Is Your Marriage Dead? Or, Does it Just Appear That Way?

Is Your Marriage Dead? Or, does it just appear that way? Many people discover greater joy in their marriage after going through devastating hardship, as long as they don't make enemies of each other in the process. - #marriage #staymarried blog

“Girls, look ahead! The mountain is out, you can see it…”

This phrase, “the mountain is out,” is a very Pacific Northwest thing to say. Outside of the Seattle area, I’m not sure it would make much sense. But, for us locals, those four words beckon us to look up and notice a rare cloudless sky marked only by the beautiful face of Mount Rainier looking down happily on all of us. When the mountain is out, our collective spirits are lifted. We’ve made it through another storm and this beautiful view is our reward.

My three little daughters shifted their heads around from the backseat of our SUV as my husband, Tony, navigated down the 405. When Nora, our middle child, saw the mountain for herself, she began to shout, “I see it!” Then Claire called out, “Look, it’s so big! It looks closer.”

The freeway twisted and turned, and with a pleasant sigh Nora said, “That was beautiful.”

“It IS beautiful,” Claire corrected her, in true oldest sister fashion.

“Well,” Nora asserted, “It WAS beautiful when I could see it. But, I can’t see it anymore.”

I wondered then, from my vantage point in the front seat, if Nora really thought the mountain wasn’t beautiful anymore.

Do beautiful things cease to be beautiful when we can no longer see the beauty ourselves?

Emily's Orchid
It reminded me of something my friend Emily said at the beginning of the year. She shared this photo of an orchid on Instagram and with it she wrote:

“This is the orchid my husband bought me for our anniversary last July. The original blooms held on until sometime in November before falling into the kitchen sink (this window sill is just behind my faucet). For a stretch, I just let it be. Watered it every now and then, even though it looked like dead sticks pushed up out of the dirt. Then in December, I had a passing thought to look up how to care for it more intentionally, which consisted of carefully pruning two little branches. It didn’t seem like anything was happening for weeks, until buds started forming a week or two ago, and here you see a new delicate bloom about to emerge.

Because this orchid is symbolic of my marriage, I wanted to encourage those of you who might be in the ‘dead sticks’ season of your marriage. It is not easy to keep investing in a relationship that doesn’t feel like it is going well. I’ve been married 11.5 years to an incredible person, but we have hurt each other deeply at different times, and it has not been all roses…or orchids. But as we have taken tiny steps to tend to each other–to sacrifice what we can for the other’s benefit and communicate honestly about what we need–our love blooms again and again, for which I am grateful. I say a prayer for you who don’t feel like your partner knows your real heart, for those of you who don’t know how to bridge the distance or heal the hurt…May this year be one that you continue investing, continue tending the love you have committed yourself to, and may your marriage re-bloom in a beautiful and gentle way in 2017.”

It’s been a few months since Emily began tending to those dead sticks, and here is her orchid proudly displaying its beauty.

Emily's Orchid

Are you in a “dead sticks” season of your marriage? Are you staring at something that once was bright and beautiful and now looks dim and dying? How can you know if your marriage still has beauty in it, if it’s still worth tending to, or if it is actually already dead?

Research from the Institute for American Values asserts that couples who push through a hard season report being happier five years after the strain than they were before. Look at what Mona Charen says in her article “Happy Marriages and Unhappy Divorces”…

“According to the survey conducted by a team of family researchers, unhappily married adults who divorced were no happier five years after the divorce than were equally unhappy marrieds who remained together. And two-thirds of unhappily married people who remained married reported that their marriages were happy five years later. Even among those who had rated their marriages as “very unhappy,” nearly 80 percent said they were happily married five years later. These were not merely bored or dissatisfied whiners. They had endured serious problems, including alcoholism, infidelity, verbal abuse, emotional neglect, depression, illness, and work and money troubles.”

In our nearly 10 years of marriage, my husband and I have traveled roads together that did not appear to be leading us to anything beautiful. We lost sight of our hopes and plans, we lost sight of each other. Still, we kept traveling and neither of us left the other behind. Many times I thought we might take separate exits on this marriage journey, but instead we held hands and kept looking forward. Eventually we were able to see the beauty again, like turning the corner on the 405 to see that majestic face of Mount Rainier or witnessing a bloom begin to emerge from a once very dead looking orchid.

The beauty never left our marriage. We found the beauty again by taking on some new perspectives on our perpetual issues. We found it again by taking the time to nurture fondness and admiration in the middle of our frustration with each other. We found it again when we decided to lay down our preferences and sacrifice instead. The beauty in our marriage never left, it was just out of sight for a little while.

