What Is Quiet Quitting? What Can It Look Like In Your Relationship?

E.B. Johnson | NLPMP

An unhappy couple sits apart in tensionPhoto by(Envato Elements)

I've been quiet quitting my entire life. It started as a traumatized kid who did everything they could to distance themselves from the daily emotional abuse at home. I was never around, because I was running away and checking out through academics and my endless passion projects. I would later do the same in terrible relationships. Instead of just standing up and walking out, I would mentally and emotionally detach and go somewhere else.

This is a pattern that almost everyone can recognize in themselves or someone they know. Most recently, we’ve seen it in the workplace, where millions of people are stepping back from their roles and “quiet quitting” through a series of detachments and denials.

We quiet quit our relationships, too. When we feel bad, threatened, or otherwise connected to the partner we’re life-building with, we can back up and pull away. That’s what I was doing as a kid. Cornered in relationships that didn’t make me feel good, I backed out and quit my role emotionally.

Are you or your partner quiet quitting your relationship? Are you refusing to face the inevitable? Are you running away from hard conversations or the work that could make it work? You can’t tread that path forever. Eventually, one of you is going to have to break the spell.

Let’s break down quiet quitting.

The latest trend in the professional world, “quiet quitting” is a term coined to describe the slow and deliberate detachment of workers from their otherwise overwhelming jobs. When someone “quiet quits” they back slowly out of the room, detangling themselves from the normal status quo and intentionally taking a far back seat from the drama.

Our desire to walk away can come from a failure to step up for ourselves.

It’s a response that’s understandable when you see the demands of the modern workforce. Endless burdens on time and energy mean that employees don’t even have enough fuel to manage their own lives and relationships at home. The workplace isn’t the only place this phenomenon is happening, though. It’s happening in our most intimate bonds, too.

That’s right. People are quietly quitting their relationships. Instead of sitting down and talking things out, some people are making the choice to detach and disengage from the partnership that is not capable of giving them what they want or what they need.

Have you quiet quit in a relationship before? Is your partner quiet quitting on you as we speak? It’s a subtle, slow slide, but the pattern is obvious to spot once you know what you’re looking for.

Is your partner quiet quitting?

Quiet quitting happens in our intimate relationships all the time and for many reasons. Some people don’t have the courage to admit it’s all gone wrong. Others don’t know how to handle the complicated trials of an intimate relationship. However it happens, the damage and risk are the same. If you don’t face up to the problems, they get worse over time and fall into total chaos (and heartbreak).

Lack of investment

The decision to quietly quit your relationship is one that comes slowly. Little by little, you find that your partner disappears. On the surface level, it starts with investment. The person you met becomes more distant. They’re physically present, but they don’t care about dealing with anything or improving anything. The effort isn’t there because they’re seeing the relationship as expendable.

Total detachment

Emotional detachment is another key element in quiet quitting in a relationship. The partner who detaches in this style isn’t just lowering their investment — they’re becoming emotionally detached from the entire experience. When you quiet quit a relationship, you become emotionally distanced from what happens to it or how your partner feels.

Low communication

What happens when you try to communicate with your partner? The partner who is quiet quitting? They’re not willing to communicate with you. They don’t care anymore. A partner who is on their way out will stop asking you questions about yourself and your day. They won’t answer your questions. It can feel like you’re being grey-rocked. Communication stays at the surface level and can become awkward or tense.

Social avoidance

Beyond communication, you have to be aware of social avoidance, too. Happy couples spend time together. The partner who is quiet quitting, though, won’t have any desire to spend time with you. Look out for a partner who refuses to socialize; who has no desire for quality time. When they are on the way out, they will avoid being in your presence.

Intimacy erosion

Intimacy is so important in a relationship. You need physical and emotional intimacy in order to build trust, vulnerability, and connection. It’s also what helps to sustain those elements through hardship. Intimacy, however, soon erodes when your partner makes a decision to quietly quit the relationship. They will pull away from you and the walls may go up higher than ever before.

Full-blown fantasies

We all have fantasies. it’s human nature. When you’re in a relationship, though, those fantasies should have a time and a place. If those fantasies take up a majority of your focus and effort, there’s a problem. We see this a lot in quiet quitting. The partner pulling away regularly fantasizes about a different life or person, even when they’re with their partner.

How can we confront quiet quitting in a partnership?

What can we do to confront quiet quitting in our relationships? Can we do anything at all? Of course. There is always something we can do to improve our experience of something. You may not change your partner’s mind. You may not get the resolution that you want. What you can do, however, is tap into radical honesty and use that to power through everything which must come next.

If you want to address the silent detachment that’s permeating your relationship, then you have to:

  • Get clear on your feelings
  • Figure out what’s wrong
  • Have an honest conversation
  • Take action to make repairs

First, take a step back and assess your own feelings and your role in the relationship. What’s the bigger picture? Is your partner really quiet quitting? Or have you hit a natural ebb in your long-term partnership? Be certain of your situation, then sit down and clarify how you really feel about it, how you want it resolved, and what you want to say.

Take a deeper look at what’s wrong, too. Relationships don’t usually end suddenly without warning. There is a slow buildup, a distance that gets greater and greater with time.

Lay it all out on the table in a frank and honest conversation. Tell your partner how you feel, what you’ve experienced in their growing distance. At the same time, leave room for them to honestly share their truth…even if it hurts.

The only way out of a relationship obstacle so great is through it. By talking it out you and your partner may realize that you can repair what’s gone wrong. Or, you may realize that the breech is too great. Either way, you must take action in the name of your wellbeing. Both of you deserve to be happy, even if that happiness is found with other people.

Be courageous. The way ahead may not be forward or pleasant, but it will end in happiness if you both do what’s right by each other and yourselves.

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Writer | NLPMP | Host of the Practical Growth Pod | Get coaching and recovery resources @ the link.

Pelham, AL

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