Are You or Your Spouse Quiet Quitting Your Marriage?

You may have heard about people “quiet quitting” their jobs, meaning that they’ve decided to adhere to strict boundaries and do only the bare minimum required by their job description. This trend seeks to help workers avoid experiencing burnout, spreading themselves too thin at work, and blurring the lines between their professional and personal lives.

Quiet quitting is nothing new at work. Harvard Business Review conducted a study that concluded it has more to do with bad bosses than laziness or overindulgent employees. You may ask yourself if your workplace motivates you to go above and beyond. If not, it’s usually because your supervisor underappreciates you, gives you work you don’t enjoy, or simply doesn’t respect your personal time and well-being.

So, what if you have a “bad spouse” who is disrespectful, unappreciative, and unpleasant to be around? Maybe you have already “quiet quit” your marriage (consciously or unconsciously), or maybe you are considering doing so. But is that healthy? Is it better to keep putting in more effort, or should you move toward divorce or legal separation instead?

Let’s look closer at quiet quitting a marriage and its pros and cons.

What is "quiet quitting" a marriage?

Put simply, quitting a marriage is staying married but doing the bare minimum to maintain a relationship with your spouse. Quiet quitting a marriage often involves one or more of these red flags:

  • Scaling back on activities with your spouse. Often, you only do the required things: parenting responsibilities, attending events you’re invited to, joining family activities, and performing essential chores and outings such as cooking and grocery shopping. There is no “date night.” You no longer suggest outings or other fun activities. 
  • Sex is rare or nonexistent. Physical intimacy is usually one of the first things a spouse might “quietly quit” if they are merely staying in a marriage but no longer nurturing it. If physical touch is rare in your marriage – you’ve stopped touching, kissing, or hugging your spouse – this can count as quiet quitting, too.
  • Feelings of apathy or negativity toward your spouse. If you are disinterested in or annoyed by your spouse and find yourself avoiding them or going into “autopilot mode” around them most or all of the time, this may be a form of “quiet quitting” your marriage. 
  • Fantasizing about life without your spouse. If you daydream about being single or in a romantic relationship with someone else often – to the point where you take time away from being an attentive, participating spouse – this is a symptom of quiet quitting.

Example: Jane “quiet quits” her marriage to John

Jane has felt dissatisfied with her husband for years. She realized quite a while ago that, although John is a nice guy, they don’t share many similar interests. Further, John often looks to her to “mother” him. Without her constant reminders, he can’t seem to do anything on his own, from mowing the lawn to remembering to schedule time off work for a family vacation. 

Jane has played along with John’s need for mothering, but she’s feeling increasingly unattracted to him because of it. She fantasizes more and more about meeting someone else, falling in love, and starting over with a new spouse who acts more like her equal. Instead of talking to John about her feelings, she keeps them to herself. The unhappiness eats away at her a little more each day, and she eventually meets another man and leaves John.

Example: Mark “quiet quits” his marriage to Mary

Although Mark cares for Mary, he realizes that he lost his romantic feelings for her years ago due to her incessant criticism of him. She criticizes him often: how much money he makes, how he spends his free time, even the video games he likes playing. 

Instead of spending time with Mary, Mark would prefer to hang out with friends or spend time on social media. Instead of initiating intimacy, he would prefer to be alone with a movie or game. When he turns away from her, Mary gets defensive and criticizes him even more. Eventually, he can’t take it anymore, and he asks for a divorce.

Note: “Quiet quitting” your spouse does not involve ghosting them (or disappearing). You still do the minimum required to maintain the relationship, either publicly or privately. You still interact, but it’s not a healthy relationship.

Read: Married and Ghosted: What to Do

Why would you quiet quit your marriage instead of getting a divorce?

There are several reasons why someone might quiet quit their marriage or domestic partnership instead of breaking up, separating, or getting a divorce.

Sometimes, quiet quitting happens without the person even realizing they’ve disengaged from the relationship. But usually, people decide to quiet quit for one or more of these reasons:

  • They’re afraid to officially break up with their spouse.
  • They’re testing the waters to see what it would be like to part ways.
  • They don’t want to be alone.
  • They think it’s better to stay married for their children’s sake.
  • They’re opposed to divorce for reasons like religious beliefs or the expectations of others.
  • They need to stay married for health-related, financial, or other practical reasons.
  • They still love/respect their spouse and don’t want to hurt them.
  • They’re afraid for their safety if they attempt to officially walk away.

