In a healthy marriage, partners are emotionally supportive, trustworthy, loyal, and loving. They enjoy each other’s company, are committed to raising a family or choosing not to have children,, and have admiration and respect for one another.
Sounds simple, right?
In the real world, marriages are far more complicated. Maintaining a successful relationship requires immense effort. Once the rush of endorphins subsides, the illusions quickly shatter and a partner’s imperfections become obvious.
While it’s perfectly normal to have waxing and waning intimacy mixed in with disagreements, what’s not acceptable is a toxic marriage which can wreak havoc with your health and happiness. Living with – let alone tolerating – a toxic person should never be preferred.
The first step in fixing an unhealthy relationship is understanding and identifying the signs of a toxic marriage. If fixing the problem doesn’t work, then you should learn how to get out of a toxic marriage.
What is a Toxic Relationship?
Simply put, a toxic relationship is one in which partners don’t support each other. Instead, one person is always trying to undermine the other. Competitiveness and control rules over caring and companioship. Negative experiences far outnumber positive ones. Disrespect, unpleasantness, and a general lack of togetherness lead to constant conflicts in toxic relationships.
If you’re always apologizing because your partner gets upset by the little things you said or did, it’s a worrisome sign. Over time, this type of overreaction can be emotionally draining and damaging to your self-esteem. In healthy relationships, a partner doesn’t get unpredictably upset with minor things.
Is Your Marriage Toxic?
These are some clear indications of a toxic marriage:
- My thoughts and opinions are not valued in my marriage.
- My partner frequently overpowers my attempts to express myself.
- I’m afraid to decide because it might make my partner angry or disappointed.
- My partner makes all the major decisions, placing his/her priorities and desires over mine.
- I try to set boundaries but my partner ignores them.
- Whenever I try to change my life (for example, if I exercise), my partner highlights my shortcomings and discourages me.
- I can’t rely on my partner. There’s uncertainty in our marriage. For example, I can’t be sure if he/she will show up for my parents’ milestone anniversary celebration.
- I’ve discovered that my partner has secrets, like hidden bank accounts. When I confront my partner about them, I am gaslighted and told that I am imagining things..
- I feel like my partner and I am joined at the hip. We never spend any time apart. I feel isolated from society. If I attempt to start a new hobby or make new friends, it’s met with suspicion and jealousy from my partner.
- I feel like I have no personal space. My partner interrogates me about every moment of my day and goes through my computer, mobile phone, and dresser drawers.
- Whenever we disagree, my partner always blames me. For example, my partner had an angry outburst at the grocery store but blamed it on me because I was taking longer than expected.
- I feel insecure and unsafe in my marriage. I fear infidelity or abandonment by my partner.
- Our relationship is highly volatile with frequent screaming arguments and chaotic, heated exchanges.
- My partner keeps score of everything, from cooking dinner to giving a neck massage, and expects me to make up for my smaller financial contribution to the household in myriad other ways.
- Intimacy is missing in our marriage, beyond sexual satisfaction. I don’t feel confident about sharing my insecurities or desires with my partner because he/she will not encourage or support me.
The statements above are all signs of a toxic marriage. If you identify with one or more of them, then you should get help.
Fixing a Toxic Relationship
A marriage is a complex relationship, and if you feel you are living with a toxic person, the best way to fix it is to get professional help. Dr. Jamie has extensive experience in helping people like you heal from the psychological trauma of a toxic marriage.
Leaving a Toxic Marriage
Sometimes, despite our best efforts, a relationship is damaged beyond repair. If you can’t fix it, it’s advisable to get out. But ending toxic relationships is not easy. Before leaving a toxic relationship:
- Aim to become independent (this includes everything from earning a living to learning how to change a light bulb).
- If you’re thinking of ending a toxic marriage, plan for the transition (where to stay, what to take, etc.).
- Confide in friends and family members (the time for secrets and privacy has passed; tell the people you trust about your plans and get their advice; if you feel your safety is at risk, contact the authorities).
- Seek professional help from a counselor (you can use all the help you can get).
Be kind to yourself!
A toxic marriage is an extremely difficult thing to go through. Allow yourself time to heal. Focus on hobbies, friends, your new career, or take that bucket list vacation.
Now that you know the signs of a toxic marriage, you’re better prepared to get help. You don’t have to live with a person who is abusive, controlling, demanding, self-centered, dishonest, or critical. You deserve to be happy.