Can Sharing Emotional Labour Save my Relationship?

Emotional Labour, Relationships, Common Law

I see many people in my office whose relationships have broken down. Although every couple and every situation are unique, there are some common themes that emerge. Whether clients label it or not, “emotional labour” is at the heart of many disputes and a significant cause in relationship breakdown. But what is emotional labour?

In the context of relationships emotional labour refers to the mental and emotional work required to maintain wellness in a family. It is perhaps better defined by some examples such as:

  • Maintaining connections with friends and family;

  • Responding to children’s birthday invitations and getting a present;

  • Making a doctor’s appointment for your children;

  • Planning a date night for you and your spouse; and,

  • Noticing that the dog needs to be taken the groomer and following through.

Often one spouse will tell me that they feel like they are the manager of the family, and the other parent is an employee. The employee will agree to pick up the kids when asked, get something from the grocery store, tag along to a dinner party and clean the toilet, when asked.

The manager has to communicate with other parents to set up a play date, do the family meal planning, send several emails to coordinate plans for a social event and prioritize the many tasks required to keep a family and a household running. The managers find this work exhausting, the employees may not even sense there is a problem.

In my experience, it more common for the woman in a relationship to find herself playing the role of the manager. This can lead to a lot of unhappiness and in many cases, clients have identified this as the primary reason their relationship ended.

Communication is key to any successful relationship, and there are many ways that couples divide the work involved with running a family. Some couples may be very comfortable with this division, but it still important to acknowledge so one person does not become resentful.

If you feel your relationship has come to end, call me to discuss your rights and obligations, don’t let fear and uncertainty keep you from living your best life possible!

If you have any questions about emotional labor you can call us at (902) 826-3070 or email us at to set up a meeting with one of our lawyers at our Tantallon law firm. You can also schedule a no commitment Issue Review Consult for $100+HST where you have the opportunity to explain your situation to a lawyer and get basic advice before deciding whether or not you'd like to retain us.  

By: Dianna M. Rievaj, MBA, LLB - Founding Lawyer

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