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Overcoming Emotional Labor

Do you live with a partner or roommates and feel that you are the “manager” of the home? Do you feel that you consistently have to pick up after others, or feel that their version of cleaning is not clean at all? Do you feel that you are constantly nagging people to do things around the home? You are not alone!

The feeling of being a household manager, and feeling unappreciated for all of the internal work that is being done to manage the household, is called “emotional labor.” This feeling has been given this name, because in addition to the manual labor of cleaning the house, you also hold the emotions that go into it; such as, feeling overwhelmed when you see unfolded laundry. With emotional labor, you begin to feel that it would almost be easier for you to have all of the responsibilities, because then you know what is and is not done. This may be effective, but often times, this will lead to resentment of the others living in the home. If this resonates with you, do not fear! There are ways to overcome feelings of emotional labor.

Communicate Feelings

If you are feeling that labor is unequally divided, or if you are feeling unappreciated for the things you are doing around the home, it is important to communicate your feelings to the adults that live there. Communicating your feelings about the situation may help your partner or roommates understand the impact that it has on you, and may lead to changing their belief about their part in the home. When communicating your feelings effectively, it is important to present your feelings using “I” statements, and ensure that both perspectives are being heard and understood.

Divide Manual Labor

After you communicate your feelings with your partner, it is beneficial in the relationship to divide household tasks. The division of manual labor could be done by enjoyment of individual tasks, what time each person is home, or other factors that are determined as a source of contention or resentment in the relationship. For instance, if I come home too late to let out the dog, we can come to an agreement that I will let out the dog in the morning, and you let out the dog at night.

Let Go of Control

Phew, you have had a hard conversation and came to an agreement with your partner or your roommate on who will do what within the home, but the work does not stop there. When experiencing emotional labor, a sense of control often comes with the manual labor. If a division of manual labor occurs, the next step is the most important. When the “who does what” is understood by everyone in the home, it will be important to emphasize understanding that person has 100% full control over that task, and they will do it in their own way, on their own time.

Build Trust

If the thought of letting go of control seems daunting, and allowing your partner or roommate to do manual tasks seems terrifying, it will be important for you to build trust with them. Your trust in your partner or roommate may have stemmed from consistent past experiences that have led for you to believe that your partner or roommate is unable, or unwilling to get the job done effectively. Building trust with your partner or roommate is an important step in overcoming emotional labor. Allow room for error, and for them to prove you wrong.

If you work on these steps, you may be able to work on the emotional responsibility you feel in the home. If you are struggling with managing emotional and/or physical labor with your partner or roommate, it may be helpful to connect with a therapist. Contact Symmetry Counseling today to get matched with one of our talented clinicians.

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