17 Subtle Signs Your Marriage Has Become Toxic, According to Experts (2023)

It's no secret that getting married is a huge decision and a major commitment. It's something that you and your partner enter into with the shared goal of making it a happy, healthy, long-standing union. However, a marriage is like anything else in life—it doesn't always work out the way you want it to. And if things do start to go south, it can be easy to ignore the signs of a toxic marriage because of how badly you want your relationship to last.

"When warning signs first appear, we may try to rationalize them as normal—after all, no relationship is perfect. And it is very hard to admit to something as important as one's marriage showing signs of trouble," says Inna Khazan, PhD, a Harvard-educated clinical psychologist. "And while it is absolutely true that no relationship is perfect, it is important to distinguish between imperfections we are willing to live with and those we are not. Once problems we are not willing to live with start to snowball, it may become particularly difficult to address them."

If you're concerned that your relationship might be in trouble, it's time to pay attention to the red flags that could be right in front of you. These are the subtle signs that indicate you and your partner may in fact be in a toxic marriage.


You constantly flaunt how great your relationship is on social media.

17 Subtle Signs Your Marriage Has Become Toxic, According to Experts (1)

While it may sound counterintuitive, if you're constantly gushing about your marriage online, you may be trying to subconsciously overcompensate for a toxic marriage. A 2014 study published in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin revealed that people who are insecure or unhappy in their relationships were more likely to post about them on social media.


Your entire lives revolve around one another.

17 Subtle Signs Your Marriage Has Become Toxic, According to Experts (2)

Many people think their whole world should revolve around their marriage, but if that's the case, you could be in a toxic one. "The social prescription is always more 'togetherness,' but you need the space to be an individual in a relationship," says Jim Fleckenstein, author of Love That Works. "These kinds of relationships can slide into excessive jealousy, possessiveness, and control struggles. They can then become abusive in short order."


You spend more individual time with your children than you do as a couple.

17 Subtle Signs Your Marriage Has Become Toxic, According to Experts (3)

If you have children with your spouse, how much time you spend with your kids solo versus together can be a helpful indicator as to whether or not you're in a healthy marriage.

While there's certainly no issue with parents spending individual time with their children, if you're doing so more often than you're spending time with them as a couple, it may be a sign there's trouble, says writer and psychoanalyst Tapo Chimbganda, PhD. She says those in a healthy marriage tend to involve the entire family in activities—including their spouse—rather than separate their time with their kids.


You're pursuing friendships that your spouse doesn't know about.

17 Subtle Signs Your Marriage Has Become Toxic, According to Experts (4)

Of course, having your own individual life outside of your relationship is an important part of maintaining a healthy marriage. And while there's absolutely no harm in each of you having your own circle of friends, if you or your spouse are consistently pursuing new friendships that the other is unaware of, that's when it becomes a sign of a potentially serious marriage problem.

Chimbganda says if one spouse is seeking out new friendships where "they can tell their side of the story," it's because they know that people "who know both parties or the history of the relationship may advocate [for the other]." So they seek these new friendships or connections to use as a sort of "haven" from the marriage. And in doing so, they open things up to the possibility of the friendship becoming something more intimate, whether they are aware of that or not.


Your friends express serious misgivings about your marriage.

17 Subtle Signs Your Marriage Has Become Toxic, According to Experts (5)

You've likely heard that you shouldn't listen to what other people have to say about your relationship, and that's good advice in some circumstances. But when it's coming from people you trust and that you know have your best interest at heart, it's probably worth hearing them out.

"You might ignore signs of unhealthy behavior because you want to give your partner a chance, think you can change him or her, feel that you have unhealthy behaviors so you shouldn't judge someone else, or believe you don't deserve someone healthier," says author and licensed psychotherapist Karen R. Koenig, MEd. And while nobody is perfect, if you find that people who care about you are regularly sharing concerns about your marriage, it's time consider the harsh reality that there may indeed be a real problem.


Your partner isn't fully present when communicating.

