Just because no one is filing for divorce, it doesn’t mean that a marriage is alive and healthy. The reasons for staying together may vary, from children, to finances, to complacency. But the spark is gone, the romance lost, the relationship is barren. You might not even like each other. So what do you do to try and reanimate a dead marriage and how do you know when resuscitation is futile?
There are a few warning signs to look out for which indicate a marriage going south. When a couple stops sharing their days with each other, stops having dinner together, and stops talking in general, it is a bad sign. A lack of touch and withdrawing into separate personal interests is a red flag. Even when a spouse moves out or threatens divorce, however, it isn’t over yet.
A marriage is really dead on arrival when a spouse creates a list of assets and debts with both your names on it. The person is not emotional about it, just sort of dead inside. When bank accounts are cleared and closed, when the custody plan is already worked out, when the spouse is no longer concerned with the children (“They’ll be fine”) then the marriage is past the point of no return.
In America, around 50% of marriages end in divorce. Out of first marriages, the number is 41% and gets higher with each subsequent marriage. The average length of a marriage that ends in divorce is eight years. Divorce has become ingrained in American culture. Sometimes, it is the best possible outcome.
There are many arguments for toughing out rough patches, however. One study found that out of 645 couples where one spouse rated their marriage as unhappy, 2/3 of those who stayed together reported a significantly happier marriage 5 years later. It breaks down into two main strategies: marital work ethic and marital endurance ethic.
Marriage takes effort, and that is the idea behind marital work ethic. Whether it is counseling, improving communication, or taking steps to meet your partner’s needs, the key is taking active measures to improve a relationship. Marriage isn’t something that you set up once and then put on autopilot. Even in a healthy marriage it is important to survey the field every so often. It can be surprising how far just the effort itself can go. Sometimes, a spouse just needs to see that you’re trying.
Marital endurance ethic, on the other hand, is more focused on toughing out the bad times. In marriage there will be hard times, period. Having kids, career trouble, and even health problems strain a marriage. The key is to remember one simple vow: for better or worse. Generally speaking, things do get better. If you and your partner take the approach that you are in it no matter what, then you stop looking for easy outs and weather the storms together.
Marriages are not unhappy. Spouses are unhappy. Oftentimes it is only one spouse and the other is oblivious to the problem. Keeping communication going is essential to making sure things don’t get out of control. You have to water the house plant every so often to make sure the marriage is getting everything it needs. Remember too, flowers never hurt.
Details, Your Marriage Isn’t Dead—It’s Comatose: http://www.details.com/sex-relationships/marriage-and-kids/200806/a-lifeless-marriage-does-not-have-to-mean-divorce
Self-Growth, An Unhappy Marriage: http://www.selfgrowth.com/articles/Bilotta15.html
Family Life, Her Husband Wouldn’t Speak to Her—for Three Years: http://www.familylife.com/articles/topics/marriage/challenges/spiritually-mismatched/her-husband-wouldnt-speak-to-her-for-three-years#.UOW0mHc2g7w
McKinley Irvin, 32 Shocking Divorce Statistics: http://www.mckinleyirvin.com/blog/divorce/32-shocking-divorce-statistics/
Marital Solutions, Three Ways To Handle an Unhappy Marriage: http://www.simplemarriage.net/stick-it-out.html
Care One, Staying Together for Your Finances: http://community.careonecredit.com/balancing_it_all/b/divorce_debt_and_finances/archive/2011/02/04/staying-together-for-your-finances.aspx
Daily Mail, Doing it for the Kids: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2201539/Doing-kids-One-10-married-couples-stay-children-plan-split-grown-up.html
Professor’s House, Staying in a Marriage for Financial Reasons: http://www.professorshouse.com/Relationships/Marriage-Advice/Articles/Staying-in-a-Marriage-for-Financial-Reasons/
Time Magazine, Should You Stay Together for the Kids? http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,998008,00.html