Are You Quiet Quitting Your Relationship?

“The opposite of love is not hate, it is indifference” — Elie Wiesel

Quiet quitting—the now ubiquitous expression that refers to doing the bare minimum at work—can also happen in relationships. When people quietly quit their job, they phone it in. They can’t be bothered with putting in extra time, energy, or effort. They have no plans to leave but they aren’t showing up in a meaningful way. When people quiet quit their relationship, they similarly disconnect. Think of quiet quitting a relationship as leaving without actually leaving.

Romantic disengagement is a key feature of quiet quitting a relationship. When one member of a couple “emotionally uncouples” (of course not to be confused with Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin’s much publicized conscious uncoupling), relationship satisfaction plummets. It is no surprise that growing apart, lack of love, and lack of affection are among the most frequently cited reasons couples give for breaking up.

3 ways quiet quitting manifests in romantic relationships:

1. Behavioral Withdrawal

Minimizing physical contact and communication. Speaking and interacting as little as possible with one’s partner. Withholding affection.

2. Emotional Deadening

Expressing low levels of interest in one’s partner or relationship and characterized by low levels of energy and excitement when interacting. Less attentive and emotionally distant.

3. Cognitive Distancing

No longer feeling connected as a couple or part of an “us.” Seeing one’s partner as entirely separate and different from the self. Mentally occupying separate spaces.

Nobody needs a checklist to tell them if they or their partner are quiet quitting their relationship. It’s painfully obvious to both parties. The Top Gun classic song, You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’ by the Righteous Brothers, captures the heartache of disengagement and the longing for connection when a partner feels miles away.

Now there’s no welcome look in your eyes when I reach for you

And now you’re starting to criticize little things I do

It makes me just feeling like crying

‘Cause baby, something beautiful’s dyin’

Of course there are many reasons quiet quitting occurs in a relationship. A lack of trust and respect are certainly major contributors, but a less obvious reason is the daily grind. When we’re not paying attention, life can get in the way of love, especially when couples have been together for a long time. Little acts of love are the lifeblood of healthy relationships. Closeness fades, goodwill evaporates, and trust melts away without the consistent presence of felt love. In their absence, connection desiccates and couples drift apart. The unfortunate result is unwitting quiet quitting.

Unlike quiet quitting in the workplace, quiet quitting in a relationship can occur unintentionally. A study published in The Journal of Sex Research offers a fresh strategy to protect against relationship disengagement and other relationship-destroying behaviors: adopting your partner’s perspective. When we put ourselves in our partner’s shoes, a “transformation of motivation” occurs that moves motivation away from its traditional individual-centric focus to a more relationship-centric one. Research shows that individuals who consider their partners’ viewpoints are likely to experience feelings of closeness and caring toward those partners as well as wanting to spend more time with them. When we put ourselves in our partner’s shoes, there is greater attention and concern for their needs and desires.

“People invariably feel better understood, and that makes it easier to resolve disagreements, to be appropriately but not intrusively helpful, and to share joys and accomplishments, it’s one of those skills that can help people see the ‘us’—rather than ‘me and you’—in a relationship, explained co-author Harry Reis, the Dean’s Professor in Arts, Sciences & Engineering at The University of Rochester.

There is evidence that perspective taking also reduces the temptation to cheat. Making a daily practice of prioritizing the ‘us’ rather than the ‘me and you’ can protect against unwitting quiet quitting.

Bottom Line: If you make an effort to keep that loving feeling alive every day, you won’t have to bring it back.


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I wish you all the best,

Dr. Samantha Boardman