17 Subtle Signs Your Marriage Has Become Toxic, According to Experts (6)

It really is true what they say: Good communication is essential to any healthy relationship. So if your partner is always sidelining your attempts to have a dialogue, don't brush off such telling behavior. Maria Sullivan, vice president of Dating.com, says that another sign of a toxic marriage is when your spouse is attempting to multitask whenever you try to have a serious conversation with them. It could indicate that they genuinely don't care about what you have to say.


Your partner is too demanding of your attention.

17 Subtle Signs Your Marriage Has Become Toxic, According to Experts (7)

And what's just as toxic as being not attentive and present enough? Being overly demanding of one another's time, attention, and energy. According to Sullivan, your partner should know when to give you space and not push you or become overbearing. There is a time and place to be assertive, but there is also a time and place to take a couple steps back.


You don't alert one another about decisions, big or small.

17 Subtle Signs Your Marriage Has Become Toxic, According to Experts (8)

If you've noticed that your partner has slowly stopped taking your feelings and thoughts into account when making decisions, don't write it off as innocuous. Kevin Darné, author of How to Date Online Successfully, says when your spouse starts feeling as if they don't need to "make a courtesy call or text" to inform you of changed plans, even if you don't ask that they do, it may mean they have started to take you for granted. And this brings forth a toxic "me" mentality instead of an "us" mentality when it comes to your marriage.


You always feel on the defensive.

17 Subtle Signs Your Marriage Has Become Toxic, According to Experts (9)

Do you always feel like you're on guard when it comes to your marriage? According to Brandon Santan, a licensed relationship therapist in Tennessee, this nonstop defensive state is a reaction to being overly criticized by your partner. And when a marriage becomes toxic, the criticism you are naturally defending yourself against may be passive-aggressive, so it's even more frustrating because it's harder to identify exactly why you've become so defensive.


You feel exhausted all the time and don't know why.

17 Subtle Signs Your Marriage Has Become Toxic, According to Experts (10)

An unhealthy marriage can be downright exhausting, which is why Santansuggests taking inventory on your relationship if you find yourself consistently burnt out, whether it's physically, emotionally, mentally, or all three.


You can't relax or be yourself around your spouse.

17 Subtle Signs Your Marriage Has Become Toxic, According to Experts (11)

Your marriage should be a place of comfort. If you constantly feel on edge and unable to relax around your spouse, that may mean there's an underlying issue. "It's impossible to be truly happy in any relationship if you cannot be your authentic self," says Darné. "If you feel like you're walking on eggshells, jumping through hoops, or find you're constantly second-guessing yourself, you're in a toxic relationship."


You have become the scapegoat for your partner's problems.

17 Subtle Signs Your Marriage Has Become Toxic, According to Experts (12)

Arguments are common in any marriage. But if your partner has a way of turning everything back around on you, it may be time to get out. According to April Davis, founder of Luxury Matchmaking, you may not even realize that your spouse has made you their scapegoat, projecting any negative thing that happens onto you. Receiving constant blame or backlash for everything that goes wrong in their lives, no matter what level of involvement you actually had, is a telltale sign of toxicity.


You keep little secrets from each other.

17 Subtle Signs Your Marriage Has Become Toxic, According to Experts (13)

It's completely normal to want to keep a few things to yourself, but if it gets to the point where the secrets you keep from your partner are starting to add up, whether they are serious or not, you need to ask yourself why that's the case, says Khazan. If your secrecy is borne out of a desire to avoid your partner's potential overreaction to what would generally be considered acceptable behavior, like occasionally buying yourself something small or hanging out with a friend, then there is definitely cause for concern.


You don't go to your partner for emotional support.

17 Subtle Signs Your Marriage Has Become Toxic, According to Experts (14)

When you're in a healthy marriage, your spouse is typically the person you turn to in times of trouble. But if you're eager to confide in virtually anyone other than your partner, you're likely trying to find a connection that has been lacking in your marriage—or was never there to begin with. "There are some signs that in and of themselves indicate that the relationship is not healthy," Khazan explains. "These include not feeling safe physically or emotionally in the relationship."


Your partner isn't being forthright about finances.

