When a Marriage Dies a Thousand Deaths

Alison Lee

I don’t have any statistics to back this up (though I could totally Google that), but I think many marriages don’t end with one huge calamitous event. They don’t always end overnight, with one deal breaker.

Marriages die a thousand deaths before they truly end.

Before I go on, I want to say that my marriage is not dead, far from it, but it could use a little life. 

The little deaths that we endure before we can endure no more. Like the time he slept in for the 853rd time, but you got up with the kids again, and again, and again, even on weekends. The dirty clothes that miss the laundry basket by an inch; the coffee cup that sits on the kitchen counter, not the sink; the toilet paper roll not changed.

The tiny, petty offences committed daily that are cute at first, then annoying, a mild irritant, something you nag about, maybe even make a joke of. A joke that is no longer funny after 7 years of the same shit, and he still does it.

Maybe it’s the weird, hormonal mood swings she goes through, and not even on a predictable monthly cycle. The mood that strikes for no known or good reason, where she shuts down and doesn’t utter more than two words to you all day. When you ask her a question, she doesn’t even look at you, and you wonder if she heard you.

What about the evenings you don’t spend together after the children are in bed? You, off in your study, she, in the living room. Your different bed times offer no intimacy, and now, even the evening television watching togetherness appears to be waning.

Do you remember the last time you talked about something other than the children, schedules or work? Have you recently laughed and joked, and enjoyed each other’s company, remembering the other person as the person you knew before the first few little deaths in your marriage?

Date night. It’s become a myth. Or you bring it up, and the other looks crestfallen because now he or she will be expected to move mountains to make it happen. Hire a babysitter or call upon grandparents. Pump milk so the baby won’t starve. Thinking about it pains you. So it doesn’t happen, or not as often, because it’s too hard.

How about that score card? Oh, you know you have one. Who did what and when. Who did more of this or not enough of that. The one you bring up and throw into each other’s faces, even if you don’t really mean it.

You may not even fight anymore. It takes too much energy, and all that shouting might wake the kids. So you retreat into passive-aggressiveness, or into your cave. Silence over fighting words, because you don’t even care enough to speak your mind, get it out, air the grievances. You may take it out on some furniture, and shit, you break something. Who’s going to fix it now? Goddamnit.

Ships in the night. No hand holding or touching of any kind. You don’t care what they look like, or you care too much because when the heck did they lose standards of hygiene? And that once svelte waist?

You don’t talk anymore because you have nothing to talk about. Or when you do, all that comes out are complaints, nags, fighty words, sarcasm and bitterness. All that falls out of your mouth, is toxic. So you shut up. You turn to you computer and talk to other people instead. People who can offer you a virtual shoulder to cry on, virtual ears to listen, and virtual arms to hug you.

When the real shoulder, ears and arms are just within reach, but feel oceans apart. Tiny little death.

When the kindness you show to strangers and friends, is not shown to your partner. Another tiny little death.

When you forget to share the photos and moments you post on Facebook and Instagram with your husband/ wife. Yet another tiny little death.

A thousand little deaths. That’s what kills a marriage.


My husband and I have known each other for over 10 years, married seven years, and have been parents for five of those years.

There have been a few little deaths in our union. Some of it his fault, some are definitely mine. Love is not the problem. Love is NEVER the problem. On the surface, we are good. We ARE good. There is no talk of going our separate ways, but there is no talk of coming together like we used to.

I have stopped making the effort in some ways. The children consume much of me mentally, emotionally, physically. My poor husband is on the receiving end for a depleted creature, with no idea that I am spent. He tries, I don’t. I let the thousand little things get to me, and I have flares of anger at him, at myself.

I am letting these tiny fissures develop into cracks.

I need to turn back to kindness, empathy, and conscious presence to make our marriage better.

And it will start with the little things that bring life into it.


When a Marriage Dies a Thousand Deaths by Alison Lee of Writing, Wishing

This post was syndicated with permission to BonBon Break Media, LLC.

Alison Lee is the co-editor of Multiples Illuminated, an anthology about twins, triplets and more, a writer, and publisher. A former PR and marketing professional, she is the owner of Little Love Media, specializing in blog book tours. Alison’s writing has been featured in Mamalode, On Parenting at The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, Everyday Family, Scary Mommy, and Club Mid. She is one of 35 essayists in the anthology, My Other Ex: Women’s True Stories of Leaving and Losing Friends (Fall, 2014), and has an essay in another, So Glad They Told Me: Women Get Real About Motherhood (Spring, 2016). She is also an editor at BonBon Break. Alison lives in Malaysia with her husband and four children (two boys and boy/ girl twins).