Should you stay in a dead marriage?
If it's dead, why keep it?
I've struggled with this concept myself for almost half of my 20 year marriage. If you've tried everything you can do to revive it, at what point do you cut your losses?
People get hung up on the institution concept of marriage, instead of the people involved in it. Couples stay married because they feel they should, they made a commitment to each other, but the thing they fail to realize is that commitment is already broken. Who divorces from a happy marriage, nobody? Staying together just for the sake of something, when it will never grow or flourish is pointless. I still do this and I often wonder why? Guilt, financial security, fear of the unknown, family aftermath or plain insecurity, who knows??
I'm a Christian and the first thing we're taught about marriage is that God hates divorce, you marry forever etc. This is only partially true. God does hate divorce, but only because it dissolves a marriage, but if the marriage is already dead, no further dissolving is necessary.
I believe that God wants a marriage that honors Him and the way that He designed it for, emotional, physical and spiritual unity and if you're not living that way, then you're not following His will. To me, it would be better to divorce and find someone else and try to build a strong Christian marriage, than to stay in a dead one, that will never honor His will. Well, that's it for the religious implications.
We attended a marriage weekend called "A Weekend To Remember", sponsored by a group called Family Life. They've had them for years in nearly every city close enough to drive to and attend, so we did just the thing. All of the speakers touched on what a marriage needs to live and then shared their personal stories. We learned marriage has to be #1. It must reign over job, hobbies and even children and most importantly it is either growing or dying, it never stays the same and can't run on "autopilot". The dying process is a slow painful one, involving a gradual loss of an emotional connection that will strip away sex, communication, quality time etc and you'll just become roommates that either share a bed or sleep elsewhere, at this point it is only superficial and routine. You may still give affection, kisses and hugs, but they will be no more passionate than you would share with a family member. Going through the motions and physically doing things that resemble a marriage doesn't make it any more alive.
Commitment is important, but it is far more than not cheating and not leaving, it is more about what you do while you're there. You've heard the old saying, "Just because you stand in a garage, doesn't make you a car" or "an elephant born in a tree, isn't a bird"? Sharing a house, bed, bills, etc doesn't make a marriage, if there is no emotional connection and desire to make it the way it was intended.
Sex is a marriage barometer and a lot of spouses, especially the ones that have grown apart from their mates, see this as just another unnecessary obsession by the other. Once sex becomes totally unimportant and fizzles to nothing, the marriage is dead. There are ways to revive it again, but it is very difficult.
I find myself always asking this same question, What benefit is there to staying in a dead marriage? Do you hang onto anything else dead? Do you keep dead pets, stale food etc, no, there is no reason to do it. I think people think there is some kind of credit they get for enduring a dead marriage, like a reward or something? In reality, they just wasted their life and negated any chance at future happiness with someone else.