Toxic Marriages: 6 Signs That You Are in an Unhealthy Marriage

By:
Michael Tierney
Updated
July 30, 2022

It is never pleasant to confront the fact that your marriage is not what it is supposed to be. Relationships are meant to be a compromise where you and your partner work together to build a life. Unfortunately, some marriages are not meant to last, and the best thing to do is split from your spouse to protect yourself. We are not saying all marriages are doomed to end in divorce, but some marriages become a poor fit as you and your spouse become distant.

Even more unfortunate is that the distance that forms between you and your spouse is sometimes the result of an unhealthy relationship. Despite the expectation that a relationship is about compromise and emotional vulnerability, some people do not have the capacity for this level of emotional connection.

Some relationships can become extremely toxic as your spouse is unwilling to make accommodations for your needs. Sometimes, you can engage in unhealthy behavior without realizing it. Unfortunately, the people responsible for these unhealthy relationships are known to justify their behaviors to themselves and their spouses. This subversion makes it difficult to detect when you are in an unhealthy relationship.

Solution You will need to be aware of a few warning signs to ensure your marriage does not cross the line into something unhealthy.

This article will serve as a list of signs you can watch out for in your marriage.

Let's get started!

Sign #1: Avoidance

When you and your spouse disagree about something, it is important to address the situation. While you might have heard claims that arguments are a sign of a failing marriage, this is a misconception. The truth is that arguing with your spouse is normal and a way to resolve potential conflicts in the relationship. While constant arguments can be exhausting and being unable to find common ground can be a bad sign, they can still be productive if you use them to reach a resolution.

Married Couple Avoiding Each Other

The bigger problem arises when the arguments stop completely.

Solution Avoidance is a common tactic in toxic relationships to put a premature stop to any discussion that might improve the relationship. While the sudden downturn in arguments might seem like a relief at first, you will soon find that the avoidance makes it impossible for you to make progress with your spouse as they are unwilling to acknowledge the issue.

You might find your spouse walks away from arguments before a resolution is reached or refuses to engage when you have a conflict to address. This behavior is highly toxic as it is often employed as a manipulation technique to make the other party seem unreasonable or overly dramatic. Avoidance is one of the more toxic behaviors in any relationship, as it allows issues in the relationship to fester and poison what is supposed to be a partnership.

Sign #2: Repetitive Arguments

While avoiding an argument is a sign of an unhealthy relationship, the opposite can be equally problematic. One of the most common signs of an unhealthy marriage is when you find yourself having the same argument over and over again. Arguments are normal in a relationship, especially since no couple can agree on everything. However, these arguments are meant to be productive and allow you and your spouse to express differences and resolve disagreements. This means the arguments must have valid points that you and your spouse actively listen to and use to adjust your relationship.

Married Couple Arguing

Solution If you find yourself consistently arguing over the same thing, it means that one or both of you is failing to listen to what the other has to say. Being unable to reach a topic resolution is usually the result of an emotional disconnect. Having the same argument on repeat means one of you is either not listening or does not care. Either way, it can indicate that your relationship is unhealthy or toxic.

That said, issues with arguments are far from the only unhealthy behaviors that can manifest in a marriage. Some issues are a little more hostile than just disagreeing. Sometimes a toxic relationship will affect you mentally and destroy the relationship.

Sign #3: Contemplating Infidelity

One of the biggest signs of a toxic relationship is when you feel you want someone or something else in a spouse. It is natural to note the attractiveness of someone other than your spouse. The issue is when you take that to the next level and begin fantasizing about having an affair.

Solution Infidelity is one of the biggest killers of any relationship as it tends to eradicate the trust between you and your spouse.

However, if your relationship is suffering to the point where you actively contemplate comfort in someone else's arms, it could mean the relationship is toxic.

Married Man Contemplating Infidelity

When you feel you need to connect with someone new on an intimate level while you are already married, it is likely because you feel you have lost that intimacy with your spouse. It is also possible that the cause of your desire for an affair is simply that the relationship's chemistry has faded due to the toxic atmosphere. If the relationship has become toxic to the point you can no longer converse with your spouse, you might fantasize about getting what is missing from the relationship elsewhere.

This can also stem from assuming your spouse is already cheating on you. If you believe your toxic spouse is being unfaithful, it can sometimes drive people to justify having an affair of their own. This projection is a sign of distrust that can only arise in a toxic relationship. If you do not trust your spouse, you will likely seek an excuse to sabotage the relationship. However, another sign of toxic relationships can feed into the desire to seek an extramarital affair.

Sign #4: Loss of Intimacy

One of the more obvious signs of a toxic relationship is when the intimacy between you and your partner vanishes. Intimacy is one of the biggest forms of vulnerability in human psychology, as you let your guard down and let someone else in. Intimacy is not strictly sexual, though sex does play a large role in intimate relationships. Instead, intimacy means a close familiarity with another person, which means you must be willing to let your guard down so your partner can know you.

