Indifference In Relationships — Causes, Signs And Coping Tips

November 29, 2023 |
indifference in relationships
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Lost interest in a romantic relationship is a worrying phenomenon. Indifference in relationships is not just feeling bored or having nothing to do as a couple. Nor is it a situation where things between you and your life partner are so comfortable that your relationship may be predictable and, dare we say it, monotonous. We asked Dr. Shefali Batra (MD in Psychiatry), a California-based psychiatrist and cognitive behavior therapist who specializes in counseling for separation and divorce, breakup and dating, and premarital compatibility issues, about what she thought of indifference in relationships. 

She shares, “Maybe one partner perceives indifference while the other is actually busy. So the first task is to know whether there is a real issue or one person is so busy that they cannot give the other attention. If you see an early warning sign, take steps to get to the root of the problem. See if this is solvable or the relationship is really over.”

What Is Indifference In Relationships? 

Let’s imagine a situation where a couple who has been together for a while faces a problem. We’ll take two scenarios:

Conflict in a healthy relationship:

They will try to work things out, talk things through, and even argue about different solutions. All these are excellent signs that things are still important to both parties. When an effort is being made in a relationship, all is never lost. 

Conflict in a relationship with indifference:

Conflict resolution will get thorny because these two people struggle to communicate honestly. As indifference plagues their partnership, anger and dishonesty cloud all practical solutions. 

We asked Dr. Batra, “How is indifference different from monotony or a relationship in a rut?” She clarifies, Communication is the key to answering that question. Yes, things can get monotonous when the spark is lost after a while. But monotony can be lifted when exciting things are added. I think losing the spark is just the beginning of a possible downfall. This crisis can be averted, though.

“The damage seems a lot more deep-rooted when indifference in a couple looks like this:

  • The partners stop feeling interested in each other
  • They tend to take each other for granted
  • The interactions between them become more of a compulsion than a preference
  • The partners are beginning to seek interest elsewhere as if already broken off from each other in spirit”
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What Causes Partners To Be Indifferent To Each Other? 

When someone is indifferent to you, a downward spiral sets in, wherein happiness and passion are on their way out. Indifference can enter a relationship gradually, where both parties slowly pull away from each other. Or one person feeds off the feelings of disinterest from the other and mimics the same. Here are some of the reasons for feelings of indifference in a relationship: 

1. They are not interested in you romantically 

This may sound obvious, but sometimes it needs to be spelled out. We often spend too much time and energy invested in a relationship where the other person is not as romantically interested. Maybe your partner is indifferent because they don’t like you as much as they did before. 

Related Reading: 9 Signs Of Complacency In A Relationship

2. They do not care about the things you care about 

A recent study by Charles Chu and Brian Lowery indicates that people are attracted to those with a similar worldview, i.e. the same likes and dislikes as you. And while you do not need their validation about your decisions, interests, likes, and dislikes, you do want your loved one to respect your life and the things that make it. Some things to remember:

  • One person cannot be interested in everything you are passionate about
  • If one partner is indifferent to your love of music or fashion, this does not mean they are not interested in you. They may still love other aspects of your life – Just not these 
  • However, if a partner doesn’t care about the social issues that you care about or the ones that affect you deeply, that is a reasonable cause for your indifference to set in
  • If your partner lacks interest in anything at all that you do, you are again straying into red-flag territory here 

3. They are pretending to be indifferent

You’re not wrong to think, “My partner doesn’t care about me.” This is what they want you to think. But why?

  • They are angry and getting back at you. This temporary lack of interest indicates that you should make amends
  • Sometimes, people feign indifference to protect themselves. If they are interested in you but fear you don’t feel the same way, they may hide behind a mask of disinterest until you reciprocate their feelings
  • They may also test the waters by sending mixed signals of interest and indifference until they are confident of their investment in the relationship’s future

4. They are indifferent to you because they are cheating on you

One of the worst (and most common) reasons for indifference is infidelity. Your partner may have met someone new and slowly stopped caring about you. They are now indifferent and apathetic. 

If you’re the one being cheated on, a cataclysmic event such as infidelity or loss of trust could instantly make you feel indifferent, too. This is usually done as a defense mechanism to protect the hurting person.

5. There’s been a collapse of communication

Dr. Batra states, “The root cause of indifference between a couple is when they stop communicating. The relationship begins to die because nobody knows what the other is feeling and whether something can be done to improve things.” Communication lags could be due to unresolved misunderstandings, a long-distance relationship, health issues on either or both sides, family interference, etc.

Related Reading: 7 Reasons You Lose Feelings For Someone Fast

6. Too many issues have taken their toll

A lack of care may have developed after a serious argument, or a series of frictions could have created a feeling of disinterest in the other. Apathy slowly creeps in when issues are not addressed promptly.

