Stages of A Dying Marriage – What You Need To Know

How do you know when a marriage is dying? What is considered a dead marriage? What are the stages of a dying marriage? What are some signs that a marriage is dying? This article has all the answers you are looking for.

Hi. My name is Sean Galla. I have been facilitating online support groups for men, including marriage support groups, for more than 10 years. Marriage problems, poor communication, divorce, separation and dying marriages are some of the most common topics talked about in support forums.

This article has everything you need to know about overcoming relationship issues and how to identify the stages of a dying marriage.

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Sean Galla

An experienced facilitator, community builder and Peer Support Specialist, Sean has been running men's groups for 10+ years. Read Sean's Full Author Bio.


Sometimes, marriage fails. It is common for some couples to find themselves in an unhappy place in their marriage. When you get to this point, it is easy to imagine that all hope is lost and that your union is doomed.

Realizing that your marriage is going through the stages of a dying marriage can have negative impacts on your mental and emotional well-being. The fear of starting over or failing in the marriage forces many people to remain married even though the marriage is dying.

If your marriage is experiencing trouble, learning of the stages of a dying marriage can be helpful. When the signs are caught early enough, there are specific steps you can take to reverse the damage and possibly avoid divorce.

Signs of a dying marriage

Before we delve into the stages of a dying marriage, you first need to learn of the signs of a dying marriage. Some of the red flags you may notice include:

A lack of effort

In an unhappy marriage, one or both of the people involved stop trying or putting effort into the relationship. In a dying marriage, the couple no longer goes out of their way to work on underlying issues or put in extra effort to make the other person happy.

Negativity becomes normal

Conflict is normal in relationships, including marriages. To some degree, disagreements and conflict are healthy and necessary for a healthy relationship. However, when conflict is not solved amicably, negativity often takes center stage in the relationship, which causes the marriage and communication to break down.  

According to John Gottman, a marriage expert, married couples need to have more positive interactions than negative ones for a healthy marriage. When a marriage is going through the stages of a dying marriage, couples spend most of their time criticizing one another.

Spending less and less time together

Having separate interests is ideal for relationships. However, there should also be a desire to spend time together as a couple. A vital sign of a dead marriage is when a couple rarely or never spends quality time together. The parties would rather do anything else but have some time in the company of each other.


Lack of respect

Lack of respect is a common sign of a dying marriage. Once a marriage starts to deteriorate, there is usually a loss of respect for each other. Every shortcoming makes you respect them less and less.

When there is a lack of respect, couples become overly critical of each other’s flaws, sometimes going as far as to belittle the other person for their shortcoming.

You are unhappy

When a marriage is falling apart, it is normal for the people in it to start feeling unhappy and lonely. Once you become aware that you have been unhappy for a long time in the relationship, this is a telltale sign of a dying marriage.

The stages of a dying marriage

Apart from experiencing the signs above, a failing marriage can also go through the stages of a dying marriage.

Recognizing you are unhappy

The first stage of a dying marriage is perhaps recognizing that you are not happy anymore in the union. While every relationship goes through seasons, in a dying marriage, you find that the unhappy moments are more than the happy ones.

Feelings of loneliness

When you are unhappy, you will also feel lonely in your marriage because of the disconnection. You notice that you no longer feel connected to your spouse, and sharing about your life becomes a task.

Failed communication

One of the signs that a marriage has gone sour is a lack of communication. You no longer share details of your lives, you don’t discuss plans anymore, or communicate your needs. Instead, you find reasons to communicate less and less.

Dead intimacy

Why wont my wife initiate sex? Lack of interest in sex with you is a common sign of a dying marriage. Where there is lack of intimacy, there is dissatisfaction. Intimacy is not just sexual. It also encompasses emotional connection and physical intimacy.  


When a marriage is on the verge of dying, the couple withdraws from attending to each other’s needs in favor of other interests and people. You no longer look forward to holiday family times or weekends spent at home. You would rather do anything else than be in the company of your spouse.


When going through the stages of a dying marriage, you will notice that you detach from your spouse. The emotional and physical closeness you once shared is no longer there. Suddenly, it feels as though you are just roommates or, worse, just another family member in the house.

Consistent fighting

When a marriage is dying, there will be numerous misunderstandings, a lot of defensiveness, and sometimes physical abuse. In the past, you would both work to find common ground over an issue. However, now, all you seem to do is argue more and bring up old mistakes and issues. The two of you keep looking for reasons to remain upset with each other.


The last straw

This is usually the moment an issue happens that finally gives you clarity on the actual state of your marriage. This is the moment you come to the realization and acceptance that your marriage may be over and that you may need to start focusing on divorce recovery.

What now?

Now that you have realized that your marriage is probably over, the only two options that remain are to either learn how to fix a marriage so you can save it or amicably agree to start living separate lives.

Whatever conclusion you come to, the two of you need to spend some time apart in the first place since it has probably gotten to a point where you can’t stand being in the same space. This time apart is ideal for self-reflection, will help you get clarity and think soberly about the next steps.

Stages of a dying marriage – How to revive a dead marriage

If you and your spouse decide to try to revive the marriage, there are some steps you can take to make the reconciliation easier.

Build up communication

One of the core signs of a marriage breakdown is failed communication. This problem can be corrected by creating better communication between the two of you.

You can schedule daily meetings where the two of you share about your day and weekly meetings to talk about the bigger things. You also need to be better at sharing your feelings and discussing areas in your marriage that need improvement.   

Be intentional about intimacy

While you may not immediately go back to enjoying lively sex like you once did, it is important to start being intentional about physical touch and emotional intimacy. You can take steps to rekindle intimacy by building physical touch through hugs, kissing each other randomly, and holding hands. Spending time together cuddling is also an ideal way to build intimacy.

Plan for date nights

Commit to a date night schedule where you do things you both enjoy. This can go a long way in battering time spent together and sparking the attraction that you once had for each other.

See a marriage counselor

When working on your marriage, it is essential to seek professional help. This can be in the form of couples therapy from a marriage therapist. Couples open to couples counseling learn how to understand better and relate to each other and themselves.

In therapy, the therapist or marriage counselor acts as a neutral third party who takes a deeper look into your issues to help identify the problem areas and help you navigate them.

A good family therapist will give practical steps that you and your wife can follow to find peace in your marriage. You also learn of healthier ways of working through individual quirks that may cause issues.

Join a support group

Sometimes, the best way to salvage an unhealthy marriage is to seek support from like-minded people. For men, joining a men’s support group like MensGroup gives them access to fellow men going through similar life issues and others who have overcome similar marital issues.

About MensGroup

If you are looking for an all-male support group online, MensGroup is the best place to be. This is a safe space where you can talk to fellow men in confidence and privacy about your relationship. Sometimes, talking to fellow men is all the help you need to spice up your relationship and promote personal mental wellness.

You are not alone. is a free space to share, learn, and grow, even as you make new friends.


Being in what feels like a dead marriage can be frustrating. If you want to reverse the stages of a dying marriage in your marriage, following the tips highlighted in this article and joining a support group like MensGroup is the best decision you can make for your relationship.