How Quiet Thriving Can Improve Your Relationship — Even If You’re The Only One Doing It
Making subtle shifts can make all the difference.
Last year was the year of quiet quitting. Whether it was our jobs or our relationships, many of us were pushed to the brink so much that we were A-OK with doing the bare minimum if we were in a situation that wasn't serving us the way we thought we deserved. But that was 2022. This year, dare we say, feels a little more optimistic than the last few years — it makes sense that quiet quitting has been replaced with quiet thriving.
The term, which psychotherapist Lelsey Alderman coined in an article for The Washington Post, means taking specific changes to your actions and mental state to help you feel more engaged in your job. Which begs the question — if quiet thriving can potentially save our jobs, can it also save our relationships?
Read on for tips and insight on the benefits and examples of quiet thriving within the context of a relationship from sociologist and clinical sexologist Sarah Melancon, Ph.D.
What does quiet thriving look like in a relationship?
"In the context of a romantic relationship, quite thriving involves purposefully making small shifts in how you approach your relationship to increase your sense of connection," Melancon explains to Scary Mommy. "While a week-long relationship retreat or taking an online course in communication can certainly be helpful for relationships, the quiet thriving approach is less about making a big splash and more about small, everyday choices or shifts in focus geared towards your well-being and how you show up in your relationship."
How can quiet thriving be beneficial to your relationship?
If you're in a relationship and find yourself in the space of "I love this person and I want this relationship, but I'm not 100% happy," Melancon says you're not alone. "The truth is, anytime we're expecting a relationship to make us happy, we'll be disappointed. Sometimes we're 95% in, but that extra 5% keeps pulling us to question everything."
According to Melancon, the quiet thriving approach can be helpful for relationships because it is very easy to focus on what's wrong with our partner and how they should change.
"While sometimes changes are needed by both partners, most people shut down when they feel blamed or criticized," she explains. "Quiet thriving helps to sidestep drama, allowing you to gently take responsibility for your own contributions, shifting away from the 'blame game' and towards nurturing the relationship."
In addition, quiet thriving can help you to increase your satisfaction in ways that look small but have a big impact on your sense of peace and connection — both with yourself and within your relationship. As Melancon puts it, the term "quiet thriving" is new, "but the idea of cultivating your own joy is timeless."
What are some examples of quiet thriving you can try within your relationship?
Below, Melancon outlines some simple yet significant examples of quiet thriving that can make all the difference within your relationship.
Work to respond rather than react to your partner.
"While basic respect is essential to a relationship, our partner will always say or do things we don't like," Melancon says. And while we can't control their words or behavior, with practice, Melacon says we can shift from reacting ("I can't believe you brought that up again!") to responding ("As I've said before, I only want to discuss this topic if we're both calm. Let's bookmark it to come back another day.").
According to Melancon, this shift benefits you both — your partner won't feel attacked or criticized, and you can remain relatively calm and save energy for what matters. If this is difficult (and it often is!), Melancon recommends therapy so you "can understand why you may react so strongly, help you make peace with any past issues that cloud your vision, and help you develop tools to communicate more effectively."
Commit to a daily mind-body practice.
If you've ever thought about trying meditation or yoga, Melancon encourages it, explaining that taking it up may actually help your relationship quietly thrive. "Mind-body practices tend to help us feel more grounded and peaceful," she says. "No matter what is happening in your relationship, whether positive or negative, connecting to your center can help you to stay true to yourself, be honest, and be compassionate towards your partner."
Take a break from your partner.
An evening or weekend to yourself or with friends can replenish your energy, says Melancon, and help you see your relationship from a different perspective.
"Just because you care about each other doesn't mean you need to be joined at the hip. In fact, that level of enmeshment is unhealthy for both," she explains. "Taking time to yourself — watching a movie, shopping, going to the bookstore, or even having a solo or friend 'staycation' at a hotel allows you to both relax and express different aspects of yourself that are just as important as your day-to-day self."
Melancon points out that it's a good thing to miss your partner while doing things you enjoy — it helps you appreciate them more while also helping you stay connected to yourself and what makes you happy.
Focus on your body's needs.
Who else is guilty of staying up too late to watch a movie together, eating your partner's favorite fast food, or forgoing your workout routine so that you can hang out more with your partner? While the intention to connect or spend time together is admirable on the surface, you end up paying the price when you ignore your body's needs.
"We can only truly connect with another when we've first connected with ourselves," she explains. "Thus, every time you push aside your needs for your partner or the relationship, you compromise the same connection you seek. Over time, this can lead to frustration and resentment — the opposite of what you want!"
She recommends getting to bed on time, making your favorite salad or smoothie, and hitting the gym or yoga class. "You are the only person who can sense your body's needs, so tuning in can help you get better at self-care and show up more confident and self-assured in your relationship, knowing your needs are handled," Melancon says.
PSA: You can quietly thrive on your own.
Maybe the best thing about quiet thriving within your relationship is that you can do it on your own without your partner necessarily being on board or knowing what you're doing.
"Typically, when one partner starts making changes, the other starts to shift a bit as well," Melancon says. "This doesn't necessarily mean your partner will join your meditation class, but for example, if you become less reactive to them, over time, they will start to feel safer and often start reacting less to you, too."