A person might quiet quit a relationship rather than asking for a divorce for cultural, religious, or social reasons.

Cultural reasons people stay in unhappy relationships

Some people stay in unhappy relationships because their collective culture expects it of them. For example, Mae comes from a long line of arranged marriages. Like her mother’s marriage and her grandmother’s marriage, her marriage to Joseph was arranged. She realizes they are not compatible, but getting divorced would shock the family and cause immense stress for her. Instead of leaving him, she stays with Joseph, but she retreats into her own world as much as possible since she doesn’t enjoy her marriage.

Religious reasons people stay in unhappy relationships

Some people avoid divorce, staying in an unhappy marriage for years because their religion prohibits divorce or frowns upon an aspect of it. For example, Jack is married to Joanne. He has known for years that he is gay, but his religion condemns homosexuality as well as divorce. He values the opinions of his religious leaders as well as his family members, so he keeps his secret to himself. Instead of engaging with his wife romantically or sexually, he withdraws from her, and both people are unhappy.

Social reasons people stay in unhappy relationships

Allie and Samantha have been married for three years. They are part of a large community of friends who support each other in all aspects of life, from their relationships to their careers. These friendships mean a lot to Allie. Although she is unhappy in the relationship, she is afraid that the community would reject her if she left Samantha. So, she stays in the marriage, but she spends most of her time in a separate part of the house doing her own thing.

Note: Domestic abuse comes in many forms. If you’re concerned about your safety or the safety of your children or pets, contact the National Domestic Abuse Hotline for help. You can call, text, or email them for free, confidential support.

Potential negative consequences of quiet quitting your marriage

When someone quiet quits their job, it’s easy to ask, “Why not just quit and get a new job?” While it may be difficult to find a new, better job, that’s usually a lot less complicated than ending a marriage – especially when children, assets, and shared debts are involved. But staying in a marriage you no longer have an interest in can have some pretty devastating consequences.

Your health may suffer

By staying in an unhappy situation, you’re sacrificing your happiness and possibly harming your health. Besides the stress, frustration, and loneliness of being with someone who isn’t a true, supportive romantic partner, a lack of physical intimacy can lead to physical health implications. For example, in a 2020 study on the psychological and physical effects of physical touch on 40 subjects, researchers found that people who received a physical hand massage were more likely to experience a healthy reduction in their heart rate.

This leads to a hypothesis that people who receive consistent physical touch are more likely to reap physical benefits related to heart rate. Thus, it follows that people who do not receive physical touch do not obtain such benefits.

Your spouse feels disrespected

Your spouse is probably very aware that you’re “checking out” of the relationship. Whether they ask you about it or not, they are likely feeling stressed about your lack of attention and interest. Would you want to be in a relationship with someone who didn’t want to be there? Be respectful, and know that you both deserve to be in a fulfilling and healthy relationship.

Your kids sense your unhappiness

Children tend to do better when their parents are happy and worse when their parents are unhappy. To support this, a Developmental Psychology study from 2022 found that children from families with “disengaged” parents were far less optimistic about their own lives as adolescents. 

A 2012 publication, Risk and Protective Factors Associated with Child and Adolescent Adjustment Following Separation and Divorce, cited by the American Psychological Association (APA), challenges the notion that divorce always causes lasting damage to children. It suggests the possibility that “intense marital conflict” and “problematic parenting” are strong factors in children’s overall happiness.

What to do if you’re tempted to quiet quit your marriage

Ask yourself why

Get real with yourself about why you’re disengaging from your spouse. Did something happen? What thoughts spring to mind when you think about working to improve your marriage? Are certain people getting in the way or influencing you? Are your feelings temporary or more permanent? 

It’s helpful to list all of your concerns, disappointments, or reasons for not wanting to try harder and associate them with a potential solution or step you or your spouse could take to address the problem.

Talk to a therapist, counselor, or friend

If you need an outside perspective or simply want to talk about your feelings toward your spouse, consider seeing a therapist who specializes in marriage and interpersonal relationships. You can work together to determine ways to address your feelings. 

