Toxic Marriage? The Top 8 Signs Of A Toxic Marriage And Their Remedies

troubled-marriage-divorce-predictorsThere are many statistical predictors of divorce such as: if your parents were divorced you stand a 40% chance of getting divorced; or if there are significant money problems and large debt, your marriage runs a higher risk of divorce (perhaps as much as 40-45%).

Apart from those statistical predictors, there are other ways to forecast the possibility of divorce that have much more to do with the way spouses behave towards one another.

Many of the following divorce predictors, even on their own, are potentially damaging enough to destroy a relationship.

However, it is often not just one but several of these predictors that come to bear on a relationship, causing it to degrade.

The Top 8 Signs Of A Toxic Marriage Include:

  1. contempt
  2. negative feelings outweigh positive feelings
  3. conversations quickly become fights
  4. no conflict resolution
  5. emotional disconnection
  6. unable to have fun together
  7. physical disconnection
  8. outside focus

In another of my blog posts: Reality Check, The Distressing Truth About Divorce, I discuss the many facets of divorce. I point out that there is always collateral damage to family and children as well as significant financial impact on the family as a whole.

Therefore in reading about these divorce predictors I recommend you think carefully about whether any one or more exist in your marriage. If so, you need to make changes as soon as possible.

Very often couples wait far too long before coming to marriage counseling. Don’t let your marriage fall victim to that cliché: “too little too late”.

Review these divorce predictors to see if any one or more is present in your relationship. If so, it is time for you to take action.


Couples are typically at their lowest point when over-riding emotions are scorn, hate or disgust. There are couples who have allowed their relationship to sink this far into the abyss and have become accustomed to the abusive nature of this type of marriage.

Negative Feelings Outweigh Positive Feelings:

In this scenario, there is a general sinking or unpleasant feeling about the relationship. There isn’t much hope or excitement about the future. This general sense of negativity often gets demonstrated in cynical, gloomy or pessimistic statements about oneself, one’s spouse or the relationship. Friends or even family members might decide to keep their distance as exchanges between the partners seem toxic.

Conversations Quickly Become Fights:

Successful couples are able to discuss their differences in healthy ways that can improve their relationships. In unhealthy relationships the partners have not learned how to discuss their differences or everyday issues without arguing or becoming antagonistic, sometimes in the extreme.

Cutting remarks, unhealthy criticism and a lack of genuine regard for the other partner’s thoughts and opinions, are often the rule rather than the exception.

No Conflict Resolution:

The skills necessary to resolve conflict need to be acquired; you are not born with them!

Many people have been raised in families that did not develop such skills. As adults they often fall back on the behavior they observed and learned as children.

Conflict resolution skills can be learned more quickly than you might otherwise think. Conflict resolution techniques can help to prevent divorce.

Emotional Disconnection:

This is when one or both partners lack an empathetic connection with the other. They may feel that they are unappreciated, unloved and even invisible at times. The fear of letting oneself become vulnerable and open up to the other becomes too great.

There is a sense that they are in a two dimensional relationship, just functioning day to day with a person who appears more like an alien or a stranger than a partner. Every couple needs some positive level of emotional connection in order for the relationship to survive.

Unable To Have Fun Together:

Fun, jokes and a good sense of humor has been replaced by anger, numbness and a somber mood.

There is a sense of heaviness and gloom that pervades the atmosphere, hanging over it like a dark cloud. Good humor and laughter is essential to a healthy relationship. When it is totally gone, the couple is in trouble.

Couples coming in for marriage counseling will often say that they don’t laugh or have fun anymore. Look for early signs of this.

Physical Disconnection:

Touching, holding hands and kissing are either forced or rare occurrences, if they occur at all. Sex may happen but it too is a rare and unsatisfying event. There is a lack of affection that sometimes translates into the statement that “we have fallen out of love.”

A spouse may feel numb, uninterested or even repulsed by the idea of making love with her partner. There are options you can explore that help get passed this discomfort.

Outside Focus:

When a partner finds himself enjoying greater satisfaction at work, with friends or recreational activities, it could be because the relationship has become stale, boring or empty. (See my post: How to Improve Your Marriage and Spice up Your Sex Life).

The energy that once went into creating a gratifying marriage is now being used to find satisfaction somewhere else. This outside focus can also include seeking out other partners for the love, understanding and sex they may feel are lacking at home.

Unfortunately, many couples take their marriage for granted. They get caught up in the stresses of life, don’t communicate effectively with their spouses and begin to form resentments.

Can A Toxic Marriage Be Saved?

We all have to work for the things we value in life, your marriage should be one of them.

Look for the remedies to these toxic behaviors in the articles I’ve listed below and others on my website. If you can’t make the shift necessary to improve your relationship on your own, please reach out for professional help!

 How to Create a Healthy Relationship: Take the Quiz!

How To Stop A Divorce…The Best Advice!

How to Resolve Conflict and Create a Great Relationship

Click here to learn more about how couples counseling can help prevent a divorce.

About the Author

Dr. Stan Hyman is a licensed psychotherapist and life coach in private practice in Miami, Florida. He works with couples struggling with powerful issues such as infidelity, careers and intimacy. He often helps couples struggling with feelings of  emotional or physical detachment to connect once again.