7. Unhappiness with oneself has caused them to be unconcerned for you 

Dr. Batra shares, “When people stop feeling happy and content within themselves, they also begin to emotionally detach from their partners, become cynical, complain that their needs are not being met, move apart, and seek happiness and novelty elsewhere.” Similarly, a study by Thomas Fuchs in 2013 states the relationship between depression and the disruption of social bonds and detachment with others. 

Clearly, for various reasons, an uncaring partner stops making an effort and starts losing interest in you or in the relationship itself. Now you know how indifference can kill a relationship in different ways. 

9 Glaring Signs Of Indifference In A Relationship 

Now, we know that indifference in a relationship implies a snowballing disinterest in the other. If you notice any of these indications of lack of concern in your relationship, it may be time to address the issue. 

1. Lack of intimacy 

One of the first things to disappear when indifference creeps in is intimacy. The acts that lose priority in such a relationship are:

While there may be periods of abstinence or emotional aloofness due to an illness or even a betrayal, these issues can be overcome. Still, indifference can cause a long-term loss of intimacy.  

2. Lack of usual concern and curiosity 

Now, this could show up in all sorts of ways. But one of the most unique ways is shared by a 27-year-old reader from Louisiana, “For me, the lack of nagging from my partner was steeped in indifference. Trust me on this: If your life partner used to nag you to do this or that, but now they don’t anymore, this could be a red flag. 

“Nagging is sometimes a way people show they care, and when they don’t anymore, the conversation and the nagging stop. So while the end to nagging may feel like a gift, keep in mind, it may also mark the end of your relationship.”

Related Reading: How To Make A Guy Realize He Lost You – 15 Hints That Work

3. No effort is made anymore

The end of some couple’s traditions and habits could be bad for your future and indicates that things are on a downward spiral. Some examples of a lack of effort in the relationship:

  • You both stop planning dates together
  • There is no excitement in dressing up and impressing the other
  • The small romantic gestures you used to make for each other have been absent for long
  • An apathetic, indifferent husband or wife forgets the other’s anniversary or birthday too
Unhealthy relationship

4. Signs of indifference include a lack of communication 

For any successful relationship, there has to be a free flow of communication. So what kind of conversations are left behind when there’s an uncaring partner(s)? Here are some examples:

  • In an indifferent relationship, most couples stop talking to each other the way or with the frequency they used to 
  • There’s no casual, fun chatting anymore
  • Deep discussions are a thing of the past
  • You’re unable to communicate your needs effectively 

5. It’s not even worth fighting for

“Avoiding conflict does not work,” says Caitlin Cantor, a certified individual, couples and sex therapist in Philadelphia. Caitlin adds in the article: “If you can fight and learn how to get connected in your differences and learn more about each other via the fight, then that’s really healthy.”

Some couples thrive on fighting and making up. Others work through their anger. When the very will to fight it out dissipates, it often implies that the person(s) feels nothing. That the issue at hand is not worth their time or energy. This is an unhealthy offshoot of an indifferent relationship. Remember, only strong emotions of love (or hate) lead to fights. 

Related Reading: 15 Clear Signs Your Crush Doesn’t Like You Back

6. The silent treatment 

In a household filled with indifference, silence prevails. Everything may seem like an effort and not fun at all. Silence may also take over when a partner does not want to address their feelings by talking. 

7. Lies and mistrust creep in 

One thing often leads to another, and a relationship that started off strong may suddenly be grappling with problems of dishonesty and cheating. It is said that when indifference enters a relationship, lies are often accepted without a challenge. The indifferent person may lie to their spouse out of sheer disregard for the other’s feelings.

The partner impacted by the indifferent one may lie for several reasons like pushing the boundary to see if interest is piqued or as a challenge to gain attention again.  When feelings of indifference enter a relationship, you start to lose interest in the other person, the chemistry reduces, communication disappears, and suddenly, you realize that the love has dwindled. 

8. Infidelity could be a symptom when someone is indifferent toward you

According to a study in the Journal of Qualitative Research in Health Sciences, 2020, lack of intimacy, disinterest in a spouse, and lack of participation in marital life are all causes of infidelity. Once the indifference sets in, infidelity can appear on the horizon as you look to others to ignite the romantic spark once again.

9. No breakup in sight 

An obvious sign of indifference if you and your partner have been coasting with no real end in sight. Ending a relationship requires effort, communication, time, and honesty – All things that are missing if you feel indifferent toward your partner. So what do you do? You take the coward’s way out and let things run their course, keeping both of you feeling stuck and helpless. 

