Emotional Labor Checklist/Self-Assessment
July 20, 2015 11:57 AM   Subscribe

In light of the thread on the blue about unpaid emotional labor, I'd like to construct a self-assessment checklist so that I can actively work on being better at emotional labor. I've got 20 or so line items already written down (posted below the fold), which I've amassed from trying to distill the thread. What additional items should I add or change to more fully flesh out this list?

I do realize that this is, itself, emotional labor, and I thank all contributors in advance. I hope that the existing list indicates a good-faith effort on my part to think about these issues.

You may notice that I have left off childcare; I do not have children and do not plan to for a long time, but it would be neat if this could be a general-purpose tool, so childcare-related items are welcome, too!

# Partnered Life

* Am I checking in with my partner to see if they had a rough day?
* If so, am I stepping up to make their life easier in other ways (cooking, cleaning, etc.)?
* Am I open and clear about my wants, and not forcing my partner to guess/drag it out of me?
* Am I contributing constructively to planning of meals, events, trips, etc?
* Am I actively trying to make my presence feel safe for my partner?
* Do I try to do nice things for my partner without being asked (flowers, treats, etc.)?
* Do I take care of my own administrative life (paperwork, bills) without needing to be repeatedly reminded?
* Am I supportive of my partner's decisions, big and small?
* Am I respectful and validating of my partner's emotions?
* Am I vocally grateful when my partner goes out of their way to do something nice for me?
* Am I nice to my partner's family [if that's a thing they want]?

# Friend Groups

* Do I work to coordinate peoples' schedules so that we can have a nice picnic/party/board game night/etc.?
* When planning an event, am I conscious of possible interpersonal conflicts?
* When planning an event, do I take into account different peoples' preferences for food, beverages, music, etc., so that no one feels excluded?
* Do I actually have everything prepared in advance for an event I'm hosting, or at least clearly and fairly delegated?
* If there is an imbalance of emotional or physical labor occurring, am I willing to risk social awkwardness to improve the lot of those negatively affected?

# Third Party Relationships (Familial & Otherwise)

* Do I remember to make phone calls and visits to people I care about and want to have relationships with?
* Do I remember to send cards to people I care about?
* Do I send thank you notes to people to acknowledge their emotional labor for me?
* Am I actively sensitive to and supportive of people who are experiencing a difficult time (death of spouse/child/pet, etc.)?
posted by Maecenas to Human Relations (76 answers total) 439 users marked this as a favorite
 
Great list so far.

I'd add "am I going to the doctor regularly" to what you have.

I hear a lot of guys (I take it you are a dude) complain (complain, or even just mention offhand) all the time about x, y, or z weird body thing that they have going on, but 9 times out of 10 (actually more, but then we're getting into fractions) when I ask if they've talked to a doctor about it their response is no, or it's not that big a deal, or they can't because they don't have a doctor despite living in the same place for 5+ years. So now they've involved me in concern for their Problem Freckle but have no ability or intention to manage it themselves.

Make sure you're taking care of yourself and being proactive about your healthcare (physical and mental) so that the women in your life don't have to feel like your nurse.
posted by phunniemee at 12:09 PM on July 20, 2015 [50 favorites]


My first thought was also doctor's appointments!

Also, "Do I care for my home? Do I keep it clean and free of mold, grime, dirt, and dust?"There was some interesting discussion in that original thread about whether or not chores were emotional labor, and I personally think that having a clean house that is pleasant to be in really contributes to emotional wellness.
posted by sockermom at 12:18 PM on July 20, 2015 [15 favorites]


I also think that household chores are the big missing item here. They are sort of borderline in the sense that they are more physical work than emotional work, but if you don't take care of your share of the chores without being asked, there's a good chance your partner will be taking on the emotional work of reminding you to act like a grownup, which is incredibly stressful.
posted by ktkt at 12:22 PM on July 20, 2015 [60 favorites]


Oh, another one: "Am I engaged when people talk about things that matter to them?" As an example, I am an avid knitter. My boyfriend does not knit. But he listens when I talk about my knitting, and he remembers what I say. He knows what shape shawls I like to knit, he knows what shapes I don't like to knit, and he knows why I don't like knitting those shapes. Because I told him about that one time, and he listened. Nothing is worse than hearing "I don't care about that!" (either directly through words or indirectly through body language) when you are talking about something for which you personally care a great deal.
posted by sockermom at 12:23 PM on July 20, 2015 [36 favorites]


Take the lead on the relationship with your family, especially if things get tough with them.
Your partner is part of the family, but taking the lead on managing these relationships is your job, and your partner doesn't know the quirks and decades of backstory.

Make sure you value your partner's welfare and choices over that of your family (in particular, your mother). This cements your partner bond and draws a good boundary for your family and your relationship.
posted by littlewater at 12:26 PM on July 20, 2015 [13 favorites]


I don't know how this would work as a checklist item, but, something related to chores and thinking. There was one memorable moment when someone I'm dating decided that taking out the trash literally meant taking out the trash, and said that he had to be told to put a fresh trash bag in the trash can.

Also something related to reminding. I am forgetful as balls myself (unmedicated ADHD, currently pregnant), so I have Google calendar reminders set up to email me when I need to take my laundry out, email the house about weekly shopping needs, and so forth. I know someone who basically is unreachable unless you're talking to him directly--doesn't check email reliably, doesn't check phone or texts reliably, doesn't check the shared chatroom reliably... there's basically no way of getting information to him unless you're in front of his face. Taking some sort of personal responsibility for your known shortcomings would be nice.
posted by XtinaS at 12:26 PM on July 20, 2015 [11 favorites]


One item regarding children: Am I aware of my children's wardrobes and am I an equal partner in maintaining them?

My husband, who is in most respects a wonderful partner, has never weeded out too-small clothes or remembered that Thursday is Wear Your Purple Shirt Day at daycare or even assumed responsibility for putting our daughters' clothes away because he doesn't want to upset "my system." Well, I have a system because I'm the one who puts the clothes away. The system can go the hell away if it means I'm not putting the clothes away.
posted by SeedStitch at 12:26 PM on July 20, 2015 [52 favorites]


Huge one for me, especially in reference to mental illness or trauma or disorders: are you doing your own emotional work?

This means asking for support and accommodation for your feelings and your illness if you need it, and negotiating with your partner about your needs, but also not making your problems their problems. If you have depression or past trauma, tell your partner-- don't make them guess. Ask them to make reasonable adjustments to their behavior and interactions if you can, or if you're not sure what you need, just keep them in the loop as much as you can.

And then, do your own work and get to a doctor, a therapist, or another appropriate person who can help you in a solid professional context. It's reasonable and sane and wonderful to ask for support and love and reassurance, but don't make fixing your own internal workings your partner's problem any more than you can help it.
posted by WidgetAlley at 12:30 PM on July 20, 2015 [30 favorites]


I think about responsiveness. Are the responses you give to people appropriate to the situation? So if someone says they've had a shitty day do you respond in the way appropriate to them (some people want a foot rub, others say "Oh that's too bad" others say "Let me order pizza") and not turn it into some sort of "Things are tough all over" interaction or otherwise divert the energy of whatever is happening. This can be partner's had a tough day, this can be friend needs to change plans (are you irritable and respond in a way where it turns into your feelings needing attention, not the details), this can be a random person in the world, can you do some of the work so that the interaction comes out better for both people, because often a little extra work can do that and too often people don't even deign to do that leaving the other person to do it all which becomes a not-small task.

