Power Dynamics: Unequal Income in Relationships

    by Allen Hart

    You’re at the midpoint in your life. You’ve earned that subtle patina that sets you apart from your young adulthood.

    You’ve had some initiations, put your work in, and no you’re finally making some decent money.

    There’s a sticky spot in your money game, though.

    You like to treat yourself, drink in life, and expand what’s possible. You want the most good that life has to offer you.

    But you also want to share that with your lover.

    Somehow, those you date, or perhaps even the partner you’ve found, just doesn’t make the kind of money that you do.

    Maybe you’d fancy a sugar baby on some kinky level, but your heart knows that the deeper thing you want from a relationship just won’t be possible with that dynamic.

    Nonetheless, your big heart just wants to gush nice things and new experiences all over the one you love. It’s natural to want to let your heart shower someone.

    Regardless, you receive pushback from them and maybe even some of your own inner voices.

    They just want the ground between you to be level, and really, so do you.

    You can’t force them to surrender to letting you make it rain, so you’ve got to build the skills to work with where you’re at.

    You don’t want the money thing to matter, but the fact is that whether or not you like it, the money does matter.

    So how in the mother-loving name of pirate-lady Grace O’Malley do you sustainably navigate a relationship where money just isn’t symmetrical?

    First and foremost, let’s set one thing straight.

    What we’re talking about here is a power dynamic.

    Maybe that doesn’t sound too bad because you’re an adventurous lover.

    The problem is that you want to hit the gas pedal in your relationship, and it feels like working with these boundaries is just holding you back.

    Shameless pitch alert – If you’ve been on the loop recently with the WITCH email thread, then you may have noticed some the masterful business coach Dave Burns talk about his relationship with money.

    Dave is a man whose expertise runs from business and magic, to friendship, relationships, and marriage.

    In these emails, Dave Burns and Dr. Carolyn Elliott (a long-time, deeply trusted friend of mine), give a spiritual reframe of money of money that is definitely worth checking out.

    They decentralize the “gotta make more money” narrative, and look at it from a different perspective: a highly charged topic that is medicine in the same way that the shaminism of ayahuasca and other difficult psychotropics are medicine.

    If you’ve got the time to ensnare yourself in the wonderful web of WITCH emails, they’re like pithy, bite-sized reports from the mad scientists of the taboo. Okay, shameless pitch over.

    Good news. There’s something at play here that you can put your attention on.

    It worked for me in my relationship and continues to work, and it’s rolled over into other relationships, like those I have with my family.

    You’ve already made the most important play early in the game: you’ve seen and acknowledged very clearly that there is in fact a power dynamic.

    If you’re reading this specifically because the problem is there, then you’re already trying to do something about it.

    Let me pitch something else to you, a chain of ideas:

    Unconscious power dynamics are typically harmful. Conscious power dynamics are dangerous. Conscious power dynamics are less dangerous than unconscious power dynamics, and they can be worked with.

    It sounds counter-intuitive or maybe even cliche, but it’s not.

    If you’re on the top end of the power dynamic: you want to shower your lover with money or you have some other boon in your life that they don’t.

    In these cases you’ve got to be surrendered.

    The more you attempt to do for your lover, the more you will drive space between the two of you.

    Why is that?

    1. You really are experiencing a power dynamic. You really are in the power position.
    2. When the power-position is in alignment and resonating with their power, they are leading but also taking instruction from the signals that their lover is sending.
    3. The power-position is paradoxically the most surrendered position to be in. You must always be listening.
    4. Your insistence on having your way (spending a lot on your lover whether or not they like it) isn’t vulnerable. If you want to lead your relationship into deeper love, you have to be willing to get vulnerable while remaining stable, and learn to follow your lover’s temporary money boundaries.

    In order to get what you really want, you have to surrender control and follow.

    Deliberately locating your open-heartedness, care, and attention, then giving it a central role in this dynamic is going to help you leverage the situation so you that you can develop mastery before you try to get what you want.

    Handling relationship dynamics that revolve around money can feel clumsy at first, but with time you will be a master.

    It starts with finding true power in being vulnerable.

    Opening up a conversation by expressing your vulnerable feelings is the first step to opening the gate to having what you want.

    Then, next is to make sure that your partner feels deeply respected every part of the way.

    Let them know what you want to experience with them and how you want to spend your money on your relationship.

    Find a good time to have a one-on-one conversation about it – set a specific time and place. Then see how it goes.

    Once you’ve gotten sufficiently vulnerable with each other, and made it clear that your baseline is devotion and connection, you’ve grounded yourselves in your love.

    Let them know that you know this is about boundaries, and you want theirs to be deeply respected.

    Be sure to reflect on the meaning of these boundaries beforehand. At some point along the way, genuinely ask them (not in the rhetorical sort of way) how they would handle things if the roles were reversed.

    At the end of the conversation, you can move forward with a better sense of your boundaries, and a stronger thread of communication and trust.

    There are other ways for you both be equally engaged in the dynamic, so that some symmetry is restored.

    If you’re making money and you don’t have time to pick and choose the experiences you want, then your lover can be in charge of choosing experiences for you.

    It’s your money, but they get to treat you to a perspective on life that you wouldn’t have otherwise.

    The beauty of the potential of this dynamic is that there is a phenomenal spaciousness available to be worked with.

    There is endless potential for finding ways to work with your lover to make this money dynamic work out.

    Finally, I’ll let you in on a little secret.

    You’ve been tricked all along.


    If you’ve read this far, what you really want probably isn’t to spend money on anyone.

    Perhaps you’re ready to hear this: you aren’t in the power position at all (Sound contradictory? Good. Mastering existential powerplay means getting comfortable with paradox.).

    You’re genuinely in the best possible position to be vulnerable.

    What you want more than anything else is to be deeply connected with this other being, and you’re willing to do what it takes if only you can get them on board.

    You might even be willing to put them in control, even if it means confronting the fact that you haven’t been willing or able to meet them where they’re at.

    If nothing else works for getting what you want, you can always surprise them by buying yourselves a little help from an outside perspective.

    P.S. If you’re on the other side of the dynamic, your love wants to shower you with money and for some fucked up reason it feels shitty to you: you have an entirely different game to play.

    As it turns out, the bottom is naturally in the power position, especially when the top is still learning how to play. Finding a solution to this is up to you.



    If this essay resonates with you, please join our WITCH email list by using the forms on this website so we can stay in touch.


    About the Author:

    Allen is a minimalist and steadfast rationalist who happens to hold some strange and witchy keys into to the spirit world.


    featured image via Pexels




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