Who Wears the Pants in the Relationship? (Explained)

It’s only natural to wonder about who plays what roles in a relationship—especially when it comes to power and dominance.

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.

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?

(This post may have afilliate links. Please see my disclosure)
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?

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 literally 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)
5 Things That Make Guys Want You (B...
5 Things That Make Guys Want You (Based on Science)

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 cares less.

Now let’s dive a bit deeper into each one of these signs.

The Person Who Makes Most of The Decisions

In any relationship, it’s important that both partners feel like they have a say in the decision-making process.

However, there will always be times when one person has to make the final call. When this happens, it’s usually the person who is most comfortable with making decisions who ends up taking charge.

This doesn’t mean that the other person is powerless; it simply means that they trust their partner to make the best decision for both of them.

In a healthy relationship, both partners should feel like they can openly express their opinions without fear of being shut down.

Ultimately, the person who makes most of the decisions is the one who wears the pants in the relationship.

The Person Who Takes More Responsibility

In any relationship, both partners need to take responsibility for their own actions and decisions.

However, the person who takes more responsibility often has a more significant role in the relationship. This is because they are more likely to be the one who gets things done and sets boundaries.

They are also more likely to be the one who takes care of the household and ensures that everything runs smoothly.

As a result, the person who takes more responsibility often wears the pants in the relationship. This does not mean that they are superior to their partner or that they have complete control over the relationship.

Instead, it simply means that they have a greater level of responsibility.

Taking on this level of responsibility can be daunting, but it is sometimes necessary for maintaining a healthy and happy relationship.

The Person Who Rarely Apologizes

The person who rarely apologizes may be viewed as the one in charge.

This is because they are less likely to back down or give in during an argument. As a result, the person who rarely apologizes may be the one who wears the pants in the relationship.

While this may not always be the case, it can often be a sign of a power imbalance.

The Person Who Manages the Finances

The person who controls the finances holds the power in the relationship.

This is not to say that the person with the purse strings is always right, or that they should make all of the financial decisions in a relationship.

But it does mean that they have a certain amount of control over the relationship itself.

After all, money is a necessary part of life, and whoever controls the purse strings has the ability to make or break financial stability. In short, whoever manages the finances wears the pants in the relationship.

The Person Who Doesn’t Ask for Permission

In any relationship, be it personal or professional, the person who doesn’t ask for permission is the one who wears the pants.

Why?

Because they understand that seeking permission implies a lack of confidence in oneself and a need for approval from someone else. Those who don’t ask for permission are able to make decisions on their own and don’t need to rely on others to get things done.

This shows that they’re independent and capable, two qualities that are essential for any leader.

Furthermore, those who don’t ask for permission are often seen as more confident and assertive.

Asking for permission implies a certain amount of subservience to another person. If you want to know who is in charge, remember: the person who doesn’t ask for permission wears the pants in the relationship.

The Person Who Gets More of What They Want

The person who gets more of what they want in the relationship is usually the one who wears pants in the relationship.

This is because they are able to set the terms and conditions of the relationship, and their partner has to either agree to them or risk losing the relationship.

This gives them a lot of power and control over their partner, which they can use to get what they want.

For example, they may be able to get their partner to do things that they wouldn’t normally do, or to agree to things that they wouldn’t normally agree to.

This can be anything from going on a date that they don’t really want to go on, buying a car, or getting married.

The Person Who Cares Less

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

The logic goes that if one person is more invested than the other, they will be more likely to make unilateral decisions and put up with bad behavior.

In other words, they will be more likely to make concessions and tolerate a certain level of mistreatment.

On the other hand, the person who cares less can afford to be more choosy about their partner and set higher standards for how they are treated. They are also more likely to walk away from a relationship that is not meeting their needs.

As a result, it is often the case that the person who seems to have less power in a relationship actually has more control.

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.

How To Wear The Pants In Your Relationship As a Man

Wearing the pants in a relationship doesn’t mean being bossy or controlling.

It means having the power to make decisions, being the one who initiates plans, and having the final say in arguments. It can be difficult to gain this power, but it is possible if you are assertive and confident.

One way to assert your dominance is to take responsibility for the finances.

Make sure you are the one who pays the bills and keeps track of the budget. You should also be the one who ultimately decides how to spend your shared money.

Be confident and seductive, and make it clear that you are in charge.

Don’t be afraid to be decisive. If you are constantly second-guessing yourself, your partner will see you as weak and powerless. If you want to wear the pants in your relationship, you need to be bold and believe in yourself.

Only then will you have the power to make decisions and set the tone for your relationship.

Let me say again that it’s not about controlling the other person. It’s about influencing and directing the relationship toward a positive end goal.

How To Wear The Pants In Your Relationship As a Woman

In the US, women are more likely to wear the pants in a relationship than a man.

Therefore, women start out ahead of the game. There is social conditioning to defer to women on all aspects of a relationship: where to eat, how to decorate the house, when to engage in physical affection, etc.

You simply need to leverage and expand on this standard situation.

Just like with men who want to take charge, women can:

  • Mange the household finances
  • Stop apologizing so much
  • Be bold and decision (but not rude or bossy—there’s a difference)
  • Stand up for their wants, needs, and desires
  • Be willing to walk away (as a last resort)

Is It Healthy for Someone To Wear the Pants in 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?”:

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:

Resources

National Institute of Health (Research on Dominance in Relationships)
SagePub (Another Research Study on How Dominance Impacts Relationships)