Maya is currently a senior at La Salle. She spends a large portion of her time learning about a myriad of social justice issues but takes a particular...
Emotional Ineptitude and Emotional Labor
May 24, 2023
Women are bending over backwards to accommodate men’s emotional incompetence.
And it’s exhausting.
Through our distinct socialization arises a key difference in each gender’s characteristics: emotional intelligence.
In a study consisting of 55,000 professionals across 90 countries, it was found that women were 86% more likely than men to be seen as consistently demonstrating emotional self-awareness as a competency.
Now, this is not an inherent criticism of men, for men and women are clearly taught — from the very day we are born — to deal with our emotions in two entirely different ways, and it is important to acknowledge this.
Men are trained to hold power and dominance in high regard, and thus, looking inward is not prioritized. In fact, showing and communicating emotion is discouraged.
Since women’s socialization is focused on passivity and accommodation, it makes logical sense that we are naturally more in tune with our emotions; we have to be, for our social success is dependent on it.
Women utilize emotions whereas men shy away from them — which is counterintuitive, given that emotion itself is the basis for a relationship, romantic and platonic alike.
Thus, women reap the consequences of men’s emotional ineptitude, subjected to the unregulated empathy and emotional labor of healing men and salvaging relationships.
What do I mean by this?
Women are always caretaking. It is what we were trained to do.
When men are struggling or a relationship is crumbling, women are the fixers.
For example, in my experience, I am always and have always been the primary communicator and mediator — facilitating the necessary conflict resolution, asking questions in times of uncertainty, and figuring out the inevitable complications of human connection.
I am always the one to clear the air after a conflict — having a genuine desire to discuss it, learn from it, and move on in a healthier manner. Usually, I am met with avoidance.
Romantically, when it is time to have the dreaded ‘What are we?’ conversation, I am always the one to bring it up — an individual pursuit of trying to escape the often-painful gray area. Rarely do I feel seen and validated subsequent to the conversation; instead, I feel like a liability who is asking for more than is deserved. The progression of a relationship too often lacks mutual effort.
If something insensitive is said, I too often bite my tongue, swallowing my hurt in acknowledgment that the odds of the feedback being well received are not in my favor — a conclusion I have come to after numerous instances of trying, elucidating a clear pattern.
But in swallowing my hurt, I swallow my worth too.
But in swallowing my hurt, I swallow my worth too.”
And, unfortunately, these experiences are not unique to me. I have spent hours discussing these concepts with the women in my life; our experiences parallel one another time after time.
It is arduous, knowing that usually the success of the relationship is proportional to the emotional labor that women are willing to put in.
Because in my experience, too often, men come into friendships and relationships having done little to no self-assessment and lack the sensitivity and awareness necessary to understand and tend to another human — specifically one of the opposite gender.
And this experience rings true for women of all ages; it is not solely a byproduct of high school immaturity (although that undoubtedly is a factor).
In marriages and adult relationships, women are constantly tasked with the emotional heavy lifting.
Usually, they are the primary emotional and physical caregiver for the children. They perform and delegate the household responsibilities. They facilitate the emotional work necessary for a healthy relationship. All of this is by default, with active responsibility required.
Of course, men do help in these tasks, but they have the passive responsibility.
Thus, women are left with emotional exhaustion and unregulated empathy, choosing between the conservation of our energy and the success of our interpersonal relationships with men. And through all of this, we are often not treated with the love and respect that we deserve.
Megan Murphy, a feminist writer and journalist, wrote an article titled “So long as men aren’t stepping up, women’s empathy needs limits,” and she explains this well: “We’ve stuck around with men who refused to talk honestly and openly with us, who shouted us down or shut us out — who refused to be our friends, never mind our partners. We’ve been understanding and sympathetic to our own detriment, while too many men did nothing to change, despite our commitment, empathy, and belief that they could change — that they could be better.”
Too often, womens’ endeavors to help our male partners and friends, and cultivate a healthy, worthwhile relationship occurs at our own expense.
The onus is not on women to help men change. We cannot be working ourselves to the ground in hopes of being treated with respect.
It is not only taxing, but painful, to dedicate so much of ourselves to bettering our interpersonal connections with men and simply be met with such apathy and inertia.