Who Wears the Pants in the Relationship? (Solved)

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Who wears the pants in the relationship?

The person with the most power and influence in the relationship is the one who “wears the pants.” This person makes most of the decisions in the relationship and usually controls the finances. When you “wear the pants,” you are usually seen as more dominant and powerful.

That is a question couples have asked for centuries. There are many different opinions on influence, dominance, and control in a relationship.

In this article, we will explore some of these common dynamics, and give you tips and tricks for how to find out who wears the pants in your relationship.

What Does “Wear the Pants” in the Relationship Mean?

Shelves of pants—for my article on  Who Wears The Pants In The Relationship (Solved)
Image by author via Canva—Who Wears The Pants In The Relationship (Solved)

What does it mean to “wear the pants” in a relationship?

When people talk about wearing the pants in a relationship, they mean that one person in the relationship has more control over decision-making, which is typically called the dominant partner.

We are talking about long-term power in the relationship.

Short-term influence is usually situational. Influence usually fluctuates and shifts back-and-forth in relationships depending on the context.

We are also not talking about personality. Some personalities tend toward extroversion and taking charge. But a dominant personality is different than acting dominant in a relationship. They are related and connected but not the same.

For many centuries, it was usually the man who “wore the pants” because of social and cultural norms. He earned more money and was traditionally considered to be the major decision-maker of the household.

This was a time when only a man could wear pants. Women were not allowed to wear pants. The origin of the term is rooted in historical oppression and inequality (something that comes up later in this article).

However, in modern days, both men and women can literally and metaphorically “wear the pants” in the relationship.

How To Know Who Wears the Pants in the Relationship? (7 Signs)
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Usually, it’s pretty obvious who wears the pants in the relationship—especially if you know where to look. There are tell-tale signs or traits of the more dominant partner.

In fact, there are at least 7 signs that show who wears the pants in a relationship.

Here are the 7 signs/traits:

  1. The person who makes most of the decisions.
  2. The person who takes more responsibility for the relationship.
  3. The person who rarely apologizes.
  4. The person who manages the finances.
  5. The person who doesn’t ask for permission.
  6. The person who gets more of what they want.
  7. The person who is catered to most in the relationship.

You could also argue that the person who cares least holds the most power in the relationship.

If you really want to know who wears the pants, there is also a quiz.

Who Wears the Pants in the Relationship? (Quiz)

Some people think it’s important to answer the question “who wears the pants in the relationship?”

How do you know if you are in a position of power or not?

Knowing how to resolve conflict is important for everyone, but knowing if you are wearing the pants or not can help you and your partner create a strong partnership.

Thankfully, TheQuiz.com created an interactive 30-question quiz that will automatically answer this question for you!

Here’s a sample of a few of the questions:

  • Who picks your electronics?
  • Who committed first?
  • When someone snores, who moves? (Moves to another sleeping location)
  • Who kept their friends?
  • Who apologizes first?

The answers to these 30 questions can help you understand the power dynamics in your relationship.

And that might matter more than you think.

Why Does It Matter Who Wears the Pants in the Relationship?

Sometimes in our rush to answer a question, we forget to stop to consider if the question even matters.

Why does it matter who wears the pants in the relationship? It matters because it can shape your entire relationship.

It matters if one person feels like they are the “boss” and wants to take responsibility for everything, while the other is always bowing down to them. It matters because it sets a precedent that will show up in every aspect of your lives together: who should pay bills, who should make the dinner decisions, who takes out the trash?

It’s not that one way is necessarily better than the other. It’s just important to know the dynamics of your relationship.

The more we know about ourselves and our partners, the more we can make our relationships better. We might not feel comfortable being the more dominant or submissive person in the relationship.

We may feel crushed under the weight of responsibility or burdened with always asking for permission or forgiveness.

Sometimes, we may want to make changes to our relationship, or even leave the relationship because we don’t like being dominated or dominating others.

Does Someone Always Wear the Pants in the Relationship?

No, someone does not always wear the pants in the relationship. A couple can equally share power and influence in a relationship. I think these are the most healthy relationships.

“I believe we’re going to find that respect and affection are essential to all relationships working.”

