There was a specific day, lost to history, that introduced to the world a simple yet divisive concept: The one who wears the pants… holds the power in the relationship. Ever since then, the battle of the sexes has waged with lots of casualties.
Surprisingly, we’re still battling the effects of this social decision many centuries later. Despite the best efforts of science to fix the time space rift, the continuum continues to plague couples the world over.
So… who wears the pants now?
In many first world countries, women have been making steady progress to get their equal footing next to a man. In the opinion of certain authors, the shift has gone far enough to usher the woman as the new power broker in a relationship.
This blog is not yet convince that we’ve arrived at any gender parity let alone generalized full role reversal.
What we do have is a changing space. One in which the nineteenth century limitations and twentieth century efforts are starting to fade… albeit very slowly… and accepting the twenty-first century.
There are instances in which women have gain such prominence in their careers that the need of a man as provider makes no sense. They run global companies, they raise children, they mold generations, and they are the driving force behind the success of other men. For those women who have reached the promised land of equity, do they now wear the pants in their relationship?
What does pant wearing really mean?
Good question. The person who “wears the pants” in the relationship is the one who makes most of the decisions in the relationship. While they may check in on the opinion of the other, the final say is usually theirs.
Depending on the individuals involved, the pant wearer does not have to be the man. Of course, popular culture will have you thinking that if the man is not the one wearing the pants, the whole relationship is wrong. That’s false. Well documented falsehood.
Just ask any family raised by a strong woman and you’ll quickly understand that there are far more women wearing pants than one would expect. It’s not a financial thing. It’s about decision making.
There are families in which there is only one source of income, and it’s the man in more cases than not, but the woman runs the entire show. The man just shows up with the check and the rest is handled by the woman.
The reverse exists as well. And everything else in between.
Bottom line, relationships function as they do, independent of what society thinks it should. Of course, many people will give the social impression that there is one sole pant wearer, and that often is made to appear to be the man. However, even that charade is changing.
Why should anyone wear the pants?
Life requires us to make decisions. In all team activities, there is some established power structure. It could be vertical with one leader. It could be democratic with fair representation at the decision table. It can be distributed so that the person with the best skills for the decision is the one making it.
All these models work best when all parties involved are able to communicate their needs and feel comfortable that their needs are heard, addressed, and met.
Failing to meet needs leads to all forms of creative exit strategy planning by the unhappy individuals. Divorce being one of the most difficult strategies many face when unhappy with how the pant wearer is leading.
However cute as that may be, the question is still the same, does the pant wearing has to be the domain of one person? No. It doesn’t.
The demands of life requires a degree of flexibility. The network effect means we all bring a ton of resources to a relationship. One person may lead at 3pm but another is leading at 5pm. Just because of the nature of the complexities of life. To use the family analogy, the parents wear the pants jointly and the children get age appropriate turns to try on the pants for short periods of time.
Wait… the children too?
Yes. Of course. How else will they safely learn how to make decisions for themselves if they’re not allowed to practice in the safety of their home?
With the increasing demands of the workplace, society is dealing with the masculinisation of the woman. Due to the ramifications of this change, society is also dealing with a feminization of the man. There is no need to ascribe a “good” or “bad” value to this process either.
Too many men have been conditioned to be emotionally unavailable while women kept on mastering the art of being emotionally present. Men can stand to better connect with their feelings because that’s how empathy is built. A man can be a more effective leader when he’s empathetic.
Too many women have been conditioned not to stand for what they believe in. They’ve lost their voice. It’s nice to have women reclaiming their voices and coming to the table ready to participate. This brings much needed diversity and intellectual power to decision making.
With this changing balance, society will eventually calibrate itself in a good center. At that point, the question will not focus on who wears the pants but will focus on what’s really important… what’s the best decision for the relationship so everyone in the relationship wins.
It takes a lot of strength to take leadership cues from someone else. It takes lots of humility to give up the leadership position to follow. When done right, it feels like both participants are in sync. That’s because there is no counting who is boss and who is not. It’s all about how can we win and both be happy.
The initial question was phrased to include the word “now” on purpose. When facing choices, if one person has to lead, the couple needs to decide who that will be. It can be a default one or the other or by situation. Whatever works, make sure the solution works for your relationship. Don’t let another couple dictate what is right for you, as they’re not in the trenches with you.
this post over simplified the dynamics to make it easier to read. Playing to each person’s strength has to be considered in the balance of power. Relationships are really about power exchange. The more fluid and easier the exchange, the more people can learn from each other and become better individuals and more well-rounded individuals. Eventually, they get so good… all you see is the couple when they’re together… and the individual when they’re apart… as in an ambassador for their relationship
Until next time, enjoy the fit of the pants as you share it back and forth.