The third shift: Addressing emotion work in couple therapy


Research on the gendered division of household work in western political economies often neglects its emotional dimensions. This conceptual paper draws on concepts of emotion work and feminist care ethics to explore gendered and intersecting divisions of emotions and emotional work in couple relationships and their implications for couple therapy. Although emotion work has been studied in workplace settings, less attention has been paid to inequalities in the privatized realm of interpersonal relationships, including romantic and filial ones. Women and feminine partners' culturally presumed expertise in emotions typically positions them as carrying primary responsibility for managing emotions in intimate relationships. Couple therapy is an important site of interaction that can both support and, potentially, disrupt the invisibility and gendering of emotion work in intimate relationships, thus shedding light on recurring patterns of women's subordination and exploitation. We conclude by advancing suggestions for addressing gendered and intersectional dimensions of emotion work in therapy practice.



care, couple therapy, emotion work, feminist, gender, intersectionality


Smoliak, O., Al-Ali, K., LeCouteur, A., Tseliou, E., Rice, C., LaMarre, A., Davies, A., Uguccioni, B., Stirling, L., Dechamplain, B., & Henshaw, S. (2023). The third shift: Addressing emotion work in couple therapy. Family Process, 1– 18.