Male Advice for Emotional Labor Investment in Relationships


Idealistically, every relationship is a result of mutual work and equal efforts. But why do we hear so often from our friends or co-workers, “I am tired carrying this relationship on my shoulders! I wish someone could meet me halfway”?

For a relationship to thrive, both parties have to contribute equally. And we are not talking about financial contribution. Whatever style your couple follows, emotional labor should be an absolute condition. It doesn’t matter what gender you are, what upbringing you had, which limitations society imposes on you. Emotional labor should be equally required by both men and women. Why do we put in effort unequally? How to prevent your relationship from being one-sided?

what is emotional labor

What Is Emotional Labor and Where Did This Term Come from?

The “emotional labor” term was first coined in 1983 by an American sociologist Arlie Hochschild. She wrote about this phenomenon in her book called “The Managed Heart.” At that time, the author explained emotional labor as needing to “induce or suppress feeling to sustain the outward countenance that produces the proper state of mind in others.”

In simple words, emotional labor means constantly doing shadow work and getting no recognition for it. This work can be expressed through many deeds and actions. The basic example of emotional labor is forcing a smile just to save the relationship from bothersome confrontation, always being the only responsible member to communicate with your mutual friend circle, or handling emotions when the other partner is resisting.

The main struggle of this work is that you cannot evaluate mental capability. That’s why it’s hard to define emotional labor. While we can notice, who was responsible for making dinner or who did the groceries the whole week and took responsibility for date ideas, emotional labor is hard to notice. Sometimes “putting effort” is deeply infiltrated in our DNA code, and we are feeling an urge to be “pleasant” and “comfortable” for other people.

Gender Division of Emotional Labor

While physical labor is widely associated with men due to a patriarchal system, women are expected to tackle all the emotional problems in the family, like giving a pep talk to your kid or comforting an ill elder relative. Why do women constantly mother everyone, but these actions are never expected from a male? 

  • Women are believed to be in tune with their emotions. Females are thought of as highly intuitive and sensitive human beings, so it is only “fair” to delegate all the emotional work to people who know their stuff. Men, on the other hand, are often used as a “forceful figure” who can only scare, scold, or give paternal advice. Because these old-fashioned beliefs still live in our minds and are a societal norm, men are never expected to understand anyone. They are expected to work and be a father figure in a traditional sense.
  • Women have a maternal instinct. It is undeniable – women are naturally designed to produce babies and take care of them. However, not every mother is nurturing, and not every woman has to give birth to develop maternal instincts. Insightfulness and attentiveness is a highly individual trait of each person, consequently, it should not be demanded from anyone.

Examples of Emotional Labor That Are Hard to Figure Out

Emotional labor in relationships can get toxic and lead to a total burnout of your girlfriend or wife. That is why you need to track down these things from an emotional labor checklist to understand who is putting more effort emotionally. So before you decide to hop onto hot women dating sites and search for a decent girl, here are some examples of emotional labor no one talks about.emotional labor in relationships

1. One of you is responsible for “the talk”

Usually, every couple has a more mature member who starts “the talk.” Sometimes, this responsibility is interchangeable. It can be solving a problem that hurts both partners, but one of you is surprisingly more interested in sorting things out, while the other avoids doing mental labor and acts childishly. Is this pattern familiar to you? Yes, long discussions about feelings can be annoying and seem redundant. But if no one goes that extra mile, your relationships are doomed to wilt without proper consultancy. Started talking about problems requires serious mental strain, so whoever usually starts it willingly gives away their brain cells, fighting for something another person doesn’t want to hear about.

2. One of you has to nag to get answers

Chronic indecisiveness and aloofness cause lots of problems in a relationship. And while a distant partner doesn’t see a problem in avoiding the issue, they simultaneously put this burden on someone else’s shoulders. Consequently, another partner has no choice but to “pull” these answers out of an emotionally unavailable lover. That can be draining and emotionally damaging.

3. One of you always plays the representative

This is the role that is often imposed on women. Whenever a couple is participating in a social situation, all the “small talk” is expected to be made by a woman, while the man hardly knows what is going on in a family. Women are more likely to call older relatives, invite friends to parties, write Christmas cards, make up a wedding speech and other formal pompous orations because men are considered “not much of a talker.” Moreover, they are expected to call services, invite new neighbors and makeup communication with kid’s teachers. None of these responsibilities are paid for, and they don't bring pleasure to be executed daily and go unnoticed.

