Mental load can often be something that is overlooked or taken for granted in a relationship. When it comes to the physical things that we each do to run a home or to keep our relationship strong, explaining what we do isn’t hard. In fact, it may be incredibly obvious. But mental load isn’t as easy to define.
Mental load is made up of all the emotional and mental tasks that keep things running smoothly. This could include things like organising schedules, remembering important things and dates, making appointments, and taking care of feelings. Just like how we divide physical chores, we need to split up these mental tasks fairly to avoid stress and resentment.
Mental tasks can be just as tiring and time consuming as physical work, and it’s important that we treat them with the same importance. These tasks may not be as obvious as completing chores or making sure our bills are paid, so discussing what needs to be done and putting a plan together is key.
Regularly checking in to see how things are working can help us to work well as a team, as can also stop misunderstandings from escalating. Here are some practical ideas that can help us to balance the mental load:
Tasks feel harder and less fun when we’re not playing to our strengths. Identifying the things that we’re good at and the things that we like doing can make it easier to divide our responsibilities. We all have our own strengths, and being able to recognise them encourages fairness but also makes things more enjoyable.
Trying to retain everything in our minds can be overwhelming and can lead to things being forgotten. Even people with great memories need to be prompted sometimes. Using tools like shared calendars, lists, reminders, or charts can help us to keep track of our tasks and make sure that we’re doing our part.
It’s good to be grateful. Nobody wants to feel taken for granted or under appreciated. Saying thank you and recognising what we each are doing encourages us and spurs us on to keep doing our bit. Just a few words can make an enormous difference.
Life won’t always be the same and neither will our roles. A change in circumstances like a new job or addition to the family can mean that we need to re-evaluate who does what. Taking time to look at our responsibilities in this new season, and to alter them as needed, can help us to thrive and not just survive. Sharing the mental load is something that both partners need to be invested in. It’s not something that happens automatically, and we need to be just as committed and intentional as we would be with physical tasks. Working together, open communication and
valuing each other’s contributions all play their part in ensuring the mental load is all accounted for and that both partner’s feel valued and appreciated.
If you’re looking for more ways to invest in and strengthen your relationship, check out this popular couples event from Care for the Family, Date Night in a Box 2. This event combines online content with a bespoke board game so you can revisit those early days of dating, laugh a lot, and share a vision for your future together.
Find out more and order your box here.
About the author: Jess Hills is the Couple Support Manager for Care for the Family (CFTF). CFTF believe that every family should have somewhere to turn to for support in the good times and when family life is challenging. Find out more about their work here.