When one person (or both) stops caring, the relationship is on rocky ground. Signs of indifference are distancing, finding constant distractions instead of being together, preventing an emotional or physical connection, avoiding sex, not sleeping together, an ongoing ‘checking out’.
A few reasons indifference may show up
Anger or resentment: resulting from not feeling appreciated or valued, infidelity, putting in-laws first, one partner not pulling their weight at home, with finances, or the kids, or constantly giving more time to work. When someone starts spending days, evenings and weekends working, creating excuses to be at work instead of coming home, and failing to stay in contact with their partner, there is a problem. If commitments keep couples from being together, they will text, call or FaceTime. People make time when they want to make time.
If you notice indifference happening in your relationship
Often, it can be clear when indifference has creeped into the relationship, the partner who constantly brought up a topic that once bothered them, has stopped trying. and the other stops caring to the point they don’t bring it up anymore.
The best course of action is to bring it up.
It’s time to have a heartfelt, honest and open conversation. Don’t beat around the bush: be forthright and discuss why they are pulling away and ask if there anything you can do to support them. You need to be honest with yourself as much as them and be prepared for them to say they are ready to move on. If one partner has checked out for a while, they may have already moved on in their mind and have been waiting for a time to bring it up. If y0u’ve been postponing this because you were afraid of what they might say, then find a someone to lean on, a friend, a therapist, or an emotional support app.
2) Not talking, silent treatment, stonewalling
This is another form of indifference; it shows up as putting up an emotional wall and refusing to engage. Common signs are ignoring the other person, the silent treatment, disappearing for long periods of time, acting cold and impenetrable, avoiding eye contact, changing the subject, or saying the same thing over and over, all of which makes dialogue impossible and prevents couples from communicating and working through problems.
When disagreements come up and one partner blocks out the other. Ongoing silent treatment is not a productive way to handle conflict, avoid conflict or use as ‘punishment’ or ‘getting back at someone’. It’s better to communicate on any level than block out a partner. You/your partner deserves better than that. There are ways to get through this and the first is to agree not to abandon one another during conflicts.
If talking through things at home always escalates to yelling, remove ‘home’ from the equation. Try talking while on a walk, at a park or around the block
If you find your partner stonewalling
They may need to take a 20-minute break to calm down. People can become physiologically overwhelmed during arguments as stress hormones are released in the body, they physically and emotionally shut down as a protective response as heir blood pressure and heart rate rises. It can become impossible to continue the discussion in a respectful manner. But make a pact to return to the discussion. The next time it happens, calmly remind your partner you both agreed to talk through the conflict and it’s not okay to back out.
Contempt is an extreme feeling of loathing and disgust that runs deeper than the occasional annoyance. The root of contempt comes from disrespect, resentment, if someone has felt despised or unwanted, they may begin to turn those feeling outwards and it may show up as contempt. A partner on the receiving end of stonewalling may eventually develop feelings like this.
If you see this happening in a relationship
Or have these feelings yourself, then it’s time to have a serious discussion, first with yourself and then together as a couple.
Try to remember back to what you liked and admired in the beginning, moments you enjoyed as a couple, what brought you together, and why are you still together?
Then, have a structured conversation either by agreeing to address this through a concerted mutual effort or with outside assistance like therapy. Refocus the relationship on growing together in more healthy ways. Develop a hobby together, go on a trip, get out of the house for a night, do something new together, do something consistently and hold that space special where you agree to a “no argument space”. For more ideas on how to do that, visit this article on Simple Ways to Rekindle a Relationship. Contempt isn’t healthy or pleasant for the giver or receiver, and honestly, if you don’t recognize and admire the good qualities in a partner then you need to seriously consider why you’re still together.
There are ways to get through this, with concerted effort by both
It’s never pleasant to feel or see signs of these behaviors in any relationship, and when it does happen one person often feels the brunt more heavily than the other which can make them feel helpless. There are ways to get through feelings like this but it takes honest acknowledgment and assessment on both sides, followed by a commitment to make changes. It’s not impossible, you fell in love for specific reasons, you can find that again, but you should ask yourself if you really want to. By the time this happens two people may have grown apart and not want to come back together. And you have to ask yourself if you long for what you once had, or if you truly feel an attachment to what you have now. If both sides are committed to get through this, you very well could end up with a strengthened relationship.
If you’re a hands on person and like worksheets, you can download this one that might help you mentally get a grip on the situation.