So in a way this is what WidgetAlley is talking about: making sure your own emotional things that are not germane to the situations stay out of the situations and are raised and dealt with at appropriate times. It's super simple to hear someone saying you made them feel bad and reply "Oh yeah well you made me feel pretty bad too" but with not much more work it can turn into a better situation for everyone.
posted by jessamyn at 12:32 PM on July 20, 2015 [24 favorites]


Related to one of Eyebrow McGee's comments that really spoke to me:

If pressed, could I think up birthday/holiday presents for the people I need to give gifts to on those occasions?
posted by damayanti at 12:33 PM on July 20, 2015 [11 favorites]


Be leery of "tradition" and what can wind up being make work. This was the biggest thing I resented in my marriage. If I cooked for him/the family, he expected meat and potatoes and homemade gravy and two vegetables and fresh bread. If I was gone and he cooked for himself, he grilled a steak and had potato chips to go with it. Or he made shish kebobs. He never once made himself the kind of elaborate meal he expected me to cook. He also never once was appreciative of me doing all that. It was just his due as the man of the house or something.

So a) make sure you aren't stuck in some expectational rut about "how things are done" or tradition or something and b) if you can't be bothered to do it for yourself to that standard of quality, consider the possibility that it amounts to 'make work' (when my son took over cooking after I divorced and got a corporate job, meals were vastly simplified while still being fresh, from scratch, healthy, etc) and c) if your SO really is doing something well to a higher standard than you can meet and it is genuinely life enhancing, make damn sure you are vocally appreciative and also take care of them in some reciprocal manner that enhances their life.
posted by Michele in California at 12:36 PM on July 20, 2015 [28 favorites]


Thanks Maecenas! Glad someone finally did it : )

* Do I follow through on what I promise to do without (repeated) reminders?

And I'd add dentist to the take care of health list.
posted by pennypiper at 12:36 PM on July 20, 2015 [10 favorites]


For all relationships: Am I spending approximately the same amount of energy looking after the other person's emotional needs as I'm asking them to spend on mine? Obviously this underpins everything in this discussion, but I'm talking more on a micro level. I've got two people in my life right now who virtually never do this. It's just *half-hour-long emotional offload* WELP GOTTA GO!
posted by HotToddy at 12:37 PM on July 20, 2015 [15 favorites]


Do you plan outings and get-togethers with friends you have as a couple, or is your partner the only one who organizes your couple social calendar? Do you keep in touch with your own friends without your partner reminding you? Do you let your partner know ahead of time when you're going to need a day for your own downtime so that things don't get planned for that day?
posted by matildaben at 12:38 PM on July 20, 2015 [4 favorites]


Call your mom without being reminded. Notice if one of your parents is sick or injured. Don't continue to be a child when you're a full-grown man. At some point the tables turn and you take care of your parents more than they take care of you. That is, unless you offload that onto your wife/girlfriend...

Entertain your parents. Tell them about your life. Be on your wife/girlfriend's side if you ever need to choose and stick up for her. Don't do that thing where you just sort of offload your parents' nagging/displeasure/neediness or whatever onto her.
posted by quincunx at 12:44 PM on July 20, 2015 [5 favorites]


I'm really glad somebody asked. Here are a few that have occurred to me:

Do I pause to observe the context (my partner's body language or current activity, what's been happening today, etc.) before I involve my partner in something me-focused? (Whether that's a request or a touch or whatever.)

Am I answering my partner's bids?

Am I taking responsibility for my own reminders by putting things in a calendar app or whatever reminds me to do things?

Am I aware of all the unseen work involved in things like meal preparation*, and am I educating myself so that I can share the work?

Do I try to find things out myself before asking? (Whether it's "where are the band-aids?" or the steak marinade thing mentioned in the other post...)

*Or whatever your partner does and needs relief from. In this example, the unseen work involves the meal planning work like considering everyone's dietary needs and preferences, balancing the meal, making sure there's not too much or too little, going grocery shopping and/or keeping a pantry stocked, having the right cooking utensils on hand, remembering what people ate at previous meals, considering how long the meal takes to prepare, etc. etc. THIS is what I hate about cooking. Not the actual cooking so much, or even the chopping.
posted by wintersweet at 12:44 PM on July 20, 2015 [19 favorites]


* Am I thanking people for taking their time, not just when they're going out of their way?

(Example: was chatting online last night with this guy I'm seeing. He did a much needed emotional dump about stuff in his life. Afterwards he said "Thank you so much for listening to me. It really means a lot." NB: I basically did nothing, just gave him space to say what he needed to say. Thanking me was really, really nice of him though.)

* Am I paying attention to things my partner hates dealing with, and magically arranging things in our shared world so that they don't have to deal with them?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:44 PM on July 20, 2015 [18 favorites]


There's an intellectual side (is that the right word?) to emotional labor as well.

Don't: "That light bulb burned out. Should I change it?" "Yes." "What kind of light bulb should I buy to replace it?" "What's in there now?" "I don't know. I didn't look."

Do: Look at the light bulb to grok the likely replacement. If you cannot discern the likely replacement by looking at the light bulb, do some freaking research on the Google. Do not ask me what kind of light bulb you should buy to replace the one that's right in front of you.

[Light bulbs, by the way, are a stand in here for dishwasher detergent, laundry detergent, pet food, and about a zillion other things that need taking care of around the house.]

Don't expect your partner to be the keeper of all knowable facts, basically. Place some responsibility on yourself to know them as well. Keep a notebook, if you need to.
posted by mudpuppie at 12:49 PM on July 20, 2015 [105 favorites]


Workplace:

* Do I volunteer to do my share of organizing birthday treats/potlucks/whatever social events my workplace may have?

* If part of the work of my workplace involves listening to/soothing angry customers or clients and making them happy, do I do my appropriate share of that work?

* Have I taken the steps to learn how to add toner or paper to the copier, or unjam it, or make coffee in the breakroom coffeepot? And do I then notice and do those things when they need to be done?

I'm sure there are more . . .
posted by Kat Allison at 12:49 PM on July 20, 2015 [11 favorites]


Do I try to find things out myself before asking? (Whether it's "where are the band-aids?" or the steak marinade thing mentioned in the other post...)

Don't expect your partner to be the keeper of all knowable facts, basically. Place some responsibility on yourself to know them as well. Keep a notebook, if you need to.


yes yes yes yes yes
posted by pennypiper at 12:51 PM on July 20, 2015 [11 favorites]


I strongly echo sockermom's "Am I engaged when people talk about things that matter to them?" suggestion as well as WidgetAlley's "do your own emotional work." My husband's willingness and ability and lifetime habit of doing these things is one of the reasons I love him.

I would expand on the jessamyn's responsiveness comment to say: when you know your partner is under an extra burden (work stress, sick parent, fight with her sister), do more than your share of the emotional and practical work of your lives until she's back to normal and don't ask for brownie points that you've done it. Yes, she should notice and she should be grateful--I'm sure she will be--but keeping score pretty much undermines the value of sharing the emotional work, or shouldering an extra burden, when you do it.
posted by crush-onastick at 12:52 PM on July 20, 2015 [14 favorites]


Oh, and:
* Do I spend perhaps 5 minutes every Monday morning cheerfully and attentively listening to Hard-Working, Absolutely Invaluable, But Chatty support staff person describing her weekend? Do I remember to ask after the health of her ailing husband/mother/whatever and then listen to and remember the reply? (This is the one I'm working on myself...)
posted by Kat Allison at 12:53 PM on July 20, 2015 [5 favorites]


crush-onastick raises an excellent point:

Am I doing the emotional work without expecting a cookie for it?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:54 PM on July 20, 2015 [42 favorites]


* Do I merge new data about how to respond to a situation in to existing data

Like, after a while you should know which of your friends are vegetarian (as an obvious example) or who sleeps in and won't respond to early texts. If something changes in someone's life (they have a baby, whatever) learn the new stuff that is a part of their life and seamlessly roll it in, or try, don't expect them to tell you every new thing and how to respond. I think a stereotype of the non-labor-doer is that they make that information ("I am vegetarian" "I sleep in" "We have a new baby so we have some new constraints") either into the other person's problem or just a thing they don't deal with if the new thing is outside of some normal range. Nerds are bad at this since they can be like "But I thought you LOVED hot dogs..." or whatever.

Likewise with a partner "If they are feeling like THIS I know it's useful to respond like THAT" is a good sort of flexibility in many situations, so not just a bad day but being able to assess a situation and deliver context-appropriate responses.
posted by jessamyn at 12:54 PM on July 20, 2015 [15 favorites]


Do you have sufficient life and disability insurance that guarantees your partner will not have to worry a THING financially should you die or become incapacitated? (Being made to lie awake worrying about this = emotional labor.)

Do you respond to emails/texts/voicemails in a timely manner so that the sender doesn't have to follow up? Do you give a definitive yes or no to invitations as soon as you receive them without subjecting your hosts to the infernal "maybe" or delaying your RSVP until the last minute to see if a better option comes along?
posted by anderjen at 12:55 PM on July 20, 2015 [13 favorites]


Do I pause to observe the context (my partner's body language or current activity, what's been happening today, etc.) before I involve my partner in something me-focused? (Whether that's a request or a touch or whatever.)

Am I answering my partner's bids?


omg this this this this this.

And, if you are going to be dating and partnering with people who present as feminine, may I please suggest the following:
*Am I aware of the investments of time/effort my partner regularly makes in physical presentation, and are my expectations aligned with this knowledge?

It's something that doesn't fall neatly into the "emotional labor" box like sending cards or intuiting household needs, but I think it is relevant, because it is a thing where men's selective blindness can result in women taking on extra hurdles of worry and calculation. "Do I take care shaving my legs and get teased for long showers? Or do I rush through the shower and get a frowny face for my stubbly legs?" Not every man buys into the "high maintenance girlfriend" complaint school, but there is literally no downside to making yourself more aware of the efforts a partner is making in grooming and presentation; these are super-loaded things in most cultures.

I mean personally nowadays, because I am old and crabby and have been with my partner forever, I just say "look, you can have a girlfriend with clean hair and shaved legs, or you can have a girlfriend who takes 3 minute showers. Which one do you prefer, bucko?" But that's what I do NOW, and boy howdy did I waste a lot of my youth on fretting and shaving hack jobs.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 12:58 PM on July 20, 2015 [39 favorites]


How often am I saying knee-jerk defensive things like "I forgot," "I'm trying," "I'm doing my best," "It's not a big deal," vs "Oops, shit, I'm sorry, let me [take independent action and come up with my own fucking idea for how I can finally make this change that you've repeatedly told me is important to you and that I've said I would do but still haven't].
posted by HotToddy at 1:04 PM on July 20, 2015 [60 favorites]


Unexpected theology backstory: I have two friends (who are married) who believe in biblical standards of the husband being the head of the household. HOWEVER. They are also outspoken feminists (both of them), and their belief in marital headship is based on their belief that a man’s job as the head of household who has been gifted with an outsize amount of cultural privilege is to actively fight patriarchy and bolster his wife’s human dignity in a culture attempting to diminish her personhood. (Like, head of household is a metaphor for Jesus being the head of the church, and Jesus died for the church, so they believe the head of the household should be constantly throwing himself on the sword of patriarchy to elevate his wife to her rightful place of equality, instead of expecting her to constantly be the person dealing with toxic misogyny all by herself. So headship in their marriage is not “I am in charge, fetch me my slippers,” but “As the privileged partner, I am charged with a special responsibility of helping us realize equality within our marriage and our world”.)

So when men ask him about business and her about their kids, he urges them to talk to his wife about business and then shows pictures of his daughter performing in a ballet (where he was a parent volunteer). When people forget that she has a graduate degree, he reminds them. When people assume that his wife will perform domestic labor as a given, he excuses himself from men-talking-while-women-work discussions (often with a “you should ask my wife about that, she knows much more than I do” comments) to help clear the table.

Whenever he sees patriarchal structures demanding undue emotional labor from his wife, he uses his position of privilege to reinforce her “no.” It DOES NOT mean that he speaks for her, because she is more than capable of speaking for herself, but when she opts out of emotional labor (or domestic labor), he explicitly backs her up on that decision.

Are you trying to keep your eyes open for the pressures that are weighing on a female partner? When you see her burdened with them, do you try to help lighten (or take) that load? When other women describe their gender-related challenges, do you extrapolate from those stories to think about ways they might also be affecting your partner?

If you have children, do you model discussions of these topics for them? Do you let them see the two of you as partners who communicate and negotiate in order to benefit your mutual emotional, mental, and physical health? When your children see misogyny in the world and in pop culture, do you speak up about its toxic effects?
posted by a fiendish thingy at 1:20 PM on July 20, 2015 [127 favorites]


Work:

Am I difficult as hell to work with and expect everyone to work around it because I present as male?


I have two male coworkers who are historically known to be really difficult. One finally asked me for help - "I know I piss people off and I don't know why, and I think it might be cultural (he's from a non-US non-Western part of the world), can you please tell me honestly for each situation I list here what I did wrong and what the right action would have been?" So since I was one of the people that he was routinely pissing off, and he seemed to genuinely want to change, we sat down and went through every item on the list. He took notes and has been actively applying what we discussed for the last two years, and will occasionally still check in or ask about a specific recent situation and ask for ways he could have done better.

Was it work to go through that first list with him? Yes! But he at least did as much as he could before coming to me - he listed the situations he knew of, listed what he thought had happened, seemed actively interested in changing, took notes, asked questions, etc. He didn't act like he expected me to help him. He would have understood and accepted my "no" if I had said no. Those were all things that tipped my decision in favor of helping him.

Contrast that with one of my other coworkers, who's pretty much "lolz I am a pain in the ass but I've been here forever so you have to listen to me lolz lolz". :/
posted by RogueTech at 1:21 PM on July 20, 2015 [28 favorites]


"Am I pulling my weight in these job areas?" -

Maintaining extended family relationships -
In our house, we're each the boss of the relationship with our respective families. He does the routine phone contact, gift buying, thank you card writing, logistics coordination etc with his family, and I with mine. (We consult with each other but the buck stops with him for his family stuff.) If there's a necessary but unpleasant job to do for family, the default person to handle it is the person who's related - so visits with the unpleasant relative or whatever, there's no sloughing that off onto the other person. (Again we can swap or whatever as needed but the default responsibility split is there.) Also responsibility for maintaining the intelligence dossier on family, reporting back to the other person about important stuff going on with other people so the other person can act/converse appropriately.

Maintaining the joint intelligence dossier -
(Each person has primary responsibility for their own family/friends/work colleagues)
Keeping track of what's going on with who, so that the next time we see them we can ask after their sick brother or their new project or whatever. Remembering names of kids, partners, pets etc. Passing along info to the other person, so the other person will be more-or-less up to date; being ready to give a conversation-prep briefing before dinners or whatever ("oh, so last time remember she was talking about her new officemate, we should see how that's going").

Maintaining the joint logistics database -
We each handle our own schedules, but still need to be aware of what's on the other person's plate... so, this requires affirmative communication. Keeping my partner aware of my schedule and of nebulous things on the horizon, checking in with him on scheduling, who will need the car, how can we both compromise to make it work, etc.

Smoothing coordination work -
Taking on the coordinator job, being willing to compromise on non-essentials, being clear about what you won't compromise on, being a good sport and letting it go if you don't get your way, etc. Critiquing someone else's work in this domain is an offer to take on the job yourself.

Being aware of "no-go" areas, in planning and conversation -
Maintain your own database on your partner, so you know where the sore spots are. That it's an extra sore point to bring up such-and-such (so you know not to do that unless it's a real emergency), or to criticize such-and-such, or to act in a certain way. Don't get to the point where you're walking on eggshells, but I'm talking about the reasonable preferences, sore points, etc. that a partner should know about -- have your partner's back, avoid those trust-destroying "omg did you seriously just say that, knowing how it would hit me" or "I can't believe you thought it was okay to invite him" moments.

Maintaining reciprocal-aid relationships with friends -
Offering help without needing to be asked, seeing it as a given that we should be bringing over food or helping with a move or petsitting or whatever, saying yes when possible to requests for help and recognizing it as a joint household responsibility to figure out a way to help within reason. (Obviously this should never interfere with having your partner's back. This is more about making sure your partner isn't the one who's always having to call people to offer help when you've neglected to.)

Maintaining neighborhood contacts -
Joint responsibility for making friendly chitchat with neighbors when the opportunity arises, remembering what's up with who so you can ask after them, knowing their kids/etc by sight, thinking about whether there's a situation that calls for us to bring over some food or similar.

Initiating contact with friends -
I'm bad at this, so I sometimes find I'm the one that always gets called, not the other way around. If I find myself thinking "oh, I wonder how so-and-so is, I haven't heard from them in a while", I should really just call them at that point. Ditto for "why don't we ever get dinner with so-and-so lately?" -- call them and make a bid.

Offering to carry some of the load of optional unhappy conversations-
This is a tempting one to shirk, so I'll put it separately.
-If someone's parent died, or they got bad health news etc, you'd obviously give them condolences the first time you see them. But if they're a friend or someone you're close to, it's good to keep checking in over a longer period. Some people won't want to talk about it, but I think more often, people just stop offering to listen and that can be a drag. Offering to take a friend out to lunch a few months after their bad event can be a rare kindness. Or even just asking 'how are you these days' in a quiet moment when there's an appropriate setting to talk a bit if they want to.
-Another case -- the unpleasant person in the office that nobody really wants to talk to. Everybody should share the responsibility of social contact with this person, so it doesn't fall only on the people who are nice enough to put up with it. Don't wait to be assigned the job of talking to the unpleasant person, just suck it up and do your share automatically.
posted by LobsterMitten at 1:24 PM on July 20, 2015 [30 favorites]


Partnerships:

Is there stuff that I would do/would have to do for myself if I was single, that I am farming out to my partner simply because they're here and will do it?

I can't figure out how to word this better, but this tends to fall along the lines of "Yay! I have a partner and now I don't have to X because that is what partners are for!" Sure, you see it sometimes where women do it to men (car stuff, for example), but the disproportionate share tends to fall from men to women, rather than from women to men.
posted by RogueTech at 1:25 PM on July 20, 2015 [14 favorites]


* Am I conscientious about doing the inventory work (initiating contact, organising plans, remembering birthdays, noting invitations, buying birthday presents) required to maintain social and family relationships?

* Am I conscious of the ways in which my partner will be judged for mutual responsibilities (cleanliness of the house when guests come over, behaviour and appearance of kids, standards of food served, etc) and do I acknowledge those and step up to deliver a good team execution?
posted by DarlingBri at 1:27 PM on July 20, 2015 [17 favorites]


* Do I merge new data about how to respond to a situation in to existing data

Yes, this! An exchange I have had with my partner: "Please don't use this floor cleaner anymore. It's cleaners and chemicals like this that make the cat's asthma flare up." [Three months later.] "Hey, that new bottle of leather conditioner under the sink -- did you spray that on the furniture in the living room?" "Yeah, doesn't the couch look great?!" "But cleaners, cat asthma...." "Oh, I thought that was just about the floors."

And meanwhile, in another room, a cat is wheezing.
posted by mudpuppie at 1:28 PM on July 20, 2015 [11 favorites]


- Am I doing things to put the attention back on me when the situation is clearly not about me, and acting hurt when called out on it? (see E. Whitehall's comment here: http://www.metafilter.com/151267/Wheres-My-Cut-On-Unpaid-Emotional-Labor#6130725)
posted by RogueTech at 1:43 PM on July 20, 2015 [10 favorites]


- If my partner experienced something horrible, am I making them comfort me about it, instead of comforting them? (Comfort in, dump out). (see also: Theon's tears)
posted by RogueTech at 1:45 PM on July 20, 2015 [17 favorites]


* Do I merge new data about how to respond to a situation in to existing data

Yes, this! An exchange I have had with my partner: "Please don't use this floor cleaner anymore. It's cleaners and chemicals like this that make the cat's asthma flare up." [Three months later.] "Hey, that new bottle of leather conditioner under the sink -- did you spray that on the furniture in the living room?" "Yeah, doesn't the couch look great?!" "But cleaners, cat asthma...." "Oh, I thought that was just about the floors."


Yes, add "I thought" to my list above (I forgot, I'm trying, I'm doing my best, it's not a big deal) because that's actually the one I hear multiple times a day. But it's painfully clear that the person in my life saying this isn't actually giving any thought at all to these situations. And what is emotional labor but giving thought to the needs of others?

But is it practical to ask someone to think? Is there a better, more actionable way to put this? Because, at least in my own situation, asking the well-intentioned but oblivious to merge new data about how to respond to a situation into existing data simply isn't going to have the desired result. Something more specific is needed but I'm not sure what.
posted by HotToddy at 1:53 PM on July 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


One more and I promise I will stop.

This is a big one across the board that I have to watch in myself: When people not-like-me talk about their lived experiences, do I believe them? Just flat out believe them, end of sentence, without explaining their lives to them, or telling them they're wrong, or discrediting what they have experienced?

Two examples (both include micro-aggressions, so feel free to skip if you need to):
1. Guys telling me that I'm being dumb for planning out bus routes to avoid certain times of day, to avoid the angry loud yelling guy on a certain route who always yells at me to smile.
2. Me instinctively downplaying in my head a POC friend's experience in a work situation, before I realized what I was doing and pulled my head out of my ass.
posted by RogueTech at 1:56 PM on July 20, 2015 [17 favorites]


YAY! Thank you for asking! (and for restoring some of my faith that there are men who want to do this) :)

There are a lot of good specifics mentioned already so I'll speak more in generalities. A big part of this is developing empathy. How to be empathetic:

1. Put aside your viewpoint, and try to see things from the other person's point of view.
When you do this, you'll realize that other people most likely aren't being evil, unkind, stubborn, or unreasonable – they're probably just reacting to the situation with the knowledge they have.
2. Validate the other person's perspective.
Once you "see" why others believe what they believe, acknowledge it. Remember: acknowledgement does not always equal agreement. You can accept that people have different opinions from your own, and that they may have good reason to hold those opinions.
3. Examine your attitude.
Are you more concerned with getting your way, winning, or being right? Or, is your priority to find a solution, build relationships, and accept others? Without an open mind and attitude, you probably won't have enough room for empathy.
4. Listen.
Listen to the entire message that the other person is trying to communicate.
Listen with your ears – what is being said, and what tone is being used?
Listen with your eyes – what is the person doing with his or her body while speaking?
Listen with your instincts – do you sense that the person is not communicating something important?
Listen with your heart – what do you think the other person feels?
5. Ask what the other person would do.
When in doubt, ask the person to explain his or her position. This is probably the simplest, and most direct, way to understand the other person. However, it's probably the least used way to develop empathy.
It's fine if you ask what the other person wants: you don't earn any "bonus points" for figuring it out on your own.
For example, the boss who gives her young team members turkey vouchers for the holidays, when most of them don't even cook, is using her idea of a practical gift – not theirs.


Additional things that are more general:

- If you're going to ask a question, try to remember Let Me Google That For You. If LMGTFY would be an appropriate answer to what you're about to ask (such as how to make a marinade), then consider if you really need to ask the question (therefore switching the burden from yourself to someone else) or if it's something you can find on your own with a minute or two of extra investigation.

-try to keep in mind the concepts of making people comfortable and places welcoming. These are the concepts that I'm acting on when I do any kind of labor. I do housework labor because I want a warm, welcoming comfortable home and I also want other people who may drop by to feel welcomed and comfortable. Even if any one person in my household (including me), doesn't care, I'm always thinking of the people who may be in my home at any point (including people living there) who do care and I therefore do it for them. In other words, it's not all about me and how I feel, it's as much about other people.

Emotional labor is the same thing. women are trained to make people to feel comfortable, valued and unthreatened. which is why they will ask you about yourself and your day and try to offer support and care, often to the point of neglecting their own emotional needs. I'm not saying this is right, I'm just trying to help you understand a general mindset if it would help. You can make the decision on what actions that stem from that mindset are appropriate or not.

Finally, you'll never be perfect in this. Women can't even do this perfectly. But if you were a man in my life I would be very appreciative that you are making the effort and crucially, not expecting a medal for it. If you screw up and you don't realize it until later, it's okay to double back and apologize. I do this all the time. The point is that you are thinking of it and you're always trying to do better.
posted by triggerfinger at 2:01 PM on July 20, 2015 [22 favorites]


XtinaS: "I don't know how this would work as a checklist item, but, something related to chores and thinking. There was one memorable moment when someone I'm dating decided that taking out the trash literally meant taking out the trash, and said that he had to be told to put a fresh trash bag in the trash can.

How about "When I do a task, have I completed it fully and taken into account whether there are any followup actions to do?"
posted by Liesl at 2:01 PM on July 20, 2015 [18 favorites]


[I am using heteronormative language here, but it applies to anyone.] Here's a really simple exercise for a relationship: in an average 24 hour workday and an average 24-hour weekend day, where does each person's time go?

Can you even complete that for both of you? If you do, and then you showed it to her, would she agree with your assessment?

When you compare the two, does one of you have significantly more leisure time than the other?

Be careful how you define leisure - because I "enjoy" cooking, my husband convinced himself that the time I spent planning, acquiring, preparing, and putting away actual healthy food instead of shit from boxes was basically the same as playing video games, and also only took, what? like 30 minutes a day? which for sure was less time than it took him to do dishes. [~2 hours/day. 12 minutes every 2-3 days, if I didn't give in and clean so I'd have room to cook.]

Do you find yourself looking for loopholes, or cultivating incompetencies, that "excuse" inequal efforts? Is there a typical point in the day when you're farting around on the computer or watching TV and she's doing house/child work? Why?

Are there things she used to enjoy doing but doesn't do anymore? Did she drop it for her own reasons or because she has to use that time/energy for something else? Or because you made it hard for her to do because you were jealous of her attention? (Bonus: don't ask, figure it out.)

Is her time allocated to tasks in task-length chunks or is she multitasking? Is she allowed to perform basic hygiene tasks, chores, work, hobbies and entertainment uninterrupted or is she constantly stopping to tend to other things?

(Is yours? Is it a fair distribution of disruptions? You may find room to improve both your lives in this comparison. Some tasks can be completed faster and better by having the other person run total interference on disruptions, but both of you should be given those opportunities.)

Does she get less sleep than you? Why?

I find these assessments helpful in part because sometimes trade-offs do have to be made. If one of you has an unavoidably long commute, or someone's working and going to school (which is generally a time investment made now for increased salary later, and to a certain extent you have to amortize the other person taking up the slack for increased rewards later), or the kids are not in school yet, or it's tax season or whatever. Stuff comes and goes and needs to be accounted for.
posted by Lyn Never at 2:07 PM on July 20, 2015 [57 favorites]


"Am I engaged when people talk about things that matter to them?"

And the counterpart: "Am I careful not to expound at excessive length about something that matters to me but doesn't matter to the person I'm with?"

For example, my husband is a Warhammer40K geek. I can deal with a certain amount of him talking about whatever aspect of army building he's currently enthusiastic about, but sometimes he goes on and on and ON until I look at him and say "Dude, stop talking at me. I don't care."

Do I pause to observe the context (my partner's body language or current activity, what's been happening today, etc.) before I involve my partner in something me-focused? (Whether that's a request or a touch or whatever.)

THIS THIS THIS.
posted by Lexica at 2:18 PM on July 20, 2015 [11 favorites]


Add-on to this excellent list:

*if my partner is spending a lot of time on non-fun things they feel are necessary but I feel aren't, have I tried to understand why they think it's necessary? Not starting a debate about it, but asking why, and listening, not talking. Thinking about why your partner feels these things are important, and how you can help with the underlying issue, not just dismissing it because the reason is dumb ("people don't need birthday cards", "the house doesn't need to be that clean", etc).
posted by randomnity at 2:26 PM on July 20, 2015 [29 favorites]


And I think this goes way way way beyond emotional labor, but because I just read something elsewhere that has left me sad and horrified, add this to the checklist:

Is there enthusiastic consent, every time, for the ways I interact with my partner's body?
posted by Lyn Never at 2:35 PM on July 20, 2015 [17 favorites]


All of these suggestions so far are great!

I would add that you should try to check in about how you're doing (and how others are feeling in response to your actions). Clearly you're thinking actively about this by reaching out here, which is awesome! You can also check in with your partner about how you're doing with emotional labor in the relationship. I find these big-picture debriefs/discussions really helpful, and also difficult to initiate (which I'm trying to work on). So it's great if you can say, "Hey, I just wanted to check in about how I'm doing with X" in a way that is genuinely open to constructive criticism. Initiating these conversations is itself a form of emotional labor, and it's particularly difficult to initiate the conversation if you feel you're the one who's doing disproportionate share of the work. When you do have these conversations, heed the above advice about defensiveness. Your primary goal should be to listen to your partner's personal, emotional response to your actions and accept that. Then you can work together on how you can (both) do better - again in a balanced way that isn't just "do the work of teaching me how to human."

With friends this type of conversation might be more difficult, but I think it's often still worthwhile to check about the overall logistics of the relationship. Instead of letting the generic "oh we should do this more often" happen, you can check in about how you're doing about staying in touch and getting together. You can be clear about the fact that you're actively invested in maintaining the friendship, and check in about how you can do that better. Figure out what times and forms of communication work for you - maybe it turns out that you're both busy during the week but open to Sunday evenings once a month, or you realize that you would both be open to emailing more often. Friends often express a "I wish we kept in touch better" wish without throwing out any concrete suggestions for doing that.

In the workplace, be active about incorporating this type of feedback into whatever performance review system you currently have in place.
posted by earth by april at 2:38 PM on July 20, 2015 [7 favorites]


* Do I try to do nice things for my partner without being asked (flowers, treats, etc.)?

With that, Do I know what nice things my partner actually likes? Does she even like flowers; if so, which kind? What constitutes a food "treat" (e.g., Is she currently trying to avoid too much sugar or has some other dietary constraints?)? Will taking her out to dinner create more work right now (e.g., Will she have to shower and dress up when she's tired and not wanting to do that?)? I've had a lot of guys do "nice things" for me that were nice, objectively, but not at all personalized and therefore made me feel like Generic Girlfriend rather than treasured partner.

In addition: When she asks you to go to a social event you're not excited about, do you either decline respectfully (and hopefully not so often that that's an issue (which is going to vary by couple)) or go without making a big deal about how much you resent going? I've had to deal with partners being giant babies about being "forced" to go to events they didn't want to go to. A great deal of the time, they were work or family things that I wasn't all that excited to attend, either, and having to take care of my partner's shitty attitude (whether passive-aggressively resentful or aggressively rude) made the events actively worse; on the occasions that they were things I had been looking forward to, having to take care of my partner's shitty attitude ruined it for me.
posted by jaguar at 2:38 PM on July 20, 2015 [31 favorites]


I've had a lot of guys do "nice things" for me that were nice, objectively, but not at all personalized and therefore made me feel like Generic Girlfriend rather than treasured partner.

I realized that that could be summarized with, "Am I doing things that she likes and appreciates, even if I don't see the value in them, rather than doing things that I think she should like in order to prove what a great guy I am?"
posted by jaguar at 2:40 PM on July 20, 2015 [15 favorites]


This may just be my personal hobbyhorse but; if you know that a woman is neuroatypical and/or has other mental health challenges, do you hold her to a higher standard of managing her condition and emotional state than you would a man?

I used to volunteer at a store where one man's complete inability to do basic retail tasks like count the cash drawer got constantly brushed off by other men saying "oh it's okay, he has aspergers." I will bet all the money in said cash drawer that a similarly incompetent woman wouldn't get off so easy.

See also: women getting asked to smile all the time.
posted by ActionPopulated at 3:00 PM on July 20, 2015 [12 favorites]


Do I put aside my own discomfort or squeamishness to help my partner in emotional or physical distress?

I've had partners who felt so uncomfortable around someone crying they would be desperate to leave the conversation. I was either left crying on my own, or frantically trying to suppress the tears so THEY would feel better.

Also, sort of related I think: going out to buy tampons for your girlfriend does not make you a fucking superhero and the last thing she wants to hear when you get back from the store is how the shop assistant looked at you funny when they put them through the till. Seriously, grow the fuck up, adult women generally menstruate. Don't make her feel gross and apologetic for having a perfectly normal body.
posted by Dwardles at 3:01 PM on July 20, 2015 [21 favorites]


Am I applying data learned appropriately?

(I.e. If partner has mentioned dietary restrictions, do I take those into consideration in making dinner/choosing a restaurant? Or the story about the cat's asthma above?)

If I am called out for not applying data appropriately, how do I react? Am I expecting my partner to manage my bad feelings or do I handle that? How do I go about fixing it?

(Essentially the same situation happened with two different guys. I am highly allergic to dogs, something I had in both cases previously mentioned to the guy/ guy had seen. Guy arranges travel where we would be staying at a friends house/ with folks that had dogs but had failed to mention said dogs. Guy #1 noticed when I started to react and immediately found a hotel and checked us in for the evening. No complaints, no drama. Guy #2 said that I should always be prepared for that if I was the one who was allergic, that it wasn't his fault because he didn't know and that maybe there was a CVS down the street?)
posted by susiswimmer at 3:09 PM on July 20, 2015 [5 favorites]


- What are your ideas as to how big events/situations should go (weddings, birthday parties, Halloween and Trick or Treat outings, family vacations/deaths in the family, bad diagnoses, getting a new puppy)?
- Do you know who has to do each thing to make the event/situation run like the image in your head? Who is responsible for flowers, cards, costumes, casseroles, child-proofing?
- Are any of those responsible people you?
posted by chainsofreedom at 3:50 PM on July 20, 2015 [7 favorites]


In monogamous relationships: is the work of protecting our relationship from infidelity shared equally? Do I set boundaries/speak about my partner/represent my relationship positively? (In other words, am I taking care not to be the flirty guy at work who nobody in the office knew was married; as much care as my partner takes in her outside circles to stand up for our relationship?)
posted by kapers at 7:50 PM on July 20, 2015 [10 favorites]


- If my partner experienced something horrible, am I making them comfort me about it, instead of comforting them? (Comfort in, dump out).

And backing up from this: have I cultivated a wider support network so that my partner is not the only one who can ever comfort me? Seriously, if you don't have outside (preferably male) friends you can dump on at times like that, it's probably because you have been shirking emotional labour at an earlier stage in the process.

Other things:

- I mentioned this in another thread today but:
Am I aware of where my body is in space and how that is likely to affect those around me? (Squeezing past people, walking in a direction where I will intersect and force someone to step aside, walking or riding three or four abreast so that no one can get past, taking up more than my share of space on public transport (lavaballing, open newspapers, using both armrests on an aeroplane).)

- Do I think that my partner is doing unnecessary work (e.g. cleaning the house before people come over, writing birthday cards, dressing the child up in smarter clothes for church, putting on make-up for half an hour before going out)? If so, you owe it to them to try to honestly understand why they feel this need to do the work and you don't. (The answer is usually that society's expectations fall differently on women than men). For every instance of this, you can probably educate yourself on women's perspectives by searching forums, blogs, feminist writing, etc, and you should do that before trying to bring the topic up with your partner. Otherwise you are making them do the emotional labour of justifying to you why they have to do the (emotional or otherwise) extra labour in the first place, and that is a whole nother level of bullshit.
posted by lollusc at 11:35 PM on July 20, 2015 [14 favorites]


Are you interrupting your partner unnecessarily? Is their busy-ness less valuable to you than a question you could likely just Google instead of interrupting them? Consider whether you really need to ask them, specifically, right now, about this particular thing. Consider whether you've actually looked for answers. Have you googled? Have you checked the most likely places? Several times? Have you actually reached in and looked with your hands for whatever you've lost?

Basically, put in the work of spending your own time before you expect their time. Treat their time as additional that they put with yours, not instead of yours.
posted by E. Whitehall at 3:41 AM on July 21, 2015 [13 favorites]


Basically, put in the work of spending your own time before you expect their time.

Yes, especially with respect to knowing where objects are kept when not in use. Do I look for the object I need before asking my partner where it is?

Looking first, or, even better, looking in the specific place a thing should be because you know the correct location, before you say, "Hey, partner, do you know where the thing is?" spares your partner from being interrupted, from having to expend mental energy on your project, and from annoyance that you are not incorporating household practices into your mental map.
posted by MonkeyToes at 4:20 AM on July 21, 2015 [12 favorites]


Add up all the hours of work (mental or otherwise) required to maintain your family or household and divide by 2. Make sure you are doing at least that much.

At the end of the day, calling to check in at work or sending a birthday card doesn't mean much if you are sticking your wife with all the housework.
posted by yarly at 8:00 AM on July 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


In addition to being willing to listen when your partner talks about things that are important to them but not to you, be aware of how much you're expecting your partner to listen to you talking about things they don't care about. If their responses are getting more and more mechanical ("uh huh… uh huh…") step back and give them and the conversation some room.

Pay attention to patterns. If something comes up repeatedly, consider why and what you can do so it's not an issue that your partner has to manage. (Examples: does your partner have to ask you every week to enter your schedule information on the calendar? Does your partner repeatedly say something about not leaving towels dripping onto the floor after you've used the shower?)

Related to noticing patterns: it's an extremely frustrating relationship dynamic when one person doesn't notice patterns, so everything is an isolated incident to them. This is one source of apparently out-of-proportion blowups where partner A is like "all I did was leave my socks on the floor, why is this such a big issue?" It's an issue because partner B has either picked up or asked A to pick up their socks 26 days out of the past month. That kind of thing.
posted by Lexica at 12:01 PM on July 21, 2015 [16 favorites]


Wow, thanks so much for the great response, y'all! Those were some great contributions--keep 'em coming, if you like! I've updated the list and made a number of mirrors for easy accessibility:

- Google Docs
- Github (pull requests accepted!)
- Dropbox

Finally, I'd like to thank all the people who bravely shared their stories in the thread on the blue. Also, I'd like to thank triggerfinger whose comment pushed me over the edge to ask this question. I'm deeply thankful for MeFi, and I'm excited to use this self-assessment to work on myself. I hope it can be of use to others, too!
posted by Maecenas at 12:15 PM on July 21, 2015 [45 favorites]


Just wanted to add that I'm also happy to take revisions through comments on the Google Doc or through MeMail.
posted by Maecenas at 8:13 PM on July 21, 2015


That is a great list! (I'm really happy that you added a link to the "bids" article, which I had never seen before wintersweet mentioned it here and which I am now convinced is the best thing ever).
posted by triggerfinger at 9:05 PM on July 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


If we're visiting my family, am I going out of my way to ensure my partner isn't overwhelmed by attention from everyone? Am I checking in to see that they're having fun? Am I creating space for just the two of us (or alone time for them) if necessary?

If we're visiting her family, are there aspects of it that may be stressful for her? Am I avoiding anything that would exacerbate those stresses? Am I working to make it easier for her?
posted by twirlypen at 6:53 AM on July 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


How many things in her purse (or luggage, while traveling) are things which frequently benefit you?

Painkillers, bandaids, tissues, dental floss, sunscreen, aloe vera gel, moisturizer, q-tips, nail clippers, mints or gum, loyalty cards for 79 different stores, water, toothpaste, microfiber glasses/electronics cleaning cloth, cough drops, eye drops, contacts case/solution, chapstick, backup keys in case main set gets lost, checkbook (USA only), pens and pencils, stylus, bug spay, anti-itch cream (for when the spray fails), candy to sneak into the movie theater.

I carry 90% of these things for myself and no one else, but I have experienced dudes who are happy to both 1) ask women to carry things in their purses, 2) consume/use things women carry in their purses, and 3) make fun of women for the size of the purses they carry and the quantity of items they contain.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 7:07 AM on July 22, 2015 [36 favorites]


This goes for pretty much every kind of relationship, the most recent example in my life was realizing that I too could fold fitted sheets:

If someone always does a task because they're "better at it" do I know that it is something they actually want to do every time?
If not, do I take the time learn how to do it competently and then do it?
posted by Gygesringtone at 8:14 AM on July 22, 2015 [12 favorites]


Am I helping to clear the table - which includes putting away the food/condiments/etc. and dealing with the dishes - after meals (whether the meal is solo, with the household group, or a hosted event), unless given other directions by the event "owner"?
posted by janell at 9:37 AM on July 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


Workplace:

When other men talk over women or ignore women’s ideas, concerns, or contributions, support women and make sure they get credit. ("I think Tiffany has a great idea! Let's listen to her!")

Talk up women’s positive qualities like leadership, including reframing “teamwork” as a leadership quality.

Relationships:

If you are a man partnered with a woman who is bi, pan, queer, or something other than heterosexual, consider how you are supporting her visibility as a member of the LGBT community, and how to be a good ally to her as part of being her partner.
posted by bile and syntax at 8:34 PM on July 22, 2015 [14 favorites]


It's always bugged me to watch women prepare meals - especially for holidays or family get-togethers, but also on a day-to-day basis - and then stand back while everyone else, INCLUDING their partners (so not just guests), served themselves before her. Or she'd always make sure her partner got the biggest/best piece of whatever, while she just took whatever was left. And on a similar note, at my mother-in-law's house I've seen the men of the household utterly DEVOUR the leftovers the next day without asking my mother-in-law - who'd planned, bought, and prepared EVERYTHING - if she wanted anything, and without ensuring there was enough left for her. So frakking rude. Maybe I'd frame this as something like:

"Do I ensure I'm putting the wants/needs of the person who worked on this meal over my own, or am I accepting food-related privileges as my due?"
posted by DingoMutt at 10:09 AM on July 23, 2015 [9 favorites]


Based on something that happened recently — if your partner has asked you to get something for them, unless you know why they want it (which aspects of the thing are critical; which criteria they based their buy-this-not-that decision on), don't try to substitute something else because you probably won't make the right substitution.
posted by Lexica at 12:10 PM on July 23, 2015 [5 favorites]


Related: Dating Tips for Feminist Men (previously).
posted by eviemath at 1:19 PM on July 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


* Am I actively trying to make my presence feel safe for my partner?

Can someone explain this one to me please? I don't understand what it means.
posted by HiroProtagonist at 9:57 PM on July 23, 2015


Can someone explain this one to me please? I don't understand what it means.

For me, it falls under the idea of the Margaret Atwood quote that men's greatest fear of women is that women will laugh at them, and women's greatest fear of men is that men will kill them. There have been ways in my life that men have used their anger to intimidate, coerce, or frighten me while acting as if I'm being melodramatic for worrying about my safety because they're "just venting" (about killing someone else) or "just letting off steam" (while throwing objects or punching walls). Those displays are generally deeply frightening and, consciously intended or not, serve as a reminder of the potential danger of going against his wishes.
posted by jaguar at 11:00 PM on July 23, 2015 [29 favorites]


Relationships:

If you are friends with your ex or even just trying to be on decent terms with her, when you start seeing someone new you need to tell her. Do not leave it to your new girlfriend or your larger friend group to let her find out.
posted by bile and syntax at 7:25 AM on July 25, 2015 [4 favorites]


I've been thinking about this for a couple of days and what I want to say doesn't quite fit into the form you've been using, but I think it is something most men could take on pretty easily that would take some significant emotional labor off their wifes. As a mother-of-small-children, I spend around 20 minutes before I go up to bed locking the doors, making sure the oven's off, closing the curtains, turning out lights, picking up toys in the walkways, returning homework to backpacks and backpacks to cubbies and shoes to drawers, making sure the dishes are in the dishwasher and running and the counters are wiped down, catching that one last load of laundry -- in short, I "put the house to bed" in such a way that it is clean and ready for me tomorrow. Not sparkling deep clean, but the counters are clear and washed down and I can begin breakfast with clean dishes and a clean counter, and everyone's shoes are where they ought to be and we don't have to hunt for homework or coats.

This would be a very nice emotional labor that a husband could take over for a wife -- observe what she likes done and then ask her what needs to be done (like, do the backpacks by my system, i have to deal with them) -- and then set about taking on the task of putting the house to bed, locking everything up and switching on the nightlights so the kids can find the bathroom and catching the stray dishes and making sure they'll be clean in the morning and wiping the counters and returning important papers to their home base, so that when the family wakes up in the morning (and especially when the primary caregiver of young children wakes up in the morning), they have a clean, well-organized, fresh day where they can pleasantly make toast instead of facing a sink of dirty dishes and counters with yesterday's mess all over them.

My husband probably does it 2 in 3 nights, depending on his work, and the mornings after the nights he has tucked in the house, I wake up in a much better mood and stay happy all morning because everything I have to do is easy and pleasant because it's all where it's supposed to be and ready for use! It's kind-of in that intersection of emotional labor and housework, which I think is an easy place to start ... you mostly just have to do 15 or 20 minutes of evening chores so the house will wake up pleasant, and that's your emotional labor, that you thought of it and made it pleasant. It can be a baby step when you work on things like remembering birthdays or coordinating outings.

My list would be like:
*House prepared for night (lights on and off, doors locked, curtains closed)
*Dishes in the dishwasher, running if full; kitchen counters wiped down and kitchen returned to work-ready position for breakfast
*Shoes/boots, coats, and backpacks/purses/workbags all returned to the closet area that we keep them in, and stray homeworks captured. (i.e., ready for the rush out the door with nobody hunting for their missing shoe)

It'll vary by house and needs, and it's not a "clean the whole house!!!!" but a "prepare the house to work in the morning, and maybe put away a few things like gathering laundry or returning stray toys to their friends or tackling the staircase clutter." It's almost always women who are doing this last-thing-at-night preparing of the house for morning, and I think it's be a really easy one for men to take on. They're not hard chores, they don't take long, and it gives your partner a break from thinking about all that stuff.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:03 PM on July 26, 2015 [25 favorites]


The suggestions so far are all awesome! One I'd add is:

*Am I actively seeking constructive criticism in all of my relationships? And am I accepting that criticism without knee-jerk defensiveness?
posted by culfinglin at 4:28 PM on July 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


Late addition, maybe already here and I'm too sleepy to see it:

* How many times a day/week/month does my partner give me useful or helpful information? (A new restaurant I'd like, a professional development opportunity, bus schedule changes, news about a problem with a medication I take, a bill coming due, a storm warning, whatever.) How often do I do the same for my partner? Do I know how much time they spend on this and where they get the information?
posted by wintersweet at 6:51 PM on August 1, 2015 [8 favorites]


A slightly (but only slightly) tongue-in-cheek summary of the points about knowing both factual details (what type of x to buy when replacements are needed) and emotional details (what one's partner likes/dislikes, cares about strongly, worries about, etc.) about one's partner:
* Could I pass an immigration interview to verify that I'm not in a sham relationship with my partner, a la Green Card? (Or less cheesy and more recent movies?)
posted by eviemath at 8:10 PM on August 1, 2015


Something that just came to mind: is there a particular gesture or touch that my partner finds particularly reassuring or supportive? Do I look for opportunities when my doing so would be welcome?

(For example, sometimes when I'm feeling stressed or agitated my husband will put the palm of his hand on my sternum, often while hugging me gently from behind. I find this incredibly reassuring and grounding.)
posted by Lexica at 10:55 PM on August 1, 2015 [4 favorites]


I only just discovered the epic emotional labor discussion (in a link from some other more recent discussion). Thank you to everyone who contributed to that and this discussion. Thank you for distilling it all into this checklist. May many relationships be served well by all of this sharing (I know that mine already has been).
posted by kokaku at 10:57 PM on May 20, 2016 [2 favorites]


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