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Presenteeism in relationships- The Silent Suffering.

Updated: Oct 21, 2023


Presenteeism is a term commonly associated with the workplace, but its presence is becoming more noticeable within various aspects of our personal lives, including romantic partnerships, marriage, parenting, as well as friendships and family relationships. It has detrimental impact on relationships, parenting, productivity, and overall well-being.


Presenteeism takes place when individuals are physically present with their partner, family, or loved ones, but they are emotionally or mentally absent. This can have a significant impact on the quality of the relationship and the well-being of those involved.


Being physically present while emotionally absent can harm the bond. Spending more time with your loved ones doesn't guarantee quality connections. When you are at the dinner table but buried in your phone or thoughts, you are missing the opportunity for meaningful conversations.


Here are some key aspects of presenteeism in relationships:


  • One or both partners may seem emotionally distant or preoccupied. They may not fully listen or engage in meaningful conversations, leading to a sense of disconnection.


  • One or both partners exhibit emotional absence, this can also impact physical intimacy. When they are not fully engaged, it can lead to a decline in physical affection.


  • The partner who is emotionally absent may become frustrated or resentful due to their own stress, distractions, or preoccupations, which can negatively affect the relationship.


  • The emotionally absent partner may avoid dealing with issues, which can lead to cause more significant problems in the long run.


  • When one person is not mentally present, it can lead to miscommunication, misunderstandings, and unresolved issues.


Emotional presence is essential for recognising and addressing each other's emotional needs and providing support. In a relationship characterised by presenteeism, these needs may go unmet.



If presenteeism becomes a pattern in a relationship, it can erode trust, intimacy, and overall satisfaction. Over time, it may lead to a breakdown in the relationship if not addressed.


According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 30% of marriages in Australia end in divorce. Almost a third of all marriages that start with promises of lifelong fidelity end in separation. This is rising from 1.9% in 2020! With major reason include communication, financial pressure, and children. (Source Australian Family Lawyers)




Dealing with relationship presenteeism is essential to maintain healthy and meaningful connections with loved ones. Here are five strategies on how to address and overcome this issue:


1. Open and Empathetic Communication: Have an empathetic conversation with your partner about your concerns. Say, "I have noticed that we have been spending time together, but it feels like we're not really connecting emotionally. I would like us to talk about how we can change that."


2. Quality Time Over Quantity: Instead of spending long hours together in silence, prioritise shorter periods of focused quality time. For instance, dedicate 30 minutes each day to engage in a meaningful conversation or activity.



3. Set Boundaries: Establish boundaries to limit distractions. Agree to put away devices or turn off the TV during mealtimes, quality times or when having important conversations.


4. Schedule Relationship Time: Just as you schedule work meetings or appointments, allocate time in your calendar for your relationship. Plan date nights or family outings in advance to ensure you have dedicated quality time.


5. Acknowledge Stressors: If your partner is dealing with a lot of stress, it is important to acknowledge it and offer support. Say, "I've noticed you have been stressed lately. How can I help or support you during this time?"


Addressing presenteeism in relationships involves open and honest communication, a willingness to be present and engaged, and a commitment to nurturing the emotional connection. It's essential for both partners to recognise the issue and work together to create a more emotionally present and fulfilling relationship.


How present are you in your relationships?










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