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The beauty in our marriage never left, it was just out of sight for a little while. ~ Michelle Peterson

Every married couple experiences their share of pain, disconnection, betrayal, and extraordinary stress. Some discover that if they will push through together and not make enemies of each other in the process, the beauty they experience on the other side far surpasses anything they could have imagined for themselves.

If you’re in a tough season, I’m praying for you to have the strength to keep going, keep tending, keep nurturing, and keep investing in your relationship. I’m praying you’ll experience the beauty on the other side when you choose together to #staymarried.

Is Your Marriage Dead? Or, does it just appear that way? Many people discover greater joy in their marriage after going through devastating hardship, as long as they don't make enemies of each other in the process. - #staymarried


The #staymarried blog was created to offer hope, stories, and resources for couples who want to stay married.

If you found this post helpful, we would be honored if you would share it. Our big dream is to see more and more people living in happy and healthy marriages!

Interested in more posts like this? You might like…
10 Things to Try Before Giving Up on Your Marriage – The Gottman Institute
Does Marriage Really Have to be Hard Work? – #staymarried blog
♥ Your Baggage Doesn’t Have to Wreck Your Marriage – #staymarried Podcast

Emily AllenSpecial thanks to Emily Allen for allowing me to share her beautiful words and images here. Emily lives with her husband and six kids in Seattle, Washington. She is a contemplative, creative soul who celebrates the beauty of a humble, handmade life. Her days are full of laughs, epic messes, and lots of learning alongside her kids. She is the founder of Kindred Mom, a blog and an online community dedicated to helping women flourish in motherhood. Her personal blog is Light and Loveliness and she is on Instagram as @emily_sue_allen.

Tony and Michelle Peterson #staymarried

If you’re NEW HERE, check out our About Page and read a little more about my own background on our first post. You can also find us on the socials: PinterestTwitterFacebook, and Instagram. I’d love to connect on any of your favorite platforms.

Thank you ever so much for reading, sharing, and being a part of this #staymarried community!

~ Michelle


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Is Your Marriage Dead? Or, does it just appear that way? Many people discover greater joy in their marriage after going through devastating hardship, as long as they don't make enemies of each other in the process. - #staymarried

9 thoughts on “Is Your Marriage Dead? Or, Does it Just Appear That Way?

  1. I know exactly what you mean about the mountain, having lived in the Pacific Northwest for over 30 years. We were just visiting in January, and every time the mountain was visible, I made a big deal of it for my son to look over there and see it. Good analogy for a marriage.

  2. This is just awesome. I wish that more couples could understand the incredible joy and fulfillment that comes in a marriage when both halves love, serve, and forgive, working through the hard times together. My wife and I are approaching our 13th year of marriage, and we’ve pushed through some seriously hard times; the fruits of our efforts are greater than anything I ever imagined. Thanks for what you do with this blog!

  3. Great post! Marriage is ALWAYS worth the effort… we’re coming up to our 29 years anniversary (WHAT?!) Thanks so much for sharing! Your fellow Hope*Writer 🙂

  4. Love this image. I have a similar image as my home screen image, taken from the lodge at Rainier National Park–from a trip my husband & I took 3 years ago June. Rainier was “out” and majestic for 3 days!
    And I love this reminder to keep moving forward, even when you can’t see the beauty. We’ve been married 37 years, and are now enjoying empty nest freedom. We clung to God during a dark, hard season, and eventually got through it. Gratefully, it was not a moral issue–just unbelievable trials and hardship that began at the church my husband served as associate pastor.
    Thank you for your work here–so happy to find this resource. I, too, am passionate about encouraging healthy relationships/marriage, and write under The Good Marriage Project at

  5. I love this post. My husband have been married for only 2 years now and we are in that rough season. The years leading up to us getting married were full of love and beauty we made everyone jealous of the love we shared. Now we are struggling to find that place again. We are starting marriage counseling tonight and I am hoping that it will give us the light we need to tend to those dead branches. It gives me a lot of hope to read about other couples that went through those rough patches and came out stronger on the other end. My husband and I have been talking about the reason for us not being in a blissful marriage anymore and it is silly to think that it all boils down to not seeing the beauty in the relationship anymore. Letting work and our son and the small life things come before the marriage. The biggest take away I have is put in the effort. I believe my husband and I both have the ability to do so.

  6. No Marriage is dead, Its just a state of mind at a particular time which if you cross with patience then your marriage is safe and if you don’t then you have to move ahead…

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