However, if you do not feel comfortable letting your guard down with your partner, it is likely because they abuse the vulnerability necessary to be intimate.

Emotional intimacy is far more important than physical intimacy, but missing the former guarantees the latter will be absent from the relationship. Intimacy issues can be a problem before entering a new relationship, but the biggest intimacy issue in a couple is the fear of engulfment.

Loss of Intimacy

The fear of engulfment is a fear of being controlled or losing yourself in a relationship. If your spouse has a controlling personality, this fear is a little more justified since a toxic spouse is more likely to use intimate information against you. If your spouse uses information given to them in confidence, such as fears and aspirations, to control you, it can make you hesitant to open up to them. Losing intimacy can also be simply falling out of love with the married person. However, it is more common to lose love for someone who uses intimacy as a weapon.

Solution Remember, emotional intimacy is only one part of a relationship. Physical intimacy is the opposite side of the coin and tends to fade when emotional intimacy does.

Sign #5: You Hesitate to Contact Them

When you are married, your spouse is meant to be the person you can always go to when there is an issue. You are supposed to be able to count on your spouse to help whenever you are concerned or upset because they will support you. This is not to say your spouse will defend every action you take, especially if you are in the wrong. But your spouse will seldom judge you and will be there for you when it counts. Unfortunately, not every relationship is this healthy.

Solution In a toxic relationship, your spouse will not be there to lift you from your lows or celebrate your highs. Instead, they kick you while you are down, likely making you feel guilty about your mistake in the moment, even if you are fully aware of the gravity of the situation.

They might even cite the mistake in the future to bring you down from your high points to keep you from being happy. They do this because they believe that keeping you miserable prevents you from leaving them. Unfortunately, this toxic behavior prevents you from telling your spouse about anything because you do not want to deal with the toxic attitude.

Hesitating to Contact Spouse

You might confide in friends or relatives over your spouse because they are less judgmental. This is one of the worst feelings in the world since it means the person you love and are supposed to be able to count on is your worst critic. Dr. John Gottman claims that five positive interactions should counter every negative interaction with your spouse. If your spouse is constantly negative and putting you down without generating any positivity in your life, they are likely a toxic influence, and the marriage is almost certainly doomed.

Sign #6: You Feel Contempt

Contempt is a sensation that is not meant to be directed at your spouse. It is one of the worst sensations in the world to have the person you love become someone you despise. Contempt is more than just being annoyed with your spouse's behavior or feeling no connection. Contempt can make your partner's presence feel like you're traveling miles in the desert without water, and you would do anything to be out of either situation. If you feel contempt for your spouse, it is because the relationship has become toxic.

Solution When you feel contempt for your spouse, it can be a surefire sign that their behaviors have become intolerable, and they have begun to wear away at your mental health. Contempt for your spouse is not something you should have to feel, but it can arise if your spouse exhibits any toxic behaviors we have discussed thus far.

Contempt can also eliminate any chance of salvaging the relationship and getting your spouse to change their ways. If you are contemptuous of them, you will no longer care about saving the marriage and only think about escape.

Feeling Contempt For Spouse

Contempt is one of the worst ways to feel about anyone, and it seldom goes away. Instead, it grows more intense the longer you go without addressing the issue. Ultimately, contempt leads to divorce if you do not resolve the issues. The divorce generated by contempt is extremely bitter and involves a fair number of petty arguments. Divorce can blindside you, especially in a toxic relationship, meaning learning how to use divorce to escape toxicity is extremely important.

Learn the Law

A toxic marriage is one of the worst types of relationships in the world, as it can lead to a great deal of mental and emotional strain. However, a toxic relationship can profoundly affect your future relationships as well. Surviving a toxic relationship is remarkable but can drastically affect your ability to trust a new partner, especially if your previous partner made you feel that you cannot open up without having your emotions used against you. When you are stuck in a toxic marriage, it can seem like there is no way out. It's important to remember that escaping from such a marriage and pursuing a healthier relationship is possible.

Married Couple Divorcing

You should not pursue divorce unless you are certain there is no salvaging the marriage. However, divorce might seem to be the only option when a relationship is toxic. Going through a divorce requires learning a few things to navigate the issues involved successfully. Divorce is complicated, and knowledge can help you overcome the complexities to escape the toxic marriage in which you were trapped. We know you likely want to avoid divorce, but sometimes there is no alternative. We truly wish you the absolute best.

Written By:
Michael Tierney
Michael is a legal writer and graduate of WSU. Prior to becoming a legal writer, he had 6 years of experience as a legal assistant and office manager for a family law attorney. He's written about numerous legal subjects from helping spouses who are stuck in toxic situations to the intricacies of custody battles. In his spare time, he enjoys hiking, rock climbing, and building custom keyboards.
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