Are you Strong enough to be Submissive?

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Submissive to a man? What’s your reaction to that question?

Now that you’ve mentally answered, do you think that only one partner should be submissive in a relationship – straight or gay? Do you think that men and women should submit to each other?

Submissive means being obedient, passive, or accepting or giving in to authority, control, or greater strength. Obedient…Passive. Those words bring to mind shackles, lack of choices, and a definite decrease of freedom. Giving into authority or a greater strength…I can live with that. But only under certain conditions. I’ll come back to that later.

Submissive. This word has so many negative connotations…

Submissive. This word has so many negative connotations that many women, when asked if they are submissive in their relationship, say, “Hell no!” Some men also say that they do not want a submissive partner. One of my friends says that he feels a submissive wife means giving him more things to handle. He’s definitely not one of those men who insist that a woman should submit to them.

But how submission plays out really depends on your point of view, doesn’t it?

My childhood environment coloured my feelings about the idea of being submissive to any man. I was surrounded by strong, high-achieving women, and intelligent, but weak men. That left me with a dilemma.

Given my role models, I wanted…no…had to be a high-achieving woman. I’d be okay, if I was the main breadwinner. My partner could stay home to ‘mine children’. After all, that’s the modern way for some nowadays. I’d breastfeed for ages (yeah, I’m mom enough), commute, and work 24/7.

I got married young, and had children. Both of us worked. My husband worked away a lot. I was okay with that. As Wonder Woman, I did not need a man. Or so I thought. I forgot that I was in a relationship, not a competition.

My husband is laidback. I’m not. He has never tried to force me into submission. So why do I still battle with the notion of being obedient or accepting of authority in a relationship?

The power struggle can be draining. 

Although, my husband is laidback, he is also quietly competitive and stubborn. The power struggle can be draining. Additionally, looking at powerful women who stopped work and became full-time mothers, and seeing their partners dismiss their herculean efforts, my blood would boil when I saw these women taking sh*t from men.

Add negative connotations of the word submissive to my upbringing, my concept of being a super woman, and the subtle power struggles in relationships, and you can see why I think the way I do.

But then, in writing this article, it occurred to me, what if we redefine our idea of submission based on positive outcomes?

I have seen that a traditional, submissive wife is not always passive, as defined by the dictionary – “accepting or allowing what happens or what other people do, without resistance”. No. She is a quiet, strong person. She gets her business done, whilst making her man feel empowered. I want a piece of that. But, as with everything in life, it’s not that straightforward.

Can you have a submissive wife and dominant husband, in a successful, happy relationship? Yes. Women please stop screaming at me. There are conditions required for this to succeed.

One partner might be passive in public, but dominant at home. Where the dynamics work, the submissive partner isn’t passive, as in having no say in the relationship, or submitting solely to their partner’s will. No. Their submission is demonstrated by the fact that they guide, support, and have their partner’s back.

Think about a successful couple that you know. Think Barack Obama and Michelle Obama. At some point, they’ve had to submit to each other. She had to do it to give him the time and space needed to facilitate his success. He had to submit to her desire that family life remain a priority, so he made time to maintain certain routines and give his family the attention they needed.

When I look at it like that, I feel a bit more comfortable about the idea of being submissive. I like the idea of it being a two-way street. I can give in to authority, if these conditions exist – trust, confidence, mutual respect, and free will. These are essential for this power dynamic to work.

You have to trust that your partner has your happiness and welfare at the forefront of their decision-making. You have to trust that they are willing to listen to your suggestions, and change things, if you are not happy. If you do not trust a leader, then how can you follow?

Trust and mutual respect means I am happy to ‘stand by my man’.

Let’s move on to the other condition required – respect. If you don’t respect someone, then how can the balance work? For me, respect means admiring someone who I can lean on…when I need to. Someone who stands by me proudly when I achieve. Trust and mutual respect means I am happy to ‘stand by my man’. But note the word mutual. This means he stands by me as well.

There is a power balance, and if you are both fighting up to be the leader, well, eventually the drama burns out the relationship. And really, if you keep fighting up, what are you trying to achieve in your relationship?

If you’re dead set against being submissive, is it that you’re trying to create a partner who expects you to handle their business and yours? Is it that you want to work, mine kids, clean house, and do it ALL? Now, I’m not suggesting a one-way leadership street. I think it’s healthy to share that role, and to know who leads what.

I thought that submission was a sign of weakness. But now, I realise that redefined, this can create a strong partnership. There are benefits to trusting your partner to lead, leaning on each other, and sharing the load.

