What makes a marriage toxic?
Marriages that involve manipulation, controlling behavior and emotional abuse on the part of one spouse can leave the other spouse feeling drained and trapped. Physical abuse may also be part of a toxic marriage -- but it isn't always. In fact, some toxic marriages can seem "perfect" from the outside -- because that's how well the toxic spouse can keep control over the whole situation.
Frequently, the spouse who's the target of manipulation feels like they are somehow to blame for the trouble in the relationship. They've often been manipulated into feeling like they are responsible for their spouse's emotions and happiness -- and have lost a sense of healthy emotional boundaries. The toxic spouse may be an expert gaslighter who is great at convincing the targeted spouse that they are crazy, unappreciative and difficult.
Shame leads a lot of spouses victimized this way to hide their real relationship woes from even their closest friends and family members. The toxic spouse is often skilled at looking good in public and can appear in front of others as kind and loving. This further reinforces the victimized spouse's feelings that they are the "problem" in the marriage.
If you're in a toxic relationship, you can take steps to start to remove yourself. For example:
- Get therapy. You need someone you can bare your feelings to and help to sort out what's really going on.
- Start focusing on your own joy. Try to recall what you used to do for pleasure before your marriage drained all your energy. Pick some of those habits back up and focus on them again.
- Minimize communication with your spouse. If you've tried talking it out and end up feeling more manipulated than ever, it's time to stop giving your spouse any insight into your feelings. If you stick to day-to-day essential communication and superficial topics, your spouse won't be able to manipulate your feelings as easily.
Finally, when you're ready, seek the advice of an experienced divorce attorney. Our office can help you determine the best steps to take to extract yourself from an unhealthy relationship.