Are you wondering if you are in a toxic marriage?
Do you look around at other marriages, feeling like your marriage is just like theirs, and yet you wake up every morning unhappy and spend your days wondering what is wrong with you that makes you feel this way?
When we get married, no one gives us a guidebook. There are no step-by-step instructions as to how to make things work, to be married successfully. Instead we are thrown into something that we have never done before, expected to have all the answers and to live happily ever after.
It’s no surprise that you find yourself in this place, wondering if you are in a toxic marriage but just not really sure.
Let me help. There are signs of a toxic marriage that seem normal but that really are not.
Contempt is defined as ‘the feeling that a person is beneath consideration, worthless or deserving scorn.’ Signs of contempt include eye rolling, unkind words, sarcasm and dismissal.
Contempt can be hard to recognize because it’s easily explained away. ”Oh, I deserved that” or ”They are just crabby” or ”They are just showing off for their friends” are excuses that are often used to justified contempt.
Think about your interactions with your significant other. Is there contempt? Do either of you speak to the other sarcastically? Do you talk behind each other’s backs? Do you roll your eyes when your partner tries to make a point?
The number one sign of a toxic marriage is contempt. When people treat each other contemptuously, the respect in the relationship is gone. And without respect, nothing else matters.
Fighting in a marriage is totally normal. There is no way that two people can live together for years and years without issues arising that lead to quarreling.
Many people believe that as long as there is no physical assault, any kind of fighting is normal. But that just isn’t true. Fighting that is both regular and extreme, even if there is no physical violence, is not normal. It is a sign of a toxic marriage.
Do you and your partner fight regularly? Do you fight about everything from the color of the sky to the time it takes to make dinner? Do your fights escalate quickly? Do you attack each other personally? Is there never a resolution to these fights, you just retreat to your respective corners and sulk?
If the above describes the way your fights evolve, you are most likely in a toxic marriage. People who not only can’t agree about anything but who treat each other so horribly in a fight are definitely in a marriage that is unhealthy.
When I was married, there were many secrets that I kept from my husband. I didn’t talk to him about how I felt about him. I didn’t vaccinate my son until he was 5 years old and neglected to tell him. I forgot to pay the cable bill for three months and then acted shocked when it was cut off. I hated the way he wore short sleeve shirts to work in the summer. None of these things I told him.
Furthermore, I spent a TON of time telling my friends the things that I didn’t tell him. They especially knew how brutally unhappy I was with him, and they were part of my decision to not vaccinate my kids. In many ways, my friends were a substitute for my husband.
And I thought that this was okay. None of these secrets were a big deal—it wasn’t like I was sneaking around on him. I was keeping these secrets from him, I felt, to protect him and myself from the anger and contempt that existed in our marriage.
Now I know that secrets can kill a marriage. If two people who have chosen to build a life together can’t share with each other the little things and the big, then their marriage is most certainly toxic. Even if they think they are lying to protect their partner, they are still betraying their partner with their silence.
If you aren’t sharing everything with your partner, particularly things that would make them upset if they found out about them, then you are most certainly in a toxic marriage that might be doomed.
When your partner walks in the door, is your first instinct to hug them? If you could choose someone to go to the movies with, would it be your significant other? Is the first person you want to tell your good news to the person you go to sleep with every night?
Over time, as a marriage evolves, couples become so comfortable with each other that they take each other for granted. Hugs, confidences, and free time are things that aren’t always a part of long marriages.
That being said, if there is a distance between you and your spouse that is more like a chasm, if you never touch each other or spend free time together, or if you would rather die than share anything personal, then you are in a toxic marriage.
People who are in healthy marriages make an effort to be physical with their partner. They genuinely enjoy spending their free time together (mostly) and confide in each other.
Consider the distance between you and your spouse. If the Grand Canyon comes to mind, then you are most likely in a toxic marriage.
One of the biggest signs of a toxic marriage is silence.
Silence means lack of communication. Silence means grudges are being held and being left unsaid. Silence means that connecting in any meaningful way is impossible.
The hallmark of a healthy relationship is when two people can communicate well. Whether its about what is for dinner, what your mother-in-law did last weekend or the fact that they have pissed you off again, communication is what keeps people connected.
When communication stops, so does any chance for a happy relationship. The silence that is left in its place is a petri dish wherein disconnection, anger and resentment can grow. Words are left unsaid and frustrations stew.
When was the last time you and your partner spoke in any meaningful way? When you spend time together is there any kind of communication at all or are you sharing the space in silence? If you and your partner are no longer talking about anything, including the weather, then you are most likely in a toxic marriage.
Recognizing signs of a toxic marriage is the best way to try to save it before it gets too late.
Don’t waste your life in a toxic marriage—life is too short to waste!