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Why Quiet Quitting Happens In Relationships: How to Reverse This Threat If You Think It's Happening In Yours

Updated: Jun 9

It might look like more peace in the relationship where there was once conflict or it might look like a packed schedule with new hobbies, travel, or friendships. It might look like quiet resentment or throwing yourself into other projects like your work, church, school, or your children. Quiet quitting is a phenomenon that doesn't just happen in the workplace. It happens in relationships too, and you might not even see it occurring.

A woman who is considering ending her relationship stands with her arms crossed and a stern look on her face
Quiet quitting is a warning sign that things are not good and that the relationship probably needs intervention to get back on track.

Quiet quitting is a term that increased in popularity following COVID-19 Pandemic when employees began staying at their jobs but silently began opting out of tasks beyond their duties and became less invested in their work. They were tired and burnt out and so they stayed, collected their paycheck, and did the bare minimum. It was a protest, but a silent one that employers often didn't even notice until their employee was handing in their resignation. The result was managers being blindsided when their employees seemingly abruptly left without any recent conversations about the employee being unhappy or requesting changes.

This phenomenon is also not uncommon in relationships where someone no longer believes change can be effective and might remain in the relationship while also putting in bare minimum effort. It's the opposite of what healthy relationships need: energy, care, attention, attunement, and engagement. Quiet quitting is a warning sign that things are not good and that the relationship probably needs intervention to get back on track. If you believe that your relationship may be suffering from your own or your partner's quiet quitting read below to find out how to course correct or seek help to address this common relationship issue.

If you are the partner who is quietly quitting, here's why that's a relationship threat

If you are the partner who is quietly quitting the relationship with your spouse, parent, friend or adult child you need to understand that you did not get to this place suddenly or abruptly. There were many, many things that occurred to get you to a point where you lost faith in the other person's ability to hear or see your needs and desire to make changes. There were many moments of hurt and not being witnessed in the relationship that probably left you feeling defeated, awake at night thinking, and alone in the relationship. If you are the partner who has been quietly quitting the relationship, it is a serious threat for the relationship that you are in this place, and also you did not get here by yourself or wake up one day and decide to not invest in the relationship anymore. That needs to be honored and understood to prevent you from experiencing shame or guilt about the behaviors you are engaging in now to protect yourself.

Some helpful steps might be to notice and give words to what exactly led to the silent quitting. Was it attending an event for your children alone for the 100th time after long discussions with your partner that you would like for them to be present more? Was it your emotional expeirence not being considered or validated by a parent again? Was it a friendship where your needs were once again not considered due to the other person constantly being focused on themself? Whatever the case, it helps to be able to write them down or say them out loud to ward off shame and guilt.

It could also be helpful to think about what you really want for the relationship. If you are secretly hoping that the relationship will work out, silent quitting is taking you further away from your goals. It may feel like getting back in the boxing ring to have more conversations about needs you have after getting knocked down so many times in this emotional space, but that's where couples counseling or family counseling comes in handy. Your partner needs to hear what caused you to distance and shut down and you need help feeling safe enough to bring your needs back to the relationship to ask for them to be met again. These are tough conversations so most couples or families need outside support via counseling services to have success completing these two steps.

A male is pictured experiencing stress due to feeling stressed about needs presented in his romantic relationship that he does not know how to meet.
If you grew up in a need deprived environment you may have learned how to live without having your needs met and learned to ignore the needs of yourself and others.

If your partner is quietly quitting on you, here's why that's a relationship threat

If it seems like there is suddenly more peace in your relationship where there was once demands, requests and conflict it's possible your partner is silently quitting on you. Before you enjoy the peace it's important to explore if a problem was truly solved or if the problem that led to so much conflict in the relationship is still there, but your partner has suddenly found a way to cope with it. If the problem remains, you might be in a relationship with someone who has quietly quit. There is work to do, but if you want the relationship to work it's possible you can get it back on track with the right interventions.

Some great questions to ask yourself while you refrain from blaming the other person are the following. What was it about the way that the other person presented their requests that made it so difficult for me to meet them in that space? Do I really want to do the work (also read: do things differently in this relationship) to remain in this relationship or am I determined to not make the requested changes? In what ways have I turned away from the other person's needs and emotional experiences? Am I willing to loose this relationship or do I want to hear about how the other person needs things to potentially be different in order to feel safe to again express needs.

Also important is to understand that all relationships and all people have needs. If you grew up in a need deprived environment you may have learned how to live without having your needs met and learned to ignore the needs of yourself and others. To be successful in relationships going forward it's important to realize that all relationships have needs and the best way to maintain a healthy, thriving relationship is to get good and hearing and responding to the needs of others. This should be reciprocal with both partners having needs, meeting needs for their partner, and also being skilled at meeting their own needs from time to time.

Next steps if you are in a relationship where someone has quietly quit: Keys to reducing the relationship threat

First, you need to recognize and give words to this dynamic, recognizing that it's a threat to the relationship and could result in one or both partners disengaging permanently in the future. Do the individual work of determining what you are and are not willing to do in this relationship to make it better. It's better to admit that you are not willing to make changes than to sit through couples counseling or family counseling sessions pretending to go through the motions. If you need discernment counseling to better understand where you are at with this relationship seek that out. Be honest with yourself and the other person and move from that space. Finally, if you want to do the work reach out to a skilled therapist who can help you navigate this difficult emotional space. Therapists trained in Emotionally Focused Therapy, Discernment Counseling, and Gottman Method Therapy are skilled at recognizing this pattern in relationships and helping relationships get back on track when one or both partners has pulled away.

If both people want a relationship effected by silent quitting to survive there is hope. Reach out today to find out how Becoming Counseling can help navigate this relationship challenge via our online individual and couples therapy services.


Ashton Fisher Jimenez, MS, LPC-S who is a couples therapist who helps individuals in unhappy or unhealthy relationships
Ashton Fisher Jimenez, MS, LPC-S: Therapist at Becoming Counseling & Clinical Supervision, PLLC

Meet Relationship Expert Ashton Fisher Jimenez, MS, LPC-S

Ashton is a relationship therapist and individual therapist and the owner of Becoming Counseling & Clinical Supervision, PLLC in Waco, TX. She is an EMDR Certified Therapist who supports individuals in breaking free from their past to live healthy, thriving lives in the present. She is trained in Emotionally Focused Therapy and Gottman Method Couple Therapy and utilizes these therapies with clients at her virtual counseling practice. Ashton enjoys supporting couples at they navigate relationship challenges that include becoming parents, raising small children, extended family stress, job stress and managing household tasks and the mental load of family life.

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