Female-led relationship: What it means and how to make it work

You may have heard of the term, “female-led relationships”.

But what exactly are female-led relationships? Are they simply relationships where the woman wears the pants in the family, or is there more to it?

In this article, we explore exactly what female-led relationships are and what they mean for the people involved.

If you think that you’re in a female-led relationship, this article will help you understand the best way to communicate and work with your partner towards your shared goal: building the happiness and love you have for each other.

Understanding Female-Led Relationships (FLR)

Image credit: Shutterstock – By View Apart

There is a lot of misunderstanding on what exactly constitutes as a female-led relationship or FLR, and this is mostly because there are several types of FLRs with dynamics that range from mild interactions to extreme interactions.

The best way to describe female-led relationships is by understanding what it is not – the traditional male-led relationship.

The Male-Led Relationship

The traditional male-led relationship is the relationship in which the man is the breadwinner, provider, decision-maker, and overall authority of the relationship (and the rest of the family).

This is the type of relationship that we are most familiar with throughout history, both ancient and modern.

The man provides the means for survival for the woman and the children, either by hunting, fighting, or simply having a job.

The woman stays home, cares for the children, keeps the home clean and functional, and prepares meals for the family.

While there have always been cases of relationships not following these standard dynamics, the majority of man-woman relationships throughout history have been led by the man.

The Female-Led Relationship

So how does the female-led relationship break the traditional dynamics?

Simply put, any kind of relationship that doesn’t follow the traditional male-led relationship dynamic can be considered a type of female-led relationship.

We describe the exact types of relationships below, but in summary, a female-led relationship can be a relationship where the man and the woman share chores and responsibilities equally, or a relationship where the man does whatever their partnered woman says.

As long as the dynamic between the man and the woman goes against the traditional ideas of what a man should do and what a woman should do, then their relationship may be considered a type of female-led relationship.

Female-led relationships can be considered an extension or byproduct of the gains that women in the Western world have experienced over the last few decades.

The right to vote, acceptance in the workplace, education rights, the rights for equal salaries, and more – all of these victories have contributed to the shift and acceptance of female-led relationships.

Not only have these changes in society empowered women over the decades, thus making them question their traditional gender roles in a relationship, but they have also allowed men to question their own supposed inherent dominance or superiority over women, and whether this is actually the case.

Comparing Male-Led Relationships to Female-Led Relationships

To better understand the differences in dynamics between male-led and female-led relationships, we’ve prepared a comparison chart below:

 As we stated above, female-led relationships are primarily a modern phenomenon which came about as a byproduct of recent gains in women’s rights.

Some may argue that female-led relationships aren’t real or natural, because throughout history the main type of relationship has consistently been male-led relationships.

However, this can be blamed on the fact that women have never had as much opportunity or freedom as they do today.

For long periods of history, women were treated as second-class citizens or even sub-human, with men asserting authority over women with their aggression and physical strength.

Thankfully, the modern shift towards equal rights and liberalism has helped people embrace the breaking down of traditional gender roles, and that includes the dynamics of a man and a woman in a relationship.

Why People Seek Out Female-Led Relationships

A couple bonding. Signs he respects you.

Without even knowing it, you might be in a relationship that could be considered a female-led relationship.

But what is it about female-led relationships that draw attention? Why do people seek out these types of relationships?

The Advantages For Women

The advantages of a female-led relationship for women are obvious. Women have been treated unfairly for centuries in male-led relationships, with these traditional relationships denying them an equal say in the partnership.

With the ideology behind FLRs, this has now changed. Here are some reasons why women would seek out a FLR:

  1. Women want to have a fair shot at making decisions and changes when it comes to the household and their family
  2. Without the expectation that the man is alone in making decisions and exercising authority, there is less power struggle between the man and the woman, making it easier for the woman to be relaxed and at peace with her partner
  3. A woman can end up loving her partner more because she will feel that he gives her the care, attention, and respect she deserves as an equal
  4. Some women enjoy the power to control every part of the relationship, from managing the kitchen to raising the kids to even controlling the finances
  5. Women might want to be able to change their man if they wish; forcing out old bad habits and shaping them into becoming better partners

The Advantages For Men

While the advantages that women gain from a FLR are clear, some may wonder why men would prefer this type of relationship.

After all, traditional relationships award men all the power and authority over their partner, so shouldn’t they be resisting these changes in dynamics?

