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In every relationship there is always a power dynamic; who wears the pants so to speak. Sometimes just in public, and sometimes in private as well, but it is almost always there. No one wants to face the world naked, so we all clothe ourselves as protection against what the world can throw at us. There are so many jokes about husbands and wives and who really wears the pants and these jokes they ceased to be funny long ago. These jokes though, they overlook one important fact about relationships, that they’re partnerships and if we clothe ourselves against our partners then we protect ourselves from our partner seeing us for who we really are.
He concedes ground and sacrifices his own needs in the face of her desires, and always he is left as the last in their relationship.
I know a couple, they seem to be in love, but I suspect they are drifting apart. You see Jill wears the pants in this relationship; she is vocal in her displeasure and forceful with her needs and wants. James is, well not so much. He will back down when he had every right to do whatever earned her displeasure, he concedes ground and sacrifices his own needs in the face of her desires, and always he is left as the last in their relationship. She clothes herself in righteousness, she worked hard, she deserves to have her desires met, she is entitled to the respect she spent years earning. Yet she forgets, forgets a partnership requires her to listen to the person who follows. He clothes himself in resentment, resentment at being ignored, and resentment about the things he needs but can never get. He forgets he defines the boundaries of his own self-respect. Finally he turns away from her in resentment as she turns away from him to do what she wants. She wears the pants, and neither is naked, and so the relationship drifts further apart.
I know a couple, they seem to be in love, but I suspect they are tearing each other apart. They both wear the pants in this relationship. John is a corporate shark by day and everything is a negotiation, as long as he always gets what he wants. Jack is a builder, a man’s man; he takes nothing from no-one as long as everyone knows it’s his way or the highway. When together they always argue, Jack never negotiates and John never takes the highway. Anything and everything is a battle which neither can win nor lose. As close as they want to be, their clash of wills continually tears them apart. John clothes himself in mistrust, always suspicious of Jack and the fact Jack never gives ground, because John forgets he is in a partnership. He forgets that Jack isn’t the opposition and both are negotiating for a good relationship, and so he turns away. Jack clothes himself in anger continually frustrated at what he considers undermining tactics because Jack forgets they are partners. That his way and John’s way need to be the same way, and so he turns away. Both wear the pants but neither is naked so slowly the relationship tears at the edges.
I know a couple, they seem to be in love, but they seem to be imploding under the weight of unsaid words. No one wears the pants in this relationship; no one is really sure how they got together in the first place. Jim and Jane are introverts, they love deep conversations about important things, but neither talks about the things that are important to both. Jim desperately wants to hear about Jane’s desires and dreams yet he is afraid to ask. Jane wants to be discovered, understood, to have someone understand who she is, she wants a connection that sets her soul on fire but she doesn’t understand that for this to happen she has to let someone in. So Jim and Jane implode, trying hard to get closer but neither letting the other in. So Jim clothes him neediness trying every way he knows to get past her armor because he has forgotten that the best way into someone’s heart is to show your own, so he turns away. Jane clothes herself in frustration, wishing Jim would just know, hoping Jim would just understand, but she has forgotten that a partner isn’t a mind reader and in her frustration she turns away. Neither wears the pants but neither is naked so the closer they try to pull towards each other the heavier the weight of unsaid words.
They have turned towards each other and only the other has their attention.
I know a couple and they are in love. During the day they fly free and explore the world of their dreams and passions but at night, when they return, they are like two long lost friends reunited with stories and tales to tell. I don’t know who wears the pants in this relationship, when they are together they are naked. When Jarred returns at night, as much as he has his own tales to tell, he misses Jen and wants to hear all that made her happy, sad or buzzing with excitement, so he turns to her and undresses her. A million questions he has, trying to see Jen for who she really is. When Jen returns, as much as she wants to relate all that she experienced during the day, she misses Jarred and wants to hear his stories, his successes and his failures. The very things that made him feel alive. So Jen turns towards Jarred and undresses him, a million questions on her lips trying to see Jim for the man he is. I don’t know who wears the pants in this relationship because when Jen and Jarred are together the rest of us don’t exist, they have turned towards each other and only the other has their attention.
I know the couples above don’t exist, no relationship lives in such a single dimensions. We all have those aspects above and we clothe ourselves as we are want to do. Depending on our loves and fears we can don any of these aspects, sometimes it is necessary. Clothes have a purpose, to protect us from the cold, wind and rain. We wear them because the world is not a place that is always fair or kind and only a fool walks into the world naked. Yet we should remember that when we don our pants that we may be turning away from our partner. The very clothes that protect us from the world outside protect us from the love from our partner. So when you next you joke about who wears the pants in your relationship maybe the joke is on you, because shouldn’t you be naked?
Originally published at the Good Men Project