Quietly quitting on your relationship

The latest trend of quiet quitting – doing the bare minimum at work – sees people actively refraining from going the extra mile and disengaging from giving it their all.

READ: Intentional boundary setting at work – why quiet quitting is not all that glam 

This active emotional disengagement is also found outside of the workplace in the form of quietly quitting relationships.

Many years ago, a marriage counsellor colleague said she preferred couples that argue. During a fight, there is often name-calling, outspoken blaming, and signs of resentment. Naturally, a fight is not pleasant and does not set a good example for children. However, if there is a fight, it means the relationship still has energy.

Negative energy is better than no energy. Without energy, there is disengagement, and an unwillingness to invest time and emotion in the relationship. When the relationship is flat-lining, it is very difficult to resuscitate.

If you do not have the energy left to put up a fight, much less find ways to work on your relationship to keep it alive and thriving, then you are engaging in quiet quitting.

Temporary disengagement is not necessarily a reason for concern. There are times in every relationship when one partner becomes unavailable to the other while being more inwardly focused. If that couple had successfully processed those times in the past and reunited when the situation was resolved, there is usually no reason to imagine a deeper underlying problem.

However, when the withdrawal becomes more prolonged and there does not appear to be any desire for resolution, your relationships could be at risk.

Are you simply going through the motions?

Emotional disengagement is being mentally done with or removed from the relationship. We disengage to avoid unpleasant emotions or circumstances, diverting our energy away from the negative instead of facing and dealing with the situation. This translates to being physically in the relationship without allowing ourselves to be emotionally present, slowly eroding the emotional ties that bind us to our partner.

In a relationship, emotional connection is key for any intimate relationship. If you are emotionally disengaged you are cut off from emotional experiences, struggle to connect with your own emotions, and find yourself incapable of feeling anything at all.

Conversations barely scratch the surface and you rarely, if at all, share how you feel or what you are thinking. You might feel unappreciated, unheard, or misunderstood, and as a result, stop trying to be heard, finding it impossible to be intimate both mentally and physically.

Emotional disengagement poses not only a serious threat to a relationship but also to one’s health. It can significantly impact your cardiovascular and immune systems, and your mental health in terms of being more vulnerable to depression and anxiety, eating disorders, and substance abuse.

Disengagement breaks trust

Disengagement is dangerous for any relationship. It is a form of betrayal when someone you have a trusting and intimate relationship with stops caring, paying attention or fighting for the relationship.

Trust suddenly makes room for hurt, triggering our deepest fears of being unworthy, unlovable, and possible abandonment. Unlike an affair or dishonesty, emotional disengagement is not a single event. There is no obvious moment for this kind of betrayal, for the hurt, the brokenness. You simply cannot trace it back to the first day when you or your partner disengaged. Emotional disconnection happens through a series of subtle actions or non-actions, words spoken or left unspoken, and before you know it, there is simply no connection or a sense of belonging left.

Why do people disengage?

The loss of willingness to work on your relationship has many reasons, these include:

  • Cheating – whether it’s emotional or physical, more time is spent or engaging with someone else than the primary partner
  • Substance abuse – alcohol, drugs, and the misuse of prescribed medication can impact our ability to be present in the moment
  • Divorce or breaking-up – if you are discussing ending the relationship as an option, you are not completely committed anymore and are less present
  • Mental health – your emotional state and untreated conditions such as depression, and anxiety can limit your ability to work on your relationship
  • Priorities – time, obligations, and stress separate you from your earlier bond and connection
  • Interpersonal conflict – abusiveness, constant fault-finding, one’s vulnerability exploited, blaming the other for not reaching your dreams, or being undervalued encourages you to disengage to limit the hurt
  • Pride and fear – in the event of a personal crisis such as a health scare or temporary financial loss the person might feel embarrassed that they cannot function as normal, and instead of sharing, they keep to themselves and choose to solve the dilemma on their own.
  • Past trauma or indiscretions – the re-emergence of a past traumatic events or consequences of indiscretions in one’s earlier life, can re-surface. If kept as a secret from your partner, you might draw inward to protect your relationship, be afraid of being judged or feel embarrassed

Dial up your engagement!

WATCH: How to be more engaged

If you find yourself disengaged perhaps explore what engagement is – you might be able to find ways back to a lively relationship with your partner.

Engagement is the ability to:

  • Embrace and understand the other person’s vulnerabilities, weaknesses, and pain and have the willingness to share your own
  • Supporting and assisting the other to grow and feel safe and loved
  • Listening actively and reflective
  • Engage in emotionally mature communication and conflict resolution
  • Being physically and emotionally present
  • Proactively reconnect through fun and shared interests
  • Consciously value the relationship as a high priority over work, children, hobbies, and other distractions
  • Forgive and ask for forgiveness

It is never too late to close the distance between you and your partner. Start with active, open, and honest conversations, support your healing with individual and couples counseling, remind yourself why you chose your partner as your companion in the first place, and rekindle the connection with compassion, love and optimism.