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It’s almost Labor Day – a public holiday on which the US Department of Labor describes as “an annual celebration of the social and economic achievement of American workers”. Regardless of whether you take this demand at face value or see the day off as a government fraudIt is not a bad idea to take the opportunity to look at all the work people do that is not linked to a paycheck and goes largely unnoticed: invisible work.
Invisible work is often called All tasks that one member of a household does to keep it going while their partner and / or the rest of their family are fortunately unaware that these are tasks that need to be done. (Or maybe they know, but they don’t care – which is a whole different problem.)
But that’s not the only kind of invisible work: there is Emotion work, and mental strain. And although these terms are often used interchangeably, there are certain differences. Here’s what you need to know about the difference between emotional work and mental stress, and how to discuss both types with your partner.
What is emotional work?
When the sociologist Dr. Arlie Hochschild first introduced the concept of emotional work in 1983, it referred to “regulating or managing emotional expressions with others as part of one’s professional role,” so Penn State Welding Laboratory.
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But since then the definition has significantly expanded beyond the workplace to include personal relationships with friends, family members, and romantic partners. For example, do you have someone in your life who always comes to you with their problems – or just complains – but never has the time or interest to do the same for you? In this situation you are doing emotional work.
What is mental stress?
Psychological stress, on the other hand, encompasses much more: basically all invisible and intangible tasks that are necessary for running a household, one item Healthline explains.
So it may never occur to your partner that they should do the laundry occasionally, but they can see / feel / smell their freshly cleaned clothes, so they should have an inkling that something must happen for them to appear.
The task of physically washing the laundry is a kind of invisible work. But all of the thoughts and plans that go into it – including the fact that you will do the laundry first – are a mental burden. the Healthline contribution provides a long list of other examples.
How to talk to your partner about emotional work and mental stress
Regardless of what kind of invisible work you bear the brunt of the burden (it can be all of them), it shouldn’t be dealt with by yourself. But this isn’t an easy conversation to have with a partner for a variety of reasons.
Or maybe you’ve tried bringing it up in the past, and Your partner counter either with: “I said I would be happy to help if you just tell me what to do” or “But I do X, Y and Z every day!” (If it is not clear to find out what needs to be done, and then assigning someone tasks is a kind of mental burden in itself.)
Either way, here are some tips for approaching the subject that Dr. Melissa Estavillo, a licensed psychologist in Phoenix who specializes in couples counseling, shared with Healthline:
- Use “I” statements to articulate the situation in relation to your own feelings and experiences, rather than “you” statements that might make your partner feel responsible for something (and then turn off or defensive) will).
- Let your partner know in advance that you want to speak to them. Take the time to discuss it and find a place that is free from distractions.
- Mention that you know your partner is an advocate for equality in your relationship and go from there. That could mean saying something like, “I know you value your equal contribution to our relationship, and I think you may not realize that I have more responsibilities that go unnoticed.”
The conversation may have to take place multiple times for it to persist, and in some cases a person’s partner may simply not be ready to give up their privileged position in the relationship (in which case another conversation will have to take place). But if you think your partner is from a good place and really doesn’t realize the extent of your work, it can be helpful to bring this to their attention (in a friendly way).