4. One of you is searching for a solution

While one partner sulks, pouts their lips and gives the silent treatment, the other one has to come up with a solution to crush this wall of misunderstanding. Being “the seeker” is often degrading and belittling. If you find it easier to close the door while your wife often invents ways to make you stay, it is an example of unequal emotional labor in marriage.

5. One of you constantly complains to their friends

This one is an example of projection. When you find yourself constantly venting about your bad relationship, not willing to express your thoughts in an actual conversation with your partner, it can be a sign that you can do emotional labor in friendships. You would rather share with a third-party than doing emotional labor at home and starting a conflict.

6. One of you doesn’t acknowledge other’s feelings

When your partner doesn’t notice you feeling strained and stressed, it means that you are the one doing emotional labor in a relationship and they don’t. It’s okay to be sad and feel lonely, but why do you have to stay sad and lonely in a committed relationship while putting a façade of happiness on your face? It’s not okay if you go out of your way to notice the smallest changes in your partner’s behavior, but they always manage to belittle or ignore your emotions.

How to Contribute More Emotional Labor in Relationships With Woman

Now that we’ve seen emotional labor examples, let’s see what you can do about it. Doing more emotional labor in relationships is not hard. It only takes some insightfulness and attentiveness to see situations where you or your partner tend to slack. This is how you can manage a relationship equally.

1. Don’t assume your partner will get you

Being silent about your problems yet demanding to be understood poses a great deal of guilt on your partner. Now that they didn’t see your mood swings that one time, they would feel bamboozled. So next time you feel aggravated, don’t wait for it to turn to passive aggression. Just take responsibility and tell about things as they are. Don’t wait for someone to pull these emotions out of you. By the way, bottling them is very damaging for your psyche.emotional labor women

2. Imagine life without your partner

And their daily emotional shadow work. What if you had to call all of your relatives, make an awkward small talk with a baby-sitter, help a neighbor lady with relationship advice and so much more? Men don’t realize this, but a great deal of your couple’s image depends on your wife’s eloquence. Once you realize how many nice words she has to say to random people for your couple to stay relevant, you will be surprised.

3. Resist the temptation to call it quits

Whenever you feel like she’s talking too much, realize that women do it purposely. If she goes on an hour rant about your relationships, noting of it is done just to annoy you. Most of all, your girl wholeheartedly wants you to listen and improve. This is mere lips-flapping and indeed serious psychological work. To do more emotional labor in relationships, you need to be less critical about rants and see them as an attempt to make your couple better.

4. Meet her halfway

When your wife gets angry, although you feel a need to retreat, don’t do it. Be able to weather the storm and get comfortable to get uncomfortable. The happiness of your couple lies outside the comfort zone, so whenever you shut down, close off, and retreat, you automatically disagree to work on your relationship.

5. Stop assuming women are better at emotional labor

This belief is a result of many years of social encoding. Even if your father tried to prove that emotional work is female’s prerogative, second-guess it. There are no things in this world you can do better because you are of a certain gender. If you try to unlock this sensitive side and listen to it, you will soon realize that you are as good at consulting people around the house as your wife is.

6. Don’t be afraid to get mushy

The sensitivity shouldn’t be assigned to one gender either. You know pretty well that men cry too. You have every right to be angry, devastated, scared, depressed, and mushy. Acknowledging your softer side will work wonders. Soon enough you’ll understand that you don’t need to close off and press on people to feel manly. And involving in family drama can be fun too!

7. Show interest in a family feud

What did she say? How did your aunt call her? Involving yourself in family conflicts is something that can be made entertaining. Additionally, you take some weight off your wife’s shoulders, so she doesn’t have to be the one blushing after your kid accidentally called someone “ugly.” Not only mothers can participate in socially awkward situations!

As you can see, women often do shadow work in relationships. And these things are not always present. You can save many years of “happily ever after” by partaking in these actions and acknowledging that everyone should be doing a fair share of emotional labor.