Marital therapist Andrew G Marshall on the signs you might be one of the living dead
On the outside, it may look like your relationship is alive and well. You turn up at parties together, you’re both cheering on the kids at their sporting events and the atmosphere around the house is civil – most of the time. There are certainly no blazing rows.
Sometimes you’re so good at keeping up appearances that you can even convince yourself that everything is OK between you. However, for one or both of you, something feels dead inside.
Sound familiar? My practice has been inundated with couples who ignored the warning signs and buried their problems even deeper. In the meantime, their relationships have dropped down to a lower level of hell that I’ve dubbed the ‘zombie marriage’.
A case in point
One particular example of this growing phenomenon is Martin, 49, and his wife, Clare, 41, who have been married for 15 years and have two sons on the cusp of becoming teenagers. Three years earlier, arriving at my consulting room, Clare had confronted Martin with the truth that although she still loved him, she no longer felt ‘in love’. Not surprisingly, Martin was deeply upset. He tried to be more considerate, get home earlier, listen more and prioritize uncompleted jobs about the house, but things soon slipped back to what they’d been before.
‘I have a very demanding job that involves lots of travel. I devoted myself to work during the week and the children at the weekend. Although I knew nothing had been fixed, Clare and I rubbed along all right…’ Martin told me, his voice trailing away. ‘Until you put two and two together and made 10,’ Clare chipped in.
Martin had found hundreds of texts between Clare and another man in the village where they lived. She claimed they were ‘just friends’ and ‘nothing had happened’. The other man’s marriage had broken down and his wife was accusing Clare of having an affair with him. ‘I don’t know who to believe,’ said Martin, ‘but Clare has agreed the best outcome for everybody would be for us to repair our relationship and, therefore, she won’t contact him again.’
‘Except I don’t think our marriage can be saved,’ countered Clare.
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