After being in a relationship for some time, the idea of being alone can be scary for many – hence the “shell shocked” Sudden Bachelor. But what about staying in a dead relationship? If you feel that your relationship is dead – is it best to end things and start fresh or is the so-called “zombie marriage” just a passing scenario? We spotted an article over at Details called “YOUR MARRIAGE ISN’T DEAD—IT’S COMATOSE.” It’s pretty interesting stuff and might help some of you out there who are thinking about joining the ranks of the Sudden Bachelor.
“What happens in a marriage is that as it settles,” says Carl Pickhardt, a psychologist in Austin, Texas, “people just get in a routine with each other. They go on automatic.”
The mistake some couples make is diagnosing that comatose phase—when they’re too wrapped up in their careers, kids, and aging parents to engage with each other—as terminal. That’s when they start obsessing over pulling the plug.
“Too many people take that zombie zone as a sign that they need a divorce,” says Susan Heitler, a Denver psychologist and the author of The Power of Two: Secrets to a Strong & Loving Marriage. “The bulk of my practice is referred to me by lawyers, and I’d say 80 percent of those who’d gone in to get a divorce turned out to have great marriages.”
Still, taking the opposite tack—exhaustively trying to jump-start a marriage with therapy, self-help books, and couples’ time that’s enforced as strictly as homework hour—can be equally toxic.
“If I thought I had to work on my marriage all the time,” says one friend who tied the knot 12 years ago, “like constantly take its pulse and make sure everything was okay, I would have given up a long time ago.”
Another friend of mine, whom I’ll call Jeff, says that only when he stopped thinking about his marriage altogether, stopped attempting to prop it up with counseling and “date nights,” and accepted that it was in its zombie phase, did he and his wife settle into a less anxious, more peaceful coexistence. “I’m not fighting it,” Jeff says. “I’m not pretending it’s better than it is.”
These men have realized what a lot of couples who are still together in their fifties already know: In most cases, the Zombie Marriage is just a phase—and quite possibly a crucial one. For a lifelong relationship to survive its most challenging period, it must enter an unconscious, protective state, so that no matter how many stakes are driven through its heart it will continue to stumble forward. (Read the full article here).