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Toxic Marriage: What It Is, 20 Signs & How to Leave the Toxicity for Good

Everyone wants to get married and live happily ever after. But it doesn’t always happen that way. So, you need to know the signs of a toxic marriage.

signs of a toxic marriage

Experiencing the signs of a toxic marriage isn’t just a bad part of life. A toxic marriage can lead to anxiety, depression, lack of motivation, and even very unhealthy habits like excessive drinking or drug use.

It is not something to scoff at. We are often told to make a marriage work no matter what. We are guilted into saving something that is beyond hope. And we are told we are failures if we end a relationship. We didn’t try hard enough.

As sad and hard as divorce can be, if you see signs of a toxic marriage, it may be the best thing for you to end it.

[Read: 21 secret signs of a bad relationship that signal a bad future ahead]

What is a toxic marriage?

The word “toxic” means poisonous. So, having a toxic marriage isn’t just bad, it is dangerous. A toxic marriage isn’t just an unhealthy or bad marriage. A toxic marriage poorly affects every aspect of your life.

Think about it like this. If your town’s air supply is toxic, it doesn’t just affect the air. It affects the water supply. Your health. Your crops. There is nothing safe from that poison. 

A toxic marriage is no different. It will eat away at your confidence, your mental health, your emotional well-being, and even your physical health. 

[Read: 53 scary signs you’re in a toxic relationship that’s hurting and breaking you slowly]

A healthy and prosperous marriage will add to your life in limitless ways. It will offer you support, confidence, security, and happiness.

A toxic marriage does the exact opposite. You aren’t just missing the good stuff but enduring all the bad.

What are the signs of a toxic marriage?

A toxic marriage is not something you want to live with. You and even your partner deserve better. One of the signs of a toxic marriage is that it will bring out the worst in both of you. 

But a toxic marriage does not form overnight. A toxic marriage could have started with happiness and trust. Over time, things happen that inject that poison into your marriage, and it just takes off.

Often, by the time there are signs of a toxic marriage, it has been that way for quite a while. So, what are those signs of a toxic marriage?

1. Unreasonable anger

Every couple fights and argues. It is normal to disagree. But when those minor disagreements become screaming matches, they can easily drain you. Rage in a relationship can easily get out of control. 

If you are fighting about someone forgetting to take the garbage out and it becomes a screaming match and someone’s fist goes through a wall or a glass is broken, things are way out of hand. Enduring this sort of behavior repeatedly takes a toll on your well-being. [Read: Are you happy? How to spot the signs of resentment in a relationship]

2. Control

What makes healthy relationships work is a balance of togetherness and independence. You should support each other, but not control each other. 

When one of you makes decisions for each other about anything, from which color to paint the living room to where you should live, it is a problem.

A relationship should have two people contributing to decisions. When one person takes control of what the other does it destroys confidence, it is a sign that sets up the road for a toxic marriage. [Read: Controlling relationship – 42 signs and ways to love without bullying]

3. Jealousy

Jealousy is always an ugly thing. It can stem from past infidelities but is often also about control. In fact, jealousy can stem from fear of cheating to a desire for your partner’s level of social or financial independence.

If you are constantly jealous of your partner’s job, friends, or are even suspicious of them cheating, it’s a sign of a toxic marriage that will slowly eat you up from within. [Read: How to deal with jealousy in a relationship and learn to overcome it]

4. Infidelity

Anything from a long-term affair to one night of weakness can destroy an otherwise healthy relationship. When that trust is broken, all the good parts of your relationship can crumble and turn into rage, depression, fear, and uncertainty. 

All of that can lead you to feel not just alone and hurt in your marriage but in everyday life.

5. Guilt

A toxic relationship causes intense feelings that carry over into all aspects of your life, and guilt is one feeling that is hard to shake.

If you do something for yourself or don’t live up to your partner’s expectations for you, you shouldn’t feel guilty.

A successful marriage is full of compromise and acceptance. But if your husband or wife makes you feel guilty for being imperfect, then that can cause insomnia, overeating, weight loss, and more, and that’s one of those glaring signs of a toxic marriage.

6. Criticism and judgment

Helping each other out where you can is a great way to come together in marriage. But, constructive criticism and put-downs or judgment are not the same.

Your spouse can offer you job advice or aid with family issues, but continuous criticism of your choices eats away at your self-esteem. Whether they shield their disdain with humor or not, someone constantly talking down to you can cause a severe lack of confidence in relationships and beyond.

7. Avoidance

Avoidance in a marriage is a terrible sign of toxicity. You shouldn’t be waiting in your car in the driveway for your spouse to go to bed before coming in. And you shouldn’t be avoiding a conversation topic because it might be too touchy. 

When you are married, this person should help relieve your stress, not add to it. [Read: The big things that ruin a relationship and how to watch out for them]

8. Codependence

Codependence is one of the most unhealthy things in a relationship, and one of the signs of a toxic marriage.

A healthy marriage contains two individuals, not just one relationship. Codependence manifests into a lack of self-reliance, fear of being alone, and irrational dependency.

Codependence in a marriage can be masked as closeness. In reality, it is an unhealthy level of dependence. [Read: 23 codependent traits that make you clingy and how to break out of it]

9. Distance from your support system

When a marriage is truly toxic, it does not let anything healthy play a part. It will eat away at your external support. It will remove you from those who add goodness and light into your life. This makes a toxic marriage even more toxic because there is no entry point for something to fix it.

A toxic marriage will cut you off from friends and family, financial independence, and more so that you must rely on that toxic marriage for everything.

