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Emotional Labor: What It Is & How To Do It

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Men’s labor is often defined by work that occurs outside the home, that can be easily quantified and monetized. Domestic labor, or the work that happens in this home, as a part of daily life, is often framed as less valuable, and often unpaid (ignoring monetized domestic labor provided in other people’s homes by women of color). It should be no surprise that in our patriarchal society, domestic labor has and is most often carried out by women. Similarly, emotional labor, or the emotional burden that is carried in order to maintain, sustain, and support a relationship has also typically fallen on women.

Emotional labor is the work of asking how someone’s day was, asking if they are ok, listening to someone complain about their boss despite having had a terrible day with their boss, it is supporting the decisions someone makes, it is taking time to make plans with or phone calls to people we care about, it is taking care of ourselves so that we don’t put the burden of care on others. While reading this post, I saw myself as both the carrier and cause of an emotional burden: I have not always been the most thoughtful roommate, or empathic friend. At times in my intimate relationships, I have been the one carrying the weight, acting as caretaker or homemaker, while putting my needs on the back-burner to prioritize my partner. Relationships require give and take, but without an understanding of emotional labor, the imbalance can becoming damaging. This post–from Miri on Brute Reason, her blog focusing on mental health and social justice–continues a discussion around emotional labor that utilizes tangible examples to define the concept while providing specific techniques we can use to create emotional equity in our relationships.

[Both Miri and The Bridges We Burn do not subscribe to concepts of gender essentialism, and reject any notions that anyone based on gender, sex, or race are naturally more inclined to care-taking or are more emotionally in-tuned. It is important to recognize, however, normalized gender roles, the ways we socialize emotions, and the ways in which we perpetuate negative behaviors in our relationships. Regardless of our gender identity, all of our relationships will strengthen by an increased awareness of emotional labor.]

– Brett Goldberg

Read the full post via Brute Reason.

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