Understanding The Submissive Husband & Dominant Wife Dynamic

Whether this kink is new to you, you’re a submissive husband — or a dominant wife ready to punish her naughty man — we cover everything you need to know.
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When you think of the term “submissive husband,” you probably imagine some guy rolling his eyes and sighing, “Yes, honey. Whatever you say.”

Or maybe you think of the old joke: Marriage is a relationship where one is always right and the other is the husband.

But in this case, we’re talking about something a little more intense: dominant/submissive relationships.

As in, the D in BDSM.

A submissive husband is a man who gets off on being dominated by his wife — in bed and beyond.

Whether you’re a docile hubby who gets all hot and bothered thinking about being put in his place or a dominant wife who is ready to punish her naughty, naughty man, or this dynamic is completely new to you — you’re in the right place.

Editor’s Note: Sections of this article that cover psychological information or the effects of Dom/sub dynamics on intimate relationships were reviewed for accuracy by Christie Hartman, Ph.D. – Psychology, who sits on our medical review board.

A Guide To Understanding The Submissive Husband [Infographic]

For a quick yet comprehensive visual exploration of the submissive husband/dominant wife dynamic, we created an infographic that summarizes everything you need to know.

Click on the image to enlarge, and please include attribution to Women’s Health Interactive if you use this graphic.

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An Infographic Guide To The Submissive Husband/Dominant Wife Relationship Dynamic

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What Does It Mean To Be A Submissive Husband?

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Like most sexual relationships, the definition of a submissive husband will vary between different couples and it has nothing to do with gender equality.

There is no “one” way to have or be a submissive partner, as we’ll talk about later on.

That said, there are some aspects of this type of a female-led relationship that are pretty common across the board.

So, What Is A Submissive Husband, And What Are The Main Elements Of A Dom/Sub Relationship?

The Dominant/submissive relationship — sometimes referred to as Dom/sub or even D/s — involves a very specific power dynamic between partners that goes beyond gender roles.

One person is in charge, taking the lead, making the decisions, or even choosing punishments, but they also serve as their partner’s protector.

The submissive partner is the “follower” in this type of relationship and aims to please and serve their dominant mate.

Although the image that often comes to mind is that of a submissive wife, men often enjoy handing the reins to their partners, instead.

Some couples exclusively enjoy the power dynamic in a sexual context but others incorporate it outside of the bedroom, as well.

When you picture this type of relationship in your mind, you likely envision the submissive husband being tied to the bed while getting spanked with a riding crop.

In some relationships, that type of rough, aggressive, or hardcore sex is certainly the case.

But you might also find a submissive husband in mundane settings such as making dinner, serving his wife at the dining room table, and then doing all the dishes after the meal.

The power dynamic itself is what is exciting to dom/sub couples, not necessarily causing pain or having it inflicted.

Sadomasochism is often incorporated into a D/s relationship but isn’t an essential part.

The primary element in a Dominant/submissive relationship — regardless of gender — is the consensual transfer of control and power from the sub to the dom.

What Is Submissive Behavior In A Husband?

As it turns out, there is a very wide range of submissive behavior.

A submissive husband might be compliant in his day-to-day activities — and not just between the sheets.

However, failure to fulfill his daily responsibilities may result in being punished in a sexual way if that’s part of his Dom/sub relationship.

A husband’s submissive day-to-day actions may include:

  • Doing housework like dishes and laundry
  • Being available to drive his wife to appointments
  • Giving her massages
  • Buying her things or letting her spend your money
  • Serving her food
  • Committing to the wife’s plans without her having to ask first

A husband’s submissive sexual actions may include:

Every Dominant/submissive relationship looks a little different from their neighbor’s, whether it includes elements of kink (like cock and ball torture) or hardcore sex, but at the end of the day, the actions and activities are agreed upon by both partners involved.

Why Do Some Husbands Choose To Be Submissive To Their Wives?

Assuming men to be inherently dominant over women is an outdated gender stereotype.

Every relationship has a different power dynamic, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, or a person’s overall submissiveness.

Even in vanilla relationships, some men prefer to take a more submissive role and there’s nothing wrong with that!

Dr. Justin Lehmiller, author of the book Tell Me What You Want, sits on our medical review board and explained why some men choose a subservient role. He said:

“Men can be into sexual submission for a wide range of reasons. For example, part of the appeal may be that it’s a novelty, given that men often feel pressure to be the initiator and take the lead during sex. 

