I often have couples in my office for counseling where one party is resentful and frustrated by how much ‘work’ they put into the relationship — not only domestic tasks, but also organizing, planning, coaching their partner. This is sometimes referred to as “emotional labour” and it is a hard one to always pinpoint because the person giving more emotional labour often wants to make these contributions…at least at first…but, without balance or boundaries, such ‘giving’ comes at the expense of their emotional health. This Elizabeth Renzetti article outlines the challenges associated with emotional labour, suggesting it is about more than just housework imbalances. She points to a 2017 article in Harpers Bazaar titled “Women Aren’t Nags – We’re Just Fed Up“. Renzetti writes that the article “went viral. Not the kind of viral you’d catch from a non-professionally cleaned house, but the kind that is shared by nearly one million readers – almost all of them women, and I’d bet my unused feather duster on that. The accompanying illustration, quite brilliantly, featured a used yellow rubber glove, its middle finger pointing skyward”.
This article discusses emotional labour in more detail and may help you identify if this is what is going on in your relationship (not always couples but maybe even with friends, family, colleagues and so on). Patterns of emotional labour can lead to overfunctioning and underfunctioning patterns in the relationship, which over time, can lead the overfunctioner feeling resentful, overwhelmed and burnt out, and depressed. This pattern of overfunctioning (and refusing to withdraw from that role which is another story), is often learned and passed on through generations — and would take too long to fully explore here in this post. However, it is fairly safe to say the other party, often has no idea why the other person is suddenly so ‘angry’ and ‘agitated’ with them — particularly since things seemed fine for so long. If you think an imbalance in emotional labour may be ruining your relationship(s), contact me to set up an appointment.