“What does a woman want?” So asked Freud and Mark Epstein, another contemporary psychiatrist answered,” she wants a partner who cares what she wants.” Deep down, we all want to be understood and listened to. But how does it relate to a submissive wife? What does she want?
Being submissive temporarily can be a choice, but to be called a submissive wife, you need to be the one accommodating your partner’s needs all the time. It can be a marker of under-confidence and security or other problems in the relationship.
Compromise is a part of most healthy marriages, but being submissive is different. Being submissive over a long period of time can be unhealthy for the individual and the relationship. So, let’s look at the signs of being a submissive wife and its impact on them.
Meaning of a submissive wife
Being submissive in marriage is more comparable to a boss-employee relationship. If you’re not saying what you really mean or asking for what you need, you’re denying yourself as a human being.
This is as far from healthy teams as can be experienced. Additionally, this research shows that the signs of a submissive woman are often associated with a range of psychological problems.
So, what signs can you expect from a compliant and sexually submissive wife? Overall, you’ll see someone who’s subservient and always looking to please. This usually comes with little or no autonomy, self-doubt, and powerlessness, as explained in this paper.
Of course, you also have strong women who show the characteristics of a submissive wife due to various societal and family pressures. Essentially though, they’ve decided to take on the life of a submissive wife willingly.
Their approach will be different because they’ll still ensure they get their way and what they want by operating from the sidelines. This is simply another game to live in peace and get their needs met but you’ll still see the signs of a submissive woman.
So, in this case, the signs of a submissive woman are when the partner seems in control but actually, the woman is making all the decisions. Either way, is this the way you want to play your life, based on deceit?
Is being submissive acceptable?
We all play games with people to get what we want based on our experiences, upbringing, society and any other influences we might have been subjected to. Through every human contact, we experience feelings and sensations and the idea is to keep everything in equilibrium.
Some people believe that you need the characteristics of a submissive wife to keep that equilibrium. The danger with focusing only on those signs is that you miss the big picture.
Families are a system unit and an extremely submissive wife also has needs and desires. Suppressing those completely can, and does, negatively impact children.
Psychiatrist Eric Berne calls the signs of a submissive woman the behaviors of a harried wife in his book ‘Games People Play.’ He explains that a submissive wife or harried woman’s role is to play ten or twelve different roles ranging from mistress to mother, housemaid, cook and many more.
Berne points out that those roles often conflict and cause the wife’s stress and anguish, which only increases with time. The signs of a submissive woman gradually evolve from appearing balanced to one who breaks down from the pressures of trying to be too many people she’s not.
Of course, a submissive wife might have the energy to keep up the game her whole life. In that case, she’ll find a way to vent and find the nurture she needs as a human being.
The children are usually in the front line and can be forced to become the confidante and supporter that most women expect their husbands to be.
Or is it a lower quality of life?
Some might argue that the characteristics of a submissive wife come from someone who’s self-aware and who’s willing to give way to their partner. If this is done sporadically, then this is more accurately called compromise.
On the other hand, a submissive wife who’s constantly compliant and obedient actually negatively impacts her ability to function socially, as detailed in this research. The same paper demonstrates that living the life of a submissive wife also leads to lower marital quality.
5 typical submissive wife behaviors
Many wives assume the role of the submissive wife under the pretext of maintaining peace and compromising for the collective good. They may do this to maintain a friendly attitude and adhere to the traditional definition of what it means to be a wife or because of a dominating husband.
If the submissive behavior is extreme and long-lasting, it can affect the happiness and confidence of the wife. Therefore, it becomes important to identify signs of a submissive wife.
Here are some of the typical external signs of a submissive wife are that she:
Glorifies the husband and makes him feel on top of the world by showing eagerness to please.
Serves and obeys his demands such that his goals are met and his way is how the family lives.
Asks permission to buy and do things, especially when outside the norms of household duties such as hobbies and personal shopping, unless it’s to make the husband look good.
Does all the household chores with no help from the husband who plays his role providing the money.
10 signs that a wife is submissive
Mutual compromise and reasonable adjustment levels are a healthy part of all relationships. But suffocating submission at all times is harmful.
When you see someone who is submissive, check to see what’s going on below the surface though? Many imply that submission is the same as a compromise but it has to go both ways to build a healthy marriage.
‘Submissive in a relationship’ means to put your desires lower than someone else’s. And if only one partner is doing this repeatedly, that is unhealthy. You can expect to see some or all of the following characteristics of a submissive wife in her inner world.
The expectation is that you will follow your husband to meet his goals. You support his career by putting your career on hold. Overall, the signs of a submissive woman are that she follows quietly without opposition.
2. Passive-aggressive behavior
The signs of a submissive woman often come with passive-aggressive symptoms. Suppressing desires and opinions doesn’t make them go away.
The characteristics of a submissive wife often include indirectly sharing negative feelings. They haven’t gone anywhere just because she’s trying to comply.
To recognize a submissive wife, listen to how much she justifies serving her husband. She’ll find many so-called facts in her belief system handed down through family or religion.