It might also be seen as a taboo, given that submission isn’t part of the traditional masculine gender role — and taboos in general tend to be very erotically appealing. Submission can also be desirable because it brings a change in headspace — it can allow you to let go and be in the moment. In short, different men can be drawn to submission for very different reasons.”

Some men feel they are better suited to subservient roles and take them on willingly.

Meanwhile, other men derive pleasure from being controlled or humiliated by a dominant woman.

It could be a sexy departure from their real lives. If they are running things at work it can be a release to be completely at their wife’s mercy in the bedroom.

It all depends on what they’re personally into, and what they get out of their submissive role.

Being a submissive person has no impact on a man’s gender identity — or his masculinity.

How Common Is It For Heterosexual Men To Be Submissive To Their Partners?

It’s probably more common than you might think!

Dr. Lehmiller told us that “Fantasies about sexual submission are surprisingly common among men.” He continued:

“When I surveyed 4,175 Americans about their sexual fantasies for my book ‘Tell Me What You Want,’ I found that 81% of the men who participated reported having fantasized about taking on a submissive role in bed before. 

Further, 1 in 4 men said this is something they fantasize about often. However, it’s worth noting that a similar number of men reported having dominance fantasies, too, so it would seem that most men aren’t interested in taking on just one role or the other — many seem interested in mixing it up.”

KL Reynolds, a dominatrix and BDSM sexual health professional, told us:

53% of men polled in 2014 said they had fantasies of being dominated. Many heterosexual men in relationships crave to be a bottom, this can be a craving for power exchange. If this is a changing feeling the person might use the word ‘switch.’” 

If anything, men might be more likely to be submissive.

A 2015 study found that, of the men who participate in BDSM, 46.6% identified as submissive, 24% were switches (someone who likes to play both roles), and 29.5% identified as dominant.

The important thing to remember is that you’re in good company. Sex expert and Loving BDSM podcast host Kayla Lords told us:

“Couples with a submissive husband should realize they’re not alone and they’re not weird — a quick look around any BDSM space (Fetlife, The Cage, social media platforms, and others) will quickly show just how many other people identify as submissive men to their (hopefully) dominant wives.”

Moral of the story: if you’re both into it, it’s right for you.

What Should You Do If Your Partner Doesn’t Want A Dom/sub Relationship?

Unsurprisingly, the BDSM lifestyle just isn’t for everyone.

Some people will never enjoy dominating their partner. They could be naturally submissive themselves or simply prefer a vanilla relationship.

If they are submissive too, it might be possible to take turns playing the dominant role so everyone can get what they want.

But what do you do if you can’t meet somewhere in the middle?

Many people have a BDSM relationship outside of their primary conventional relationship for this reason.

We’re not talking about infidelity, however — this type of consensual non-monogamy means that both partners agree that it’s acceptable to have each other’s needs met through outside relationships.

Although this solution won’t work for everyone, you can ask if your partner is comfortable opening up your relationship so you can find the dom — or sub— that you need.

This doesn’t have to feel like you or your partner are falling short in your relationship. In fact, open relationships are just as satisfying as monogamous ones — and one is not inherently better than the other.

It’s okay to need different things from different people.

If your partner is not comfortable participating or isn’t okay with you having your needs met by someone else, it may be time to have a serious talk about your relationship if a Dom/sub dynamic is something you feel you can’t live without.

That’s likely not the advice you want to hear, but as we’ve talked about, communication is everything — and so is having your needs met.

If we’re being honest, not every couple is going to be compatible. If both partners have deal breakers, parting ways may be preferable to a lifetime of unhappiness together.

Bottom Line: Submissive behavior in a husband can vary between couples, taking place in the bedroom and beyond. Men may prefer a subservient role for different reasons but as long as the power dynamic makes both partners happy, it’s perfectly normal.

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The Differences Between A Submissive And A Slave

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Now that we’re getting into the nitty-gritty of D/s relationships, you might have some questions about more specific roles, like submissive versus slave.

Sexuality is a spectrum — and so is being a sub!

What Is The Difference Between Submission And Obedience?

Obedience means following the rules — no matter what they are.

For example, you are obedient to your boss because it’s how you keep your job. You are obedient to a cop so you don’t get arrested.

It’s a choice you make, which subsequently makes your life easier because you don’t get fired or go to jail.

Likewise, being obedient in a relationship means following the rules put forth by your partner.

If your wife wants you to mop the floor or perform cunnilingus daily, you do it — or face consequences.

Submission, on the other hand, is a much deeper choice.

You are willingly giving up your power to the person in a position of authority, knowing you can trust them with it completely.

