What Exactly Is a Female-Led Relationship (FLR)?

Karen Banes
Karen Banes is a freelance writer specializing in entrepreneurship, parenting and lifestyle. Her work has appeared in publications including The Washington Post, Life Info Magazine, Transitions Abroad, Brave New Traveler, Natural Parenting Group, and Copia Magazine.

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We’ve come a long way since men went out to work and women meekly waited for their husbands to hand them the weekly housekeeping allowance in order to run the home. These days men and women both tend to work, and gender roles are, on the whole, a lot more balanced.

There are also plenty of relationships where there is still a division of labor, responsibility, and power between the man and the woman, but these are no longer necessarily based on traditional gender stereotypes. In fact, they may flip those stereotypes completely.

Female-led relationships (frequently abbreviated as “FLR”) are becoming increasingly common in many cultures. In a female-led relationship, as you might expect, the woman takes on the dominant position, with the man taking a more submissive role that has, traditionally and for many, many years, been seen as the female role.

In such a partnership, the woman makes all or most of the decisions within the relationship, exerts more authority, and holds more power in the relationship. This tends to mean that the woman takes the lead in every area, from family finances to marital intimacy. In fact, she may well be the one who proposes marriage or initiates new levels of the partnership, such as moving in together.

Women in female-led relationships may or may not earn more money than their male partners, but they will certainly tend to be in charge of the finances, making decisions about spending, saving, and investing, with no or minimal input from their partners. In a female-led relationship, the woman will take on managing the couple’s money and have the final say on personal finance decisions.

It is, of course, not unusual for couples to appoint one partner or another to manage finances. Often it’s simply the one who’s best at it or who likes to do it, regardless of gender. In a true female-led relationship, however, the role is definitely linked to a balance of power within the relationship that’s the opposite of what we expect from traditional gender roles.

Just as in a traditional, male-led partnership, there are variations within female-led relationships, and while there are no rules to how you run your romantic relationship, couples in female-led relationships will probably find they fit into one of the following categories.

Mildly Female-Led Relationships

In this relationship, the couple may appear to have fairly balanced roles, but on closer inspection, the woman is calling a lot of the shots a lot of the time. She may, for example, control the joint finances and make most of the decisions when it comes to household spending.

It’s the type of relationship that may suit a couple if the female partner likes to have the final say on things and the male partner doesn’t like to have too much responsibility. This is a fairly common situation and may go some way to explaining why research consistently shows that women drive 70-80% of all consumer purchasing decisions in the US and other similar economies.

Moderately Female-Led Relationships

As you would expect, in this type of relationship, the woman has a moderate level of power and responsibility and will tend to take on more of the major household decisions, including how the household income is spent, saved, and invested. There may still be some discussion and compromise, but ultimately the woman has more impact on most important decisions.

This may suit couples where natural personality differences mean that the woman is far more comfortable making major decisions than the man is, and the man is happy for the woman to have the majority of both the power and the responsibility in the relationship.

Extremely Female-Led Relationships

In these relationships, the woman tends to have total control and shows extreme dominance, often not asking for or considering any input from her partner. As most of us are aware, an extreme imbalance of power and control in a relationship is not generally a healthy thing, but there are relationships where one partner may completely control an aspect of a relationship, such as finances, with the full consent of the other partner who is simply not interested in money management and doesn’t want to be involved.

Even in this situation, many would argue this is not a healthy relationship. All adults should know the basics when it comes to managing money and should be aware of where their money is and how it is used. Apart from anything else, it can leave the non-dominant partner vulnerable in the case of divorce or bereavement, unable to budget for themselves and manage day-to-day finances, and even unaware of where some of their investments are.

Are There Advantages to a Female-Led Relationship When It Comes to Finances?

It is, of course, never fair to individuals to make generalizations based on gender. Some people are good with money, and some people are terrible at making financial decisions, regardless of their gender. However, statistically, there are reasons that a female-led relationship makes sense when it comes to the average couple’s finances.

Research shows that overall, women are more financially responsible than men, more likely to stick to a budget, and less likely to spend on impulse purchases.

Further research shows that statistically speaking, women spend less and generally handle money better than men. Some might argue that this could be because men are more likely to make big purchases, such as buying homes, but again, statistics suggest that simply isn’t the case.

In fact, after couples, who make up the majority of home buyers in the US, women are significantly more likely to buy a home than men. Single women account for 19% of home purchases, whereas single men only account for 9%. And that is in spite of a gender pay gap that sees the average woman earning significantly less than the average man.

Ultimately, the best person to take on the power and responsibility that comes with being the major decision-maker in the relationship is simply the person whose personality, skill set, and natural tendencies suit the role. This doesn’t, of course, depend on gender, but there are still plenty of traditional ideas out there that tell us that the guys should be in charge. If you’re in a female-led relationship and it’s working well for you both, don’t let society tell you you need to do it differently.

