Who wears the pants?

TO wear the pants or not wear the pants - that is the modern relationship question.

Oh, how the times have changed. Where once relationship rules were simple (the alpha gent wore the pants and made all the big decisions), today the roles are not so set in stone.

Has the alpha male of yesterday been replaced with a fierce female version: the pant-wearing woman? Or are today's relationships ultimately pantsless?

There were a few bare legs in relationships I discovered when I surveyed the office.

"In our house, who wears the pants depends on what day, what is being decided, how tired and cranky we each are, and you may as well say it's on the weather as well," one female reporter said.

"He would like to wear the pants. He probably thinks I do.

"I do wear the pants on some things, I suppose. He certainly doesn't tell me what I have to do or when, but we live in his house, and when there is a serious disagreement, something he doesn't like, he tends to go with something like: 'If you don't like it, leave'.

"So, perhaps who wears the ultimate pants is the one who holds the house: the assets. In which case, nothing's changed over the centuries really, has it?"

Has nothing changed? Do men still ultimately hold the power?

What about in same-sex relationships? Are the pants-wearing rules more or less ambiguous?

"For us, this issue is more about personality than it is about gender. But overall, I would say there is a much more equal spread of pants-wearing in our house," another person said.

"It's like a dance where one takes the lead on some things, and the other does the same on others.

"I think it has to be that way because it contributes to general harmony in our lives. It's also a lot easier to share responsibility for these things rather than have it all on one person's shoulders."

So far only a vague pattern was emerging so I hit the streets to get a better picture.

I encountered an older couple and decided to see how their relationship worked.

Brian and Lyn Whichelo, of Lithgow, have been married for 42 years. They insisted their relationship was well-balanced and they shared the pants.

"We never discussed it. It's just the way it panned out," Brian said.

"However, I get reminded when I do something wrong."

Despite Brian insisting no one dominated their relationship, he did all the talking while Lyn stayed silent.

Are things different for couples slightly younger?

I stopped to chat with Pete and Emma Scarlet, who were visiting from New Zealand with their two children. Married for 13 years, they said no one really wore the pants in their household, either.

"I feel it's pretty balanced," Emma said. "We have different roles for different things."

"It evens out in the end. It happens naturally and works for us," chimed in Pete.

But what about relationships in the Gen Y era?

Is there more or less pants wearing?

"I wear the pants," asserted Rachel Hagger, of Sipper Downs.

"I always do!"

Her friend Dean Hendrikx, of Mooloolaba, agreed that despite men wanting to hold the power, the reality was the woman often did.

"I would like to say I do (wear the pants)," he said. "But it's not always the case. Whatever keeps the boss happy."

Ah, the rise of the pants-wearing woman may just be true. I wandered down the street and sidled up to Dominica McGowan and her friend Jacob Osbeiston.

They, too, believed in the rise of the pants-wearing woman and the bare-legged male.

"I think girls do wear the pants more these days," Dominica said.

"The guys feel comfortable with this. Even in older couples, the wife often does control everything and the men don't mind them taking charge."

Jacob didn't believe anything had changed: that women had always had the control.

"I think women have always held the power, they just let the men think they do. But they look after everything. They worry about everything: the emotional side of things, money, social. Men often say, 'My job is to keep them happy'," he said.

"They let men think they are in control but the women secretly controls it."

Relationship counsellor Ross Thompson, from Heart n Soul Matters, said he noticed in the majority of couples he worked with that the woman indeed had the power.

"What I have noticed with couples is that the women wear the pants. But for a healthy functioning relationship, it needs to be balanced," he said.

He doesn't believe gender roles have changed or that the power has shifted, just that women are now more obvious in asserting their power.

"I think actually they always did it, even back in my parents' days," he said. "They were just a lot more covert about it. Whereas these days, it's a lot more obvious. There's no hiding it these days."

He believes the pants-wearing power comes from women having a stronger emotional base which gives them more stability in arguments.

His main advice for couples was to learn to share the pants.





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