master and servant

Master and Servant

One of the biggest issues I see with couples is the power inequality. There are actually four different types of power dynamics in relationships: servant/servant; master/master; master/servant; and equal partners. Only two of them are balanced. Only one of them is healthy.


This is the least common. Probably because it’s not sustainable. In this relationship, neither partner assumes power. This can be demonstrated by the scenario where one says, “What do you want to do?” The other replies, “I don’t know. What do you want to do?” This replays over and over because neither wants to lead so the relationship goes nowhere. This relationship tends to fizzle out fairly quickly.


Most relationships move to this dynamic at least some of the time. This is where we are when we are arguing. Both parties want control. This can’t be a long term situation either because it’s also not balanced.


This is the most common relationship dynamic. In this relationship one person has substantially more power than the other. This can change with circumstances. For example, one partner may have more power over finances while the other has more power over child rearing, family decisions, or spiritual choices. The problem with this dynamic is that with power comes responsibility. It can be really taxing to be responsible for everything. It can feel like you have a child instead of a partner. The servant can also get really tired of being low man on the totem pole and having no say and no power. Although this relationship is balanced, which is why it is the most common, it is not a healthy way to conduct a relationship.

Equal Partners

Fortunately there is another option – this is to embrace relationship equality. When you are equal partners, you take responsibility for yourself and that’s it. Your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are true reflections of you. You don’t take responsibility for the thoughts, feelings or behaviors of your partner. If your partner wants to stay up late and watch tv and you want to go to bed, each pleases himself and accepts the other’s choice. There is no punishment, no manipulation, no begging, no blaming. It leaves you lots of space for acceptance and love. Gifts can be given with an open, unconditional hand because there is no expectation of reciprocity. It makes love truly loving.

Those who have been parents or bosses in the relationship can now relax a bit. Those who have felt weak, dependent and small can now step into their power. Both can enjoy a parter who can meet them in the middle. When you experience relationship equality, you bring your whole self into the relationship. You see who the other person is. It makes relationships far more potentially fulfilling because inequality can breed resentment on both sides.

If your partner is not agreeable to trying it out, don’t worry. You can create it anyway simply by either relinquishing power (if you are the master) or assuming more power (if you are the servant). If you are connected, the other must move. That’s just how relationships work. If you are consistent, you will probably find that your partner likes the new arrangement because it’s a win/win situation. So why not give it a try?

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