17 Subtle Signs Your Marriage Has Become Toxic, According to Experts (15)

Another indicator that your marriage might be turning toxic is in how you each handle financial matters. According to Russell Knight,a divorce lawyer in Chicago, when someone in a marriage has financial accounts or spending habits that they keep from their spouse, it is a major red flag that your marriage is in trouble. Not only that, but this kind of furtive behavior may also be indicative of other serious problems your spouse may have with things like "drugs, gambling, or sex addiction," Knight says.


Your sense of self-worth has diminished.

17 Subtle Signs Your Marriage Has Become Toxic, According to Experts (16)

There's no harm in a playful teasing here or there or some constructive criticism, but that doesn't mean your partner should constantly be putting you down. Amy Hartle ofthe travel and relationship blog Two Drifters says that if this "criticism" or "negging" gradually makes your own self-worth decrease, you're in a toxic marriage. "Marriage should be built on being your spouse's biggest supporter. Will there be fights and harsh words spoken? Sure, but [they] should always result in unity," Hartle says. "Even when harsh words are said, these should not be words that chip away at your self-worth. Healthy conflict should always have a focus of being on the same team and working to strengthen and heal your relationship."


You avoid going home.

17 Subtle Signs Your Marriage Has Become Toxic, According to Experts (17)

Santan says that when your marriage starts to become toxic, "you may find yourself avoiding home, staying longer at work, or finding excuses to leave the house for a while." Instead of confronting your uncomfortable feelings towards your spouse, you're subconsciously attempting to separate yourself from the negative energy of your toxic marriage as much as possible.


How do you know your marriage is toxic? ›

A toxic marriage is a chronic condition characterized by ongoing unhealthy mental, physical, and emotional issues that are unresolved and fester into even bigger problems. Physical abuse, substance abuse, adultery, desertion, or other major transgressions are obvious signs that a marriage is in trouble.

What is the miserable husband syndrome? ›

Miserable husband syndrome is when a man experiences hypersensitivity, anxiety, frustration, and anger due to stress, loss of identity, hormonal fluctuations, etc. These factors make the man exhibit different negative patterns that can affect his marriage or relationship with other people.

What are the long term effects of a toxic marriage? ›

Increased Risk of Depression, Anxiety and Anger — People who feel stuck in a bad marriage and are too insecure to leave wind up getting depressed, feeling anxious, losing self-esteem and feeling angry about their situation.

What are the biggest signs your marriage is over? ›

7 Signs Your Marriage Is Over, According to Experts
  1. Lack of Sexual Intimacy. In every marriage, sexual desire will change over time. ...
  2. Frequently Feeling Angry with Your Spouse. ...
  3. Dreading Spending Alone-Time Together. ...
  4. Lack of Respect. ...
  5. Lack of Trust. ...
  6. Disliking Your Spouse. ...
  7. Visions of the Future Do Not Include Your Spouse.
Dec 9, 2019

What is a toxic wife like? ›

In a toxic marriage, you're seldom "allowed" to communicate your feelings, needs, and perspectives. And, in the rare instance that you're given a mic, their voice seeks to overpower yours. Your spouse may belittle, dismiss or scoff at any fair attempt to express yourself.

What makes a man unhappy in marriage? ›

What makes a man unhappy in a marriage can be subjective but the signs tend to manifest themselves in somewhat similar ways. According to studies, the most common causes of divorce are lack of commitment, infidelity, and/or constant arguments.

Why do men stay in unhappy marriages? ›

Fear. The threat of physical violence, further emotional abuse, harming your children by depriving them of a nuclear family, and concern about how friends and family will perceive them are commonly-cited reasons why people may choose to stay in an unhappy marriage.

What does an unhappy marriage lead to? ›

Frequent conflict in your relationship may lead to lower self-esteem, according to 2021 research . Low self-esteem can then play a part in unhelpful behaviors during conflict, like withdrawal or unwillingness to compromise. These patterns can take even more of a toll on self-esteem for you both.

What is stonewalling in a marriage? ›

In simple terms, stonewalling is when someone completely shuts down in a conversation or is refusing to communicate with another person.

