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October

Should Women Be More Submissive in Marriage?

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Gabrielle-Reece-1-smallDoes Submissiveness Have a Place in Modern Relationships?

In the book My Foot Is Too Big for the Glass Slipper, professional athlete, model and now author Gabrielle Reece asserts that one of the ways that she has made her marriage to Laird Hamilton work for 17 years is to be submissive, and advises that woman adopt the dynamic in their own relationships. Here’s the actual quote:

“To truly be feminine means being soft, receptive, and — look out, here it comes – submissive.”

Obviously, this is a controversial attitude from any modern woman, but particularly from someone like her – I, for one, have never looked at a picture of the Amazonian Reece and thought she would admit, let alone extoll, the virtues of wifely submissiveness. It just goes to show you never know what is going on in the lives, or minds, of others.

Of course when she says ‘submissive’, she isn’t referring to some sort of 50 Shades of Grey scenario. At least, as far as I know. She went on to TODAY to clarify her point of view, saying, “I think the idea of living with a partner is ‘How can I make their life better? So if I’m the woman and he’s the man, then yes, that’s the dynamic. I’m willing and I choose to serve my family and my husband because it creates a dynamic where he is then in fact acting more like a man and masculine and treating me the way I want to be treated.”

So her theory is that relationships work best when men get to be ‘manly’ (aka, strong, masculine, assertive and dominant), and in order for that to happen women need to be ‘womanly’ (aka, supportive, nurturing and submissive). Not a new idea. In fact, it is one of the oldest. But clearly it is not in vogue in most modern, democratic societies.

My first reaction, after extensive eye rolling, is to want to list all the many ways this is completely antiquated and ridiculous. I want to point to many many many relationships that do not function within the dynamic of dominance and submission… partners who instead function from a place of equality and cooperation – my own just one example. I want to yell and scream about all the women who have worked to carve a place in society, and in marriage, that does not require submission. But then again, I don’t want to. Because I want us to have come so far that none of these things actually need to be said.

After the first wave of reactionary indignation passed, I put my emotional pitchforks away and thought about it a little more. It is very easy for me to dismiss Reece’s beliefs, but based on how indignant I got, they definitely struck some kind of cord. So I decided to try and figure out what that is.

If I’m honest, there are many traditional gender-based differences that contribute to the dynamic between me and my guy. I am the more emotional one in the relationship, initiating nearly all discussions about feelings – were it not for me, my guy would happily go through life tamping down all fears, insecurities, disappointments and all other ‘negative’ emotions. He has learned that women just want men to listen to them talk about their problems without trying to solve them. He knows this. But he doesn’t like it. Conversely, I had to learn that just because talking about what’s bothering us makes women feel better, the same is not always true of men. So when he’s had a crap day at work, I know not to try and make him rehash everything because it just makes him feel crappier.

So yes, in our relationship I am very much the woman in many ways and he is very much the man in many ways (though he is, I’ll admit, a way better cook than I am). I do defer to him on some things – technological purchases and correct method of skunk abatement, are a few examples. Does that mean that I am submissive? Absolutely not. He defers to me on many things as well. I can honestly say that I don’t think either of us has ‘the power’ in the relationship. Is that a good thing? For me it is. But then again, unlike Reece, I’m not looking for my guy to be ‘The Man’ in order to make me feel like ‘The Woman’.

I’m not a woman who has ever been drawn to guy’s guys. My guy proudly admits to being a runner, not a fighter, and I love that about him. So perhaps it is easier to have a less traditional gender dynamic in a relationship if the man and woman in question are less traditional in their own gender roles. Maybe in a marriage between a super womanly woman and a super manly man, wifely submissiveness is a beneficial dynamic. I’m just glad I don’t have to find out.

What about you, do you want your guy to be ‘The Man’, and if so, are you willing to be ‘The Woman’? In this day and age, what does that even mean?

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* This article originally ran last year.

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