Emotional Labor

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Emotional Labor

Post by fakely mctest on Sat Mar 19, 2016 9:49 pm

So a perennial brain topic for me is basically whether I might ever find an actual partner in the full sense of that word. Ideal scenario is: yes, of COURSE, Fakely, that is a thing that will happen for you! I guess it's just that TBH, the older I get (and I suppose this year I will officially be "pushing 40") the less I think the actual reality of an actual SO seems all that appealing. The part of my romantic nature that hasn't been metaphorically crushed under a rockfall is still holding out hope that maybe I could meet someone who could be a true partner, where we make each others' lives easier and more wonderful in a number of ways both practical and intangible. But taking an honest look at literally every serious relationship I've ever had, I end up doubling my own emotional work without any sort of reciprocation. The one time I lived with a guy I also ended up doubling my grocery bill (at a time where I was SEVERELY underemployed) because he found running errands at large stores "dehumanizing."

IDK, as someone who ends up in the cruise director role a lot (and I really try not to step up for EVERYTHING, I swear), this epic Metafilter thread on emotional labor resonated with me. A condensed PDF version. I'd like to think that I'd leave the partner's family birthday stuff up to any hypothetical partner, but that is literally the tip of the iceberg. I find it's the more day-to-day stuff that's most wearing, but maybe that's also because basically all the guys I've dated for any length of time feel the need to give me a kind of unasked for exit interview where they tell me all the things about me/the relationship that didn't work for them? Is that even a regular thing that happens to people?

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Re: Emotional Labor

Post by Wondering on Sat Mar 19, 2016 10:13 pm

Is an exit interview a regular thing that happens to people? I would say no, but I've only had two boyfriends, one my stalker-ex and one my husband, so I don't have a lot of personal experience. I haven't heard of this happening to my friends, though.

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Re: Emotional Labor

Post by Enail on Sat Mar 19, 2016 11:45 pm

Wow, unasked-for exit interviews, WTF!? That would be so infuriating, whether you were the breakup-er or the breakup-ee! I've never heard of that being a regular thing, I very much hope it's just that you've had a run of odd bad luck that is now totally, 100% over and will never have that happen again.

Holy shit, that thread was depressing. I don't even know what to say about it, it's just so... No
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Re: Emotional Labor

Post by BasedBuzzed on Sun Mar 20, 2016 6:32 am

>grocery shopping is dehumanizing
For the love of Zod.

That said, that EL doc makes me want to run screaming, even with virtues-aren't-rules in the back of my head. Speaking as a dude, it reads like a "the straitjacket of masculinity is bad for you, so here's another that's more comfortable" variation.

Asking for emotional labour makes you feel guilty, even confessing that guilt just means asking for more emotional labour, not asking for emotional labour just means that it gets taken care of anyway because dudettes are brought up to spot where it is needed, reciprocating or giving out emotional labour can be presumptive and condescending, even posting this reaction is hijacking.

This is, of course, overthinking, and the additional angst that this type of guide can be handily converted into a gaslighting manual is more due to the fact that gaslighting can be done with anything rather than the guide itself.

Someone not communicating their needs is not one's fault. Getting a sense for the tasks we shove onto women because lol, that's the way we've always done it, does not mean you have to suddenly be a mind reader. You will screw up anyway, no sense in angsting over it. There's no reason why a dude's typical solve-the-dilemma/cheer-her-up instead of lending-a-listening-ear can't be classified as emotional labour (regardless of C1 dismissing it, that section's on point by simply saying "ask"). There is no hivemindset for dudettes, so not desiring this reciprocation is also perfectly fine if you don't expect it (all the one-of-the-guys gals will match up perfectly with this type, and I don't mean that in a condescending tone).