How do you tell if a man is unhappy in his marriage? ›

Subtle signs a man is stuck in an unhappy marriage
  1. 01/8​Subtle signs a man is stuck in an unhappy marriage. ...
  2. 02/8​He often jokes about leaving his wife. ...
  3. 03/8​He always has excuses not to be at home with his spouse. ...
  4. 04/8​You often hear him tell single guys to never get married. ...
  5. 05/8​He complains about his wife all the time.
May 31, 2021

What is emotional neglect in marriage? ›

In a marriage emotional neglect is when a spouse CONSISTENTLY fails to notice, attend to, and respond IN A TIMELY MANNER to a spouse's feelings. This has far-reaching negative consequences for the relationship. As humans, we are relational beings.

What can cause a marriage to end? ›

According to various studies, the 4 most common causes of divorce are lack of commitment, infidelity or extramarital affairs, too much conflict and arguing, and lack of physical intimacy. The least common reasons are lack of shared interests and incompatibility between partners.

What causes long term marriages to end? ›

Lack of commitment, financial challenges, and infidelity are some of the leading causes of divorce in the world. But your age and culture may change it all. Relationship survival usually requires a blend of open communication, intimacy, and empathy.

At what point do most marriages end? ›

After all, almost 50% of first marriages, 60% of second marriages, and 73% of third marriages end in divorce. While there are countless divorce studies with conflicting statistics, the data points to two periods during a marriage when divorces are most common: years 1 – 2 and years 5 – 8.

What is the hardest stage of marriage? ›

According to relationship therapist Aimee Hartstein, LCSW, as it turns out, the first year really is the hardest—even if you've already lived together. In fact, it often doesn't matter if you've been together for multiple years, the start of married life is still tricky.

How many years do most marriages end? ›

10. The average length of a marriage in the US is 19.9 years. While the national average marriage length is just under 20 years, couples in Maine and West Virginia typically have the longest-lasting unions. The typical marriage in these lasts for 22.3 years.

What is the lonely wife syndrome? ›

It is also sometimes referred to as 'sudden divorce syndrome' or 'neglected wife syndrome. ' Feeling lonely in a relationship can sometimes contribute to the emotional disconnection that ultimately leads to the end of a marriage.

How do you know your husband doesn't value you? ›

He is no longer affectionate with you, physically or verbally. He no longer makes sweet or romantic gestures toward you. He doesn't say "I love you" anymore. He still says "I love you," but something about it feels hollow or forced, like he's just going through the motions.

What is the characteristic of a bad wife? ›

A bad wife is someone who doesn't make effort in the relationship or doesn't contribute to making the relationship good and healthy. She is someone who doesn't respect her husband and doesn't prioritize him. She is often critical but hardly gives time for effective communication.

How do you know if someone gave up on you? ›

  • Aug 1, 2021. Signs he has given up on you in the relationship. ...
  • Contact. He will rarely call or text you anymore and when he does, it will be somewhat forced. ...
  • Annoyance. ...
  • Bored. ...
  • Other priorities. ...
  • Taken for granted. ...
  • Obligation. ...
  • Ignorance.
Aug 1, 2021

Can unhappy marriages break the heart? ›

A new study shows that people in unhappy marriages have a higher risk of getting a broken heart. A bad marriage is riskier for older women. They get more heart disease than men because of the stress of being in a relationship gone wrong.

What are signs of a cheating husband? ›

  • They're reluctant to make any big joint purchases.
  • They "forgot" to mention a night out.
  • The phone goes everywhere with them—even the bathroom.
  • And, they're constantly texting.
  • When you talk, they rock back and forth.
  • They're more focused on their appearance.
  • They overshare.
  • They're always on social media.
Jul 23, 2021

Do married men feel lonely? ›

And while marriage offers lifelong support and companionship, the study shows that married men have some of the lowest levels of support outside the home. While 11 per cent of single men said they had no friends to turn to in a serious situation, that rose to 15 per cent among married men.

Should you walk away from a unhappy marriage? ›

There are times you MUST leave—if there is ongoing abuse or if you are in danger of physical harm, you should only consider staying safe. Repeated bouts of addiction, cheating, emotional badgering, and severe financial abuse need to be handled with extreme care as well.

