Apathy in relationships: how to overcome it?

It is well known that, generally speaking, couple relationships generally begin with a first phase of falling in love, which over the months gives way to another way of living this bond, calmer and less passionate. However, this second way of living daily with this person should not be confused with a feeling linked to the stalemate in the relationship: apathy.

In this article we will talk about how apathy can wear down a relationship and what can we do to combat it.

    Is your relationship stalled because of feelings of apathy?

    Let’s start by talking about the characteristics and how apathy affects dating or marriage. This psychological phenomenon is a combination of a lack of motivation in the face of any activity or project linked to an important life context (in this case, the couple relationship), which leads to an attitude of passivity and disinterest.

    In addition, in most cases, it is linked to a certain affective flattening, which means that there is a weak predisposition to feel intense emotions arising from this life context, such as sadness, anger or happiness. In other words, when we are apathetic, it is very rare that a stimulus, an idea or a memory that crosses our mind can make us feel significantly good or bad; for better or for worse, we always feel more or less the same.

    This type of emotional stagnation, when linked to a couple relationship, also produces a relationship stagnation: although we stay there and do not decide to return to celibacy, from an intellectual or rational point of view we do not can explain (convincingly long before us) Why do we stay with this person?we just get carried away by the routine and inertia of doing what we did during those months or years of dating or marriage.

      Apathy is not the same as boredom

      Although they have aspects in common, feeling apathetic in a relationship is not the same as being bored. Boredom is a state of mind that is more circumstantial and more dependent on the objective actions we take; that is, it can be managed simply by having access to ways to engage in stimulating hobbies. On the other hand, apathy does not arise from the fact that we do not carry out specific actions that help us to use the free time we have in a productive way, among other things because when we feel apathetic, we do not have no motivation. The causes of apathy are deeper and based on more abstract feelings than the experience of concentrating on a task or exposing oneself to certain stimuli.

      In general, what makes us apathetic is that we are not able to make sense of what we do on a daily basis, it does not seem to us that it brings order or a notion of progress to our identity; that’s why when we’re bored, we usually have references about what we could do to not feel that way (even if we lack the energy to start or don’t have the means), but in the apathy, there are no such references on how to get out of this situation.

        How to deal with apathy in a courtship or a marriage?

        As you can guess from what we have seen so far on apathy, being an experiment with such complex and abstract causes and triggers, it is very difficult to give it a solution in a short time or by making superficial changes to the way we live day to day. Therefore, as a general rule, the most effective way to solve the problem is to consult a psychologist, to undergo couples therapy sessions, because in this way you will benefit from personalized support adapted to your experiences, as well as the possibility to express yourself. with the support of a professional who mediates and works so you can both say how you feel.

        But leaving aside the advances that can take place through a therapeutic process, the general tips that we will see below can also help you.

        1. Talk to your partner about what is happening to you

        It’s not just that the other person has the right to know what you think of the relationship; moreover, communicating this honestly will allow you to take action before the situation without having to face the fear that the other person will find out what is going onsomething important since the changes you need to make to your routine affect both of you and will get your attention.

          2. Get into the routine of keeping a diary

          Writing about how you feel on a daily basis is a great way to improve self-knowledge and learn to distinguish between feelings and emotions that usually arise in your daily life. Putting these things into words and reading about them will allow you to understand many of the logics of how you feel, and it will also allow you to detect opportunities to “reconnect” with the exciting and motivating things your relationship has to offer. you. In this way, you will increasingly be able to identify references on how this courtship or this marriage will provide you with meaningful experiences for your personal development.

          3. Come up with new routines and projects that involve you both

          It’s not about doing motivating things while you’re with your partner, but about doing exciting and meaningful things that bring you closer, and that they wouldn’t be the same without the other person. But many people fail to move from desire to action; to avoid this, it is important to organize a timetable that delimits the beginning and the end of these activities (instead of detailing only the blocks of time dedicated to work and household obligations).

          4. Instead of just talking, converse

          We understand each other through meaningful conversations about your concerns, fears, what you are passionate about, etc. Avoid making the mistake of assuming you already know the other person; Just as you change over time, so does your partner, but if you don’t communicate well, those changes may go unnoticed in the short to medium term.

          Do you want to rely on psychological support for couple problems?

          If you are interested in professional psychological help in the form of individual sessions or couple therapy, contact me. My number is Tomas Santa Cecilia and I am a psychologist specializing in the cognitive-behavioral intervention model; I can attend either in person at my office located in Madrid or through the online modality by video call.

          Bibliographic references

          • Bustamante, J. (2016). Sexuality and couple therapy: the couple in a global approach. Madrid, Spain: UNED.
          • Christensen, A.; Atkins, DC; Yi, J.; Baucom, DH & George, WH (2006). Couple and individual adjustment over 2 years following a randomized clinical trial comparing traditional versus integrative behavioral couple therapy. J Consult Clin Psychol, 74(6): p. 1180 – 1191.
          • Dattilio, FM & Padesky, CA (2004). Cognitive couple therapy. Bilbao: Editorial Desclée De Brouwer.
          • OnlineLevy, R. & Dubois, B. (2006). Apathy and functional anatomy of the prefrontal cortex-basal ganglia circuits. Cerebral Cortex; 16 (7): p. 916 – 928.

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