(as always, nuke if derailing)

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Re: Emotional Labor

Post by reboundstudent on Sun Mar 20, 2016 3:38 pm

I'm completely with you on this. I always dreamed of having marriage, kids.... But the last 6 months I've started to severely doubt that any relationship I am in could ever be one where I wasn't constantly the cruise director (much of that may stream from my own personality; even when I am consciously working against it, I seem to project a "I am in charge" persona and make people feel they can/have to leave all decisions and forward momentum up to me) and there was any level of equal emotional labor reciprocity. Should I be single again, I've started to lean heavily towards never having kids, and being wary of touching a live-in romantic relationship with a ten-foot pole. I just don't know that I'm strong enough or "woman" enough to ever be what it seems is expected in me by the vast majority of men.

My heart has started to feel cynical and hard; even as I fight it, a big part of me thinks "To be in a relationship as a modern woman, you have to be willing to do the majority of the relationship heavy lifting." It seems like so many of my lady friends have no problem with doing just that.... they seem to excel at juggling not only their own needs, but doing the lion's share of satisfying the needs of their relationship and their household and their jobs and looking fabulous while doing it. I think, perhaps, I am just broken as a woman that I cannot do this. Or too selfish, with too high of standards.

Maybe... maybe this is just the state of relationships these days. Be the cruise director, or be single.

Sorry. Not super optimistic. Hopefully it helps to hear you're not alone in feeling this way. :-/
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Re: Emotional Labor

Post by Enail on Sun Mar 20, 2016 4:08 pm

Oh, man, RBS, that you're considering the idea that not being willing/able to do the majority of what should be two peoples' worth of responsibilities yourself means you're broken or selfish, just makes my heart hurt.  I'm lucky enough to be able to skip that kind of dynamic IRL, but I'm 100% sure if that makes a person broken or selfish, I would be broken and selfish as hell if I was in that position, so broken/selfish solidarity, I guess? Wink (By which I really mean, I don't think I'm broken or selfish for that, and I don't think think you are either.)
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Re: Emotional Labor

Post by Werel on Sun Mar 20, 2016 4:15 pm

BasedBuzzed wrote:Getting a sense for the tasks we shove onto women because lol, that's the way we've always done it, does not mean you have to suddenly be a mind reader. You will screw up anyway, no sense in angsting over it.
I can get with "no sense angsting," if the dude applying this advice to himself is capable of still making an effort without angst as a motivator. "Don't take this and immediately run to 'I'M THE WORST, STONE ME TO DEATH' instead of 'I'm capable of doing better and I'm going to try'" is also good advice. I'm pretty sure you're not advocating carte blanche for dudes* to make zero effort to improve their behavior, right?

*and/or women and/or non-binary people who capitalize on others' emotional labor without reciprocity or acknowledgment. Jerks in general.

BasedBuzzed wrote:reciprocating or giving out emotional labour can be presumptive and condescending,
I haven't finished the honors thesis that is that PDF yet, but is that really one of the takeaways? Section V.C. was just anecdotes praising moments when dudes step up and do emotional labor. Seemed like pure "that's supah, thanks" rather than "HOW DARE."

BasedBuzzed wrote:There's no reason why a dude's typical solve-the-dilemma/cheer-her-up instead of lending-a-listening-ear can't be classified as emotional labour
It can certainly be classified as emotional labor, and it can be useful labor iff it's what's wanted by the cheer-up-ee. But I think part of the gist of the thread was that often, dudes may be willing to do the emotional labor of solve-it/cheer-up, but not the emotional labor of gauging the reaction they get and course-correcting as necessary. People who do good emotional labor will not just approach the problem in whatever way is most comfortable/easy for them; they'll try an approach, perceive how that approach is affecting their interlocutor, and try something else if necessary. Just trying "solve the problem," having it not be what comfort-ee needs, and throwing up one's hands like "I TRIED, NOTHING WORKED" is not equivalent emotional labor to "Cheer-up puppy videos? No? How bout rational steps to fix problem? No? How bout silent tender hugs? No? How bout blunts and IHOP and karaoke in the car? Okay!"