Hiring a Financial Advisor for Female-Led Households

Whether a household is led by a man or woman, hiring a financial advisor can be a smart move. Beyond their role in designing a personalized financial plan for couples they work with, financial advisors can also help bridge communication gaps and ensure both partners in a relationship gain confidence in their money situation no matter who is calling the final shots.

You’ll likely find dozens of nearby financial advisors well-suited to help you reach your money goals with a personalized plan. But it may be more difficult to find a financial advisor who specializes in serving female-led households.

Fortunately, many financial advisors offer virtual services so you can meet online no matter where you (or they) live. This means you can choose to hire a specialist financial advisor who lives hundreds of miles away if you decide their knowledge and experience working with couples in female-led households is more comfortable and a better fit to help with your particular financial planning needs.

Ask the Experts: Financial Advisors Share Smart Tips for Female-Led Households

For additional insights, we invited financial advisors in the Wealthtender community who specialize in working with clients in female-led households to share a common financial planning challenge unique to women in female-led households and how they help them overcome this obstacle. Here’s what they said:

Emily Rassam, CFP®, CRPS, AIFA, NSSA, CDAA Intentional, Heart-Centered Financial Planning for High-Achieving Professionals

Many women choose to work with me after a bad past relationship with a financial advisor. In my experience, it’s all-too-common that an advisor condescendingly addressed their partner as the primary, talked over them, or treated them like “a little old lady.”

During initial conversations with a new client, I take the time to understand the personality styles of the household members and who takes on the primary responsibilities of managing the finances. It is important to recognize how each individual wants to be addressed and how they communicate. We elicit responses from the non-primary member as well and will often help mediate differences in their answers. The plans and strategies we build must consider both partners’ goals, thoughts, and preferences.

Women, more so than men, face unique challenges in the wealth-building and wealth-preservation processes. Women are more likely to step back from their careers to raise a family, help care for aging parents, and manage the household. To this day, there’s a wage gap where women, especially POC, receive less pay than their male counterparts when applying for and working in the same job with identical experience and credentials. Additionally, women live longer than men and are more often will require expensive long-term care. My female clients are more likely to want to be concerned with holding more money to cover uncertain costs during their final years.

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Emily Rassam, CFP®, CRPS, AIFA, NSSA, CDAA | Archer Investment Management

Philip Weiss, CFA, CPA Helping people invest with purpose, information, and confidence.

Under the traditional model, the husband often manages the family finances. This means he takes primary responsibility for determining how much to save for retirement and how the funds should be invested. In many cases – but not all – he will pay the bills, too. The driver of this approach is that the wife takes the lead role in caring for the children. Sometimes, she helps care for her parents, too. This leaves her a bit removed from the details of the family’s finances. As the kids get older and/or retirement approaches, she starts to ask her spouse questions like the following:

  • Have we saved enough for retirement?
  • Can we pay for our children’s education?
  • What will we be able to do in retirement?

He can’t answer those questions, so she wants to start looking for someone like me who can help. Apprise’s process is called the “Pathway to an Informed Retirement.” (See this video for a brief overview.) During this process, I always remind couples that they should both answer my questions. I want to make sure that their financial plan reflects what they both want. It should not only reflect the ideas of one or the other. I also endeavor to find out what matters most. We don’t just discuss financial matters. At the end of the financial planning process, each client gets a one-page financial plan. This states, “Your Most Important Thing.” It also lists “Your Family Priorities.” You work hard. You save money for your future. You want to make sure how you spend it reflects what matters to you.

During the financial planning process, I also remind couples of the importance of making joint decisions around such things as when to start claiming Social Security benefits. Statistically, a woman is more likely to be a surviving spouse than her husband. As a result, I also remind couples of the benefits that properly timed Roth conversions can provide to a surviving spouse – and even your heirs if there is money left after you’re both gone.

Fortunately, when I talk to younger clients, I find that we are moving away from the traditional model. Women are becoming more actively involved in the family’s finances. I hope this trend continues.

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Philip Weiss, CFA, CPA | Apprise Wealth Management

FAQs about FLRs

What are the best FLR blogs?

Are you looking for useful blogs about female-led relationships? We encourage you to visit these finance blogs for women featuring insights from financial blog owners in the Wealthtender community. Do you have suggestions for additional FLR blogs we should feature here? Let us know by sending an email to with a link to the site, and we’ll consider showcasing it here. (Please keep in mind we’re a site for all ages and not interested in FLR blogs for mature audiences.)

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Karen Banes is a freelance writer specializing in entrepreneurship, parenting and lifestyle. She writes articles, website content, ebooks and the occasional award winning short story. Her work has appeared in a range of publications both online and off, including The Washington Post, Life Info Magazine, Transitions Abroad, Brave New Traveler, Natural Parenting Group, and Copia Magazine. Learn More About Karen

To make Wealthtender free for readers, we earn money from advertisers, including financial professionals and firms that pay to be featured. This creates a conflict of interest when we favor their promotion over others. Learn more. Wealthtender is not a client of these financial services providers.
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