The power exchange that takes place involves following the rules, as with obedience, but it is done so with intention and understanding that the dominant partner is in charge of the show.

That said, this exchange of power is a consensual one that often begins with negotiation, discussion, and in some cases, even contracts that specify limitations for both parties beforehand.

Through discussion and negotiation, both people enter into this dynamic with mutual agreement and the dominant partner has the responsibility of ensuring that the submissive partner is not exploited.

Why Is The Element Of Choice Important In A Dom/sub Relationship?

A Dom/sub relationship isn’t one that has a power imbalance because both parties are fully consenting to the role they are playing.

It is a choice.

The submissive participant is willingly giving up their power and the dominant person is choosing to take it — along with the responsibility that comes with it.

In that way, both people are two halves of a whole. They are equal — regardless of gender stereotypes.

As we mentioned earlier, this dynamic is a choice that is made following negotiation, discussion, and mutual agreement between both partners to ensure that the boundaries of each are respected.

It is not usual for the dominant partner to just take the reins without the submissive partner having any say — which could lead to abuse and/or exploitation.

Communication, respect, trust, and consent are key elements of a Dom/sub relationship.

What Are The Behavioral Differences Between A Submissive And A Slave?

Sometimes “submissive” and “slave” are terms that are used interchangeably, but they are not the same.

Essentially, the submissive is a volunteer and the slave is not — although they have consented to the role following discussion and negotiation.

This is known as consensual slavery.

Where a submissive partner can push boundaries and even negotiate, a slave has no power or ability to do so. They are completely at the whim of their dominant partner — a position that relies heavily on trust.

There are different levels of general submission but a “slave” is the final level and is very rare.

A slave may have fever limits, conditions, or safewords and in some cases, far fewer.

Still, these limitations and conditions are negotiated beforehand. The slave trusts that their Dom won’t overstep any boundaries that might make a slave refuse to do something or invoke a safeword.

If a boundary is never crossed, a slave can and will do “everything” their Dom says — creating the sense of being at another’s mercy without limits, even though there are unspoken ones in place.

A slave will live with their dominant partner full time and will sometimes have no life outside of their BDSM relationship.

A slave relationship can only happen after a sub has been with their dom for a very long time in order to acquire the amount of trust needed to abandon all boundaries.

When you think about these kinds of relationships, you mostly consider the boundaries of the submissive party — but the dominant individual also has boundaries of their own.

In order for a slave relationship to work, the dom and slave need to have trust that their limits are in line with each other.

Bottom Line: While obedience refers to following a set of rules, submission is a deeper choice that involves an exchange of power between partners. Choice is a vital part of a Dom/sub relationship. The terms “submissive” and “slave” are sometimes used interchangeably, but the role of a slave is one of complete abandon — and without boundaries.

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Pros And Cons Of Dominant And Submissive Sex Play

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So now that we understand what a submissive husband actually is, let’s dig into the ups and downs that come with a Dom/sub relationship.

Pros Of Dom/sub Sex Play:

  • It brings opportunities to please your partner
  • It offers new and exciting non-vanilla sex
  • It provides room for sexual experimentation
  • It can build intimacy and strengthen commitment
  • It can increase a person’s confidence in the bedroom

Cons Of Dom/sub Sex Play

  • There is a negative stigma associated with it
  • It can cause relationship strain if both partners are not all-in
  • Some submissives find the loss of control difficult to deal with
  • Doms and subs may have varying tastes that don’t align with one another

Every relationship is different. While there are pros and cons to the Dom/sub dynamic, the most important thing is communication, which we’ll talk about in just a bit.

How Can Dominant And Submissive Sex Play Make Your Relationship More Exciting?

Many find the mental connection to be the most thrilling part of the experience.

Part of the fun is the understanding that you are both committing to a deeply unbalanced power dynamic.

As a sub, it’s exciting to push back against the dom’s control and see what you can get away with.

It’s not just about doing what you’re told. It’s also toeing the line (or even crossing it) to get a reaction from your dom.

It’s also exhilarating to have the opportunity to act differently than you would in your day-to-day life.

As a submissive male, you can be bratty or stubborn — just to see what your dom decides to do about it. You wouldn’t do that during a board meeting at work — but behind closed doors at home, anything goes.

You get to play as a character or version of yourself that you don’t get to experience in the real world — and that can be hella hot in the bedroom.

How Can Dominant And Submissive Sex Play Make Your Relationship More Intimate?

Andrea, a woman with years of research experience and who has been in a loving D/s relationship herself, told us how the aftercare of D/s relationships can naturally foster intimacy.