How long do people stay in unhappy marriage? ›

Most couples wait an average of six years before seeking help. There's an important question you both need to answer if you are facing an ongoing unhappy marriage or divorce. Are you motivated to save your marriage? If so, are you willing to do whatever it takes?

What are the four pillars of an unhappy marriage? ›

Usually, these four horsemen clip-clop into the heart of a marriage in the following order: criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling.

What makes a married woman unhappy? ›

The cause of every unhappy marriage is most likely a deep-rooted sense of unfulfillment. A feeling that there is not enough love, affection, trust, respect, or other crucial components for a satisfying connection. By nature, a woman is more connected to her emotions.

What does an unhealthy marriage look like? ›

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.

What is gaslighting in relationships? ›

What Is Gaslighting in A Relationship? Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation in which one person makes another person doubt his or her perceptions, experiences, memories, or understanding of events that happened.

What is the 3 day rule after an argument? ›

The 3 day rule after argument is a common practice in relationships where individuals agree to take a 3 day relationship break from each other after a heated disagreement. During this time, both parties cool off, reflect on their feelings/thoughts, and avoid communication with each other.

When a man shuts down emotionally? ›

For some people, shutting down emotionally is a response to feeling overstimulated. It doesn't have anything to do with you or how they feel about you. If your husband or partner shuts down when you cry, for example, it may be because they don't know the best way to handle that display of emotions.

How do you know if a guy is faking his love? ›

6 signs a man is pretending to love you
  • 01/7Here's what he may be doing. Not all men are the same. ...
  • 02/7He is not affectionate. ...
  • 03/7He doesn't listen. ...
  • 04/7He doesn't make plans. ...
  • 05/7He is not reliable. ...
  • 06/7He doesn't prioritize you. ...
  • 07/7He doesn't share his feelings.
Feb 9, 2023

How do you tell if you are truly unhappy in a relationship? ›

Signs that you are unhappy in a relationship include:
  • Always thinking you'd be better off with someone else.
  • Not feeling attracted to your partner anymore.
  • Not feeling safe in the relationship anymore.
  • Not wanting to spend time with your partner.
  • Taking steps to actively avoid your partner.
  • Lack of communication.
Mar 23, 2023

What is emotional invalidation? ›

Emotional invalidation is the act of dismissing or rejecting someone's thoughts, feelings, or behaviors. It says to someone: “Your feelings don't matter. Your feelings are wrong.”

What does emotional detachment look like? ›

Symptoms of emotional detachment

a lack of attention, or appearing preoccupied when around others. difficulty being loving or affectionate with a family member. avoiding people, activities, or places because they're associated with past trauma. reduced ability to express emotion.

How do you know when a relationship is over? ›

If you're not sharing what's really on your mind, it might be a sign that you no longer want a deep connection. Similarly, if you've found that the usual fun banter between you is gone, or it's difficult to have engaging conversations, your bond could be getting weaker.

What's the number 1 reason for divorce? ›

Lack of commitment is the most common reason given by divorcing couples according to a recent national survey. Here are the reasons given and their percentages: Lack of commitment 73% Argue too much 56%

Who initiates divorce more often? ›

A study led by the American Sociological Association determined that nearly 70% of divorces are initiated by women. And the percentage of college-educated American women who initiated divorce is even higher.

What are 4 ways to end a marriage? ›

Three Best Legal Ways to End a Marriage
  • DIVORCE. ...

Why is GREY divorce? ›

Gray (or grey) divorce refers to a divorce involving individuals who are 50 years of age or older. Many high-profile cases, such as Bill and Melinda Gates, Billy Ray and Tish Cyrus, and Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver, have brought attention to the growing number of gray divorces.

Why do marriages fall apart after 30 years? ›

A marriage breakdown after 30 years may be due to the empty nest syndrome, infidelity, different interests, retirement, or other reasons. Some spouses just want their independence. Many older spouses experience a midlife crisis that causes them to leave a marriage after 30 years or more.

