I think as adults we were all there. We’ve told our partners something a million times just to have them tell you this is the first time they’re hearing about it. Emotional labor is a crucial part of parenting, and when you feel like you’re carrying the emotional labor more than your partner, things can get tricky. You may begin to feel resentment, anger, and pain because your partner doesn’t show up, but how do you ask your partner for emotional support? You want to ease some of the emotional labor you have experienced and share the burden and in return feel closer and more connected to your partner and be a better friend, partner, parent and more.
What is emotional work?
Emotional labor is sometimes called invisible labor and refers to the invisible work a parent undertakes that is disproportionate to their partners, says Kaitlin Soule, a licensed marriage and family therapist, women’s mental health expert, and author. “Because the truth is, even if your partner is great at execution, there’s an incredible amount of conception and planning that goes into being a parent’s day-to-day life—and it’s downright exhausting,” she says. But how do you ask your partner for support in these everyday matters?
How do I get emotional support from my partner?
“It’s absolutely fine to ask your partner for emotional support,” said Heidi McBain, LMFT, LPC, PMH-C. “Be specific about what emotional support you need from your partner. Is it a simple hug? A listening ear? Someone to hold space for you while you cry?”
Soule offers three tips. She says number one, the way you ask, is key. “We want to pick a time for the conversation when we’re not overly emotionally charged or overly tired so we can communicate our needs more clearly,” she says.
Second, she says that you shouldn’t approach your partner out of an attitude of blame or finger pointing. “While we may be angry or frustrated, if we start blaming and shaming each other, our partners will likely shut down and become defensive,” she says. And one way to do that is to focus on your feelings and use “I” statements, telling them you want to work together as a team to solve the problem, Soule said. She adds, “It can be helpful to ask your partner something like, ‘Do you have any ideas on how we can better support each other?'”
Number three, Soule says, is to highlight the fact that when you get more support from your partner, you get more time and energy to show yourself as the best version of yourself, and the same goes for your partner.
Why is emotional support important?
McBain says if your partner can’t support you emotionally, you can end up feeling sad, lonely, hurt, upset, angry, and more. She adds that you can also feel separate from each other.
“Being a person, let alone a parent, in today’s uncertain and complicated world is no easy task — we all need and deserve love and support from our partners,” says Soule. She adds that all times are the same, and no matter what title someone has in the household, that doesn’t mean they have superpowers, they also need help and support so they’re free to be a whole person beyond just the role as a parent, partner or professional.
What does emotional support look like?
Soule says support will look different for each person based on their needs, but she says, “Overall, support looks like showing up for the person you love by giving them some of the burden of shoulders and takes its fair share of the heaviness of the burden that is life.”
This could be like splitting up house and childcare chores, or making sure you both have time to engage in your own version of self-care and fun, she says.
“Fun is such an underappreciated part of self-care… if we don’t have support from our partners, we have little time and space to enjoy being human,” says Soule.
What to do if your partner does not support you?
Unfortunately, sometimes our partners still don’t get it. What do you do when your partner still doesn’t support you? Give yourself the space and time to feel your feelings, McBain says — are you feeling lonely, angry, or sad? “See if you can find another time when your partner can support you,” she says. “If you’re struggling too, try to find someone who can help you through this difficult time, whether it’s a friend, family member, colleague, therapist, etc.”
“Start with a conversation about how you’re feeling, what needs aren’t being met, and how their support would have a positive impact on you (the person you love) and the family,” says Soule. “If you’re still struggling to get their support, it’s a good time to consider couples therapy or to attend a workshop or training to better share the mental and emotional burden.”
She also suggests checking out Fair Play, created by social justice activist and author Eve Rodsky. “It’s a great resource for couples who want to make changes in their home system but aren’t sure where to start,” says Soule.
No one should go through life without feeling loved and supported by their partner, especially when it comes to parenting. Come to them without pointing fingers, make “I” statements, and come from a place where you want things to get better for both of you.
Kaitlin Soulea licensed marriage and family therapist, expert on women’s mental health and author of Slightly less hot mess
Heidi McBainLMFT, LPC, PMH-C, Therapist and life coach for mothers and mothers-to-be