There are four areas to the Wheel of Consent that describe a person’s role within a relationship: Taker, Allower, Giver/Server, Receiver. In each role, the person must acknowledge that they give consent to be there. If you are a Taker, you consent to take from the Allower; the Allower gives consent to have the Taker take. If you are the Giver/Server, you give consent to give or serve the Receiver, who consents to receive from the Giver.

There are shadow sides to each role, too. For example, the Receiver’s shadow side is that of a freeloader, someone assuming privilege and entitlement. The Taker is someone who steals. The Allower is someone who tolerates being mistreated. And the Giver’s shadow is the rescuer, the do-gooder who is invading another’s space or getting involved when the other person doesn’t want them to be.  

In healthy relationships, both people give consent to be in their roles and respect their own and each other’s boundaries so there are no shadow sides evident. To work with the Wheel of Consent, you look at the boundaries of each role and see where you and your partner fit within it. Then you can experiment with the roles to see if something else feels better. If traditionally you have been the Giver/Server, you will need to give consent to receive from your partner. Or if you are often an Allower, you may want to try being the Taker to see how that feels for you. However, you must always be aware of the shadow sides and not slip into them, otherwise you risk an unhealthy relationship developing.

Martin invented a three-minute game to play where you intentionally spend three minutes in each quadrant exploring the same question. You choose what the action is and then roleplay according to which quadrant you are in for three minutes.

For example, the Taker could say to his partner: “I want to touch you.” As the Allower, she would nod her consent and let him touch her however he wants for three minutes without giving back to him. Then they switch roles for three minutes.

To begin the next three minutes, the female can take the role of Server and ask, “May I touch you?” and the male will respond by being a Receiver and let her touch him, willingly accepting her caresses. Then they would reverse roles.