Kevin Myers
4 min readDec 24, 2016

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Requiem for a Marriage Corpse

My marriage died in 2005 and my wife and I dragged around its corpse Weekend at Bernie’s style for another 10 years. It was an awkward transition from partner-in-life to joint-custodian of a lifeless sack of forsaken dreams, but it was our sack, and we felt a responsibility for its maintenance and furtherance.

It took a lot of work. There was a period of acceptance and adjustment as we recalculated our priorities and schedules. It occupied a lot of space in our lives, and practically speaking, it was cumbersome. Nobody wanted to sit next to it on road trips and it was especially difficult to get through airport security, but we adapted.

Oddly, holding onto our dead marriage felt financially and emotionally safe. Research seemed to indicate that clinging to our corpse would be psychologically healthy for our children. Intuitively, this seemed true even though we didn’t translate this supposition into letting our kids keep their rigor mortised hamsters or goldfish — that just seemed disturbing.

With patient intention and spiteful neglect we embarked on creating the perfect marriage corpse. We worked hard together to prop it up for our children and keep its appearance presentable for public display. The kids spent their grade school years thinking it was normal — they didn’t know anything else — but as they got older they began to question us about the conspicuous lack of marriage corpses in their friend’s lives. We found ways to explain to them that every family has different priorities and that we should not judge their friends for burying their dead.

My wife and I went to counseling where we developed strategies for negotiating the shared responsibilities of managing our cadaver. We learned to use “I statements” when we got angry. We created rules, schedules, and procedures for sharing everyday tasks. Twice a week we had 20-minute “check ins,” when we suspended our judgment and talked openly to ensure our corpse was getting the time and attention it needed to look plausibly alive.

We rearranged our home to create an environment where our marriage corpse could flourish. It had plenty of space to grow and find its own passions. We fed it unrealistic expectations, a lack of gratitude and intimacy, jealousy, control issues, dishonesty, manipulation, and money problems. We gave it our all and at night when we rested our heads on our pillows it was always there reminding us of our commitment to its cold, dead, existence.

Among casual acquaintances we found ways to excuse its awkward presence, but eventually, with our closer friends it became the excuse itself. “Oh, sorry my wife couldn’t come to your party,” I’d say, “ but the stench of our decaying marriage had become too much. She decided to stay home and give it a bath.” I’d smile, shrug, and wait for the understanding nods.

After a while it began to feel natural and we stopped making excuses altogether. Like dog owners in wet climates we just came to tolerate and then expect a certain level of unpleasant aroma. We learned to avoid dragging it into problem areas, and how to dress it up so it blended into our surroundings. We bought it replica jerseys from our favorite football teams for fall weekends, a Santa cap for Christmas, and a bottle of bourbon for visits from the in-laws.

Its constant presence made me forget that this burden had replaced the promise of unselfish love. The idea that filled me with optimism and made me believe that together we would endure life’s greatest challenges vanished amid the energy it took to semi-animate our corpse.

One day, on a family car trip, I looked in the rearview mirror to see the cadaver sitting between our children. It was propped up in the middle seat, but kept falling against our daughter until her patience expired and she shoved it in the direction of our son. It startled him and he pushed it forward. It bounced off the passenger’s seat with such force that its head popped off and flew out the window. I was furious! How were we ever going to reattach the head and make it look normal again? It was already so shabby that the scarfs and sunglasses hardly disguised its threadbare appearance.

Finally it dawned on me, this nasty thing that my wife and I worked so hard to normalize was not normal and the whole family was carrying its burden. We were not teaching our children how to confront their problems or have a healthy relationship. We were modeling how to subjugate self-worth for the hollow ideals of comfort and conformity. My wife and I were not partners in life, or love; we were partners in avoidance and complacency.

“Why did we think this was a good idea?” I finally asked.

“Driving instead of flying?” my wife responded.

It was time to say goodbye.

Because my wife and I had learned to respect our marriage corpse we were willing to give it proper sendoff. We spent that last weekend doing all of its favorite things. We laid in the sun, floated it down a lazy river, laid in the sun some more, and at night we laid on the ground and watched the stars.

The drive home was quiet. We didn’t tell the kids, but they knew. They were kind and careful with their words. They’re such good kids; they deserved an opportunity to see what life was like without having to drag around the causality of their parent’s failed hopes.

We made funeral arrangements. It was difficult and there were lots of tears, but there was also relief. There was a sense that we were doing the right thing. It was time to honor what our marriage had given us and let it die with dignity. Everything that comes into existence must also fade from existence. Our marriage’s lifespan was shorter than we foresaw, but that did not diminish its importance. Our marriage shaped every aspect of our lives and those of our children. It was born of good intentions and we remained dedicated that those intentions live on in how we raised our children.

Rest in peace, marriage corpse, rest in peace.

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Kevin Myers

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