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Are you carrying your share of the emotional labor for your relationship?

Emotional labor, a term used to describe the amount of emotional energy applied in a relationship to sustain it, can manifest as management of your own emotions as well as soothing a partner’s to ensure everyone’s emotional wellbeing is protected and secure. Also included is the emotional labor involved with acting as the first one to connect following an argument, initiating physical and emotional intimacy, planning dates, and following up on family matters such as important appointments and children’s extracurricular activities. Relationships are inherently imperfect and sometimes imbalanced in the carriage of the bulk of emotional labor, but when one person consistently must engage to a greater degree to maintain a smooth-running household, resentment and extreme stress result.

Red flags you’re carrying too much of the emotional labor load

  • You worry all the time. When you feel alone and responsible for everything it causes excessive worry. What if something happens to you?

  • You resent your partner. You may begin to feel anger towards your partner, and those close to you may observe your increased irritability.

  • You feel more like a secretary than a partner. When you command all of the planning for your family, you begin feeling taken advantage of and misused. You no longer feel cherished or respected by your spouse.

  • You’re exhausted. Agitation, anger and sleep deprivation may signal red flags that you’re handling everything which sustains a smoothly running relationship. Often you discover the numerous activities you handle seem invisible to your partner - but that does not negate their importance.

Finding balance to share the emotional labor with your partner:

  1. Explain to your partner how you feel. Discuss the toll fulfilling the role Emotional Labor CEO takes on yourself and the relationship. Explain your desire for more free time to engage in fun activities with your spouse and family. Owning your emotions is an important aspect of advocating for your relationship. Creating a healthy relationship is impossible when you feel resentment for the weight of responsibility of managing every element of your family’s life.

  2. Write down household tasks and divide them. Document all actions required to maintain a smooth running relationship and family and assign each person chores. Children benefit personally and academically when given chores and observing the contribution of all family members, which will relieve you of significant stress.

  3. Copy your partner on emails and texts. If you’re responsible for all social events and kids’ activities begin to include your partner in texts and emails requiring correspondence. Not only will this act offer insight to your partner regarding the load you carry, but it will also encourage them to further engage, relieving you of some of the correspondence burden and freeing your schedule to invest more time in activities most important to you.

  4. Show gratitude for the times one partner must carry more. When you take your partner and their contributions for granted, they may feel invisible to you. It’s important to demonstrate your recognition of those contributions and express it openly to them.

A healthy marriage involves sharing of goals and dreams as well as carrying your share of the emotional labor. Sometimes life happens and it’s impossible to identify an adequate balance, but maintaining awareness of all your partner takes on during this time and expressing your respect and appreciation helps them feel cherished and loved. Take the time to find a balance that works for you, and the emotional load will feel lighter for both of you.


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