Aftercare is the time after sex when the couple checks in and takes care of each other to make sure everyone feels good about everything that happened.

Here’s what Andrea said:

“One of the first things I noticed was how much our communication improved and how safe and heard I felt — which I wasn’t expecting as the dominant partner. 

Prior to this, I hadn’t been in a relationship that prioritized communication, desires, verbalizing what’s pleasurable or what isn’t, and the importance of after-care. The result is that we both feel safe, cared for, heard, desired, satisfied, and it fosters a relationship container where you can talk about anything.” 

Andrea’s experience solidifies the importance of communication but also shows the way that intimacy can deepen as a result of aftercare. She continued:

“Have you ever been curious about trying something, but have no idea when or how to bring it up to your partner? You don’t have to find a way to bring things up when you’ve already set aside a time and space to check in with each other — a space where you’re not just looking for an ‘I’m good’ but are open to feedback, nuances from the experience, and what you may want to incorporate next time.”

In a loving Dom/sub relationship, communication is everything and leads to not only greater pleasure and satisfaction, but intimacy, as well.

In What Circumstances Can Dominant and Submissive Play Be Damaging To A Relationship?

The biggest danger to your relationship from a D/s relationship is if you’re doing it for the wrong reasons.

It isn’t something you should do just to please your partner.

Jodi Williams, a certified sex therapist who specializes in working with members of the BDSM community, told us:

“I caution people from engaging in BDSM if they do not want to. Feeling pressured to engage when one doesn’t want to is detrimental to the relationship and also increases feelings of shame in both parties.”

Although the term “submissive” carries with it the idea of giving up your power, both partners need to be on the same page from beginning to end.

Bottom Line: There are pros and cons to Dom/sub play, but communication plays an important role in any relationship that has this dynamic. It provides an opportunity to explore a character you wouldn’t normally play in your day-to-day life. The Dominant/submissive relationship is one that can deepen intimacy, thanks to its reliance on communication, but it’s important that both partners want to take part in it.

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How To Have A Submissive Husband And Dominant Wife Relationship

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If you’ve made it this far, it seems like you’re ready to take a walk on the spicier side of life.

But how do you do that?

Dr. Justin Lehmiller, the social psychologist who sits on our medical review board, told us:

“When it comes to incorporating any type of BDSM into the bedroom, consent and communication are key. It’s important to discuss in advance what each partner wants and what their boundaries are so that everyone is on the same page. 

It’s also a good idea to set up a safeword that can be invoked at any point by any party in case things move past someone’s comfort zone. And if you’re going to incorporate new toys as part of this, do some research and plan ahead to ensure you’re using everything correctly and taking proper safety precautions. 

Look for a good guidebook, but avoid fictionalized accounts like Fifty Shades of Grey, which are not meant to be how-to guides.”

How Can A Husband Ask His Wife To Start Dominating Him — Or Vice Versa?

The easiest way is of course often the most intimidating way:

Just be honest with your partner and have an open conversation.

Supply your partner with BDSM websites and books so that they can understand the reality of a D/s relationship, not just what they saw in a Fifty Shades of Grey trailer.

There are plenty of helpful books on the subject of BDSM practice, including The New Bottoming Book and The New Topping Book by Dossie Easton and Janet Hardy.

If you’re a husband who wants to be submissive, start pampering your wife and do the housework.

This could bring out her dominant side and give her a taste of what it’s like to have a submissive.

Sometimes a person never knows what they’ll like until they try it.

Dr. Lehmiller offered some great advice for those who are just beginning their Dom/sub journey. He said:

“There are many ways to explore dom/sub fantasies in the bedroom, so for people who are new to this, it’s a good idea to start low and go slow. 

For example, it can begin as simply as flipping the script in terms of who initiates and takes the lead. Or it could involve giving gentle commands, or perhaps even using some light bondage. 

Take it slowly and test the waters to see what is mutually enjoyable. Taking this approach can help to ensure everyone’s comfort.”

What Does A Submissive Man Need From A Woman Who Has No Experience As A Dom?

As with all BDSM (and vanilla) relationships, the key is always communication!

Sexologist and sex coach Caitlin V. Neal told us:

“While a lot of women might jump at the idea of telling a man what to do, being dominant is about way more than just inflicting physical or psychologically diverse sensations on your partner. 

Introducing dom/sub play into an existing vanilla relationship will require a lot of communication.  In the end, what a submissive man really needs from a Dom is confidence, open-mindedness, and a willingness to learn. 

