"You can feel more comfortable taking up more of the emotional space in a relationship when you're the one with more privilege."“Yet another possible rationale for this pattern is that as kids, men viewed women, especially mothers, as the nurturers, the ones they could be most vulnerable with,” Zuckerman explains. “This view of women being confidants then carries over into their adult female relationships.” Men may also be unlikely to confide in other men, who have been socialized not to discuss feelings and may not provide the level of support women might. On top of that, they might fear that other men will see them as weak if they talk about their struggles, says therapist Julia Koerwer, LMSW. “Since emotional labor is often unbalanced across all sorts of privileged identities, it's possible that there's an underlying theme of being more comfortable taking up more of the emotional space in a relationship when you're the one with more privilege,” Kowerwer adds. If you feel like someone is doing this to you, you can address it in the moment with a simple line like “I’m so sorry, I would love to listen, but I must take another call” or “I would love to hear more, but I am so swamped with work,” says Zuckerman. You could put the blame on the circumstance — “I try not to have these kinds of conversations in the office” — or put the problem-solving burden back on them by asking, “What do you think you’ll do?” says Kowerwer. You can also be honest about the fact that you feel unqualified to help them and recommend they talk to a therapist. Another option is to stand up for your own emotional needs by saying “I am happy to listen to you, but right now I really need someone to listen to me” or “I am having a rough day; can we shelve this? I have too much on my mind.” Or, for a more direct approach, you can say something like, “I know you are totally overwhelmed right now, but you haven’t asked me how I am doing.” Don’t be afraid to point out what’s happening — it’s possible they’re not aware of it, says Zuckerman, and if they’re comfortable enough to share their problems with you, they’ll likely be open to hearing you out, also.
“It is critical to set limits with others and model healthy boundaries, even if it is brutally uncomfortable to do so."If you aren’t comfortable addressing the issue in the moment or it’s not getting through to them, Kowerwer suggests having a separate conversation where you say something like, "I don't know if you realize this, but a lot of the time, our conversations end up focused on whatever you're dealing with and supporting you, and it feels a little unbalanced to me. In the future, before you launch into something like that, can you ask me if I'm up for hearing about it?" Once you’ve set these boundaries, you may need to reinforce them later on. “The other person is used to using you for emotional labor, and it's going to take their brain a little bit to get used to interacting with you in a different way,” Kowerwer explains. “Be ready to cut them off: ‘Hey, this is what we talked about before, and I'm not up for a conversation like this right now.’” Then, you might suggest another topic of discussion. If that doesn’t work, be prepared to hang up the phone or leave the room with friendly but firm words like, "Like I said, I'm really not up for talking about this sort of thing right now, so I'm going to head out. Talk to you next time!" You can also set boundaries with yourself, like not responding to texts that are about the other person’s problems. “It is critical to set limits with others and model healthy boundaries, even if it is brutally uncomfortable to do so,” Zuckerman explains. “When you routinely put your own needs second, you are teaching others that your needs are not a priority. They are less likely to consider your needs and respect your boundaries.” You also don’t need to stay in the relationship, since boundary-setting itself can be taxing, says Kowerwer. If you’re having trouble setting boundaries or leaving a situation like this, it may be useful to examine your own people-pleasing tendencies. “People who always take care of others at the expense of their own needs will often feel tremendous guilt setting boundaries,” Zuckerman explains. “