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Feelings of indifference may be a cause for concern in a relationship, but they don’t have to mean it’s the end.

When we think about why a relationship might end, we often think of an explosive fight or a major betrayal. But often the end of a relationship results from something much less dramatic: indifference.

Although it’s common for the fireworks that couples often feel at the beginning of the relationship to fade over time, feelings of indifference may point to some bigger concerns in the relationship.

A 2017 study found that emotional indifference in a relationship is one of the primary reasons couples enter therapy. Although this finding may initially appear hopeful, the truth is that many people who feel indifferent toward their relationship use therapy as a way to end the relationship, not repair it.

Feelings of indifference don’t mean the relationship is inevitably doomed, though. Indifference may just be a phase. However, to move forward, it’s something you and your partner will likely need to work through together.

Indifference in a relationship means no longer caring what your romantic partner does in the relationship. Everything may seem fine on the surface because there are no arguments, but the arguments may have only stopped due to a lack of care.

You may not be fighting, but it’s not because you have nothing to fight about. Instead, it’s because your partner’s words and actions no longer have an effect on you.

You may not even care about earning each other’s trust any longer. The two of you simply coexist.

You may be indifferent toward your relationship if you would describe your behavior as being on autopilot.

The greatest sign of indifference in a relationship is a lack of communication. You may be speaking to one another, but instead of actively engaging in conversation, you keep the conversation surface level and impersonal.

Often, a lack of communication also means a lack of arguing. You may prefer that you and your partner tend not to argue anymore, but this may not necessarily be a good sign

Disagreement or miscommunication is inevitable in a relationship. So, taking the time to air out any concerns you may have is important for progressing the relationship.

If you feel indifferent toward your relationship, you may not be arguing simply because you don’t care enough to work through an issue.

Another less obvious sign of relationship indifference is if you or your partner begin to turn to technology, specifically social media, as an outlet for feeling something. For instance, a 2018 study found that people experiencing romantic disengagement were more likely to develop an overuse of Facebook (what the researchers called “Facebook addiction”).

Overall, the most common signs of indifference in a relationship include:

  • You and your partner only have surface-level conversations .
  • Your automatic response to your significant other’s question always seems to be “whatever.”
  • You don’t think about the relationship almost at all.
  • You and your partner never fight or argue anymore.
  • You feel emotionally unaffected by your partners’ words and actions.
  • You wouldn’t care if your partner were unfaithful.
  • You’re only still in your relationship because it’s easier than leaving.
  • You and your partner are rarely or never intimate.
  • You are more engaged with your online life than with your partner.

Indifference can be one of the most challenging obstacles to overcome because relationships take work, and people who feel indifferent toward their relationship may not be willing to put in much effort.

This work may look like:

  • communicating your needs to your partner
  • adapting to your partners’ needs
  • making compromises for your partner
  • showing affection
  • making an effort to spend time with each other
  • incorporating your lives together

Put simply, a relationship is not really a relationship if either partner is unwilling to put work into the relationship.

Indifference doesn’t have to be the end of a relationship if you don’t want it to be. Maybe you realize that your indifference to the relationship isn’t specifically about the relationship, but instead, you are feeling indifferent in most areas of your life.

It may help to speak with a therapist individually, as a couple, or both. This may allow you to explore the source of your indifference. Talking with a professional might help you better understand your relationship and decide whether you are interested in working out concerns with your partner.

You may also want to speak with your partner directly about what you’re noticing is happening in the relationship. Sometimes a little bit of honest dialogue can help rekindle a spark you thought was out for good.

It helps to remember that you cannot read your partner’s mind, and they may not be as indifferent to the relationship as you are perceiving.

Indifference in a relationship can take many forms, but at the core, it means there is a lack of care and effort for the relationship. All relationships take work, so if the drive to put in that work is no longer there, the relationship likely won’t improve.

Although indifference is challenging to overcome, it doesn’t necessarily mean that breaking up is the only option. It may help to attend couples therapy or to speak with your partner directly about what you are feeling (or not feeling). You never know what can reignite the fire in your relationship.

If you ultimately decide to end your relationship, it may help to speak with a therapist. They can assist you with breaking up in a healthy way. A therapist may also be helpful for working through your emotions after the breakup.