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From Resolutions to Relationships, the Emotional Impact of Quitting

Reviewed by: Dr. Steven Knauf, D.C.

By Martha Michael

Resolutions to Relationships

It’s slightly cliche, but everyone knows it’s true: hardly anyone keeps their New Year’s resolutions. It’s evidenced by the crowds thinning at the gym and the growing line of cars at McDonald’s. “Dry January” becomes “frat party February” and people are throwing in the towel after vowing to spend more time with family or reduce screen time.

Giving up on your vision board ideas may be disappointing, but when significant life events come to an end, the impact can be intense. For instance, quitting a job or ending a marriage can take a toll on your mental and physical health in ways that “getting better at chess” could never do.

What Goals do People Set Every Year?

Maybe you set an intention this year, writing your goal in a journal and transferring it to a poster to keep you motivated. Sometimes your resolutions fail, but it can be fun just getting them started.

New Year’s resolutions statistics show that only about 3 percent of people set goals or lay out a list of objectives, according to an article by LinkedIn. That may explain why people personally crash and burn a few months into the year. Goal-setting statistics say that success is contingent on good planning. The most effective forms of goal-setting involve focus on the details of that plan.

If you’re an entrepreneur or you like to create an annual list of priorities for the workplace, the types of goals will look different than someone who has personal goals in mind. Business-savvy experts came up with the acronym SMART to identify the most important features of your goals for success:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Realistic
  • Time-based has a list of the most popular new year resolutions set by Americans at the beginning of 2024. It’s no surprise to see finances topping the list. Research by Statista Consumer Insights shows that the most important goals for the year are:

  • Saving more money
  • Exercising
  • Eating healthier
  • Spending time with family/friends
  • Losing weight
  • Using electronics less often
  • Reducing job stress
  • Spending less money

Your goals are unique to you, and they can be as incredible as you want them to be. Drafting a list of ideas for other people or situations that are out of your control doesn’t make sense, but they can be as down-to-earth as planning a dinner party.

Why Do People Quit Their New Year’s Resolutions?

Intentions such as learning a language or losing weight seem reasonable, so it’s hard to believe people who set goals abandon them so readily. An article in Business Insider says that New Year’s resolutions come to an end when their willpower doesn’t hold up. Research at the University of Scranton shows that nearly one-fourth of people don’t maintain a New Year’s resolution beyond a week. A total of 19 percent -- about 1 in 5 individuals -- stick to their long-term goals.

The reasons for quitting can be anything from busyness or fatigue to simple loss of interest. You’re at risk of quitting the goals you declared if you:

  • Don’t want to change - It’s easier to declare your intentions to friends at holiday parties than to discipline yourself with the follow-through of the process
  • Fail to monitor your progress - When you set a measurable intention you have to keep your eye on whether you’re accomplishing the goal; weekly progress reports can be useful
  • Poor planning - When you try something new, failure is often baked into the process, but if you plan for mistakes you can recover more easily
  • Think it will be easy - Lack of confidence can threaten to tank your dreams, but overconfidence increases the odds you won’t make it past the toughest aspects of changing

It may sound a bit silly, but in order to reach your goals you typically have to be committed to achieving them. There’s some truth to the adage that nothing is ever handed to you. You have considerably less at stake by quitting a daily jog or a Spanish class than if you decide to quit on a relationship.

What’s the Emotional Impact of Quitting a Marriage or Job vs. a Resolution?

When you weigh the prospect of leaving your current job, there are reasons that give you more confidence about quitting and others that may just call for relational changes. An article by LinkedIn offers insight into why many people cut their losses and leave -- and why they should feel good about it.

Toxic Work Environment

The best reason to quit is a toxic work culture. If you’re subjected to discrimination or harassment, it’s a threat to your mental health. Quitting can be an avenue for maintaining your dignity and stabilizing your mental health.

Lack of Opportunities

If you’ve worked at a company for a respectable amount of time and you see no room for advancement, perhaps you need a different opportunity. Not every corporate setting has a pathway for growth, and recognizing that fork in the road can be the best way for you personally and professionally.

