How to decide if your marriage is unhealthy or completely toxic? If you’ve ignored the early signs, your unhealthy marriage might have become toxic.
Every relationship has its emotional ebbs and flows. And locking in your commitment through marriage doesn’t guarantee steady waters for life. When boredom sets in or tempers flare, you may start wondering what happened to your fairytale utopia. What if I made the wrong choice? What if our marriage is unhealthy? What if the person I married isn’t really the person I married?
Even the best of marriages navigate predictable stages. No one can remain saturated in those stimulating, excitable romance hormones forever. At some point, couples have to live, return to work, raise children, deal with crises, see family and friends.
Ask the experts and they will tell you there are as few as three and as many as twelve stages of love. The number is less important than the message: love evolves. It is no more static than your feelings, preferences, and hairstyles are static.
But that doesn’t mean love can’t be steady and sustained. And, when the question of whether a marriage is unhealthy arises, it’s important to return to this awareness. How do you know if your healthy marriage has become unhealthy? And, worse yet, how do you know if your unhealthy marriage has become completely toxic?
A healthy marriage is grounded in friendship. Each spouse cares about the well-being and highest good of the other and accepts responsibility for his/her role when problems arise. The marriage is a partnership, not an enmeshment.
A healthy marriage supports the uniqueness of each individual, just as it nurtures the uniqueness of the union itself.
How do you gauge if your marriage is unhealthy?
If there were a thermometer for relationship health, what would it be?
The most transparent indicator of the health of a relationship is how the partners communicate. You may not be hanging on one another’s every word anymore. But, if you’re not listening to or caring about what your spouse says (or vice versa), you should be seeing some red flags.
Communication whittles its way into every aspect of a relationship. It goes beyond the spoken word to what is unspoken, assumed, feared, felt, implied. We are always communicating (even with ourselves). What matters is what and how we’re communicating and whether we have the self-awareness to recognize those essential relationship elements.
Here are some signs that your marriage is unhealthy (or is heading in that direction):
1. You start blaming one another.
It takes a lot of energy to look within yourself and evaluate where you could have done better in a situation. And it takes a lot of humility and trust to offer a sincere apology and commitment to work harder on behalf of your marriage.
Healthy marriages are anchored in self-responsibility. Spouses may have their tiffs, but they know how to fess up to their own failings.
When communication starts getting careless, spouses aren’t as interested in the other’s side of the story. It becomes easier to deflect, dodge, and open dialogue with “you” statements. And that becomes a tough habit to reel back in.
2. You stop spending meaningful time together.
Marriage requires a constant infusion of positive intention. And, when life gets jam-packed with careers and children, you may lose interest in scheduling time for the two of you.
While sex is important to the health of a marriage, it’s not everything. Spending time talking, planning, going on dates, and trying new things together are all ways to build and secure intimacy.
If you notice that you’ve become more like avoidant roommates than a happily married couple, you may have a sign that your marriage is unhealthy.
3. You avoid fighting.
This isn’t a trick statement. Obviously world peace is everyone’s goal, even on the homefront. But people in healthy marriages do fight. It’s why and how that matters.
If you are changing your behavior or giving up on things that matter to you because you don’t want to fight, pay attention. This pattern could be a red flag that bigger issues are going on.
Are you afraid of your spouse’s temper? Do you feel exhausted just thinking about what the fight will look like? Do the two of you not have rules about arguing? Have you started giving up on your marriage?