Or, get together with a trusted friend – ideally, someone who knows you and your spouse but can be impartial (not that friend who you love to rant with about other people or who has never liked your spouse). They might open your eyes to a new perspective that allows you to make positive changes.

Signs it’s time to talk to a therapist

Are you unsure if your marital problems are worthy of therapy? The truth is, there is no “wrong” time to get therapy. Some people get therapy as a matter of course, even when they’re relatively happy with their lives.

If your relationship is struggling, the fact that you’re considering therapy may be sign enough. But if you need more impetus to dial your therapist’s number (or look for a new therapist), ask yourself if your marriage is manifesting any of these signs:

  • You avoid spending time together
  • You feel disconnected and/or disinterested in intimacy
  • You grapple with anger that can’t seem to be resolved
  • You frequently argue about the same thing(s)
  • You suspect dishonesty in your conversations
  • You view your spouse as the enemy
  • Your partner doesn’t seem to care if you are upset (or vice versa)
  • You fantasize about divorce
  • You’re facing a seemingly insurmountable crisis that affects your marriage, such as infidelity or addiction

Read: Interpret Your Spouse’s Body Language: Signs to Watch For

How to talk to your spouse

After you’ve identified the reasons you want to check out of your marriage, the best way to resolve them is to check in with your spouse. If you’ve figured out tangible things you or your spouse could do to improve the relationship, share them. 

Be careful not to accuse or dwell on the negatives. Instead, be direct. Suggest solutions to your concerns. Maybe the two of you should try couples counseling, scheduling more dates, finding new shared hobbies, communicating in a different way, or even allowing each other to indulge in more “me time,” if that would help you recharge so you can be more attentive to each other.

If you try to talk things over with your spouse without success, then it’s time to seriously evaluate your next step. Sometimes, it’s better to be apart. Relationships are hard work, and people can grow apart no matter how much they want things to be different. There is no shame in divorce, if that ends up being your best solution.

Alternatives to quiet quitting

If you sense you’re quiet quitting your marriage but don’t want to keep going in that direction, what can you do? It can be hard to know where to start. Consider taking these steps:

  1.  Clarify why you are unhappy. Try to recall when you started feeling this way and if certain situations make you feel better or worse. Ask yourself what would make you feel happier in your relationship and in life.
  2.  Share your findings with your spouse. Choose a quiet time in a safe space to convey your thoughts about your unhappiness. Remain calm, and use “I feel” and “I think” statements to avoid sounding accusatory.
  3.  Listen to their response. Allow your spouse to process what you have said. You may need to set a second meeting time so they have additional hours or days to process the information. Then, listen to their response – the entire thing – without interrupting. Attempt to understand where they are coming from.
  4.  Seek help. Often, couples therapy is the right place to start. For information about couples therapy, check out our article, The Top 3 Reasons Couples Seek Counseling.

Do you need help finding a therapist? Read our article, Guide to Therapy during and after Divorce.

Is divorce your next step?

Often, quiet quitting is a step toward divorce (or delaying the inevitable). For whatever reason, you’re not quite ready to take a more formal step toward ending the relationship. Other times, quiet quitters simply need to put in a bit more work or energy into the relationship. Eventually, you and your spouse can work it out.


Different families, diverse strengths: Long-term implications of early childhood family processes on adolescent positive functioning. American Psychological Association.
Risk and protective factors associated with child and adolescent adjustment following separation and divorce: Social science applications. American Psychological Association.
Here for You. National Domestic Violence Hotline.
Physical Contact and Loneliness: Being Touched Reduces Perceptions of Loneliness. National Library of Medicine.
Quiet Quitting Is About Bad Bosses, Not Bad Employees. Harvard Business Review.
Head of Content
Communication, Relationships, Personal Growth, Mental Health
As Hello Divorce's Head of Content, Katie is dedicated to breaking down the stress and mess of divorce into clear, helpful content that delivers hope rather than fear. Katie most often writes about the emotional toll of divorce, self-care and mindfulness, and effective communication. Katie has 20+ years of experience in content development and management, specializing in compelling consumer-facing content that helps people live better lives. She has a Master's in Media Studies from the University of Wisconsin. Katie lives in Texas with her husband and two adorable cats, and you can find her hiking and bird watching in her free time.