Mismatched Values

When the mission of the company conflicts with some of your most basic beliefs, it can cause cognitive dissonance and be a sign that you’re in the wrong place. The inner conflict can affect your health, so you need to determine if the paycheck is worth it.

Quitting a job to get away from a toxic environment has an upside, but depending on the person involved and the catalyst for leaving, there can be risks to your health. If you have a chronic fear of failure, it can be a significant decision to terminate your employment, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

People with atychiphobia, or fear of failure, are afraid to make changes or try new things because of the intense feelings it generates. It’s similar to perfectionism, but perfectionists focus intently on succeeding and people with atychiphobia become weighed down by their flaws and failures.

Emotional issues caused by atychiphobia may include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Shame
  • Panic attacks
  • Low self-esteem

You may become atychiphobic due to family history, or if you grow up in an environment steeped in shame and criticism it can produce an extreme pressure to succeed. Some people develop the condition after suffering from a trauma such as severe punishment due to failure.

Symptoms of atychiphobia include:

  • Irritability
  • Pessimistic outlook
  • Anger
  • Fear of performing simple tasks
  • Unable to form relationships
  • Procrastination
  • Inability to hear constructive criticism
  • Trembling or shortness of breath due to panic attacks

Dealing With a Toxic Marriage

An article in Newsweek suggests that the trend in quiet divorces stemmed from workplace quitting. They’re both a means of avoiding conflict -- one is simply with your employer.

“The trend of divorces that are kept quiet has similarities with the phenomenon of 'quiet quitting' in the workplace, which reflects a broader societal shift towards less confrontational approaches to significant life changes," says Sophie Cress, a licensed marriage and family therapist.

Every situation is different, but a strong marriage includes trust and respect, says an article on the website for the Relationship Resolution Center in San Diego. Unhappy marriages can impact your mental and emotional well-being, but it’s hard to leave after years of investment in the relationship. It’s easy to feel stuck in a marriage and confused about the process of resolution with a spouse. When one or both partners feel discouraged about their relationship, it can be confusing to feel trapped by the marriage while also wanting to regain feelings of safety when the relationship has become toxic.

A substack article called Liberating Motherhood talks about quiet quitting an abusive marriage. Staying married is often easier, especially when a woman’s divorce leads to intense economic suffering. Emotionally disentangling may offer the relief you need from an aggressive spouse who:

  • Uses verbiage to make you feel guilty
  • Calls you a “bad mom”
  • Criticizes your appearance
  • Gaslights you, or lies

Detaching your feelings from a spouse who belittles you or discounts your strong points can give you a format for quitting the marriage even if you’re still physically there. In some cases, leaving and seeking a divorce to end the marriage is the best course of action, particularly in cases where one member feels betrayed.

Of course, there’s a lot more emotional investment in a marriage and a job than there is a resolution, which can seem pretty silly by comparison. Most of us never take the resolution that we made in December and January seriously enough to grieve when we finally let it go -- so it’s easy to quit.

Is There a Health Benefit Attached to Getting out of a Toxic Situation?

People experience many different forms of toxic relationships. It could be your grandmother, your co-worker, or your roommate who are rude and condescending. An article on the website says there are many aspects of your life affected by staying in a toxic relationship such as a bad marriage. Letting go of a toxic relationship creates an opportunity to regain balance and significant mental health benefits.

By lifting some of the burdens of supporting a toxic relationship you may find:

  • Greater productivity at work
  • More room for self-care
  • Less social isolation
  • Improved mental health

From leaving a bad boyfriend to an unreasonable boss, feeling empowered to live your best life is a healthy move. If you’re just starting out, get your written goals on paper and see if the life you’re living has the kind of balance you’d like. Taking on something new this year may signal the need to quit something -- or someone -- for your own mental health. Assess the situation or reach out to a family member for reflection first. You don’t want your quiet quitting to be followed by thunderous feelings of regret.

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