He will need to show her what he wants and do his best to explain why, and will need to be patient with her while she confronts any obstacles that arise.”

Women’s Health Interactive writer Kayla Lords, who we spoke to earlier, also emphasized the importance of talking it out:

“Both partners will need to start communicating very openly about what they want and need and don’t want and don’t need, as well as realizing that they can make their power exchange relationship whatever they want it to be — even though they’ll see a lot of advice on what a real D/s relationship looks like. 

Take your time. Learn as much as you can. Be willing to adjust and be flexible. Keep talking and listening. That’s what any kinky couple needs to make the transition into power exchange.”

How Can You Use High Heels During Dom/sub Play?

There are lots of ways that high heels and other items of clothing can be incorporated into kinky fun:

  • The sub can lick the dom’s high heel or suck their toes if the shoe is open-toe
  • The male sub can put on heels (forced feminization)
  • A heel can be used to dominate the sub by putting a foot on their chest or back (with caution!)

As we’ve mentioned before, anything you incorporate in your Dom/sub sex play is perfectly okay — as long as both partners are into it.

How Can You Use Restraints During Dom/sub Play?

Many subs are turned on by the feeling of being restrained or the pain of a constricting rope.

It’s exciting to be completely immobile, anticipating what your dom will do, during this type of sex play.

A sub can have their hands bound together with a silk scarf or be tied to something stationary — or they might be straight-up hogtied with bondage rope.

There are a variety of restraint systems available, from simple wrist-cuffs to collars and leashes and even bondage boards, and plenty of ways to play — including vibrator bondage.

As fun as it can be, bondage can be very dangerous, especially when incorporating restraints that could potentially cut off a person’s circulation.

Do not attempt using restraints without doing some serious research first.

It may seem like you can jump right in and wing it but you or your partner could get hurt if you don’t know what you’re doing.

However, after doing the necessary homework, it can be a whole lot of fun!

How Can You Use Chastity Belts and Similar Toys During Dom/sub Play?

A chastity belt or cock cage is a device worn to prevent someone from having sex or masturbating.

It’s the present you can’t wait to unwrap!

Some chastity cock cages are designed to inflict pain, for those who want to experiment with elements of cock and ball torture.

The dom can lock their sub into one of these devices so that the sub is unable to do anything sexual without the permission of the dom — who has the key.

Just knowing your partner is wearing a cock cage under their pants while out in public can be a real turn-on.

A less extreme version of this would involve instructing the sub to not touch himself without permission.

If he gives in to temptation, there’s more fun to be had later when he is punished for disobeying.

How Can You Use Vibrators In Dom/sub Sex Play?

There really is no wrong answer when it comes to getting freaky with a vibe or a male sex toy, so let your imagination run wild!

In the case of a submissive husband, the dominant partner can insert a vibrating buttplug into their sub.

Using the remote control, the dom can decide when to give their sub sexual pleasure and for exactly how long — allowing them to dictate if (and when) the sub is permitted to cum.

Bottom Line: Any BDSM relationship needs to begin with communication and consent. If you’re a husband who seeks to become submissive in the bedroom, the easiest way is the most intimidating one: be honest and talk with your partner about it. Communication is the cornerstone to a D/s relationship. High heels, restraints, chastity belts, and even vibrators can be incorporated into Dom/sub sex play but the most important thing is use them safely and respect any boundaries that are in place — for both partners.

In Conclusion

It is completely normal and common for both men and women to have a submissive husband fantasy.

If you are considering beginning a submissive husband relationship, as with all BDSM relationships, the first step is always communication.

Clearly explain your fantasies and desires to your partner and listen to theirs.

Just hoping this type of dynamic will organically fall into your lap will get you nowhere.

The most important aspect of a D/s relationship is trust.

If you are the submissive husband, you need to be able to trust that your wife will respect the boundaries you have communicated.

If you are the dominant wife, you need to trust that your husband will not let you push him past his limits.

With open communication, a Dominant/submissive relationship can be a healthy and exciting addition to your lifestyle!

Are you currently or have you ever been engaged in a submissive husband relationship? If so, how do you and your partner navigate this dynamic? If not, is it something you fantasize about being part of one day? 

We encourage you to share your thoughts and experiences with us and our readers anonymously and connect with others that feel the same way!

Share your thoughts with us by clicking on the “Discuss” link/button at the end of this article.

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I graduated with degrees in Communications and Gender & Women’s Studies from UW-Madison in 2014. After college, I moved to Chicago to pursue...