7 Signs of a Toxic Marriage

A relationship between two people is not always going to be perfect. You and your spouse are two separate people with different backgrounds and opinions. There will be inevitable disagreements. But is your relationship toxic?

To answer this question, it’s helpful to first understand what a healthy relationship looks like.

Healthy relationship vs. toxic relationship

Healthy relationships are built on a foundation of trust, cooperation, and communication. In a healthy marriage, for example, both people strive to always be respectful to one another. They care about maximizing each other’s well-being. As partners, they find ways to communicate their needs. The goal is for both partners to have their needs met.

Can a toxic relationship be fixed?

The relationship may be repairable if both people see a problem and want a solution. If there is still a sense of love and respect, it may be fixable.

The question is, do both partners want it to be fixed? Unfortunately, in a toxic relationship, one partner often exhibits narcissistic behaviors with little need or desire to get “fixed.” This can leave the other spouse with no alternative but to end the relationship


7 signs of a toxic relationship

A toxic relationship may or may not include outright abuse. Toxicity can be far more subtle than emotional or physical violence. The toxicity may slowly increase over time, or it may be there, full force, from the very beginning. 

Here are seven signs of toxic behavior in a relationship.

1. You feel emotionally exhausted after trying to express an opinion to your spouse.

You might feel you have to justify any viewpoint that differs from your spouse’s. You might feel like you have to give up your own opinions because it’s just not worth the effort. Not being allowed your own feelings makes you feel devalued and exhausted. In a toxic relationship, however, the devalued person finds themself always giving in. 

2. They use you as the butt of their jokes.

It may have started out as simply kidding around, but if you have now become the constant subject of put-downs cloaked as passive-aggressive “jokes,” this may be a toxic relationship. If you mention that you feel hurt by their little jibes, you may be labeled too sensitive or as having low self-esteem. After that, the criticism may then become that you can’t take a joke. 

3. They are adept at gaslighting.

Your spouse may insist that what you know and have experienced didn’t actually happen. They may constantly accuse you of misunderstanding or blowing things out of proportion. Hence, you may begin to question your own reality, mental health, and even your sanity.

Read: What Is Gaslighting? How to Recognize It in a Relationship

4. With others, your spouse is one kind of person. When you’re alone, they’re someone else altogether.

A toxic partner may be friendly and charming at work or around friends, but the minute you’re alone, they may become somber, argumentative, and angry. You may find yourself walking on eggshells until you’re able to ascertain whether you’ve got Jekyll or Hyde in front of you. 

National Domestic Violence Hotline website and phone number: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)

5. You can’t trust your spouse for emotional support.

You may feel unsure whether your spouse would be there for you in your hour of need. If you do ask for their guidance or support, they may belittle you for feeling the way you do or use the information against you in the future. 

6. You feel like you have no control in the relationship. 

You may feel unable to make any decisions by yourself, even when the matter only concerns you. Your spouse might demand that you report what you buy, where you’ve been, and who you’ve been with. 

7. You keep rationalizing their behavior even though you know it isn’t normal. 

The logical part of you knows that your relationship is unhealthy and emotionally depleting you. But you rationalize your spouse’s physical or emotional abuse because you’re afraid of the unknown. In the middle of this dysfunction, it can be difficult to see how extricating yourself from the relationship would make your life better

Most people can easily recognize an unhealthy relationship when it happens to someone else. But if it happens to you, your rational senses may fail you. Your toxic spouse’s behavior may have overpowered you to the point that you cannot see the situation clearly.

If your relationship has taken a toxic turn and you’re unsure what to do, getting the assistance of a therapist or divorce coach can help you understand your options. At Hello Divorce, we are here to help with affordable online professional services and advice. Please schedule a free 15-minute call to learn more about what we offer.


Divorce Content Specialist
Mediation, Divorce Strategy, Divorce Process, Mental Health
Candice is a former paralegal and has spent the last 16 years in the digital landscape, writing website content, blog posts, and articles for the legal industry. Now, at Hello Divorce, she is helping demystify the complex legal and emotional world of divorce. Away from the keyboard, she’s a devoted wife, mom, and grandmother to two awesome granddaughters who are already forces to be reckoned with. Based in Florida, she’s an avid traveler, painter, ceramic artist, and self-avowed bookish nerd.