Relationships naturally invoke certain power dynamics, with one partner likely taking control from the outset. But what if this tradition was flipped on its head?
Female-led relationships put women in the driver's seat, switching seats with the traditional male figure. Depending on your chosen dynamic, this kind of relationship can offer equality and empowerment for women — where perhaps they weren’t offered before!
So, what are female-led relationships all about? How does this dynamic work? And, do you want to try out this power flip in your own relationship?
Note: This term has traditionally been used to describe heterosexual relationships between a man and a woman. While we adopt these terms in the context of this article, it can be adapted to refer to any relationship where the female-identifying partner takes the lead.
In a romantic relationship, between someone who identifies as a man and someone who identifies as a woman, the male partner plays the dominant role. In contrast, the female plays the submissive role. This traditional relationship dynamic corresponds to the belief that men should hold the reins, or ‘wear the pants’, naturally wielding a more authoritative role in a romantic partnership.
A 2010 study in Sage Journals found that cisgender males often hold a significant amount of power in relationships when it comes to relationship progression, such as initiating moving in together or getting engaged. “However, embracing a female-led relationship can potentially balance the power dynamics not only in day-to-day interactions but also in relationship progress,” according to our in-house relationship expert, Moraya Seeger DeGeare.
However, while tradition dictates that this is the norm, it doesn’t have to be that way.
Female-led relationships aim to flip traditional gender roles on their head, making the woman the dominant partner — rebelling against the usual power dynamics of heterosexual relationships. In this type of relationship, the woman calls the shots as the key decision-maker and breadwinner.
Like anything, there are varying degrees of female-led relationships. While some are more subtle, where the female might make financial decisions, others are linked to more kinky BDSM dynamics with the woman as the authority figure.
Some FLR relationships operate without a label, with the female naturally taking control without a specific discussion on the topic. These kinds of relationships more subtly rebel against traditional roles, with women breaking from the usual or expected model.
Every female-led relationship is different, with this kind of dominance and authority applicable to the entire partnership or only certain aspects of the relationship — such as household chores, or the couple’s sex life.
Depending on what you want from the dynamic, there are different levels of control to choose from.
Low-control FLR relationships aim for equality.
Instead of a male-led relationship, this dynamic simply favors more of a balanced approach. There is a lack of a power struggle in such relationships, so there is less animosity between partners. From an outside perspective, this dynamic may simply look like a progressive environment, where the female is not dismissed or expected to behave a certain way.
This leads to an atmosphere of mutual respect and empowerment, with both partners involved in important decisions.
These FLR relationships involve increased control for the woman.
In these cases, she might have the final say in all decision-making, or might always be the one to initiate sex. These female-led relationships work as the male partner is happy to adhere to his partner’s wishes, without the need for more obvious control.
These FLR relationships are defined by certain rules and expectations, where the woman might wield more power in particular aspects of the relationship.
This power dynamic should be discussed to ensure everyone is comfortable, with decisions made on where the female partner has defined control. In this non-traditional relationship, the submissive partner is happy to let the female have complete control over certain sections of the relationship — whether financial or sexual.
In the most extreme FLR relationship, the woman has undisputed control over their partner and makes all the decisions without any pushback.
While other FLR relationships might have defined control around sex, this kind of relationship most likely includes certain kinks. This may bear similarities to a BDSM relationship, with the woman at the helm instead of the traditional male figure. However, this is different from a femdom dynamic, which usually involves a dominatrix.
Like all aspects of a relationship, boundaries should be pre-determined and consent should always be obtained.
People can seek female-led relationships for various reasons, whether it’s a conscious or unconscious desire for a differing power dynamic.
"When couples intentionally opt for a female-led relationship, they are likely having other deeper discussions embracing the complexities of intersecting aspects of a partner's identity on the dynamics of the relationship," states Seeger DeGeare.
“This conscious choice can potentially establish a secure space for the couple to strive for equilibrium, allowing both partners to authentically express themselves. In societal contexts, individuals may feel compelled to conceal or diminish certain aspects of their identity or personality. Hence, the equilibrium that this choice fosters within the relationship can significantly contribute to overall relationship satisfaction.”
Even though female-led relationships are about taking control, they’re equally about balance.
Due to the chosen dynamic, it’s up to the woman to maintain a balance in the relationship. For example, just because the woman is in the dominant role, it doesn’t mean that the male has to take the back seat — as this can put undue pressure on one party!
Establish a line of open communication with your partner, as dominance doesn’t mean disrespect. While the female may make all the decisions, it doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for a collaborative environment.
"This can also extend into the energy you bring into a conversation or your sexual interactions. In female-led relationships, the partner is actively engaged and may show up more emotionally for their partner,” says Seeger DeGeare.
“With the cisgender female taking the lead, meeting their emotional needs might take priority in the relationship. By reordering relationship values and priorities, you can immediately create a balance in how you engage with each other as a couple.
FLR relationships should be founded on mutual respect and consideration for each other. Discuss the dynamics of the relationship with your partner to ensure you always have their consent above all.
With all of these elements in place, it’s easier to define a healthy relationship from the outset, with women at the helm!