I'm all about putting effort into relationships. Doing small things for your significant other to show you care is part of... being in a relationship. This doesn't have to be something with monetary value, but showing feelings is really part of the deal, here. But there could potentially be a point where you're putting forth too much emotional effort. You may be wondering what are some signs you're doing too much emotional labor in your relationship, and well, I'm here to help you find out.
I spoke with Joshua Klapow, Ph.D. clinical psychologist and host of "The Kuree and Klapow Show" about emotional labor in relationships. He spoke to how difficult it could be to measure emotions — quantifying something that only exists in your mind and heart is definitely subjective. But, if you're feeling like you're the one lifting most of the emotional weight with your partner, it's of course worth addressing the imbalance with them. You'll want to bring up any issues you think your partner has with emotional labor in your relationship through a calm conversation — but more on that later. Here are the signs are that you exert too much emotional labor in your relationship, according to Klapow, and strategies to fix the issue (which, I know, sounds like just another item on your to-do list).
Something people often associate emotional labor with is putting effort into doing things. Klapow says it's not just one person in a relationship "doing" something like: making plans, texting, or buying gifts.
"In reality, emotional labor is the energy put forth [toward] the person as well," he says. He elaborates, describing emotional labor as "worrying about their wellbeing, thinking about what might be a nice surprise, feeling for them when they are struggling."
Furthermore, all things could be equal in "doing," Klapow says, but unbalanced when it comes to emotional labor.
Klapow says you could communicate your concerns to your partner, but know that going in, the discussion may not necessarily go how you want. He says that since emotional labor can be an "abstract and intangible" thing, it could be difficult to prove you're putting forth more than your partner.
"Communicating about emotional investment is critical but can be tricky," Klapow says. "It very often gets to a discussion around what each person is 'doing' versus how they feel." But, he says, emotional labor is about feelings and less about the doing. "So it’s important to talk not just about how much planning, gift buying, texting is going on, but also how much you each think about each other, anticipate each other’s needs and wants and desires. Very often the person who is not investing as much emotional labor will tend [to] also not think about and feel for the other partner as frequently."
By having a conversation about emotional labor, and how much you're both putting forth, Klapow says "it’s about incorporating your partner’s emotional needs into your awareness."
Maybe agree to observe and become more aware about how thoughtful the other is being, if you think that's an issue for the two of you. Klapow suggests to be kind and thoughtful – he says it's just "as important as how many times you plan dinner."
Klapow suggests if the conversation doesn't do much to talk to a professional. "These conversations and the strategies to get back in balance can be learned from a psychologist or other therapist who specializes in relationships," he says. "If one partner sees the imbalance and is not willing to work however – the relationship is doomed."
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