Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today


Why "Bare-Minimum Mondays" Can Hurt a Relationship

Lasting connection demands consistent effort.

Key points

  • Bare minimum Mondays, as a philosophy, suggests coping with stress by prioritizing the self.
  • In relationships, bare-minimum effort misses an important aspect of relationship maintenance.
  • Efforts to enhance a relationship are critical for relationship well-being.

If you've ever had a "case of the Mondays," then you probably see the appeal of the latest trend emerging among young workers: bare minimum Mondays. Bare minimum Mondays give people permission to take it easy on the job and do just enough to get by. Forget about hitting the ground running. Instead, bare minimum Mondays are about quietly limiting effort as a way to cope with work-related pressure.

Bare minimum Mondays are being touted as a form of self-care, a way to fight back against feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, or stressed about all that comes with work. At its heart is a self-care philosophy suggesting that prioritizing the self and avoiding stressors will render better outcomes and that leaning out is better than leaning in. Your job is just your job, so prioritize yourself at the expense of your work. This runs counter to an alternative perspective which suggests that the best self-care routines do not encourage disengagement, but instead, foster meaningful engagement and thriving. But more on that later.

For some, the habit of bare minimum Mondays could reflect a broader philosophy about how to best cope with life's demands, one that may walk the line between self-care and self-sabotage. Is such a philosophy limited to the workplace? What would happen if someone were to apply the bare minimum practice to a marriage or long-term romantic relationship?

Bare minimum Mondays, applied to relationships

Lasting love – the happy kind – takes effort. To keep relationships healthy, partners need to mitigate threats to their relationship so it does not become worse and enhance the relationship to make it better than it currently is (Ogolsky et al., 2017). These tasks are couched within people's daily lives, which can involve work, school, friends, children, and parents — a lot to manage. In such circumstances, finding the necessary energy for relationship maintenance could feel stressful or demanding.

Beyond the demands of juggling relationship maintenance with other aspects of daily living, sometimes people's relationships struggle with conflict, arguments, or ongoing frustrations. The bare minimum Monday approach would suggest coping with relationship stress by giving one's self permission to work less for the relationship.

Keeping the status quo does not promote healthy relationships

When employees adopt bare minimum Mondays, they do what they must to keep their job, but nothing more. This philosophy, in a romantic relationship, would translate to engaging in as little effort as possible to keep up the status quo.

Unfortunately, maintaining the status quo does not translate to relationship success. Relationships require pro-relationship behaviors, including social support, responsiveness, positive communication, generosity, and gratitude (Ogolsky et al., 2017). These processes are not possible with bare-minimum effort, yet they are crucial to help nourish a relationship, both in normal and stressful times. Each day's enhancement work feeds the next day: For instance, a romantic partner's thoughtful gestures today yield better relationship quality tomorrow (Algoe et al., 2010). As another example, the hard work of attentive listening generates more effective couple communication and greater relationship satisfaction (Kuhn et al., 2018). Coping by leaning in, not out, makes for stronger relationships.

Choosing the work is choosing the relationship

In the same way that a bare minimum Monday might involve choosing to avoid the challenging mental work that a truly productive day would require, people who are stressed within their relationships can choose to avoid investing their energy into the relationship. This does not change the relationship for the better. Indeed, romantic partners interact more successfully when avoidant tendencies are kept at bay (Overall et al., 2013).

A bare minimum Monday philosophy is about working on your own terms and avoiding self-sacrifice. What makes sacrifice a problem? Interestingly, in romantic relationships, people who think that sacrificing will come at a cost to themselves tend to be less committed to their partner and have worse relationship functioning (Whitton et al., 2007). In other words, the desire to prioritize the self by not putting in the relationship work (i.e., to avoid sacrificing) may be more a symptom of relationship problems than a solution.

True self-care in relationships is not relationship sabotage

People who are inspired by their work, who see it as firmly integrated with their own identity, and who are deeply motivated to learn and grow through their work are probably not the ones who adopt a "just-get-by" philosophy for 20 percent of each work week. The bare minimum Monday practice would run counter to their identity and goals. Similarly, people who are inspired by their relationships, who see their partner as part of themselves, and who are eager to grow their relationship are probably not the ones who want to only do what they must to maintain their relationship.

If coping with a job requires disengaging from the job, it begs the question: Is it the right job? Similarly, if coping with a relationship requires disengaging from the relationship, we might ask: Is it the right relationship?

Disengagement in the way described by bare minimum Mondays does not resemble classic models of self-care. Healthy self-care strategies tend not to advocate avoiding or ignoring challenges. Instead, they are about techniques to sustain thriving and vitality and might involve restorative work like managing sleep well and eating well and energizing work like creating meaning and finding purpose (Spreitzer et al., 2012).

When it comes to relationships, the bare minimum effort is unlikely to support the self or the relationship. Instead, consider how, for many people in satisfying relationships, self-care is relationship care: leisure time with a partner, humor, sexual intimacy, and affectionate gestures. Investing in the fun of a relationship can be personally restorative. Indeed, healthy relationships are not about tolerating a partner or keeping a relationship going with the bare-minimum effort. Rather, an investment in the relationship is an investment in the self.

Facebook image: Prostock-studio/Shutterstock


Algoe, S. B., Gable, S. L., & Maisel, N. C. (2010). It's the little things: Everyday gratitude as a booster shot for romantic relationships. Personal relationships, 17(2), 217-233.

Ogolsky, B. G., Monk, J. K., Rice, T. M., Theisen, J. C., & Maniotes, C. R. (2017). Relationship maintenance: A review of research on romantic relationships. Journal of Family Theory & Review, 9(3), 275-306.

Kuhn, R., Bradbury, T. N., Nussbeck, F. W., & Bodenmann, G. (2018). The power of listening: Lending an ear to the partner during dyadic coping conversations. Journal of Family Psychology, 32(6), 762.

Spreitzer, G., Porath, C. L., & Gibson, C. B. (2012). Toward human sustainability: How to enable more thriving at work. Organizational Dynamics, 41(2), 155-162.

Whitton, S. W., Stanley, S. M., & Markman, H. J. (2007). If I help my partner, will it hurt me? Perceptions of sacrifice in romantic relationships. Journal of social and Clinical Psychology, 26(1), 64-91.

More from Theresa E. DiDonato Ph.D.
More from Psychology Today
More from Theresa E. DiDonato Ph.D.
More from Psychology Today