Anxiety and Emotional Labor

It’s been a difficult weekend, as I posted. Today, the problem is someone else’s, but it affects me in ways I cannot always control. My hubz has this habit of letting a bunch of little things both him and pushing down whatever emotional response that he has to them until he must hit some sort of max point. Instead of exploding, he goes into these funks that last for days. We are on something like day 10 now in a row. He gets short and withdrawn. I gather that is is a maladaptive pattern that he has developed over his life, and until recently, it was fine because he did not have a wife and family to have to deal with or be accountable to.

Today, I finally dragged out of him that he thinks he knows what is getting to him this time, but he says he “just needs to get through it” and doesn’t want to talk about it.

As you know, I have an anxiety disorder that makes everything feel a million times worse than it really is. Generally, my reactions to things are my problem, and my anxiety is mine to manage. I try to be very careful about not making other people responsible for what is happening inside of me. However, I am frustrated because I have explained to him, many times and in 4-part harmony, about how this pattern is very difficult for me. Especially when I know something is wrong and it is being withheld from me. I try my best to give people time and space to work through whatever they need to, and to manage my reactions to the best of my ability. However, I will always automatically assume that the cause is me or my daughter, and that things are going to go very badly. It’s my asshole anxiety friend.

But the other thing that is hard for me to swallow? That if bruh had done the emotional labor all along, we probably wouldn’t be in this place at all. So many people, myself included, do not learn this valuable skill from their families of origin. Especially in the Midwest which is full of German stoics and other protestants who espouse that bootstrap mentality that eschews any display of emotion, good or bad. Put on top of this the societal trope of toxic masculinity that states that any emotion other than anger is emasculating, and you have a lovely little cocktail of dysfunction.

This shit is frustrating and the additional labor that it demands is exhausting. I’m a product of third and fourth wave feminism and I do not have the time or the patience for this shit. This article in Harper’s Bazaar really touches on how I feel about this concept and the toll it has on the lives of women, myself definitely included.

I am happy to help and to listen and to own if I have been the source of discomfort or whatever to someone else. I am willing to change behaviors when appropriate to maintain harmony. However, I am SO DONE with doing people’s emotional labor, and I am getting very tired of carrying it for men. I really and surely hope as a society that we wise up and start teaching these skills to all of our children. I wish that men now without these skills would accept the fact that they don’t know them (no shame in that), and seek our resources (read:therapy) to learn them. I had to as an adult. I think this would lead to a lot better personal lives for everyone involved.

The angry feminist in me says: Women work. We are generally better educated now than men. We are successful in more wide ranging areas of our lives. We are thought to be better leaders. We make money and otherwise handle our shit better than men as a whole. If men cannot do this for themselves, what is the incentive for us to do this anymore? What do we gain? We are not dependent on men anymore and I wish they would let go of these antiquated patriarchal paradigms and join us in the 21st century. It’s a pretty nice place to be.

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