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…
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.
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’.
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 – has written 4 posts on this site.
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.