Not every woman is strong enough to be the submissive one in her relationship. And not every man is strong enough to balance the power dynamic. A submissive female is not a weak person. She is a tower of strength. But until they put that definition in the dictionary, you are still going to get plenty of women saying, “Hell no!”

Nicola Brooks-Williamson

Nicola Williamson is a mother to three boys (one with autism and epilepsy), a veterinary surgeon, a writer, and a charity worker. After hopping around a bit, this Trini has settled just outside London, where she lives by three rules: find the happy, keep dodging the bullets, and take life one breath at a time.


  1. Desiree Seebaran


    June 18, 2012 at 4:42 pm

    Well said. If we add the religious angle, it gets even more complicated. But my mother always told me that submission is an act of the will and that it takes a strong person to submit. I think you’ve captured it all nicely. 

  2. Helmckel

    June 20, 2012 at 12:19 pm

    I  agree, with the example of the Obamas doing mutual submission, this is fine, both sides submitting under certain circumstances.  Sadly though, in too many cases the onus seems to be on the woman to submit.

  3. Ihavewrites

    June 20, 2012 at 9:47 pm

    Beautifully on point. I agree that it takes strength of character to be submissive. I have no issue with submission; I take the principle seriously since it is a Biblical one and I have seen the positive benefits in my friends’ marriages.

  4. Candy

    April 6, 2013 at 1:59 am

    If submission is an “act of the will” that takes a “strong person,” why don’t men, who are traditionally stronger, submit? Logical fallacy much? I believe in most relationships both should submit to each other. I wouldn’t let a man make all the big decisions because, that’s, well, lazy. There are changes you have to make within a relationship to make it work. Empowering each other isn’t necessarily submissive behavior, I’m confused on that point. I always thought it made more sense to let each person do what they desired most, or is best at, and to defer to the other’s expertise in situations that involved those areas. I hate looking at a relationship as if it always is some sort of power struggle.

  5. Mango

    November 16, 2013 at 5:32 am

    The article is spot on in terms of the relationship dynamics, but I don’t agree with the wording the author chose, although it sparked up a lot of interest. I still strongly believe that the word “submissive” is negative, as it implies passivness and quiet acceptance. In fact even explains the word as a synonym to passive, obedient and complying.
    What the author has, however, described is the most simple act of a compromise that has to exist in every relationship. Compromise is what is achieved upon discussing an issue and agreeing to support/stand by someone/back away – mutually, sometimes one partner sometimes the other.
    Being submissive doesn’t involve discussion, it’s imposing one’s will on another who has to accept it and not obstruck the imposer’s ways.
    That’s why this article should read: are you strong enough to compromise? Because that’s the art in the relationship, not submission.

  6. realityis

    September 17, 2014 at 10:50 am

    Submission does not mean you leave your good sense at the door. It is an act of trust. If your partner feels he/she has total domination of you, just leave. It is impossible to dominate no one.

  7. randallmckay

    December 21, 2014 at 4:59 am

    I live my women to be strong on the inside, submissive on the outside. It’s just how I roll. When a woman is weak on the inside, she isn’t being herself. It’s fake or just trying too hard. I like a submissive woman though on the outside because it appeals to me in the way that I don’t have to worry about her trying to beat me up, ha ha. But I love women. I think they’re awesome creatures and wish I could find one right for me.

    • Dorian Duffy

      June 1, 2017 at 11:35 pm

      So basically you want a slave, someone who can control

  8. V

    January 5, 2016 at 10:02 am

    Actually no, that is an oxymoron, sorry bout that.

    While you have to accept reality and know when to stop, if you submitte, you are indeed weak.
    It has “advantages”? That´s exactly why you aren´t strong for being submissive, easier to lean on others instead of doing it yourself.
    Having been pretty weak and apathetic aspie myself, I do know what I am talking about…
    It did not improve my life, on the contrary, I am ashamed of what I was and proud of what I am not anymore (or at least thinks so).
    I know someone else, who was “strong enough” to be submissive, result? A pretty damn hellish, draining life.

    To you other dudes who feels like submissive women makes you more of a man, tell me, is that not a crutch to your ego?
    I can understand you want to be usefull and that you want purpose in your life, don´t worry, there are better things for you to do.

  9. Tom

    October 26, 2017 at 9:25 am

    You just defined what a D/s relationship truly is… It’s not the movies. It’s not some crazy, abusive, on-the-edge-of-sanity thing. You just stated what all the sane people in this “alternative lifestyle” have been trying to get people to understand. A Dominant/submissive relationship is about absolute trust and respect and love, not about one person being better or stronger (often, the submissive is the stronger one, actually). You have a true handle on what “being submissive” is really about – trust and love and support.

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