D.O.A. ~ The Dead Marriage Syndrome


D.O.A. ~ The Dead Marriage Syndrome
I checked the obituary page and was surprised to find the death of my marriage there. Help!

One of the most difficult marriage counseling cases is the one where one of the spouses is dead. Marriages where parties are fighting are still engaging, there is still passion on some level. It is the spouse who is “dead on arrival” when it comes to relating in the marriage that brings a very challenging situation to the counseling room.

If your spouse has recently suggested you look in the obituaries to find your marriage, here are some pointers to give you help and hope.


1). Don’t Chase the Hearse
Understanding how dead your spouse is, will be the first step to bringing a dead marriage back to life. Most spouses receiving the “obituary news” about their marriage are clueless. In general, the live partner is completely unaware that the other person has died. Because of this, the live partner may spend valuable moments doing all the wrong things to revive their partner. Just like any other moments of first response in an emergency and potentially fatal situation, it is those crucial beginning moments that can make or break the situation.

-Would you like to go out for a romantic evening? I’ll even plan it! Really now. Have
you ever drug a corpse around town---a romantic dinner, date to the play, perhaps? How
fun is that? Understand, your spouse is dead. The kind of evening you are now
suggesting would have probably been fine and wonderful and exactly what your “dead
spouse” wanted several years or even decades ago. But now…now that they are dead, as in no pulse beating…to suggest a romantic get-a-way will invoke an angry response from your “dead” mate. A response like this will further cement the realization that you do not know them. Your idea of hearts and flowers is complete invalidation of how they feel.

-Let’s talk and figure out what is wrong with you. OK. Remember. Dead people do not
talk. They don’t listen. They don’t feel. Talking with your “dead spouse” will only
make you angry. Your anger will then be further justification to them that being dead is a very safe place in this marriage.

-Pursuing a dead person will only bring you frustration and pain. Do not waste your
time chasing a spouse who has died in your marriage. They won’t run toward you. They
will stay very stationary, frozen in time. There will be no movement, no baby-steps
towards you, no moments of waltzing or jitterbugging. No sweet “I love you’s”
whispered in your ear.

2). Things Not to Say to a “D.O.A. Spouse”
-“Hurry up and get over this. I need you to snap out of this so I can feel better.”
Remember, dead spouses do not hurry up anything. They don’t snap. They don’t care
how you feel. They are dead and dead people do not respond emotionally or physically,
which brings up another point of something not to say:

This article was originally published at Missing Pieces . Reprinted with permission.
Article contributed by
Advanced Member

Trudy Johnson


Trudy M. Johnson, M.A., LMFT, CSPII

Helping women process grief after voluntary pregnancy termination without fear.

Bringing abortion after-care into the 21st century by educating professionals.


Location: Buena Vista, CO
Credentials: LMFT, MA, Non-Profit
Specialties: Abortion Issues
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