Emotional labor is real but often is invisible. Emotional labor is the little things that go entirely unappreciated in a relationship but is required to do to run an efficient household. It is all the effort needed to do the grocery shopping, managing the children’s schedules, and doing all the holiday shopping. However, it is not just the stress of executing the tasks; it is the planning and organizing of all of them as well.
Too much emotional labor can leave your spouse feeling stressed, burned out, and exhausted. They may also feel resentful if they feel unseen and unappreciated, even if you are a great spouse otherwise. In your marriage, you must help take on the workload your spouse carries. Research has found that even if a mother is working full time, she is often more likely to be doing more chores around the house than the dad. Here is how you can help them carry the burden.
Pay attention to what your spouse does.
Emotional labor often feels invisible, but with a keen eye, it is easy to spot. Pay closer attention to what your spouse makes every day and the list of things you ask them to do. You will quickly start to realize all the little things that add up. If you are unsure where to look, ask your spouse to be more vocal about the extra works they take on. For example, get a whiteboard and place it on your fridge. Every day write down all the tasks that you and your spouse need to accomplish. When you see their list, pick a few things you can help them with, so they do not have to do it all on their own. It will also be easier to see exactly how much work they are putting in on a day to day basis.
Act as a team.
Regardless of who takes on what tasks, both partners should always be looking out for things that need to be done and delegating out those tasks. Much like a soccer or football player notices what is going on with their teammates, despite it not being their position, couples should be looking for ways they can step in and do what they can. Even if it is not your day to do laundry, if you have free time and see it piling up, you should feel compelled to jump on it. Please do not ignore it so you can browse on your phone. Do not let it get to the point where your spouse must beg for your help with simple household tasks.
Stop asking them to be the middleman.
The partner in a relationship that handles the most emotional labor also is usually the middleman. For example, say your family hires a dog walker to watch the family dog during the day. On days that you come home early, do you ask your partner to cancel the dog walker, or do you do it? Your partner might accept the responsibility, but, there is no reason that you are not able to tackle the task. Passing tiny chores like this off might not sound like a big thing, but over time they add up. It also leaves room for miscommunication since you are not offering the instructions directly.
Respect their need for self-care.
One of the greatest gifts you can give your partner is a day off to focus on their self-care. Take on all the chores you can see so that they can go to the gym, take a spa day, or lay around on the couch and read their favorite book. Let them go catch up with their best friend or go fishing. Your spouse cannot keep giving to the family if they are always running on empty. Stepping up and taking some of the burdens gives them the time and space to start taking care of themselves more. In turn, they will be more likely to want to serve the family, rather than look at it as an overwhelming hill to climb.
Learn their ways of doing things.
You might have stopped helping take on the burdens around your household because your spouse got mad at you for not doing it a certain way. They may be very picky and want the towels folded a specific way while you could care less as long as it gets done. Instead of not helping all together, see if you can find some common ground with your spouse. Be willing to learn how they like things done and ask them to respectfully lower their expectations a little bit. You cannot replicate precisely how they want things done all the time, because you are not them. However, you can put in the effort.
Your spouse may be holding more burdens than you realize. Take the time to dive deep into their day to day schedule so that you can be a better spouse and help them with their tasks. They will be happier that you stepped up to help, and in turn, will have more energy and time to give back to the family. It is a win-win situation that brings couples closer together.