John M. Gottman

In 13 years of teaching evidence-based relationship skills, I’ve seen many couples in trouble. I have come to believe that equality and mutual respect between two people is a hallmark of a vibrant, growing relationship that thrives.

When one partner dominates another, it can lead to resentment, bitterness, and passive-aggressiveness.

When both partners feel respected, listened to, and powerful in a relationship, couples forge strong connections that can last a lifetime.

Does the Same Person Always Wear the Pants in the Relationship?

No, the same person does not always wear the pants in the relationship. The more influential partner can change on a seasonal, situational, or daily basis.

Some people believe that the male always wears the pants in a relationship, but this is not true. Men can be very sensitive and submissive. Anyone with a dominant personality can choose submission, if they want.

Here are a few reasons why the power in a relationship might shift:

  • When one person loses a job (or quits), the employed partner might take more responsibility for the financial decisions.
  • In most relationships, one person plans most of the vacations (in this situation, the planner holds the most influence).
  • If one partner becomes ill or injured, the healthy partner might naturally take on more responsibility and power in the relationship.

Is It Healthy for Someone To Wear the Pants and the Relationship?

As long as both partners feel respected and happy, a relationship where one person is more dominant can work.

However, in most relationships, I do not think it’s best for a single player to wield all the power. In my experience, and based on research, the healthiest relationships seem rooted in a strong foundation of mutual trust, respect, and equality.

It is not healthy because the other partner is always doing things for their dominant counterpart (always giving and never receiving).

A relationship where one person wears the pants can work, but it’s typically not a sustainable model of success. In my research of couples like this, tensions arise when partners constantly focus on what their partners need or want (and never consider their own needs).

Here is a video that gets into a great discussion about “Who wears the pants in the relationship?”:

Who Should Wear The Pants In The Relationship? Let's Talk 😬
Video by Stacey Diaz via YouTube—Who wears the pants in the relationship?

Is Asking Who Wears the Pants in the Relationship Sexist?

This is a fair question.

Is asking who wears the pants in the relationship sexist? Maybe. Maybe not. It depends on who is asking the question and what they mean by it.

I’m not sure “sexist” is the correct term unless the question is slanted heavily toward one gender or the other. However, the question bristles with sexist, homophobic, and misogynist overtones. It carries strong associations of inequality.

When people ask “Who wears the pants?” they might be asking who is more controlling.

People often jokingly remark, “I can tell who wears the pants in the relationship” after one person in a couple apologizes, compromises, or otherwise engages in behavior the observer finds submissive.

The problem, I think, is in the insinuation of inequality and the judgment of behavior as “losing” (or, at least, a demonstration of less power and lower value) in a relationship.

Respectful negotiation and compromise is an essential part of any healthy relationship.

Is It Bad To Wear the Pants in a Relationship?

Wearing the pants in a relationship is not bad, but it is problematic. It means there is a power differential where equality is askew. It means there are major cracks in the foundation of your relationship.

Personally, I don’t think “control” has any place in a mature, healthy relationship.

If one person has control or makes all the decisions, that seems more like parenting and running a business than building a romantic future with someone.

I don’t like using words like “bad” or “good.” Most things in life fall somewhere in the gray middle ground between extremes. When someone “wears the pants,” the relationship is dangerously toying with dictatorship.

And I’ve never seen a healthy and happy dictatorship relationship.

Is It Bad To Not Wear the Pants in a Relationship?

It can be positive or negative to not wear the pants in the relationship. If someone else controls you, then that is negative. If neither person in the relationship “wears the pants” I think it is positive.

So, it depends on the overall relationship.

If you don’t wear the pants because no one wears the pants, then I think you are likely in a healthier relationship.

Anytime anyone exerts prolonged control over your life and decision, it is not helpful for your personal growth and development as a human being. It could even be a sign of abuse.

Final Thoughts

The person with the most power in a relationship is usually the one who “wears the pants.”

While this seems like an easy, straightforward way to control your partner’s decisions, it actually creates more problems.

When you wear those metaphorical pants all by yourself, you are no longer building a mutually respectful partnership. Instead of controlling your partner or being controlled by them, strive for equality through mutual respect and understanding. Then you can create better partnerships and happier relationships.

If you enjoyed this article, check out my other blog posts about dating and relationships: