Oh shit she’s talking about EmOtIonAL LaBOr!!!!!!
What the fuck is it and why is everyone using it lately?
A quick gloss over the wikipedia defines emotional labor as, “the process of managing feelings and expressions to fulfill the emotional requirements of a job.” There are jobs which require more emotional intelligence than others like counselors, educators, customer service, or any job where you are directly dealing with people shrieking, suffering, and demanding your attention. Are you shocked that the list includes professions usually reserved for women? As all the great sexists of our history have stated, women are better at feeling and should therefore do all the jobs that require emotions because…sexism.
It should be no surprise that feminism has taken the concept and moved it from applications in professional work settings to address the efforts individuals (women) make in their personal relationships with family and friends. Now I’m not saying men never perform emotional labor. What I am saying is that men are less likely to pursue those roles and subsequently require emotional labor from others (women) in order to function.
However, men are not the sole culprit of emotional hijacking. My friendships are primarily with women and queer folk who have been guilty of demanding emotional labor without reciprocation. I have been this exact person out of insecurity and low self esteem, so I can empathize with why it happens but I no longer condone prolonged periods of one sided emotional labor because it is incredibly unhealthy. I try to limit the amount of time I vent at my friends and instead actively make decisions that fix the situation I am in.
Think about the relationships you have in your life. If there are people you like but feel completely exhausted by every time you hang out or talk, you might need to readdress the boundaries you have with this person. Supporting your loved ones in tough times is necessary, but be wary of the companion who appears only when they are in need of your emotional intelligence.
If you don’t have this issue… well I hate to break it to you, but you should probably start writing checks to your friends and sending out venmo payments.
If you are the type of person with too many problems for your brain to deal with (who isn’t?), healthy venting to your friends is fine. Emotional intimacy with your close friends is necessary and sometimes you have to share feelings to develop bonds. However, inundating them with your problems constantly with no filter is crossing a boundary. That is what therapy is for.
A trained psychologist will hopefully be the third party mediation you need between you and your bad thoughts. If you can’t access therapy services, or find therapy unappealing there are a multitude of ways to manage your mental health on your own such as using an online anonymous chatroom specifically geared for venting, journaling, various CBT phone apps, or just reciprocating back for your friends who are always there for you.
One of the most important forms of self care is holding yourself accountable and checking in with yourself and your friends on how everything is going. It’s just the responsible adult thing to do and so many people fall flat when the expectation of emotional labor falls on them because shocker! Being someone’s friend requires you to put in emotional work.
The main problem I have had with people who consume emotional labor from me, is that they do not reciprocate and often lash out when I am unavailable. Since starting law school I have had several friendships end because I cannot handle the amount of work the other person is expecting of me, and most of it has been extremely inappropriate to unload on someone in an intensive graduate program. I have made the personal choice to be less available to focus on myself and even that has sparked hostility from friends. It is not my ideal choice to let friendships end, but I simply cannot sacrifice time to address the flaws of others.
So without further ado, these are some of the personality traits I’ve personally dealt with that are a major red flag and often lead to one sided pseudo therapy session friendships.
Starting with the mildest infractions, a person who constantly hijacks conversations about good events to compare them to their own life whilst complaining about the situation they’re in are guaranteed to be an emotional labor vortex. They could have literally no experience in a situation and still find a way to bring it back to how bad their life is. It’s especially heinous when you’re the one they’re comparing their self to. These people are often incredible jealous and insecure and it shows because it is not fun to be around someone who constantly has a problem about other people being happy.
Thanks, now I have to feel bad something good happened in my life and coddle your self absorbed ass. No one wants to be around you because you’re constantly guilting them out of their own happiness and demanding validation for every minor infraction. Negativity is a hell of a drug, and my advice would to get help with the self esteem because unfortunately we cannot share personalities.
Seeking Marriage Counselor
This is a hard @ those of you in miserable relationships constantly flooding your friends’ inboxes with how much you hate your partner WHO THEN GET MAD WHEN SOMEONE TELLS YOU TO LEAVE IF YOU’RE SO DAMN MISERABLE.
If you are so dead set on making it work when it clearly is dysfunctional and leaves you angry and bitter constantly go spend the money on an actual relationship counselor since you want this to work so badly.
Hearing your friend be upset all the time is so exhausting. I feel like in the past I was dating and fighting someone’s shitty partner vicariously and I will not tolerate it! I often fall into this trap because I want to support women in finding their independence and strength to get out of a toxic relationship. Hello empowerment!
More often than not, I wind up looking like a fool because I said something harsh while defending my friend who turns around and never leaves an admittedly toxic relationship or drags it out forever. Now I’m just the shitty friend who is a hater!
There’s a difference when serious abuse is occurring, but most people I have fallen out with are incapable of letting go and almost seem to feed off of the toxic negative environment the relationship creates because they thrive off emotional labor. I never signed up to counsel those problems, and no one should be considered a bad friend for pointing out the glaringly obvious fact that the relationship needs to end.
Zero Sense of Boundary
Ever meet someone who bursts hot out of the gate with their detailed biography of everything and everyone who has ever wronged them? If I know their issues before I know their middle name and birthday I am going to have a problem. I don’t even bother with second chances here. Setting the precedent of oversharing without considering how the other person might feel is incredibly selfish to the point that I see no reason to call out the behavior because their entire presence is exhausting from the go. I don’t know you and you have given me no opportunity to open up on my own terms.
Even worse is when someone shares something triggering or disturbing after only knowing them for a few hours at most, um YIKES! This is why we take the time to get to know each other instead of treating friendships like a midwestern pie eating contest.
The Holiest Entitled One
The amount of times I’ve had someone blow up on me for taking a step back from the friendship is ludicrous. Suddenly I am the worst person on the planet because I’m a little more busy and don’t want to use my phone as the only source of dopamine. People who lash out at you for communicating a little bit less do not care about you, they care about the support they get from you. That is why they blow up instead of confronting your distance. They know they’re using you and they’re too afraid to fess up that they are mildly parasitic which is why you become the target of attack. This one doesn’t work on me anymore, I am far too aware of the efforts I put into a friendship and I will not tolerate being snapped at by people I have helped for nothing in return.
This person might also take form as a pseudo partner. I’ve had plenty of quasi girlfriends in the past who thought that snapping on me like I was one of their shitty boyfriends would fly by me.
Hell no! Bye!
The Literal Abuser
This person will make their self known as a vitriol piece of shit when they consistently share things with you that are utterly fucked up and low key makes you gag. I’m talking like, “I’m hacking into my ex boyfriends Instagram to make fun of his weak game with new girls even though we broke up months ago AND I’m going to regularly tell my friend who would be triggered by my literal abusive behavior,” levels of fucked up.
That….entire experience still has me reeling from the lack of any decency or respect to my emotions. I’m offended someone would think that was a problem I would want to deal with during a terrible semester, my first semester of law school. Do you know how much energy it takes to process this information on top of studying for these hellish exams? What about the fact this was not the first time there were these “confessions”. Throughout this entire break up this person would tell their side of the story and then a week later edit their claims and drop a bombshell like, they hit their boyfriend in a fight.
It kept happening and it got to the point that seeing their name pop up gave me anxiety. Made my stomach churn thinking about the likelihood they were going to complain about people I didn’t want to hear about or fess up to ugly behavior. I was so mentally exhausted and wanted to scream at them, but I simply had no energy to feel anything. I just wanted to disappear to get away from this person. It was so unhealthy for me.
So hard pass on friendships where I am expected to do any emotional labor for someone who has literally no respect for anyone in their life. If they treat their partner or their ex viciously that is a major red flag for me. Grow up, hit block, do some self care, and get the fuck over it. Turning to abusive behaviors is a sign of weakness and a desperate struggle to regain power in a relationship that honestly needed to end for the other person to get away from you.
Telling your friends about your abusive behavior frequently is careless, selfish, and fucked up. People have to use energy to process that!!!! Perhaps chill the fuck out before you act like a fool and then require your unsuspecting friends to oversee your break down as you come to terms with the fact you actually suck. Or stop doing it on purpose to fuck with someone.
Control yourself or else I will inform the other person you’re not to be trusted.
So TL;DR set boundaries, check in with the people who support you, and stop acting horrible to make people who are not trained guide you through your life problems. Friends should be uplifting and not a bog of negativity.
Take care of yourselves.