Emotional labor and mental load take their toll on a marriage–because they often exhaust the wife.

So many women experience this, and yet we don’t really have a name for it. We know something is wrong, we feel guilty because we dream of getting away for just a day, we find ourselves snippy at everyone–but we can’t name why.

Chances are it’s mental load!

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That’s our series for the month of June on the blog, and today on the podcast Rebecca and I introduce the concept:

What are mental load and emotional labor?

It’s feeling like you have to keep track of every single detail in the household, or else nothing will get done. It’s the feeling that you’re responsible for making sure everyone is okay, and you have to monitor all the relationships around you and make sure everyone is on an even keel.

We talked about it at length in two posts this week–one on the problem; and one on a solution:

We’ve had a ton of feedback on both of those posts, and I think that many of you find this is a big problem in your marriage. I encourage you to read those!

Remember, here’s why we’re talking about this so much this month: mental load is one of the biggest libido killers there is.

When women have a million things in their brains that they’re trying to carry, and they never get any time off from having to remember details or tell someone to get something done, then it’s hard to relax. And that means it’s really hard to get in the mood!

If we’re going to have great sex lives, we need to address mental load. 

We mentioned many of the comments we’ve had from people about mental load, including these themes:

  1. When we ask women what would get them in the mood, 50% of them say some variation of “do some housework.” But then men turn around and tell us that doesn’t work. What’s the disconnect? What women need is for men to “own” the task and notice it needs to get done, not just execute the task. You need to relieve some mental load, not just do some housework. But many women don’t have words for this and can’t articulate it, and many men don’t understand.
  2. Making a list for him to do is still work. And it’s managing him. It’s treating him like a subordinate. No one wants to be married to a subordinate. We want a partnership.
  3. So many women dream of getting sick or being hospitalized to escape mental load. This is real, and it’s dangerous.

Women are not Better Multi-Taskers

We have this belief (I know I did until Rebecca shared the research with me) that women are naturally multitaskers while men aren’t.

But brain studies and experiments have shown that’s not true. And when women do handle several things at once better, it’s because we’ve learned how, not because it’s innate. And men can learn it as well.

But the big thing is that women take ownership of more things, and so that means we naturally have to multitask. Think getting dinner made while you’re trying to supervise a 9-year-old doing homework and while a 3-year-old is on the kitchen floor getting into things and crying out for attention. That’s normal for many women. But it’s still supremely stressful, and we don’t do it well.

Honestly, this floored me when I learned this. I really thought women were better at it. This makes me even more adamant that we need to share the mental load!

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No one is saying that men have to do half the housework, or that men are not also stressed.

It is just that when one person carries the majority of the mental load for the household and the kids, it’s very, very draining. And if husbands are wondering why their wives aren’t attentive or romantic or in the mood anymore, perhaps the question should be asked: Is she simply carrying too much?

We’ve got some great solutions to mental load coming up this month, but read Tuesday’s post on Fair Play to get started.

And as Rebecca said in the podcast, she and Connor have talked this out and worked this out in their own marriage. Here’s the main podcast where they talked about it:

Podcast on emotional labor

Our Boost Your Libido course deals with mental load in module 4, and if you’ve been struggling with libido, you’ll find this 10-module course super helpful. Each video is short, with concrete action steps that you can take to start seeing immediate results.

Are you TIRED of always being too tired for sex?

Do you yearn to actually WANT to make love–and figure out what all the fuss is about?

There is a way! And in this 10-module course I take you through what libido is (it may surprise you!), what affects libido, and how we can reclaim the excitement that God made us for.

Let me know in the comments: Is mental load exhausting you? Did you know that women weren’t better multitaskers naturally? Let’s talk!

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Founder of To Love, Honor and Vacuum

Sheila is determined to help Christians find BIBLICAL, HEALTHY, EVIDENCE-BASED help for their marriage. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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