Signs of a Toxic Marriage that Seem Totally Normal
Are you wondering if you are in a toxic marriage?
Do you look at 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 you are feeling 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.
#1 – Contempt.
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 He is just crabby or He was just showing off for his friends are excuses that are often used to justified contempt.
Think about your interactions with your husband. Is there contempt? Do one or the other, or both, of you speak to each 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.
#2 – Fighting.
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 women 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 phycial 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 resolution around these fights, you just retreat to your respective corners and sulk?
If the above describes the way your fights evolve then 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.
#3 – Secrets.
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 ok. 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 was existing 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.
So, if you aren’t sharing everything with your partner, particularly things that would make him upset if he found out about them, then you are most certainly in a toxic marriage that might be doomed.
#4 – Distance.
When your husband walks in the door would your first instinct be to hug him? If you could choose someone to go to the movies with, would it be your wife? Is the first person you want to tell your good news to the person you go to sleep with every night?
Over time, as marriage evolves, couples become so comfortable with each other that we 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, never spend free time together and 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 wins and losses in their life.
Consider the distance between you and your spouse. If the Grand Canyon comes to mind then you are most likely in a toxic marriage.
#5 – Silence.
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 it’s place is a petri dish wherein disconnection, anger and resentment can grow. Words go 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.
Do you and your partner treat each other well? Do you disagree about things without fighting? Do you keep secrets or your distance? Have you stopped communicating in any meaningful way?
If any or all of these things are true, you very well might be in a toxic marriage, one you want to either start working on or get out of.
Don’t waste your life in a toxic marriage – life is too short to waste!
Do you want to know more about whether you are in a toxic marriage?
Let me help you, NOW, so you know sooner rather than later!
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I am a NYC based Certified Life Coach and mental health advocate. My writing has been published on The Huffington Post, Prevention, Psych Central, Pop Sugar, MSN and The Good Man Project, among others. I work with all kinds of people to help them go from depressed and overwhelmed to confident and happy in their relationships and in their world.