Other signs of a submissive woman are that she justifies giving in as being kind to her husband. Although kindness is based on equality, submission is dependent behavior.
The characteristics of a submissive wife overlap heavily with codependence. Although, submission is more wilful. Nevertheless, the mind is denying its true nature and you’ll see reactivity and mental strain at some point.
The many signs of a submissive woman often come from low self-esteem. After all, if you believe in yourself, you wouldn’t let someone dictate how you live. So, the characteristics of a submissive wife are that she suppresses her needs and emotions.
6. Superficial act
Interestingly, some of the signs of a submissive woman come across as superficial because she’s playing a game. It comes back to the many roles expected of her. All these make the characteristics of a submissive wife in opposition to her true nature.
7. Deferential body language
You can easily recognize a submissive wife from the way she holds herself with hunched shoulders and a quiet demeanor. Ultimately, a submissive wife’s characteristics make her feel like a servant who’s constantly bowing to someone else.
If you’re constantly waiting for someone to decide what you should do, your confidence will decrease with time. You’ll constantly be second-guessing yourself as you try to mind-read your partner. That’s why the signs of a submissive woman often lead to self-doubt.
A submissive wife’s role can trigger her to become manipulative in some cases. She’s still a person with wants and needs meaning that she might find more opportunistic and cunning ways to meet them.
So, you might see the characteristics of a submissive wife as someone who is smiling and charming when her husband is around. When he’s not, her guard is down and she might portray someone resentful who takes it out on her children or others around her.
Listening without saying anything is one of the common submissive wife personality traits. Their expected role is to comply and not argue back. The house will be spotless, dinner will be ready at all the right times and all this, with a silent smile.
Can a healthy marriage include submission?
The American Psychological Association defines submission as “compliance with or surrender to the requests, demands, or will of others.” Interestingly, the page tells you to compare the definition for dominance, including control. This naturally pairs with the characteristics of a submissive wife.
Control is not a word associated with a healthy marriage. Being submissive in marriage necessarily goes with having a dominant partner, no matter how subtle their behavior. Over time, other submissive wife personality traits will appear through the cracks.
Psychologist Dr. John Gottman, in his book ‘What Predicts Divorce?’ says that if we have an unmet core need, we will have an unhappy marriage. The frustration builds because the submissive wife’s rules have denied her natural desires and either the marriage or she breaks down.
The signs of a submissive woman revolve around suppressing her core needs and desires. Otherwise, we would be talking about compromise and respecting each other’s wants and goals in life.
Gottman lists seven factors for a healthy marriage, one of which is conflict management. You might assume that the submissive wife’s rules should stop all conflict and yes, on the surface, that’s potentially true. This is not managing conflict but simply ignoring one partner’s thoughts and feelings.
On the contrary, you should be listening to each other, trying to understand each other and finding common ground together. None of this points to the characteristics of a submissive wife.
To learn more about Dr. John Gottman’s notion of what it takes to maintain a happy marriage, watch this video:
The impact of being a submissive wife and how to deal
Genuine rapport with mutual empathy feels good. On the flip side, a compliant and sexually submissive wife represses her desire to serve someone else. Perhaps on the surface, only the husband benefits. Then again, do men want to marry women who aren’t true to themselves?
Inside and outside the bedroom, shared attention is the baseline for strong rapport and closer connection, as psychologist Daniel Goleman explains in his book ‘Social Intelligence.’ You also need warmth and coordination to develop a strong bond.
Of course, you can fake it through the characteristics of a submissive wife. Nevertheless, this jeopardizes the harmony of needs and motives your need for a healthy partnership. This leads to potentially disastrous mental issues or creates children with their own set of issues.
Children look to their caregivers to role model attachments and relationships. If they see one of them ignoring their needs and desires to serve someone else, they could become people-pleasers later in life.
Moreover, those children don’t learn the tools to express their own needs and emotions. This creates more submissive people who can even go over to codependency.
Instead, work to establish your boundaries and build your self-esteem to be more assertive while staying compassionate in your relationship. There’s nothing wrong with compromise as long as it’s mutual.
Conflict is how we grow and develop as a couple. Denying that by letting one person always have their way, is denying yourself the full breadth of human experience.
Discussing the characteristics of a submissive wife is controversial for many because our opinions are embedded in our beliefs that have been influenced by society, religion and family. Regardless of your beliefs, try to be open to companionate marriage and social connection rather than assuming that being submissive is the only option.
We need teamwork and compromise in a healthy marriage and everyone will define that differently. Nonetheless, don’t mistake love for service, though and remember that loving another starts with our self-love. That includes standing up for your opinions, needs and desires.
Work with a therapist to help you get the life you deserve where both a healthy marriage and your needs are met. The two are not exclusive. To be loved is not to be dominated but to be accepted as you are and not as others want you to be.
If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.
Sylvia Smith loves to share insights on how couples can revitalize their love lives in and out of the bedroom. As a writer at Marriage.com, she is a big believer in living consciously and encourages couples to adopt this principle in their lives too. Sylvia believes that every couple can transform their relationship into a happier, healthier one by taking purposeful and wholehearted action.