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 life.

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, quiet 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, like parenting responsibilities, attending events you’re invited to, family activities, and 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.

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.

Why would you quiet quit your marriage instead of 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.

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.

First, 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. It can increase the risk of heart issues and increase your body’s pain response.

Second, 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 doesn’t want to be there? Be respectful, and know that you both deserve to be in a fulfilling and healthy relationship.

Third, children do better when they have healthy, connected relationships with both of their parents – and that doesn’t mean the parents have to be together. In fact, children pick up on cues that their parents are unhappy together. Modeling an unhealthy relationship can teach them negative relationship patterns which impact their own future relationships. Kids thrive when their parents are happy and healthy. Sometimes, divorcing is actually better for the kids because they receive more focused attention and observe more positive adult behavior.

What to do if you’re tempted to try quiet quitting your spouse

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.

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.

Where does divorce fit into the process of quiet quitting a marriage?

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.


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.