Have you heard the phrase quiet quitting? It’s a term people use in work settings to refer to only doing tasks that are in their job descriptions (nothing more or “above and beyond”). Although the word “quit” is in the phrase, it’s not actually encouraging people to send in their resignation letters. Rather, the idea is to change the way they show up at work. For many, this may look like only working during allocated hours or not seeking out additional projects.
There is a lot of debate about whether this approach to our work is merely an excuse to do the bare minimum or if it’s a great way to set boundaries and avoid resentment for being undervalued and overworked.
I think these questions remain relevant even in a relationship context, too.
Recently, I heard someone talking about quiet quitting a relationship. What does that actually mean? Can we truly apply the same principles to relationships as in work settings? If we do not feel like our efforts are acknowledged, appreciated or rewarded, is it OK to only do what we know our partner requires of us and nothing more? Where does that leave us?
I guess it all depends on how we understand “quiet quitting” in relationships. If it’s viewed as one’s commitment to going through the motions without having any real goals or seeing any future for the relationship, I would say quiet quitting in this scenario just sounds like quitting. Yes, maybe we didn’t officially break up, but we essentially ended the relationship. It’s a way of allowing our actions and behaviors to speak what we were too scared to say.
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If a relationship has been downgraded in involvement or effort, we need to take it seriously. Love is often spoken of as a verb and, if this is true, by the very nature of doing less – are we loving less? It depends. Relationships are inherently a lot of work, so it’s important to differentiate if we are just setting boundaries and letting go of unrealistic expectations, or if we’re slowly resigning.
Here are several questions to ask yourself if you’re thinking about quiet quitting in your relationship:
- Why do I want to put in less work into this relationship? What changed?
- How does the relationship make me feel? Have I spoken to my partner about it?
- Do I feel like I am putting in more effort than my partner is? Am I trying to even this dynamic out?
- If I was honest with myself, do I still want to be in this relationship?
- Am I letting go of unrealistic expectations that I’ve placed on myself and just trying to do things that won’t make me feel drained and resentful?
- Is my decline in effort temporary (e.g. while working on a big work project) or is it permanent?
- Am I setting boundaries or disengaging and distancing from the relationship?
- Is my new attitude a reflection of my boundaries or an eroded sense of fulfillment I feel in the relationship?
There are many areas in our relationships where some of us can benefit from doing less. For example, we don’t need to be the only one in the family to host big holiday dinners; we don’t need to buy gifts for our significant other that we can’t afford; we don’t have to overcommit to activities and events with our partner that infringe on our capacity to do the things we enjoy. It’s OK to quit doing things that build resentment, as long as we are not quietly quitting on the actual relationship.
Sara Kuburic is a therapist who specializes in identity, relationships and moral trauma. Every week she shares her advice with our readers. Find her on Instagram @millennial.therapist. She can be reached at SKuburic@gannett.com.
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