Center for Shared Insight, PC

Carrying the Emotional Labor of the Relationship

November 12, 2019
Posted By: Kristen Hick, Psy.D.

In working with hundreds of clients, the therapists at Center for Shared Insight in Denver Colorado often hear phrases like:

“I’m overwhelmed.”

“I feel so drained.”

“I can’t keep all the details straight.”

“It’s exhausted managing it all.”

If it’s your job to manage your relationships’ details, such as the planning, scheduling, social calendar maintenance, and more, it could take a toll on you. This can especially be the case if this is your role within your family and there are kids’ schedules to consider alongside yours and your partner’s wants and needs. Here’s what to look for, and ways to cope if you primarily carry the emotional burden of the relationship.

Carrying the Emotional Load

While blanket statements like “I feel so overwhelmed” are common to hear, rarely do clients understand the why behind that statement. For so long, women have carried the emotional load in most heterosexual relationships, so much so that it’s hard to identify why managing the emotional labor feels so exhausting and depleting. Lives are only getting busier with technology connecting us faster than ever. Social invites stream in from texts, emails, evites, facebook invites, phone calls, and other means, and typically one partner in the relationship manages the details of everything from holiday parties to doctor's appointments. Managing the “life pieces” of the relationship can undoubtedly feel draining, burdening and overwhelming.

3 Ways to Cope

Talk to your partner

Oftentimes, the partner who doesn’t carry the emotional labor doesn’t recognize the burden of managing all of life’s details. Sometimes, a candid conversation about what this role in the partnership entails can go a long way in creating understanding and awareness. While it might seem like just minutes each day to a partner who doesn’t manage the details, the culmination of many logistics for several family members, or for a busy social couple, quickly adds up to a part-time job. Be transparent about how you are feeling, explain your needs, and brainstorm ways to share the burden more evenly.


Teaching children responsibility, or dividing up life’s tasks to others in your household is an effective way to ensure everything gets done without the burden lying with one person. Consider making a list of all the logistics that need to be handled to keep the family organized, divide those up between you and your partner, and involve older children if possible. Create a shared google calendar for your family to stay organized, and have a checklist on your refrigerator. Not only does this create more cohesion in your family, but it teaches important lessons that teamwork and collaboration help get things done.

Say no

Setting reasonable boundaries around your social obligations, the sports your kids play, and limiting the number of commitments you make each weekend can go a long way in helping with the emotional toll of organizing. Together with your partner, or family, make small rules like limiting kids to just one sport at a time, or restricting weekend social time to just one gathering. In managing this more effectively, you’ll free up time for hobbies, interests, self-care, and even sleep. Not to mention, you'll have more one-on-one time with your family members, which can strengthen the bonds that matter most.

At Center for Shared Insight, we work with partners who are exhausted and overwhelmed by carrying the emotional labor. If you recognize this challenge in your life, don’t hesitate to take steps to address and overcome the overwhelming tasks list that you manage. Our team can help you identify and cope with the toll of carrying this load. Contact our team for your free consultation and intake.

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