These days, female-led relationships are becoming more common. Gone are the days of men in heterosexual relationships calling all the shots. Women are just as capable of making decisions and wearing the pants, and in fact, many men seem to prefer it. Whether it’s because they like taking a backseat or they’re attracted to powerful women, female-led relationship dynamics are more and more attractive. Here’s what you need to know about this trend.
What is a female-led relationship?
Female-led relationships, often referred to simply as FLRs, are exactly what they sound like: partnerships in which the woman is the dominant partner while the male takes a passive or submissive role. This often translates to the woman having control over most aspects of the relationship, from finances and household duties to social engagements and more.
What are some of the biggest misconceptions about this type of relationship?
- No man would consent to a FLR. The idea that a man would choose to be submissive is hard for many people to understand, but that doesn’t mean a female-led relationship doesn’t offer many men the partnership dynamics they desire. “In almost all cultures across the globe, societies are traditionally patriarchal where men hold absolute power. This social structure has existed for centuries. This conservative conditioning leads to the misconception that men will not find FLRs satisfying or may even feel repressed. It is considered unnatural as a structure,” explains relationship coach Sneha Tete. “However, men in FLRs choose to be submissive. For their personal reasons, the men in FLRs are either not confident or not very particular about decision-making. Hence, they are only happy to follow the woman’s lead.”
- Women are weak and cannot lead a relationship. It goes without saying that this belief is outdated, misogynistic, and totally ridiculous. Women are strong, smart, and accomplished. So much so that many are happy to stay single. We’re handling all the things in our lives that were typically left to men for centuries, from making our own money to buying our own properties and more. We’re not only strong under pressure, but we’re highly risk-alert, meaning we’re able to avoid making decisions that could prove disastrous. This level-headedness is desirable for many men in relationships.
- FLRs will never last long-term. While it could be hard for headstrong individuals to imagine being in a willfully uneven relationship, that doesn’t make these arrangements untenable for those who prefer them. In fact, one of the greatest indicators of long-term relationship happiness is both partners feeling heard, supported, and respected. So long as communication is maintained and both partners’ needs are being met, there’s no reason female-led relationship dynamics can’t work forever.
Are female-led relationships based in BDSM?
Yes and no. While the origins of FLRs are rooted in the BDSM community, the concept and practice have evolved far beyond it. As licensed marriage and family therapist Marley Howard tells Bolde: “In BDSM, female-led relationships are those in which women have agreed and
consensual authority and control over males. FLRs have origins in BDSM and the kink world, but this has now moved beyond sexual fantasies and translated more into conventional partnerships where feminism may be a crucial element of the relationship’s value system, or
the woman is considered the head of the family and makes many choices. So it’s based on BDSM, but it’s now been widened.”
What are the different types of female-led relationships?
- Low-level female control This is the loosest version of a female-led relationship as it still sees the man as an equal in terms of decision-making. The control the female partner exhibits in a low-level FLR is minimal at best, to the point that it may not even be a conscious choice.
- Moderate-level female control In this arrangement, the male partner is aware that the woman is in control and gets to make the decisions in most areas of the relationship. However, he’s sometimes still consulted about certain topics. Plus, the male partner is still in control of certain aspects of his life. In these areas, the female partner has no say.
- Defined control This type of FLR is very specific and directed. Instead of giving the female partner say over every element of the relationship, there are mutually agreed elements over which she has domain. For instance, maybe it’s agreed that she makes the financial decisions or makes the decisions in regard to running the household. The key here is establishing and maintaining boundaries so that both partners are comfortable.
- Extreme control In this version of FLR, the male partner has no input on anything in the relationship. If not agreed upon and handled with care, this can become toxic and even abusive.
What are some things partners in female-led relationships need to understand?
- Consent is still necessary. Just because female-led relationship dynamics point to the woman making most of the decisions, that shouldn’t come at the expense of the male partner’s needs, desires, or beliefs. “Consent is required in any relationship. Before making a decision, you should consult with your spouse,” Howard advises. “You must agree to everything in the relationship and with your spouse. FLR needs more significant consent.”
- Full trust and communication are must-haves. All relationships require these things, but they’re especially important in FLRs. The female partner needs to be able to trust that the male partner will communicate his needs and feelings. The male partner needs to feel comfortable enough to do so, as well as trust that the female partner has his best interests at heart and will respect his will.
- Control is not ownership. While both partners agree on a female-led relationship, those dynamics do not translate into complete and total control of the submissive partner’s autonomy. The male partner can decide at any time that he is no longer comfortable with the arrangement, and the female partner must respect that. If a more equal partnership isn’t desirable, the relationship should come to an end.