4. One partner starts controlling the other.
Marriage is supposed to be an equal partnership in which both parties bring their influences, needs, and wants to the same table.
When a marriage is unhealthy, issues of control are usually evident. Finances are an easy weapon of control. One partner starts deciding how money is spent and how much the other spouse can spend.
Control can also spill over into areas like friendships and outside activities.
5. You stop laughing together.
Laughter isn’t just good medicine, it’s like Super Glue. Couples who laugh at themselves and at their own “relationship funnies” have a deeper intimacy than those who don’t.
Think about how your relationship and life in general would look if you didn’t take yourself quite so seriously.
The leap from “unhealthy” to “toxic” may seem more like a fine line than a leap, especially if you don’t pay attention to early signs.
In toxic marriages, feelings of unhappiness are often coupled with feelings of fear and/or hopelessness.
Here are some signs that your marriage may be toxic:
1.. One partner becomes extremely controlling.
When one spouse uses intimidation, demands, or threats to control what the other spouse spends or does, the marriage may be toxic.
Control is one of the many signs of abuse, and it can bleed over into every area of a relationship.
2. You start to feel isolated.
Control (and abuse in general) thrives in a context of isolation. If you notice that your social life has become non-existent, or if your spouse shames you for your friendships, you have reason to be concerned.
3. You have no voice.
In a healthy marriage, both partners have an equal voice — even when they disagree. Each person’s feelings, needs, and wants matter as much as the other’s.
In a toxic relationship, however, one partner is often shut down and given no voice.
4. Criticism becomes common.
As one of John Gottman’s Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, criticism is a way of attacking another person. It goes straight to the person’s character, usually in the form of “you always/never” statements. It is the entry to a cycle of criticism and defensiveness, both of which can quickly erode a marriage.
5. Your core values are worlds apart.
Even when a marriage is unhealthy, spouses may still have common core values. They just may have lost sight of how to live them out in the context of the marriage.
If your marriage has become toxic, you probably don’t have even the most essential things to hold onto anymore. If you’re not on the same page about essentials like children, careers, and issues of faith, it’s difficult to have something to work toward.
6. You feel as if you are losing yourself.
A healthy marriage is a fertile ground for the self-esteem of both partners to grow and be strengthened. When you don’t even recognize yourself anymore, you may be in a toxic, even abusive, relationship.
Both unhealthy and toxic relationships are cause for immediate action. Seeking intervention can help you fix an unhealthy marriage and get that loving feeling back.
Fixing a completely toxic marriage may not be possible. But ultimately only you and your spouse can decide if it is worth the effort. Whether to stay in your miserable marriage or divorce is a difficult decision. But when there is self-awareness and determination to evolve, there is always hope.
Written by: Dr Karen Finn Originally appeared on drkarenfinn.com and is republished here with permission. Dr Karen Finn is a divorce life coach. She helps her clients navigate the challenges of divorce – from the moment it enters their mind as a possible solution for the discontent they feel in their marriage (it’s not always the best answer), through the turmoil of divorce to creating a fulfilling life post-divorce. To learn more about Karen and how you can work with her, visit her website.