Within a few weeks of the commencement of our dating, my husband-to-be made, what I thought at the time, an outrageous statement – one that made me wonder whether this was the guy for me.
He said, "I believe a partner should be subservient."
Wanting to make sure I heard and understood him correctly, I queried, "You think that I should be subservient to you?" To which he answered, "Yes."
I looked at him in astonishment while I was thinking, "From what century is this guy?" However, since I didn't know him very well yet, I thought I would try to understand his line of thinking.
With a twinkle in his eye, he continued on. "Not only should you be subservient to me, but I should be subservient to you." Now, I thought, we seemed to be getting somewhere! Slave boy – hmmm – that could be interesting!
Seriously, though, I thought it necessary for him to define his terms. If I went according to Webster's definition of subservient, which is behavior that is characterized by extreme compliance, abject obedience, or an exaggerated deference of manner, then our budding relationship couldn't end soon enough for me!
He went on to explain that he meant it in the mildest of terms. He believed that if we each put the other's best interests first, then we, in essence, would be making ourselves subservient to each other. And although I didn't care for the usage of the word "subservient" (for to me it brought up negative images), his beliefs were not far removed from my own.
If you consider that one of the tenets of a successful relationship is for each partner to put his or her own every desire on hold for the good of the relationship, then the concept of subservience is practiced every day by couples.
Moreover, if you accept that everything in life is dual in nature, then included in that broad statement is how we perceive situations – and words too. On first hearing, usually "being subservient" holds a negative connotation; however, there are also positive usages of that term – some of which include:
1. Being polite – even when faced with negative behavior
2. Not making your partner wrong – even when you disagree (agreeing to disagree)
3. Listening to opposing viewpoints with an open heart and mind
4. Painting the picture of your partner into the landscape of your life – wherever you are and whatever you may be doing
5. Completing tasks you rather not do simply because it will assist your partner and/or relieve his/her stress
In general, if we can take a giant step back and remove the emotional charge normally associated with strong words, it allows us to reach neutral. It is from this place of neutrality where we can look at both the positive and negative aspects of these words/concepts.
Keep in mind, reaching neutral does not mean negating your initial emotions. For example, I was quite taken aback when my husband-to-be suggested we each be subservient, and I allowed myself to react and feel that emotion. However, I was also open to listening to an explanation and this brought me to a neutral place where I could release the emotional charge I associated with the term. In this calm state of mind, I could hear his explanation and come to understand his belief system.