reboundstudent wrote:Maybe... maybe this is just the state of relationships these days. Be the cruise director, or be single.
That's kinda heartbreaking, RBS. I don't know if it's annoying or helpful to hear that there are hetero dudes out there who are capable of doing high-quality emotional labor in the long-term, but I am extremely grateful to have found one and can vouch that they exist. I don't think you should resign yourself to feeling like an unpaid cruise director for the rest of your life--it's hard to imagine what lies in that direction other than massive amounts of resentment--nor should you feel defective because you're not willing to do that. You're not defective or broken for wanting a partner instead of a ward, and you're definitely, definitely not asking too much. I don't know how one goes about finding that dude other than sheer dumb luck, but I hope it happens for you (and fakely, and everybody else who is great and deserves it).
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Re: Emotional Labor

Post by Hirundo Bos on Sun Mar 20, 2016 6:15 pm

RBS, I agree with Enail and Werel in that it doesn't sound broken to me when someone doesn't want to, or enjoy having to do that kind of work for their partner. It rather sounds like you're the one being asked to much of. I'm sorry to hear it is that way.

As for BazedBuzzed, as I read you, you raise some questions about the other side, the men's side, of the emotional work-imbalance. And I think there's and interesting conversation to be had there (though it might require a good amount of privilege-checking). I do however think it is a separate discussion from the one that goes on here, and would maybe be better suited for a thread of it's own? If you'd like to continue the conversation let me know, and I'll see if I can figure out how to split the threads.
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Re: Emotional Labor

Post by fakely mctest on Tue Mar 22, 2016 12:44 pm

Enail wrote:Wow, unasked-for exit interviews, WTF!? That would be so infuriating, whether you were the breakup-er or the breakup-ee! I've never heard of that being a regular thing, I very much hope it's just that you've had a run of odd bad luck that is now totally, 100% over and will never have that happen again.

I hope so too, but I just don't know.  What I do know is that I'm too neat, too organized, plan too much, won't lie to a person who's always at least 30 minutes late and tell them I will meet them at a time that is 30 minutes earlier than I plan to be there, am not fun, have too little body hair, own cats, am not "on the path," am TOO fun, shop for household items in advance of running out of them instead of getting them at 7 11 after they've run out, don't like having sweat dripped on me if I'm not also sweaty, sometimes keep my hair short, would get more attention as a blonde, talk too much, use words that sometimes people don't understand, drive stick when [EX] can't and that makes him feel emasculated, can talk to a sommelier when [EX] can't and that makes him feel emasculated, am not always down for sex, enjoy fancy restaurants at times, talk about racism too much, enjoy holding hands, etc. etc. etc.  cheers

Just yesterday I asked a friend to make a dinner reservation because I'm slammed this week and especially I was slammed yesterday between when I left work at 3 and got home at 10.  We'd agreed on a place and date.  When I looked at my phone after an appointment I had SEVEN messages asking what time he should book for, so I had to handle that, and then he texted again when they only had one time available and I had to tell him yes please go ahead.  In the end, I should have just done the whole thing myself I guess because it was more stressful being bombarded with questions than it would have been if I'd just found time to arrange everything.

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Re: Emotional Labor

Post by Enail on Tue Mar 22, 2016 12:56 pm

So basically, they don't like that you're awesome?!? That sounds super-frustrating and hurtful to hear from someone you've been dating, but most of those things sound like compliments to me, and the ones that aren't sound like them being weirdly specific assholes. Holy shit, you deserve better than that! :shout:
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Re: Emotional Labor

Post by Wondering on Tue Mar 22, 2016 1:27 pm

I just asked my husband: "Do you feel emasculated because I can drive a stick and you can't?" His response: "What? No." with his WTF, that's insane facial expression.

So, yeah, if you didn't know already, that's a problem with the guy, not you. And there are guys out there not like that.

Also, "you talk too much" is usually a pretty good sign of sexism at the very least, misogyny at worst.

I think you and I might get along great in the planning portion, at least, if we were friends. I can't stand other people making plans because they don't! As Enail said, those traits do sound awesome. Smile Keep doing you! And I hope you don't have to experience this sort of thing again.

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Re: Emotional Labor

Post by reboundstudent on Tue Mar 22, 2016 4:30 pm

Seconding Enail and Wondering that those traits sound awesome!! Being able to understand wine is one of those traits I really envy in other folks (but am too lazy to cultivate personally); you sound sophisticated as hell to me.

