- b : to permit oneself to be subjected to something <had to submit to surgery>
Deference (also called submission or passivity) is the condition of submitting to the espoused, legitimate influence of one's superior or superiors. Deference implies a yielding or submitting to the judgment of a recognized superior out of respect or reverence. Deference has been studied extensively by political scientists, sociologists, and psychologists.
There is ongoing debate among psychologists as to the extent to which deference in a relationship is determined by a person's innate personality type or is the result of a person's experiences and conditioning. In interpersonal relationships, a partner can assume a submissive role to fit in or to make him or herself acceptable to the other partner, and can be a benign aspect of a relationship. On the other hand, it may be an indication of an interpersonal problem, such as partner abuse. If one or both of the people are experiencing chronic, pervasive emotional distress then the sex partners or individuals may require psychological evaluation.
In interpersonal relationships, some people prefer or are willing to adopt a submissive role in sexual activities or personal matters. The level and type of submission can vary from person to person, and from one context to another; and also is dependent on the other partner being willing to assume control in those situations. Some people can include occasional acts of submission in an otherwise conventional sex life, or adopt a submissive lifestyle.