I am very inquisitive and curious person. When I talk to my friends in relationships, I inquire about their relationships out of curiosity, but also to check on them.
Many of my friends have husbands who are plugged into the day-to-day. They help with the kids and some of the household duties. While they were praising their husbands for being helpful, they were still bemoaning feeling burdened.
I didn’t understand it until I discovered what French Cartoonist Emma, depicted in the Cartoon, “You Should’ve Asked.” It’s called, Mental Load or Emotional Labor.
In my last relationship, my partner helped with much of the household duties without my prompting or asking him to assist. We agreed on which household duties he was responsible for and which I would handle. He liked to do the dishes and was disturbed by dirty dishes so I allowed him to be concerned with that. He also took responsibility for the trash, cleaned certain rooms and did the laundry. I didn’t even have to think about those things. He did them on his own schedule. I took care of many other things within the house.
But, I also was the Manager of our lives. I managed the finances, researched our big decisions before we agreed to them and kept track of all appointments and special occasions. I would remind him to get his brother a birthday card or even buy the gift myself. I made the doctor’s appointments. I paid the bills. I reviewed our finances to see if we could afford something. I did all the shopping for anything that we needed in the home.
I tried to keep a running list of everything we needed in the house and all of our upcoming appointments. At work, I would have a to-do list for my job and also a to-do list for at home. I planned all our meals and when I felt tired, I would decide we were eating out that night. I mandated that I would cook dinner five days out of the week. One day of the week, he agreed to cook and the other day it wasn’t my responsibility what he ate. I mentally, needed two days to not feel like it was my job to decide what we would eat.
I didn’t consider it Emotional Labor, because I loved him. But, I also marveled at how he was comfortable allowing me to be in charge of keeping up with everything. Don’t get me wrong. I consider myself lucky. My ex was helpful and he seemed to understand that he needed to ease my mind sometimes. And, he did other thoughtful things for me when he saw I needed a break.
But, not all women have partners who relieve them of the mental load. I also didn’t have multiple children to keep up with as well. Many Moms are keeping track of their husband’s needs, the needs of the home and the schedules and needs of multiple children. They are reminding everyone of what they should be doing or where they need to be. It can be mentally taxing to have to ask someone to do something to alleviate one task from their busy schedule.
People have a tendency to not think how challenging something might be for someone else and get used to being taken care of. Eventually, they can convince themselves that a person wants to take care of everything. And, they mentally relieve themselves of keeping track or even think of how things are taken of.
In their mind, when the ketchup runs out, a new one just magically appears when they are ready to eat their french fries or hot dog. In the mind of the lady of the house, when she sees there is no ketchup (because maybe no one will tell her until she goes to eat her hot dog), she adds it to her to-do list. She goes to work and then before she arrives home, she has to stop and pick up a couple of things. She searches the aisles and her brain for all the things she stored in her mind that is needed in the house.
She walks into the house with bags every single day, but no one hardly notices as they are in their own little world. And, she places ketchup in the pantry for the next time they want to eat something that needs ketchup.
Letting your partner carry the mental load can lead to resentment building up whether she protests or not. Some women try to express their frustration but will stop when they feel like they are being perceived as nagging.
But, suffering in silence has its consequences. Women who feel unheard or taken for granted by a partner or household may find it difficult to simultaneously desire their partner sexually. Sex for women begins in the mind and then translates to the body. If she is mentally exhausted, there is less capability to switch into a sexy mode. Plus, who can think about sex with someone who isn’t sharing the load?
Often, women reject help because they don’t want to take the time to explain their needs over and over again. This backfires because then people stop asking while thinking that she doesn’t want help. But, what they really want is someone to just do it, like Nike.
How can relieve your partner? She probably doesn’t even know she is doing it. And, she probably doesn’t know how to stop doing it. You either have to have a discussion about it and bring it to her attention. Or, take more of an interest in how she gets things done. Ask questions. And, then offer to do things until she allows you to handle it.
Where you can falter in this area is to ask her to let you take over something then take forever to do it. Now, she has to worry about it getting done. Or, make a half-hearted attempt to do it and then she ends up doing it anyway. You are not taking the burden but creating more mental work on her part.
If she can fully trust you to handle it, then she will not think about it and it is one thing less that she has to care about. Now, she has the ability to smile when she sees you.
I explained to my ex when I asked him to do something and he took weeks to complete it that it felt like he was ignoring me and that he didn’t want to do it so he was procrastinating. He said that wasn’t it at all. He agreed to be more proactive.
After that, anytime I asked him to do something, he said, “I’m on it.” And he would do it immediately. He was almost like a cartoon character. I would just see a puff of smoke.
However, I would also exhale and mentally check it off my list as done.
But, again, I was a lucky girl.
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