Though, what the hell does "on the path" mean??
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Re: Emotional Labor

Post by waxingjaney on Tue Mar 22, 2016 6:24 pm

I wonder if the insecure complaints from underachievers are comorbid with less galling traits that Fakely does find appealing. Must be some reason she's had such a long run of dingleberries in her life.
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Re: Emotional Labor

Post by fakely mctest on Tue Mar 22, 2016 10:22 pm

reboundstudent wrote:Seconding Enail and Wondering that those traits sound awesome!! Being able to understand wine is one of those traits I really envy in other folks (but am too lazy to cultivate personally); you sound sophisticated as hell to me.

Though, what the hell does "on the path" mean??

Thank you! I don't know vineyards as such, more in terms of I know I prefer mineral to grassy dry in a white and I like Alsatian rieslings so it's easy for me to have a conversation where I'm like: I like X, Y, and Z, what do you recommend, although my one, solid tip as it gets into rosé season is that Alexander Valley Vineyards dry rosé of Sangiovese is totally delicious. It's not over dry and it has these really refreshing almost lemony notes that are just awesome.

"On the path" was from when I got dumped by a Buddhist (right before I was on my way to NYC for a friend's wedding -- SO FUN) because I'm not Buddhist.

waxingjaney wrote:I wonder if the insecure complaints from underachievers are comorbid with less galling traits that Fakely does find appealing. Must be some reason she's had such a long run of dingleberries in her life.

I'm trying to think of commonalities but the best I got is "eclectic" in some way: interests and thinkers. There've been artists, bartenders, a line cook with a masters in medieval military history, a couple astrophysicists, a guy with an MBA who runs one of the bus repair garages for my city's transit system, a journalist, a lawyer, a commodities trader. The issue may be that while I have a lot of artistic and cultural interests, I'm also extremely conscientious. I want to go out and do and see things, but, for me, that requires planning.

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Re: Emotional Labor

Post by reboot on Wed Mar 23, 2016 9:06 am

Have you ever dated a fellow cruise director? If no, there might be a way to screen for this type of thing early. If yes, how did it go?
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Re: Emotional Labor

Post by fakely mctest on Thu Mar 24, 2016 12:03 pm

reboot wrote:Have you ever dated a fellow cruise director? If no, there might be a way to screen for this type of thing early. If yes, how did it go?

Probably the most planning guy I ever went out with was the "box stores are dehumanizing," toilet paper at the 7-11  guy. I swear I am not exaggerating for comic effect.  When we first started dating we actually kept a list of things we wanted to do because we'd end up saying, "Oh, we should do X" in the course of a conversation and actually wanted to follow up.  

Eventually we moved in together, which was at a time where I'd just gotten back from living abroad for grad school.  It was an extremely difficult period for me, emotionally and financially and health-wise, and it took me a really long time to find a job with a sustainable income.  So basically I tried to keep my expenditures to rent, food, and household sundries.  The one time I convinced him to come on a Target run with me (because we didn't see a lot of each other and weekend time was precious), he spent the entire time in a mood.

When we broke up, he told me he had a choice between having fun and hanging out with me.  So, as it turns out, he was okay with planning for things he considered fun, but the mundane was a nonstarter.

That's the bit that I think slots into what studies generally reveal about domestic labor overall: that the unpleasant or mind-numbingly routine things fall disproportionately onto the shoulders of women.

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Re: Emotional Labor

Post by Xexyz on Thu Mar 31, 2016 4:53 pm

The idea of emotional labor is probably one of the primary reasons I've always remained single. Like a lot of the guys mentioned in that metafilter thread, I think a lot of those little emotional labor tasks are stupid and would resent doing them. Also, I would resent and dislike anyone doing any of those emotional labor tasks on my behalf, so it just feels like a lose-lose proposition to me.

