So, you’re marriage isn’t dead, but it’s isn’t exactly alive either. It just keeps moving forward in a somewhat detached state. The question is, should you call it quits? Absolutely not! Psychologists call it the “zombie zone.” When a marriage lasts for years, spouses often get into a routine with one another and go on auto-pilot. Unfortunately, when couples get too wrapped up in their careers, kids, and aging parents to make time for one another, they start to wonder if this phase is fatal - and obsess over pulling the plug.

Susan Heitler, a psychologist and author of The Power of Two: Secrets to a Strong and Loving Marriage, ays although many people take the “zombie zone” as a sign that they need a divorce, that’s not usually the case. In fact, most of her clients are referred to her by lawyers, and she says roughly 80% who’d gone in to get a divorce turn out to have great marriages. They had simply lost intimacy and connection. That said, there ARE times when a lifeless marriage isn’t just a phase. So, how can you tell if you’re in the “zombie zone” or the “dead zone”? Here are the differences:

  • A zombie marriage lacks passion. In a dead marriage, extramarital passion is a problem.
  • In a zombie marriage, work is your first priority. In a dead marriage, your first priority is ANYTHING but the marriage.
  • In zombie marriage, you money and free time are spent exclusively on your kids. In a dead marriage, one or both of you spends all of your time and money on yourself.
  • In a zombie marriage, you don’t call each other “honey” or “baby” anymore. In a dead marriage, you regularly call each other nasty names - usually while screaming.

If the Zombie signs ring true, take heart. In most cases, this is just a phase – and quite possibly a crucial one. Dr. Heitler says, for a lifelong relationship to survive its most challenging period – when kids and careers take center stage - you can’t try to prop it up all the time and obsess about whether things are working. Sometimes you have to coast along with the knowledge that there is love there, you’re just in a dormant phase so you can focus on other things.