What’s ‘quiet quitting’ in relationships about?

As a therapist I know how hard many people work to keep their relationship healthy and prevent it spiralling towards a separation. In a couple, one partner often detects relationship difficulties more quickly and is keen to address them with their partner.

This can be a tiring position for them as they voice their concerns. Sometimes they may be taken seriously, and changes happen. But for many they are not taken seriously, and their partner may complain or blame them for the problems, or the couple may end up in conflict.

Over time either partner may move to the position of quiet quitting. One partner may reach their limit in constantly trying to improve the relationship, as they wanted the relationship to help them feel safe or more secure. The other partner may be exhausted at what feels like constant complaints or blame about them getting it wrong all the time.

Quiet quitting is a state of resignation where a partner or partners are no longer investing in the relationship’s wellbeing or even survival. It can be due to conscious and unconscious reasons.

Despite giving up, they’re not ready to hand over the keys.

It’s a recognition from one partner that even though the couple is no longer an alive entity, there are still benefits or support in remaining in the union. These may include fear of losing extended family connections, social groups, the neighbourhood, community, financial security, companionship, the family cook, a Netflix buddy, or the dog walker.

7 signs you or your partner may be 'quiet quitting' in your relationship

Distancing, disengaging, and avoiding partner (psychologically, physically and/or sexually)

Not valuing or seeking out partner’s advice, opinions, or viewpoints any more

Partner and relationship are no longer a priority unlike other people, the phone, work, or exercising

Being indifferent to partner – a lack of attention, time, curiosity, or care for them

No longer trying to resolve issues in the relationship, and believe there is no point seeing a therapist

Resignation at the state of the relationship, no longer feeling despair

Unable and unwilling to engage in discussions about future plans together – have lost a sense of “us” or “we” both now and for the future

Is this different from separating?

Separating is often a gruelling and exhausting process where many interwoven aspects of life are unravelled. These can be financial, extended family, friendship groups, being co-parents, perhaps a joint business, a home, investments. To undo each of these it requires thought and they are often emotionally laden.

Quiet quitting allows time in between – it’s a position like sitting on the fence. It’s not fully in the relationship and it’s not fully out. There may be emotional withdrawal from one’s partner however this is not the same as total withdrawal, and the aspects mentioned like friendships, extended family, being a family unit, or having a home together still hold well enough. Some people can sit on the fence for a short time before their bottom gets sore – and for others forever potentially.

When a partner is quietly quitting, they are taking a position. It could edge the couple closer to separation or it could cause the other partner to rally, pull up their socks and allow themselves to be truly in it again.

Don’t judge the quiet quitters!

Quiet quitting is a valid position and shouldn’t be judged as childish or immature. It could be a reflective time to work on the next steps outside of the relationship. Some people get individual therapy at this point, others see a family lawyer.

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