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Re: Emotional Labor

Post by Hirundo Bos on Thu Mar 31, 2016 8:33 pm

<mod>Xexys, whether or not you personally want someone to perform emotional labor for you or on your behalf, being expected to perform that kind of labor is something other people here are facing, and that is the main topic for this thread. There is another active thread that's better suited for other aspects of this discussion. </mod>
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Re: Emotional Labor

Post by fakely mctest on Thu Mar 31, 2016 10:27 pm

I think sometimes the "emotional" bit can trip people up? Like it makes people think that it's "just" maintaining social bonds (scare quotes there because maintaining social bonds is really dang important) and that therefore they can take it or leave it, as if the solution is to go full on Stylite and commence with carving your desert pole. When really it's basically: who is noticing things that need doing or anticipating future tasks or figuring out logistics before anything concrete even happens?

And I do these things for myself as a single person because, even if grocery shopping isn't the most exciting thing that could ever happen, it makes my near-future life easier to know that I have the ingredients to make dinner to feed myself. I keep my apartment tidy in part because one of my cats sees anything out of place/on the floor as his property and acts accordingly, but also in part because I find tidiness calming. I mend and re-dye my clothes and use mink oil on my shoes and a beeswax mixture on my cutting boards and wooden utensils because care makes things last longer and look better.

No one particularly enjoys doing laundry! But who's going to do it if someone doesn't step up?

And mostly I don't mind doing these things for myself. I don't really hate doing these things because that...just doesn't enter into the way I think about them. They have to be done, ergo I will do them. I don't have the luxury of opting out of things I don't like; I don't even feel I have the luxury of thinking about them that way. And I hope this doesn't come off as a pity party: I'm a very capable and conscientious person in general and always have been, so accomplishing even mundane things does contribute to my puffed up idea of myself Wink wink nudge nudg . There are just times when I wish there was someone else to help, but that's not anything I've encountered personally.

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Re: Emotional Labor

Post by Enail on Thu Mar 31, 2016 11:16 pm

And even the more actual emotional part of "emotional," it's also not only stuff like sending cards, maintaining bonds with distant relatives that a lot of people don't necessarily care about and rituals that seem old-fashioned. Those are just some of the more codified expressions of being considerate to the people in your life, thinking of and doing the things that make life smooth and comfortable for someone else where it would otherwise be little annoyances and things they'd have to think of themselves and the minor competing interests that people have all the time.

For the beneficiary of emotional labour, it's not getting birthday presents that make you think wtf did they get me that for, it's not having to explain every single time that no, you can't see the movie first and get dinner after because you'll get shaky if you don't eat, it's the dozens of irritating communication snarls and moments of thoughtlessness and selfishness and feeling uncared-for that don't happen. Which I think is why it's so often invisible when emotional labour is unequal; you don't notice the pains you don't have.
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Re: Emotional Labor

Post by fakely mctest on Thu Mar 31, 2016 11:41 pm

Enail wrote:For the beneficiary of emotional labour, it's not getting birthday presents that make you think wtf did they get me that for, it's not having to explain every single time that no, you can't see the movie first and get dinner after because you'll get shaky if you don't eat, it's the dozens of irritating communication snarls and moments of thoughtlessness and selfishness and feeling uncared-for that don't happen. Which I think is why it's so often invisible when emotional labour is unequal; you don't notice the pains you don't have.

That's a really good way to put it! I remember in elementary school there was a section on everyone's report card that had to do with social skills and one of the criteria that we were graded on was "shows consideration for others." That's really the gist of it, but "consideration" is a relatively small word for a large swath of things; things that have to do with being seen and being valued and being thought of in a way that feels essential.

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Re: Emotional Labor

Post by Wondering on Fri Apr 01, 2016 1:14 am

For me, a big part of my issue with emotional (planning?) labor beyond what has already been said here about partners' expectations is the general societal expectations and assumptions.

When my mom or mother-in-law, or the plumber or cable guy, come to the house and notice the bathroom is dirty, the assumption is that this is my failing in not cleaning sufficiently. In that case, they'd be correct. But when there is dog hair all over the floor because it hasn't been vacuumed as recently as it should have, the assumption is also that this is my failing, and in that case, it's wrong. Because vacuuming is my husband's job.

