How to tell if your partner is ‘quiet quitting’ your relationship
The TikTok term originally applied to workplace behaviour is finding new meaning in relation to slow-fade break-ups
Sunday 6 November 2022 By Megan Wallace
You’ve probably heard the term ‘quiet quitting’ being bandied about of late. Like most viral phrases, it emerged from the digital depths of TikTok and is primarily used to describe employees who put in the bare minimum effort in the workplace. Recently, however, the term has found a new meaning thanks to content creator Daniel Hentschel.
The TikToker made a video that quickly racked up 435,000 views, in which he set out to define what quiet quitting or quiet dumping might look like in a relationship. According to Hentschel, it’s when a partner fulfills the ‘bare minimum to date you’, but you can sense that their heart is no longer in it. Then, when you try to discuss the emotional distance you’re beginning to feel, they will deny that anything is wrong instead of attempting to open up productive dialogue.
Many of us will be able to relate to this, having experienced the ‘symptoms’ with a partner. Suddenly the spark goes, they don’t seem to have as much time for you and you stop feeling like a priority. Sometimes, this is just the honeymoon phase coming to an end. Other times, it can be the beginning of something more detrimental to the integrity of the relationship. Namely, the ‘slow fade’ break-up: when someone decides that they no longer want to be with you but don’t share their decision, instead slowly drifting away in the hope that you get the hint.
Dating can be bleak, that’s for sure. But what do the experts think about quiet quitting in relationships? After all, we know not to trust all the advice we see on TikTok (hello, vabbing). To find out, we spoke to Marianne Johnson, a couples therapist with The Thought House Partnership. According to Johnson, it’s important to recognise how disorientating it is when a partner becomes distant. ‘It can be a really disturbing feeling when you sense your partner withdrawing, especially if you can’t make sense of it, and even more so if you ask them if something is up and they deny it,’ she says.
On the other hand, however, she encourages empathy when considering the person who we perceive to be withdrawing. ‘Knowing when to end a relationship can be incredibly difficult,’ Johnson explains. ‘When doubts arise, there is usually some kind of change in our behaviour, and withdrawing emotionally can be one of them. It’s often easier to disappear emotionally than to confront the feelings behind it.’
With any relationship issue, such as quiet dumping, it’s worth learning you and your partner’s attachment style. An avoidantly attached partner might slowly withdraw emotionally in a relationship, overwhelmed by feelings of growing intimacy. On the flipside, an anxiously attached partner might become increasingly sensitive to any fluctuations in the relationship.
‘As you become more attached to your partner, you also become more sensitive to signals of their emotional attachment to you and more afraid of being left,’ she explains. ‘That could create a type of hypervigilance; looking for signals to confirm your fears that they are losing interest in you.’
It’s worth keeping in mind that a partner’s behaviour isn’t always a reflection on how they feel about you. ‘All kinds of life changes, such as stress, loss, depression or anxiety could result in the same emotional withdrawal,’ she adds.
But ultimately, what makes or breaks any couple is whether they can discuss the issues and work through them together,’ says Johnson. ‘As with most things in a relationship, it’s being able to talk about it that’s key.’