Dr. Batra adds, “I think the subtlest signs are the most glaring ones. Anything that was obvious between partners before but seems to have changed could be a warning sign, even if it seems insignificant to others. Missing important days, birthdays, and anniversaries; not making it to events like earlier; not being caring enough when one is unwell; not calling your parents as regularly – All these things mattered before.

“Sometimes, when a bickering couple stops bickering, it could be a glaring sign too. It’s essential to be mindful of what was, what is, and where things seem to be headed to navigate your relationship well.”

Related Reading: How Do I Move On From One-Sided Love? Our Expert Tells You…

3 Tips To Fix Indifference In A Relationship

Should you break up? Should the relationship be fixed? Being indifferent to someone can mark the death knell of a relationship, but it is not necessarily always the end. Let’s look at three recommended ways to re-evaluate and fix indifference in a relationship:

1. Get to the root of the problem 

Several reasons could have caused your feelings of indifference. Here’s a checklist of the possible issues between you two:

  • Do you and your partner spend enough time with each other?
  • Do you both have problems communicating your needs and desires?
  • Is your sex life in a rut, and rather than deal with it, you prefer to distance yourself?
  • Has any particular event caused feelings of apathy and emotional detachment?
  • Have you worked with a mental health professional? It is not unusual for indifference to stem from depression, so listen to your feelings and get the help you need to make things better for your well-being

Start by putting all your cards on the table so that both of you identify patterns and think of solutions. Remember to be honest while doing so, or the entire point of the exercise is lost. 

being indifferent to someone
You have to find a way to talk to your partner and trace back to the origin of your problem

2. Learn to communicate 

It’s time to discuss those feelings of indifference to save your lasting relationship. Empathy and interest are the only positive feelings worth investing in and the way forward if you both are serious about making things work.

  • Share your emotions without fearing blame or guilt
  • When communicating, try not to get personal or dwell on the past
  • Use language that looks forward and removes one another from personal responsibility

In this way, you can rebuild trust, affection, interest and love again. Dr. Batra concurs, “Communicate, communicate, communicate. When you spot something unusual, ask your partner what is up and try to gauge what’s happening. Never let things be. Indifference grows on itself, like a coma. The longer you’re in a coma, the more the chances of revival drop. So speak up, seek help from a friend or family or a professional, and save your relationship from dying.”

Related Reading: What To Do If You Are Feeling Disconnected From Your Partner?

3. Spice things up 

When a relationship feels boring, the best thing to do is shake things up. Get rid of the boredom that may have taken over your days by doing new activities together. 

  • Plan date nights (and force yourself to make them happen)
  • Make time for each other
  • Adventurous activities or even being outdoors are often enough to get the adrenalin flowing and make life more exciting
  • By making plans and smart relationship goals together, you are recommitting to a future once more

What if nothing works?

Ultimately, if all else fails, you do have one last option: Move on. Sometimes, it is better for both parties to call it a day. If you feel you have done everything possible to improve things, but nothing has worked, that’s okay too. Sean, a carpenter from Georgia, shares what he learned from his breakup, “Even successful relationships have an expiry date. The time to close this chapter and move on to the next may have arrived.”

Key Pointers

  • Indifference is the opposite of interest. It implies apathy toward another
  • When indifference enters a relationship, it usually indicates serious problems between both partners
  • There are distinct signs of indifference in a relationship. For example, lack of honesty, lack of effort, and disinterest in the other
  • However, indifference does not always mean the end of the relationship, as there are ways to remedy the situation as long as both partners are equally committed

Indifference is an awful state to be in. It brings up feelings of apathy, disinterest, negativity, and even cruelty. The very point of being in a relationship is to share life’s highs and lows together. When both partners work together toward a mutual goal and invest equally in their relationship, it can be harmonious and satisfying.

However, if one partner feels indifferent, it can damage the other’s self-confidence and esteem. If you or your partner have lost your way and need to focus on reconnecting with each other, indifference can be dealt with and rectified. It does not have to mean the end, but it does indicate that things are slippery, and something (or someone) needs to step on the brakes and get things back on track! 

FAQ 

1. Is it normal to feel indifferent in a relationship?

Yes. In any long-term relationship, keeping that initial spark of lust and excitement alive and kicking is hard. But indifference implies a lack of interest too. A death of passion. A void of emotions. Its appearance in a relationship signifies deeper problems at play. Though it’s normal, it must be addressed immediately.

2. Should I break up if I feel indifferent?

Feeling indifferent toward your partner does not always mean the end of a relationship. There are ways to rectify the situation. Yes, they may take time and effort but with some help and honesty, both of you could see things through toward better lives. However, if, in addition to feeling indifferent, your needs aren’t being met, you are looking for support and validation from others but not your partner, or you feel obligated to stay in this relationship, it may be time to sit down and have the breakup talk.

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