This is a burden women face that even men who do emotional labor don't: That, in general, when the planning or task isn't done, everyone else considers that the woman's failing, even when it isn't.

When I go to my parents' house, they ask me all the questions about what the baby's allowed or able to do or can have, even if I'm in the middle of fixing myself some diabetic-necessary food and my husband is right there next to the baby. Expectation on me, regardless.

So, even if you have a partner who's pulling his weight in emotional labor, in my experience, it won't matter to anyone else outside your relationship. You'll still be found wanting.

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Re: Emotional Labor

Post by fakely mctest on Fri Apr 01, 2016 10:52 am

I should probably stop reading things (although that doesn't mean they go away):

Consider, for example, gender role expectations. Millennials may be marrying later, but 40% of Millennials are parents and, as parents, neo-traditionalists. A Pew Research study revealed that 35% of Millennial men without kids think women should “take care of the home and children,” compared to only 26% of Gen Xers and 21% of men older than 45. That number jumps to 53% after Millennial men have children. Prior to having children, 24% of Millennial men, who over all tend to have the most gender-equal ideas and aspirations of any generation measured, say they expect to have equal responsibility for childcare. The percentage drops to 8% after the birth of a child.

Wondering wrote:When I go to my parents' house, they ask me all the questions about what the baby's allowed or able to do or can have, even if I'm in the middle of fixing myself some diabetic-necessary food and my husband is right there next to the baby. Expectation on me, regardless.

I have been witness to some of this with my brother and his wife and it drives me BANANAS. Insofar as I have tried to discuss some legit concerns I have about my retired mom's finances only to have him do the thing that he basically always does and use it as a chance to one up me ("You're concerned? Imagine how [wife] and I feel because we're on the hook for the money" -- yes, yes, let's definitely get into how you make more money than me, this seems like the time). My stepmother and father's opinion is basically like, "You should always talk to [wife] about things like that because she's more receptive."

Run in circles flail

It's not her job to be the buffer because my brother can't have a normal person conversation about an important issue relating to a blood relative.

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Re: Emotional Labor

Post by reboundstudent on Fri Apr 01, 2016 2:55 pm

Wondering wrote:For me, a big part of my issue with emotional (planning?) labor beyond what has already been said here about partners' expectations is the general societal expectations and assumptions.

When my mom or mother-in-law, or the plumber or cable guy, come to the house and notice the bathroom is dirty, the assumption is that this is my failing in not cleaning sufficiently. In that case, they'd be correct. But when there is dog hair all over the floor because it hasn't been vacuumed as recently as it should have, the assumption is also that this is my failing, and in that case, it's wrong. Because vacuuming is my husband's job.

This is a burden women face that even men who do emotional labor don't: That, in general, when the planning or task isn't done, everyone else considers that the woman's failing, even when it isn't.

When I go to my parents' house, they ask me all the questions about what the baby's allowed or able to do or can have, even if I'm in the middle of fixing myself some diabetic-necessary food and my husband is right there next to the baby. Expectation on me, regardless.

So, even if you have a partner who's pulling his weight in emotional labor, in my experience, it won't matter to anyone else outside your relationship. You'll still be found wanting.

Oh God I feel you SO HARD on this. Along with household chores, somehow the social planning (when it's mutual friends) also seems to fall on me. Like, if we haven't seen mutual friends in a while, the unspoken assumption seems to be that I failed at reaching out to reconnect the social structures. This is particularly grating since many of our mutual friends have made it abundantly clear that they prefer my partner over me, and yet somehow, I'm the one responsible for arranging the gatherings. Ugh, drives me up the wall.
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Re: Emotional Labor

Post by Wondering on Fri Apr 01, 2016 5:39 pm

I think this part may stand out the most for me because my husband does do his share of the emotional/planning labor. It's just that no one else expects him to, so when he doesn't get a task done (because no one's perfect), I'm the one considered lacking by others.

And he gets annoyed that no one asks him questions about the baby.

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Re: Emotional Labor

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