Dear Maxine,

Thank you for your original post on mental load. I found it helpful to think about what I’m carrying and how to manage it. I tried to share it with my partner and he responded with how unappreciated he felt. He said that he does so much for us and can’t believe that I would come at him with wanting him to do more.

Do you have any ideas how we can talk about this and resolve it?


Dear Follower,

I think this is a really common experience and a big part of the challenge of mental load. A big part of mental load is about how much we are taking responsibility for, planning for, worrying about and researching. It’s unseen, psychological labour.

That is not to say that partners don’t do this at all. Often they do, but with different topics.

I wonder whether there’s something about sharing your experiences, without competing. Without finger pointing. Just observing. How would that be?

Often, I find that people don’t know where to start with things like this so, in a break from tradition, I will offer some frameworks for starting this.

  1. Be clear in your mind about what you want to get from the conversation
  2. Talk about talking
  3. Observe instead of blaming
  4. Listening
  5. When things get too much

Be clear in your mind about what you want to get from the conversation

If this conversation went exactly as you wanted it to, how would you know? What would be different? What are you asking for?

Is it that you just want someone to listen to you, hear your experience and empathise?

Is it that you want something to change? That you want your partner to do more, less or different?

What do you think would be the difference in each conversation? How could you use knowing what you want to pull the conversation back on track?

Talk about talking

Often, I find, we have a tendency to suddenly blurt out everything that’s annoying us in one go when it’s finally got too much. Does that sound familiar? What tends to be the outcome of this?

How would it be to, instead, plan the conversation?

‘Hey, I’ve just read an article that really resonated with me and I want to talk to you about it, when do you think would be a good time?’

‘Hey, there’s some things that have been really getting to me lately, and I want to try to work them out with you, when might be the best time to do this?’

This might not be that day. It needs to be a time when you’re both clear headed, feeling safe enough and not wound up. That’s not always easy when there’s lots of things going on and you have children! But a ‘good enough’ time, where you are both willing to try to stay as ‘adult’ as possible.

Observe instead of blaming

This can be a really tricky one. And the key to having a much more fruitful conversation.

‘I read this article about mental load and it really resonated with me because I do everything and you do nothing to do with the children. I’m constantly planning and thinking about them and never get a break. Whereas you go to work and you have all your activities.’ rarely goes down well.

‘I read this article on mental load and it really resonated with me. I started to realise how much time I spend planning and thinking about the children, I feel like I don’t have any space for me. I’ve realised it’s because I find it really difficult to trust other people to do things as I do and it feels really stressful and scary for me to let go of responsibility. I’d really like it if we could find a way through this. It might even help you to feel a bit freer to do things your way with the kids’.

How does the latter sound? What would you change about it so that it suits what you need to say? Can you see the difference? How does it feel to take ownership of the problem?

It’s also worth noticing that, in the latter, many of the sentences start with ‘I’ and relate to a feeling, rather than an action.

Often, the advice is ‘start sentences with I’ but if the rest of the sentence is ‘I do everything around here and you do nothing’, it’s not going to go very far. Even ‘I feel like I do everything around here’ is hostile.

However, if you can say even something like ‘I feel overwhelmed by everything I have to do’, it takes away the focus on your partner entirely, and can allow space to explore why you are feeling that way. How much of it is reality, how much you can let go of, how much you can ask for help with.


When we’ve got a lot to say it can be difficult to hear what our partner has to bring. Often, if they’re feeling criticised, there’s a good chance they might start to shift the focus onto things that you aren’t doing.

How often have you had conversations where you say something, it goes into the air and then somehow changes as it goes into your partner’s ears so that what you said or meant has been totally missed or misinterpreted?

And then your partner says something and you hear it in a way they also really did not intend?

Really listening, taking out judgment and expectation can help with this.

Almost like creating an umpire who is watching what’s happening and can see when the conversation is going off track. Can you imagine that? How do you think you could manage that? What do you think would help bring you back to your umpire if it all gets off course?

When things get too much

And, without practise, it’s likely to go off course a few times before you’re both able to have conversations that don’t become blaming or judgmental.

So knowing when to stop, take a break and allow yourselves to come back to it is key.

How will you recognise that time? Can you talk about that beforehand? Are there ways you can remind yourselves that you still love each other and this argument is because you’ve both been triggered, not because you both hate each other, really?

How do you feel having read this?

What stuck out to you?

What will you take away?

I’d love to hear what you think about this, please do share your thoughts in the comments or on Facebook/Instagram.