Dangerous Compassions

balance in relationships is justice

balance in relationships is justice

Hello, how are you doing?  Life’s good in Oregon.  Been thinking about how balance in relationships is justice.

So many people do work to change culture at large scale.  Then they neglect the interpersonal ways that we need to do justice at home too.

Please love me right.  Please do justice in love.


One type of balance is airtime in conversation.  Having a 80/20 talking ratio feels disrespectful.  I don’t need perfect 50/50.  But overall, listening and talking should be balanced.

That’s respectful behavior, hopefully to match respectful words.  Do you care about my ideas, and are you curious about what I say?  Airtime is an indicator.

But I have friends who it’s not always balanced with, and I wouldn’t even think to pay attention, because they are so respectful, I’m not feeling pain.  So I don’t need to search for reasons the pain is there.  I’m just safe with them.

emotional labor

Choosing to do emotional labor in a balanced way is helpful to individual relationships and also the world.  For men to be ok receiving much more than they give feels like patriarchy.

Not that we all have to be good at the same things.  But when the balance is very off, patriarchy feels like part of the harm.

Do you think you should balance emotional labor?  Do you fabricate reasons not to?  Like “I didn’t ask for this, so I don’t need to give back.”

Do you criticize other people for objecting to your behavior by saying they keep track of emotional labor, calling that petty or scorekeeping?  Basically, you blame them for paying too much attention, when they say you didn’t do enough.

Are you terrified of emotional debt, and use that fear-energy to point fingers, rather than do the actual work of being there for other people?  Seems to me, you will work hard either way.  Denial is so much effort to maintain.  It’s way more productive to cultivate emotional labor skills and exert your energy that way, than to work hard at maintaining your argument that you owe nothing to anyone.

Do you consider people “crazy,” when we have emotional needs and big reactions when the emotional needs are neglected?  Do you think  you’re logical, which makes you better?

Are you being honest about your emotional life and what other people do for you?  If you’re minimizing your own feelings, what would happen if you tried being direct and real about them?


There are many ways to excuse lack of balance in emotional labor.  But much like airtime in conversations–when it feels wrong, we can argue over details.  The pain is there.

The empty feeling can be frightening, when I help hold someone’s range of feelings, emotional needs, bodily pain, emotional pain, health struggles, food needs, complaints about day to day frustrations…  And in return, they portion out care with an eye dropper.  You get this tiny little amount of love.  And if you object to that, you’re a needy woman and I don’t have time for you.

But wait–emotional labor makes community function, and families, and societies.  Love is why we’re here.  Even workplaces and orgs need emotional labor, but it’s often not in the job description.  It’s just expected of women, enbies, and queer people as a matter of course.


Starving other people emotionally is a way to maintain power.  If you’re afraid to feel your feelings, and you want someone else to feel for you and hold a lot of your emotions with you, that could be ok, if you’re being honest about what you’re taking.  Consenting adults can do what we want to, in relationship.

But there is no consent in pretending that’s not happening.  Pretending you don’t have a responsibility to the people who do emotional labor for you is deep injustice.  Repeated over and over again all over the place, it causes dysfunction in culture.  And it plays out most in gender, where men are being served like kings, and we’re supposed to pretend that isn’t happening.


My main question is–do you think you have a responsibility to other people emotionally?   Do you think idea-help and logistical help are enough, and emotions are optional?  Do you respect the emotional lives of other people at all?  How about your own emotional life?

If you think respecting the emotional lives of other people is optional, please make a better choice.  I’m not a machine that cranks out love.  You can say that loving hard is my choice and push reciprocity to the side.

But emotional labor is real.  Love matters more than just about anything.  I’ve cultivated skills, and it takes a lot of energy to show up for other people.  That should be respected and reciprocated.

Not ignored, pathologized, called co-dependence, considered not measurable so not important, or considered “of course” based on my apparent cis gender lady-ness and large, nurturing breasts.

balance in relationships is justice

I know you have a good heart and want to do justice; I’m happy to be part of that.  I believe in you.

We can work together for a functional culture.  Balance in relationships is justice, and it’s worth the effort.

By Laura-Marie

Good at listening to the noise until it makes sense.

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