Last year, there was a new buzzword in corporate circles. After the worst of the pandemic, when work started returning to normal, more and more companies noticed their employees were simply not performing as they used to. They would do only what was asked of them as per their job description and rarely, if ever, take on additional projects. Commitments lay unfulfilled, and the bare minimum in terms of work was being done.
However, the same employees were still turning up to work every day and seeming to be attending to their responsibilities. Until one day, they weren’t. It gave rise to the popular term: Quiet quitting. But can the same terminology be applied to breakups or romantic partnerships?
We asked Ruchi Ruuh (PG diploma in counseling psychology), who specializes in compatibility, boundary, self-love, and acceptance counseling, whether quiet quitting was here to stay and what could be done to protect oneself from this new behavioral trend.
What Is Quiet Quitting In A Relationship?
According to Ruchi, “Quiet quitting a relationship is a work culture term that means you do not quit your job outright but quit the idea of going above and beyond. This term also means the same in interpersonal relationships, where one or all partners slowly disengage from the relationship without communicating this thought to their partner.”
Quiet quitting your relationship or even quiet quitting a marriage has suddenly become a phenomenon. And a very worrisome one at that. Ruchi adds, “Instead of openly discussing the challenges and needs in the relationship, people decide to just do minimum work to keep their partner around. It’s a gradual withdrawal from the relationship which can eventually lead to the complete breakdown of the bond. Even though it’s pretty acceptable in today’s culture, it borders on being a manipulative move in some extreme cases.”
What Triggers Quiet Quitting?
There are several reasons that a person may choose to quiet quit. Ruchi elaborates, “Many people, even though they start their relationships with certainty, start feeling unsure about their feelings. Instead of communicating their needs or dissatisfaction, they choose to quite quit.
“Conflict avoidance is strongly linked to a fearful avoidant attachment style. These people use passive-aggressive techniques to avoid confrontation or conflict. Many people quietly quit relationships when they feel emotionally exhausted. It happens when their needs remain unmet despite constant communication, conflicts, abuse, betrayal, or neglect. So instead of trying, they choose to conserve their emotional energy and withdraw.
“It is specifically observed in marriages or long-term committed relationships where people have far more important reasons to remain with their partner, like children, shared assets, social status, etc. In such cases, more people choose to quiet quit rather than completely break down the relationship.” Other reasons to emotionally withdraw from the partner yet stay in the relationship include:
Related Reading: Passive-Aggressive Behavior In Relationship: Signs & Examples
1. A partner stays in the relationship out of obligation
A romantic partner may prefer quietly quitting the equation if the situation forces them to remain in a partnership out of obligation. For e.g., “for the children” or for financial reasons.
2. They are scared
Maybe they fear being alone and don’t want to take the leap and actually break up. At the same time, they are not invested in the relationship either.
3. They want to avoid conflict
There are people who hate conflict or arguments and choose to avoid them rather than officially break up or face the problem head-on. They prefer to rely on quiet quitting behaviors to get out of a messy relationship.
4. The emotional withdrawal happens over time
Quiet dumping can be an unconscious decision that happens over time. One partner may disengage emotionally if a relationship is fraught with arguments that reach no suitable conclusions. No active decision is made, yet the damage is done.
5. Their emotions were always walled up
Finally, people who put up walls with their partners may not fully invest in their romantic relationships. Over time, this disintegrates into an unhealthy partnership that forces some sort of conclusion, whether mutual or not.
There are several reasons that a partner refuses to talk things through and becomes distant, and the question that often crops up is: Why not just break up? Well, some people may not have other viable options. Or the price they would have to pay by leaving may be too high. Emotional separation before the actual breakup could be an exit strategy for some. No matter how the quiet quitting behaviors occur, one thing is definite – One partner chooses to no longer have the other as a priority in their life.
Related Reading: 15 Warning Signs Your Partner Is Losing Interest In The Relationship
How Do You Know If Your Partner Is Quiet Quitting? 7 Subtle Signs
Is this alarming you? Do you think your partner may be quiet quitting your relationship? There are signs that you can look out for. But once you notice them, be warned, you may not be able to go back and unsee them. For better or worse, there’s a change brewing in your partnership, which may not be one you want to acknowledge. Here are seven subtle signs that your partner may be quiet quitting your relationship:
1. You don’t seem to be a priority anymore
I would say, the very first red flag for anyone in a romantic relationship is that the same partner who once dropped everything to make time for you now doesn’t seem to be doing so, ever. Suddenly, they don’t think twice about dropping out of plans with you or saying no to any requests for quality time. If you find that they seem to see more of their friends, family, or anyone else besides you, it’s a bright red flag, so pay heed.
2. The future seems very uncertain
When a partner is cooling off, or their love is fading away, one of the subtle hints to look out for is their inability to commit to any future plans. Ask them about going out next weekend, and a vague response is given. Try and pin them down to any holiday plans for next summer, and you will probably be met with no commitment.
