D.O.A. ~ The Dead Marriage Syndrome

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:

-“Let’s have sex.” For the offended, “live person” in the marriage, you will feel an
incredible need to connect in your way that usually works every single time---by making
love. This however is the last thing you would do with a dying person you are giving
C.P.R. to, right? Please don’t think having sex with a dead person will be helpful to
them, the relationship and especially not you.

-“Do you need to get your hormones checked?” or “Have you taken your medication
lately?” A dead person will not respond to medical questions. Asking such questions
only confirms that you do not get how very gone they are.

-“I just want things back like they were,” spoken in a very needy, whiny, tone of voice.
Ok…….grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr………this question will invoke a lot of anger in your “dead
spouse.” This is precisely the problem! They will not go back to how things were. They
want life not death and they will not in any way go back to the “old ways.” The old ways
are what resulted in their death. Why would they choose to go back to this place?

Amazing Revelations ~ I Get It!

Something that will begin the heart beat for your spouse again will be for you to “get it.”
Just your simple understanding of how dead they are will be the starting place. When a
loved one dies what is one thing we do? We begin quiet reflection about who that person was. We remember precious moments about their character, their heart. We think about special unique attributes of our lost one that we’ll miss. We ponder their value, we think of the questions we wished we would have asked them.

Just Feed Them Ice Chips and Listen for Each Heartbeat

Examining all the positive things about your spouse and cultivating a desire to “really”
know them will move your spouse from their self-imposed casket to the hospital I.C.U.
unit. It is in the I.C.U. where you tend them and listen to hear their heart beating that you absolutely swear that “if-only” you could have a few more hours, a few more days, just a couple of years, that you would love them in a whole new way.

The Resurrection

Before the resurrection, there may be a lot of pain. Bringing a “dead spouse” back to life
can be one of the most frustrating and scary undertakings (no pun intended) a person might ever do. It is a matter of understanding how desperate your spouse is for you to really know them experientially. It will be both of your journeys to have “new eyes to see” each other and find new ways of connection, communicating and cultivating a life-filled relationship.

This article was originally published at Missing Pieces . Reprinted with permission from the author.