Being able to divide the emotional labor equally in a relationship is important but it rarely happens—in reality, the burden often falls on women. After carrying the load one too many times, I decided enough was enough and I actually dumped a guy I had an otherwise great connection with when he refused to step up.
I got tired of being the one who remembered his mom’s birthday. She wasn’t even a legal relative of mine but I was the one who had it on my calendar. For three years, I had to ask him if there was anything she hinted at wanting as a gift; “Um, I don’t know” was the response I got back. Sending nothing was unheard of for me, but I’m guessing that’s exactly what his mom got before I came around. For the record, guys, your parents’ feelings will be hurt if you forget their birthday.
I was the one who always took the garbage out. I asked him every week and he said he’d “get to it.” Meanwhile, he piled more garbage on top of the bag that was already filled. It’s like he didn’t have the common sense to get off his butt and do it. He also didn’t remember when garbage day was even though it never changed in the time we lived together. The one week I trusted him to remember, we ended up with a garbage mountain outside for a week since—surprise!—it didn’t get done.
I was the only one who added to the grocery list. I also cooked dinner most nights, and sometimes he actually told me mid-meal that he’d prefer something else to eat even though he failed to have any input on the planning or the time spent to create the weekly meal plan. In order to save money, I also tried to find dinners that’d make good leftover lunches. That also went unnoticed.
He overused the phrase, “You should have asked!” Again, he was normally a nice guy and if I asked, there was a 50/50 chance it’d have gotten done. But here’s the thing: I was tired of asking. I was exhausted by always being the person who recognized a problem and a need for a solution. Why should I be the one to ask you to change a light bulb when you can also see it’s out?
I realized I should never be my boyfriend’s personal assistant. I had to remind him about haircuts, doctor’s appointments, and dinners we had scheduled with his parents—and yes, I was the one who scheduled those after too many “We miss you!” group chats they sent over. He never even thanked me for it. It was like he just expected it to be my job.
All relationships have issues, but they should never leave you exhausted. I don’t believe that there’s one perfect person out there, but I do know that I shouldn’t be so tired every night. While he was relaxing by playing video games for three hours, I went to bed early with thoughts of planning and household management swirling around in my head. Did we have enough toilet paper? Did he remember to take in the mail this morning? Will he shut off the downstairs lights and lock the door when he’s done with his gaming? Should I go downstairs and check for myself? It was too much.
He was shocked that I dumped him, and still doesn’t truly know why. For some men, emotional labor is hard to understand and it’s also a little hard to explain. But it’s a very real situation that women have to deal with, and it’s a valid breaking point for many relationships. After dumping him, I made other guys know what I expected from the bat. Nobody’s perfect, but I at least want to find a guy I can rely on to take some of the burden off my shoulders.
I still feel guilty for his family. Those birthdates remain in my head, and they really became a family to me. Still, I had to break free. Still, I worry that those cards and flowers stopped since he’s still single now and I’m sure his mom has taken on a lot of the responsibilities for her son that I could no longer handle.
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