There are actually many benefits men can experience from engaging in a FLR. For example:

  1. Some men don’t like the stress of being expected to make all the difficult decisions without any significant input from their partner. This release from authority allows men to relax more with their partner
  2. Unlike previous generations, men now understand and appreciate the worth of their partner more than ever. Men are more willing to see their partners as equals rather than lesser than them, and with this equality comes the natural sense that they deserve an equal say in the relationship
  3. Some men may prefer to shed away the breadwinner role simply due to their personality or preferences. There are men who would rather adopt the traditional female role of cooking, cleaning, tending to the home and raising the children, and these men are happy to find partners who would take up the traditional male role
  4. There is a distinct lack of tension in female-led relationships as both parties are given at least equal say in important decisions. This lack of tension leads to an overall happier life for the man

Overall Benefits of Female-Led Relationships

While there are advantages unique to both women and men in female-led relationships, there are also overall benefits from these kinds of relationships that both partners can enjoy equally:

1. Transparent Communication

Female-led relationships are built on the foundation of honesty and transparency. These types of relationships require understanding from both partners, and the willingness to adapt to the needs of each individual.

Whereas traditional relationships leave no room for evolution and growth, female-led relationships give both partners the room to tell each other what they want and what they expect from each other.

2. Family-First Decisions

When one person has sole authority to make the decisions in a relationship, this can often lead to a toxic and unhealthy dynamic in which that person forgets to prioritize the well-being and happiness of those around them.

Traditional male-led relationships often fall into the trap where the man gets so accustomed to only caring about themselves that they often make wrong and regressive decisions for the family.

With a relationship built on communication and discussion, there will be a greater chance that the entire family benefits from better decisions.

3. Less Pressure on Defined Roles

There is the traditional man archetype – masculine, strong, emotionally withdrawn, headfirst, and brave – and the traditional woman archetype – timid, family-first, caring, loving, obedient, quiet.

The problem with these traditional roles is that we don’t always fit into them, and we can be pressured to the point of severe unhappiness in our attempts to be people that we are not.

Female-led relationships allow people to act out in the roles they were naturally born to do, whether that means a man raising children and cooking dinner or a woman working as the breadwinner.

4. Better Sex

Finally, as one of the most important parts of a relationship, sex is guaranteed to improve in a female-led relationship.

The woman feels empowered and respected, and the man gains a greater appreciation of the worth and value of his partner.

Both of these combined will mean that each partner will want their partner more, meaning sex becomes more satisfying on both ends.

4 Types of Female-Led Relationships

Not all female-led relationships are the same. While male-led relationships can typically be set into a single type – where the man has most if not all authority and power in the relationship – female-led relationships vary from mild cases to extreme cases.

Here are the four types of FLRs:

1. Lower Level FLR

It is difficult to call a lower level female-led relationship a “female-led relationship”, because it isn’t really a case of a woman leading in the relationship.

Instead, the lower level FLR describes a relationship in which the man and the woman are practically equals.

Decisions are made on the merit of both partners’ arguments, and there must be a mutual consent between both partners before any decision can move forward.

In these relationships, the woman never thinks that she has power over her partner or has the power to make decisions on her own.

2. Moderate Level FLR

The next level of FLRs is the moderate level FLR, in which the woman has some authority over the man, although she may not always exercise this authority.

The main difference between a lower level FLR and a moderate level FLR is mostly in mentality – in a lower level FLR, the woman knows that while she may have an equal voice, there is no part of the relationship where she is greater than her partner.

In a moderate level FLR, the woman has some belief that she has greater control over some parts of the relationship, although she may not even act on it.

This may be a small and invisible difference, but it can do wonders for the woman’s own sense of self-worth and self-confidence, thus leading to overall greater happiness and harmony in the relationship.

3. Higher Level FLR

The higher level FLR is a relationship in which it is firmly established that the woman is the authority figure.

The best way to understand this type of relationship is by comparing it to the average male-led relationship and switching the gender roles, in which the woman becomes the head of the household, the authoritative figure in the family, and the primary breadwinner.

The family mostly relies on the woman’s income, while the man focuses on cleaning, cooking, raising the children, and generally maintaining the wellbeing of the home.

In the bedroom, the woman may also act as the dominant force. Aside from taking up the usual “female” responsibilities of home and child care, the man typically has a happy and normal relationship with his partner.

4. Extreme FLR

There is no female-led relationship which showcases female authority more so than the extreme FLR type.

In this FLR, the woman acts as the man’s absolute authority, controlling every aspect of his life and making every decision for him.

The woman demands utmost respect and obedience from her partner, and the man should willingly provide anything the woman asks.

Extreme FLRs can be considered dysfunctional relationships, as it would be if gender roles were swapped, and these are often more sexually-driven than anything else.

