I get tangled up in the symantics of this whole thing - but it's not really just symantics. Many people are much better than I at capturing complex ideas in words, expressing both the heart of the issue and the complexity. I try to see and understand the concepts and their applications, but ultimately I'm a scientist - study, theorize, test, sum it up.... This post is part of where I am right now in trying to understand. (BTW - it doesn't feel very concise, so I have a way to go)
People say you can't submit to yourself. It takes someone submitting for the other to dominate and someone to dominate for the other to submit. This has a certain face validity. One could attempt to dominate, issue a request command or what have you and the ultimate success or failure of the request lies with the sub. It is impossible to dominate if no one is submitting. On the other hand, is having someone dominate an adequate condition for submission? Each time a decision to obey or to submit is called for, the sub has to choose to obey or submit, or to not. Each time. So is that person submitting to the dom or to him or herself? This is really symantics and I have no answer - hopefully others do, I'm curious.
For people who want to move their relationhsip into D/s, the advice is often given to the "s" person to "act submissive," to encourage, allow, make room for the other person to assert his or her dominance. Practically speaking, that means that one person begins to obey, temper their speech, respond to subtle cues, even guess what the other person wants, all without the other ever having thought, intended, or expressed a wish, request or command. In spite of the fact that it seems intuitive that there would need to be someone dominating in order for one to submit, this is not invalid advice. The "me dom, you sub" thing is cut and dried in fiction, maybe in chat rooms or such (I have no way to know), and probably to a great extent in the real world with people who are experienced and know what the heck they are doing (again - not me, not us). In our real world, we are human, and we each want to protect the other, and ourselves. Essentially, for me to say to him - "I will do whatever you want" is not enough, I need to show him both that I mean it, and that it won't hurt me. I needed, sometimes still need, to some extent, to submit to things he hadn't specifically asked.
Carried to a ridiculous extreme (this is about symantics after all), if he wants me to decide something, or to be in charge of a category of things, or for us to work on certain things together, - if I go along with it - aren't I submitting to his wishes by assuming some control? He could ask me to be in charge overall and, in order to submit, I would have to assume charge. The converse is also true: when I went to him to ask him to be in charge, and he agreed, wasn't/isn't that his submitting to my wish?
I have asked a few people how they define "slavery" or D/s. I am not actually looking for a way to identify ourselves - if you read through here you will find none of that, or lots of waffling trying to figure a term that could be shorthand for this thing we seem to have. The pictures people paint of their relationships are quite varied, they do have some similarities, but are truly unique. Ours is no exception. It isn't the titles but the constructs people use which are of great interest to me - to the extent that they can be used in our relationship, to shift us around to an interlocking of pieces that snug together smoothly rather than needing to erode the non-conforming parts of each other to allow a better fit. In our case, finding that fit involves him working out how he would really like things to work, to run, to be - and me working to understand that and see how I can accomplish that - and trying to do it.
He doesn't read very much about all of this. There are times I wish he did. There are aspects of things that appeal to me very much, on any number of levels - some of them quite visceral - some more philosophical. Sometimes I do wish he would happen to somehow know just what I had read, and how I had felt about it, and to work it in. There are also things I assume he knows and find out he doesn't. The mismatch of expectations, knowledge and assumtions can be deflating at best. But I should know much better than to assume. So it is my responsibility not to assume, to tell him or show him what I find that is of interest or what have you. This feels like me leading or at least like asking for what I want over what he wants, so I fall back on the semantics: he has told me this is how he wants it to work so I need to do it this way.
The fact that he doesn't study what other people do or say or suggest means that, ultimately, what he imagines for us is his creation, not pieces of others' (real or fictionalized) dynamics cobbbled together - and this is what I truly want for him, from him, for us. So I do bring ideas to him and I give a LOT of feedback. And then I work very hard to shut up, wait, and see what he does or doesn't do with it. I am always surprised. He almost never responds in anything like a way I would predict, and most often not immediately. But when I do see his response, what he has done or expressed about it - it is always consistant with him. And this is always better than whatever I might have expected or thought I wanted.