When a person is giving up on a relationship, they don’t want to hurt the other person’s feelings but look at the other signs which clearly imply that they are not invested in a joint future. They want to leave a relationship silently.
3. Your partner no longer discusses important things with you
Have you been noticing the following signs in your partner’s behavior?
- They avoid talking about their happy feelings
- They also do not discuss things that upset them
- They seem aloof and removed
- They rarely express any reaction to your conversations
- They zone out when you discuss your feelings
They probably don’t want to get into an argument with you. When a person is quiet quitting a marriage or relationship, they stop talking the way they used to and don’t share what’s on their mind. One reason is that they feel uncomfortable communicating honestly with you. They prefer not to deal with what’s happening. They’d rather pretend that nothing matters in the relationship and that they have no interest in your life.
4. Your partner may be emotionally distant from you if you both fight a lot
In other cases, there could be many more arguments between the two of you. Small things may irritate your partner, and a regular conversation could escalate quickly into a full-blown, ugly fight. One way for people to quiet quit is to push the other to break up first. This can be accomplished by generally creating drama and problems where none exist while trying to leave a relationship silently.
5. You are left hanging
Today, everyone is just a text or call away (exceptional circumstances notwithstanding). If you realize that your messages are being left unread or rarely replied to, which used to never happen before, it’s a sign that things are possibly souring. Your partner’s lack of communication may indicate that this is not a healthy relationship anymore.
Related Reading: Fake Relationships – 15 Ways To Identify You Are In One
6. There is no affection left
One of the easiest (and most telling) signs is when a person stops being affectionate. Since the love is dwindling, there is less and less need for intimacy or declarations of love. Signs of quitting a relationship could include:
- Not being home at the same time
- Keeping physical distance
- Not spending time together or finding excuses not to be intimate
- Being in the same space but avoiding touching each other
- Lack of casual intimacy and comfort with each other – especially the verbal kind
- Physical touch may seem stilted or forced
7. Nostalgia is avoided when a partner is quiet quitting the relationship
You are in a long-term relationship or marriage, and your partner seems to be avoiding talking about happy memories that you both created together. One reason is that they do not want to be reminded of the good times and feel guilty.
Quiet quitting is, therefore, always a one-sided affair. One partner gives up on trying to save the relationship but does not take the mature way out and discuss the problem. Or maybe they tried, and their attempts were not acknowledged or respected. So, they have decided that there is no point discussing relationship issues and, for all accounts, have checked out emotionally and physically. The other partner may not realize this until it’s too late and the damage has already been done.
What To Do If Your Partner Is Quiet Quitting
“Don’t take it personally, they could be dealing with something that they feel ashamed to discuss,” says Ruchi. Here is her advice:
- Start the conversation with empathy instead of blame
- Understand they could be withdrawing due to fear or to avoid conflict
- Be sure of what you are feeling and seeing before the confrontation
- Once you have processed your own feelings, have an open, honest conversation with them
- Express your needs and thoughts in a calm, polite manner and listen to their perspective
- Offer help to resolve their issues with respect to the relationship
- If you still think your communication is not working, work with a professional to establish clear communication. Work with a professional individually to process your feeling of neglect and rejection
- Also, divert the focus to yourself and your self-care too. Give them time, and don’t focus too deeply on the issue. Engage in activities you like, meet friends and family, and start a reflective journal
She adds, “Remember, every relationship is unique, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution. However, open communication, empathy, and seeking professional help, when necessary, can provide valuable guidance in navigating the situation and making informed decisions about the future of your relationship.”
Related Reading: Expert Talks About 9 Must-Try Couples Communication Exercises
- Quiet quitting is a term that started in corporate circles and now encompasses the realm of relationships as well
- It implies quietly quitting a relationship without spelling out the problem or dealing with any conflict
- A person who chooses to quiet quit may do so for a variety of reasons, but at heart of it, the other partner is no longer a priority
- The bare minimum required in any healthy relationship is respect and attention. If this is lacking in yours, it may be time to talk with your partner
Quiet quitting is an unpleasant new trend that needs to go away. When people find it easier to quit rather than repair or address a situation, then all respect is lost. Sure, a certain amount of courage and honesty is required to express any feelings, but the most empathetic thing one can do is give their partner the choice to leave or stay. Don’t hold on or keep them hanging just because you cannot take that call.
Ruchi says, “It depends on the situation. Even though it might be challenging in some relationships to openly communicate your discontent owing to the fear of abandonment or conflict, working with a professional and developing communication skills and confidence is still advisable.”
Quiet quitting is just a new term for an age-old phenomenon. It’s not like people didn’t quiet quit before, it’s just that there is now popular terminology for it. If your partner is distancing themselves from your relationship and there has been no real reason for it, their actions tell you everything you need to know.