“When a man feels emotionally undernourished,” Heitler says, “the question becomes ‘What can he do?’ One option is he can say nothing and feel increasingly undernourished. Or he can get angry. Or he can get a girlfriend. Or drink. Or just keep working at the office.”

And those survival tactics highlight the exception to the Zombie Marriage rule. Everyone knows that if you attack it just right, even a zombie can be killed.

A couple in my social circle recently got divorced, and as I watched the husband, a friend of mine, go through this, I began to wonder how his undead marriage had died. Were there egregious transgressions? Irreconcilable differences? No one really knows what goes on in a relationship, but as far as I can tell, this couple had been deep in a Zombie Marriage, and instead of resigning themselves to the dull march, they decided to kill it outright. Think of the shotgun blasts to the head in Night of the Living Dead or 28 Days Later. This guy and his wife, I concluded from having witnessed a few of their vicious rows, had relentlessly attacked their marriage until they finally succeeded in blowing its head off.

Maybe if they had held on a few months or years longer they could have spared themselves the subsequent agony. Because the Zombie Marriage, just like those B-movie ghouls who can be restored to mortality with a few drops of a serum or potion, can be revived. I look to my parents for proof.

I recently learned that they too went sleepwalking through a protracted rough patch in their thirties and forties. They stayed together. Now that they’re in their late seventies and early eighties, theirs is almost a parody of happy, cranky old people’s matrimony. They’re in love, and I suspect that—through it all, even the Zombie Marriage phase—they always were.