needs, and goals was not Gavin’s concern. Sometimes people are not physically fit as they would want to be, but as a couple this is something that should be discussed privately in a non-threatening or harmful manner.
My colleague, Ty Frost, agreed. He stated; “As is so often the case, the person in the more powerful position is better situated to balance the scales. Though it seems unlikely in this situation, Gavin could help to bring balance to the relationship by increasing his interest in Sheila. He must focus on different criteria than he has to this point, elevating Sheila's good qualities and conceiving of them as enough to balance the scales" .
In any situation where two people are positioned to depend on one another (such as a marriage) conflict is inevitable, but they can be positive experiences or life-long regrets. It all depends on how two people communicate and share the root desires that cause them to be against the other person. Sometimes motives are never unveiled; that is when relationships die and the wounds take a long time to heal (if they ever). Deescalating the power struggle in the partnership (that all relationships are supposed to be) sets the stage for clear, honest, understanding conversation where both parties can be declared winner in the end.
Cahn, D. D. & Abigail, R. (2010). Managing Conflict Through Communication (4th ed.). Boston,
MA: Pearson Education.