Relationship Disengagement: What Happens When You Just Stop Feeling

by Alexia LaFata

When you're in a relationship, there's always that dull, nagging fear that some day, it'll end. Nobody knows how quickly "some day" will arrive, if ever.

Sometimes, it comes sooner and more unexpectedly than you think, and other times, it slowly creeps up on you and envelops you not in anger, or in hatred or in sadness -- but in apathy.

No, your partner didn't do anything to anger you or upset you.

Your partner didn't cheat on you, treat you poorly, call you "crazy" or make you feel small.

This person didn't do anything that made you feel negatively toward him or her or toward the relationship.

Instead, he or she makes you feel... nothing. You feel indifferent. Impassive. Dispassionate. And you hate it.

You want so badly to feel something, to feel fury, or depression, or dissatisfaction or any real emotion that could justify your need to end the relationship and break the heart of someone you once loved.

But there's just absolutely nothing there.

Once you start feeling like there's nothing left for you to give, like the apathy has truly taken over your entire mind, body and soul, you know the beginning of the end has arrived.

You start to feel guilty.

Your partner has no clue what's happening inside your heart.

He or she doesn't notice you behaving negatively, giving attitude or acting in a way that would offer any sort of an inkling about how you're feeling about the relationship.

And that's because you aren't behaving negatively, giving him or her attitude or acting in that way yet -- you're simply doing nothing.

You're not showering your partner in affection like you used to.

You're not saying "I love you" as frequently. You're not offering a quick physical touch. You're not smiling or laughing with your partner as much.

You're just existing. You're just one half of a pair of two people. Nothing more, nothing less.

The worst part is you don't know why. You don't know why you feel so much emptiness, so much nothingness. You can't help but wonder where the hell this apathy came from.

Where did it all go -- your infatuation, your lust, your giddiness, your desire to impress, to please, to take care of, to love? How could everything have just disappeared? And how did it happen so quickly?

You don't want to feel so much nothingness toward someone who once made you feel like anything was possible.

You want so badly to feel that love again, to experience that giddiness and wholeness you once felt. But you can't.

You rack your brain and wonder if something happened that made you feel this way.

Your partner has been nothing but the nice, caring, compassionate, loving, wonderful person you knew him or her to be when you began to date -- and that makes it worse.

It makes you feel guilty -- immensely, soul-crushingly, heart-stoppingly guilty.

You might drag your partner along.

You might not be happy, but you're not particularly unhappy either, so you might try to justify staying in the relationship.

After all, there's no real impending reason to end things. There haven't been any dramatic fights, any falling-outs or any other catastrophic events that might have made you and your partner question the stability of your relationship.

Everything seems exactly the way it's always been -- except, well, what's going on inside your head.

You might go through the motions of the "I love yous," the cuddle sessions and the intimacy. And you'd never initiate, but you won't deny your partner if he or she does.

Eventually, you feel so detached from every touch, and kiss and hug that they all just feel like parts of an assembly line in the factory of your relationship, with you as the mindless worker who's just in it for the minimum wage.

And, sure, the minimum wage might be sustainable. But it won't make you rich.

You resent yourself and, soon, your partner.

The guilt and the complacency you feel manifests itself into resentment.

You wish the apathy hadn't arrived, but it did, and it's left you in a state of utter confusion and hatred of yourself -- and, eventually, your partner.

Because you want to feel something, anything. At this point, you don't care what the feeling is, as long as it reminds you that you have a pulse.

You start to pick fights with your partner, to look for excuses to get into disagreements and stimulate your emotions just to make sure you still have them.

You could have easily tried to be more loving or incorporate more positivity into your relationship. This could have certainly helped you prove to yourself that you're still capable of feeling.

But that feels too disingenuous. It doesn't feel honest. It's way easier to fake hate than it is to fake love.

And you have to honor the fact that, deep in your heart, you know the end is near, so what feels more honest is being less loving, incorporating more negativity.

Things that never, ever would have bothered you while you were in the height of your relationship are like nails on a chalkboard now.

The way you feel about the dirty dishes in the sink is the way you might normally feel about finding out he or she cheated on you with an ex: disgusted, repulsed and even more resentful.

And with each minor act of annoyance comes even more resentment, and it continues to build upon itself, higher and higher like a skyscraper, until you can't take it anymore, until you got what you wanted -- now, you feel something.

You finally end it.

What you're feeling, how you're behaving, the way you're treating your partner like he or she doesn't matter and blowing the most trivial things out of proportion -- it's not fair.

It's not fair that someone you used to love is under the impression that you're happy when you're merely just existing in a state of indifference, and it's not fair that you have to act aggressively in order to convince yourself you're capable of feeling something.

So you know you have to end it.

Your apathy has gotten so bad that you might even use one of those minor acts of annoyance as a reason to break up -- and that's because, unfortunately, you don't really have a reason to end things.

You don't have a reason for anything; you feel nothing, remember?

When you summon up the courage to end it, you feel the heavy weight of your guilt, your resentment and your lies lift from your shoulders.

You feel ready to embrace this new chapter in your life, one that isn't plagued with dishonesty. You try to remember this wasn't your fault.

Sometimes, emotions work in mysterious ways. Sometimes, those lustful feelings that enchant us at the beginning of a relationship fizzle away without turning into anything everlasting.

You try to remind yourself that you aren't a bad person for feeling this way. But it's hard.

You're upset your relationship is over, however, you're also thankful you've been able to release the one you loved from the shackles of your deceit. That person deserves better.

And, frankly, so do you.