Submissive
adj \sub-ˈmi-siv\ to yield oneself to the authority or will of another: surrender

From birth, I’ve been taught to be a strong, fierce, intelligent Black woman. I’ve always been self-determined, possessed a level of endurance that most people couldn’t fathom, and treated my education, both inside and outside the classroom, like a game that came with the instructions “Arielle, must win.” Thus, when it came to my relationships, it was no different. I was the type-A personality, young career woman, no-disrespect-tolerating girlfriend that also loved sex and having a good time. I saw submission as a threat to my personal power and all of the descriptions listed above. Submissive women were weak, and I certainly was far from it.

But then one day, I had an epiphany and realized I had been avoiding submission out of fear. Submission requires vulnerability and trust in the partner that you are yielding your authority to. I realized that the problem I was having with submission really had nothing to do with the concept but rather the people and men I was dealing with. It was easy to submit to my mentors because I trusted their judgment. It was easy to submit to my elders because I knew they had a certain level of wisdom that I was still working to possess. It was not easy to submit to my lovers because frankly put, I feared what they would do if I gave them an authoritative position in my life.

Known for being fearless, I decided to live up to this standard and dive in head first into being “submissive” in my relationships. It didn’t always feel good, but I learned from it. You’d be surprised how much you can see into someone when you approach him or her with a white flag in the air, arms down, in full surrender. I was able to judge character effortlessly in watching how my lovers responded to receiving full power. I tried being submissive in the bedroom. I tried it out during arguments. I tried it when asked about the simple things like where we should go out to eat.

The result was contrary to what I expected. I actually became more powerful.

The truth is that most people really are not prepared to deal with someone in full submissive mode. They expect fights. They expect conflict. They don’t expect to be given full control. Being submissive shifted the dynamics of my relationships, and actually softened my partners’ actions toward me. All of the sudden they wanted to find a way to compromise and honor both of our needs when facing a problem. If we did do something completely their way and we failed, they came back to the table, acknowledged their misuse of power, and sought my opinion on how we should proceed in the future. Not to mention, my partners also started practicing submission toward me as well.

It’s all about finding balance. I’m not always submissive in my relationships or social interactions, and I don’t aspire to be. But I do know how to bring out the submissive woman inside me and use her when I want to learn more about a partner, friend, or family member. Or I use her when I simply feel it would help resolve a conflict or situation.

There’s nothing wrong with being a strong, fierce, intelligent Black woman. I admire those parts of me and I will teach my future daughters how to possess those characteristics. But I also know that there’s also power and positivity in submission, and learning to be submissive is an important lesson for any human being regardless of gender. I will teach this to my daughters and sons as well.

How do you feel about being submissive in your relationships? Speak on it.

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  • Jessica

    This sounds like a lesson in going from being independent to being learning to be in a healthy relationship, not from being dominant to being submissive. We are taught in our culture to value independence, and it sounds like that is what you were taught. To be open and vulnerable is to leave independence and embrace relationship, not to go from being dominant to being submissive.

    In every relationship, both parties should be submissive and humble, as well as being assertive and bringing his or her own strength. To relegate those behaviors to just one party in the relationship is setting it up for abuse and dysfunction.

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