Extreme FLRs require very specific personality types, including a woman who embraces the feelings of authority and power and a man who is naturally subservient and submissive.

Ways a Female-Led Relationship Can Go Wrong

Image credit: Shutterstock – By Roman Kosolapov

So far we’ve described all the advantages and benefits of a female-led relationship, but FLRs don’t always end up being perfect for both partners.

In some cases, one partner trying to force a dynamic that their partner isn’t comfortable with might just end the relationship prematurely. Here are some ways that FLRs can go wrong:

1. The Man Just Might Not Like It

Expectation: A man and woman meet, start dating, and fall in love.

The woman wants to build the foundation of a female-led relationship and the man is happy to say yes just to please his partner. Both partners adopt their roles perfectly and they live happily ever after.

Reality: While the man may initially agree to what the woman wants, that doesn’t mean that he will always be okay with it.

The woman may be more liberal and progressive than their male partner, and she might have different expectations of what a man should accept.

The difficulty with FLRs is that men are naturally programmed by evolution to provide for their partners, and must get over the feelings of inadequacy and worthlessness if they find themselves not providing in the ways they were always taught.

Significant growth is required from the man to adjust to the woman, but the woman must also try to meet the man in the middle.

Ultimately, a compromise must be met until both partners can find the exact type of FLR that works with them.

2. Society Might Judge You

Expectation: Two people get into a female-led relationship in which all of the traditional gender roles are reversed – the woman is the breadwinner and the man is taking care of the kids.

Everyone around you – your family, friends, and even strangers on the street – are simply happy that you are happy, no matter how you go about doing it.

Reality: While you and your partner may have found the perfect balance to maximize your happiness in your established female-led relationship, that doesn’t mean that everyone else will be as accepting.

Both partners will be pressured by those around them – the man will be pressured into feeling like he is less of a man because he isn’t the main breadwinner, and the woman will be made to feel guilty because she isn’t home for the children.

You will both end up questioning your decisions and whether you are truly doing what’s right not only for yourselves, but for your children.

This can be a difficult impasse to overcome, but ultimately it will be the most difficult test your relationship will deal with.

If you can learn to ignore the misguided expectations of those around you, then there will be nothing left standing in the way of your long-term happiness with your partner.

3. You Might End Up Mothering Your Partner

Expectation: You may be a woman who is seeking a moderate, higher, or extreme level FLR, in which you have more power than your man and you regularly exercise it.

You want to have authority over many parts of the family life and your partner’s life, and you enjoy controlling your man and seeing how he works to satisfy you in return for your hard work.

Reality: Unfortunately, there are some cases in which the man in a FLR in which the woman has most of the power and authority ends up regressing.

Instead of becoming the man who works for your satisfaction, he ends up becoming a previous version of himself, redefining his role as your son and your role as his mother.

By taking away all power and authority from your male partner and making all his decisions for him, certain personality types would end up simply falling into the role completely, and you would end up becoming their mother.

All romantic and sexual desire would quickly fall off a cliff, and there might be no way back.

Guidelines to Make Female-Led Relationships Work

Unlike a traditional male-led relationship, maintaining the happiness and cooperation of a female-led relationship requires work and effort. Here are some essential guidelines you and your partner must follow:

  1. Be Transparent and Honest: Your partner should always know what you are feeling, whether good and bad, so they can adjust accordingly and you can feel that you are being heard.
  2. Understand Your Roles and Lines: Happiness demands that both partners are comfortable with their set-up. Make sure you and your partner understand and accept each other’s roles and expectations.
  3. Review Periodically: Remember – you may not always know what you want, and neither will your partner. Make sure to come together for an honest and open discussion on your comfort and happiness periodically, maybe every month or every few months.
  4. Ignore Everyone Else: Don’t let other people define how you feel for each other. Your happiness is yours alone. Do what works for you, and as long as you and your partner are satisfied, that’s all that matters.
  5. Never Forget the Love: Too often, people in FLRs fall into the trap of caring more about their roles in the relationship than they care about how they feel for each other. Love should always come first.
  6. Beware of Abuse: Abuse is always a risk, no matter what kind of relationship. Make sure no negative use of the power you grant each other is being used.


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Lachlan Brown

I’m Lachlan Brown, the founder, and editor of Hack Spirit. I love writing practical articles that help others live a mindful and better life. I have a graduate degree in Psychology and I’ve spent the last 15 years reading and studying all I can about human psychology and practical ways to hack our mindsets. Check out my latest book on the Hidden Secrets of Buddhism and How it Saved My Life. If you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Facebook or Twitter.

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