10. Disrespect

A poor marriage that is lacking communication and intimacy usually still contains respect. It lost the good stuff but is still neutral. This is called a stagnant marriage. But, once your relationship has lost respect, it has crossed the line into toxic.

The marriage is no longer in a hopeful state. When your fights go from tiffs to screaming matches where you say things you regret and hit below the belt, it is near impossible to come back from that and is one of the signs of a toxic marriage. [Read: 25 subtle relationship turn-offs that can provoke and push a couple apart]

11. Fear

If fear is the fighting force in your marriage, it is toxic and beyond a cure. Fear eats away at you in a way no other feeling can. It can manifest in actual physical sickness.

Whether you fear your partner or yourself or admit defeat, fear within a marriage cracks every surface. [Read: Relationship is making you depressed – Is it time to move on?]

12. Gaslighting

Gaslighting is a form of manipulation, and it is a covert type of mental and emotional abuse. The abuser misleads the other person and creates a false story. As a result, the other person questions their own sanity, judgments, and reality. 

If your spouse is gaslighting you and always trying to make you think you are crazy, then that is toxic. The reason they do it is that they are usually guilty of what they are accusing you of. They do this to deflect their guilt onto you. [Read: Gaslighting – What it is, how it works and 22 signs to spot it ASAP]

13. Lying

Lying of any kind is not acceptable other than “honey you look great in those jeans” even if they don’t. But if lying is malicious and intentional, this is a huge sign of a toxic marriage.

It doesn’t matter what the lying is about. It could be cheating, financial, their whereabouts, or the past. Lying is lying. And you cannot have a healthy marriage with someone who is a chronic liar. [Read: Lying in a relationship – 15 steps to confront a lie and heal the love]

14. Abuse

Abuse comes in many forms – mental, emotional, and physical. Mental and emotional abuse is bad because it damages the other person’s self-esteem and sense of self-worth. It is done deliberately to demean and humiliate the spouse.

Physical abuse is anything from a light slap on the hand to outright trying to kill or permanently disable someone. Whether it’s choking, hitting, knives, guns, or anything else that is physically harmful, this is an immediate deal-breaker – even the first time or if it was claimed to be an “accident.” [Read: Narcissistic abuse – 16 subtle signs a narcissist is abusing you]

15. Neglect

Toxicity comes in a lot of different forms too. It doesn’t have to be something that is active and noticeable. Neglecting your spouse and their needs is one of the signs of a toxic marriage too.

Whether they give you the cold shoulder, refuse to have sex with you, or are just playing video games 24/7, if your partner is neglecting you and your needs, then that is never healthy.

16. Financial betrayal

Perhaps one of the spouses makes and controls all the money. They have the ability to betray their partner financially. It could be online gambling, taking out a second mortgage on the house without their permission, or excessive spending. [Read: How to talk about money with your partner without fighting about it]

Financial betrayal is just as destructive as any other type of betrayal. When one of you is careless with your joint money, then you run the risk of not having a roof over your head or food to eat.

17. Secrets

If one or both of you are keeping secrets from one another, then that is also a sign of a toxic marriage. Sure, we all have little secrets we keep like something you regret that you did when you were 10 years old, but if the secret you keep affects the relationship, then that is not good.

If you want to know if keeping your secret is bad, then ask yourself if your spouse would be angry, hurt, or upset if they knew it. If the answer is yes, then you have a problem.

18. Lack of trust

If one or both of you is sneaking into the other’s phone to see who they are texting and calling behind your back, then you do not have trust in your spouse. This is a sign that either you are overly paranoid or your gut says they are up to no good.

Every relationship needs to be built on the foundation of trust. If it’s not, then it is a sign of a toxic marriage. [Read: How to build trust in a relationship and learn to be loyal and loving]

19. No personal responsibility

If one or both partners refuses to take personal responsibility for their own actions, then that is never healthy. It takes two people to ruin a relationship, so in order to fix it, both spouses need to acknowledge their part.

When someone doesn’t take personal responsibility, it’s usually because they are selfish. They can only see the world from their point of view, and all other people are wrong. You can’t have a healthy marriage with someone like that.

20. Unreliability

Being unreliable creates a very uncertain atmosphere in a marriage. It can be something small like not cleaning the house when you said you would. Or, it could be something major like not knowing if they will show up to a family graduation or marriage counseling.

When someone is not reliable, this is one of the signs of a toxic marriage that eventually leads to an unstable marriage. The uncertainty that it creates becomes unbearable for the partner who is reliable. And if both of you are unreliable, then that is even worse. [Read: What should you look for in a relationship? 23 signs of happy love]

How to end a toxic marriage

Ending a toxic marriage is not an easy thing. Even realizing that your marriage is toxic takes immense strength.

Toxic marriages are not all beyond hope, but making your way from toxic to just neutral is much more than a battle, but a war, and a long one at that.

It is near impossible to remedy these signs of a toxic marriage into a cordial divorce or a better marriage without the help of a professional. A toxic marriage will not be fixed with a weekend away or weekly date night. [Read: The reasons why couples therapy isn’t working for you and how to fix it]

A toxic marriage needs damage control. Even if you want to come to a settlement so that ending it isn’t as brutal as the marriage itself. Engaging with a mediator or therapist is your best bet for a positive outcome.

Carrying out a separation and divorce from a toxic marriage is often lengthy and draining, both emotionally and financially. But by bringing in a professional, you can start to heal.

[Read: 10 reasons why divorce can be such a damn good thing]

Identifying the signs of a toxic marriage can lead you to actual happiness and a lightness you may not have felt in a long time. Take your time and discuss these with your husband or wife, and if all else fails, speak to a professional. It’s your last fighting chance.

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