What is the divorce after decades of marriage? ›

Gray divorce is the term used to describe the separation or split between couples who have been married for 20 years or more. Also known as “diamond divorce” or “silver splitter,” this trend appears to have risen over the past three decades.

Could my marriage be making me sick? ›

Conflict in a relationship can lead to damaging responses in the body such as inflammation, changes in appetite and increased release of stress hormones, all of which can affect numerous aspects of health ranging from heart function to the immune system, previous research has found.

What is an example of toxic marriage? ›

In a toxic marriage, you're seldom "allowed" to communicate your feelings, needs, and perspectives. And, in the rare instance that you're given a mic, their voice seeks to overpower yours. Your spouse may belittle, dismiss or scoff at any fair attempt to express yourself.

How do I know if I am the problem in my marriage? ›

You don't take responsibility for your actions.

If everything is always your partner's fault and never your own, you're probably being a bit biased or irrational. If you don't easily say, "I'm sorry," and instead blame your actions on someone else, it's a sure-fire way to relationship disaster.

How do I know if I am a toxic partner? ›

Ask yourself if you relate to these 6 signs of a toxic romantic partner and be honest with the answers:
  1. You tend to manipulate things. ...
  2. You are a little too dominating. ...
  3. You're always threatening to split up. ...
  4. You don't give them personal space. ...
  5. The relationship is all about you. ...
  6. You never take responsibility.
Dec 25, 2020

Is it possible to fix a toxic marriage? ›

Yes, toxic relationships can change. But that comes with a very big if. A toxic relationship can change if and only if both partners are equally committed to overcoming it with lots of open communication, honesty, self-reflection, and possibly professional help, individually and together.

What are the first signs of a failing marriage? ›

Signs of a Bad Marriage
  • You Feel Contempt for Your Partner.
  • Your Partner Makes You Feel Bad About Yourself.
  • You Feel Controlled by Your Partner.
  • You Stay Only to Minimize Negative Impacts on Your Family.
  • You Might Be Having an Emotional Affair.
  • You've Stopped Arguing Entirely.
  • Your Body Language Shows Disinterest.
Sep 22, 2022

What is emotional abandonment in marriage? ›

In the context of a marriage, the feelings of neglect, being left out, and not being heard are collectively referred to as emotional abandonment. It occurs when one partner is so preoccupied with their own concerns that they are unable to notice the struggles, concerns, or problems their partner is experiencing.

What signs to look for if your husband is cheating? ›

  • They're reluctant to make any big joint purchases.
  • They "forgot" to mention a night out.
  • The phone goes everywhere with them—even the bathroom.
  • And, they're constantly texting.
  • When you talk, they rock back and forth.
  • They're more focused on their appearance.
  • They overshare.
  • They're always on social media.
Jul 23, 2021

What are the habits of a toxic partner? ›

Your relationship may be toxic if it is characterized by behaviors that make you feel unhappy, including disrespect, dishonesty, controlling behaviors, or a lack of support.

What are 5 signs of a bad relationship? ›

This includes:
  • Control. One person makes all the decisions and tells the other what to do, what to wear, or who to spend time with. ...
  • Dependence. One person feels that they “can't live without” the other. ...
  • Digital monitoring or “clocking”. ...
  • Dishonesty. ...
  • Disrespect. ...
  • Hostility. ...
  • Harassment. ...
  • Intimidation.

What are the three stages of a toxic relationship? ›

Toxic relationships generally follow three stages: idealizing, devaluing, and discarding. Learn about each of these stages and the impact it has on you.

Can a horrible marriage be saved? ›

Financial troubles, health concerns, extended family conflicts, parenting issues, and other stresses can put a lot of strain on a marriage. But if these problems are managed (through counseling, social support, self-care, and other strategies), then you may find that your marriage can also be saved.

Why is it so hard to let go of a toxic marriage? ›

People who are in an unhealthy relationship frequently attempt to end it. But they don't in the end. It occurs because some people have low self-esteem and, due to that, they believe they have no control over relationships and situations. As a result, people choose to stay rather than leave.


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