Do you think you might have a toxic marriage? There are signs of a toxic marriage that you can look for and if you see any of these signs, it’s important to get help from someone like a Christian Marriage Counselor or pastor. They can give you the guidance and practical help you need to stop problems in their tracks and turn your marriage around for the better.

Signs of a toxic marriage.

You may notice some of these signs popping up in your marriage. If you notice more than two or three of them at a time, you could likely benefit from getting outside help. Here are the signs to watch for in your marriage.

Criticism is constant.

No marriage is perfect, but a toxic marriage has an atmosphere of constant criticism. You know that you need to overlook some of the things that your spouse does that get on your nerves, and you may be willing to do that.

But if you’re looking at your spouse in a completely negative light, or if your spouse seems to be doing that to you, this is a sign that deeper problems are stirring under the surface. It’s probably not the case that all the criticism is necessary. Talking with a counselor can help you sort out the bad from the good and get on a level talking ground.

There is more giving than receiving.

In a good marriage, both partners have an equal share in giving and receiving. There may be seasons when one spouse must give more, such as when a new baby is born or if one spouse has a very busy season at work.

But those seasons have a time limit. The sign of a toxic marriage is that one spouse gives far more than they ever receive. This could indicate a serious selfishness problem in the other spouse, which may need an outside party for correction.

Good interactions are very rare.

When you first started dating, you probably enjoyed many positive moments together. It’s common for the ratio of positive interactions to decrease to a more normal level once you are married.

However, in a healthy marriage, there will still be more positive interactions than negative ones. If most of your interactions with your spouse are negative day after day, this is a sign that toxicity has infected your marriage.

You hide behind masks.

In a healthy marriage, those spouses feel like they can be themselves with one another, warts and all. But if you do not feel free to be yourself and need to wear a mask around your spouse, your relationship may be toxic.

This is a problem that compounds over time, because the less you can feel like yourself with your spouse, the more you need to hide. You can become strangers over time, but if you enlist the help of a qualified counselor, you can intervene in this cycle and start becoming authentic with one another again.

Growth and change are discouraged.

Marriage is a long-term commitment in which both spouses will change over time. You will change in response to your life situations and may choose to grow and develop in new ways as you mature. A supportive spouse will encourage you to grow and change. But a toxic spouse will discourage your personal growth and change because the relationship is more about control than mutual respect and emotional support.

Silence is a form of punishment.

People in healthy marriages talk a lot, but they don’t need to talk all the time to be happy. They can enjoy companionable silences together. But in a toxic marriage silence is used as a tool of manipulation and punishment.

If one spouse is offended, they may turn a cold shoulder for days or even weeks without speaking a word, just to get even with the other spouse. The silent treatment blocks any progress that can be made in the marriage and can be very frustrating to handle if it becomes a pattern.

The constant negativity is draining.

If you feel drained rather than uplifted from being around your spouse, this is a sure sign that toxicity has invaded your marriage. God designed you to be each other’s safe person; the one you can turn to even when circumstances are bad to receive encouragement, support, and care.

However, if there is constant negativity in your communication and behavior with one another, you may feel drained and depleted by interactions with your spouse. Meeting with a Christian counselor can give you a helpful perspective on this situation.

You notice black-and-white thinking or catastrophizing.

Black-and-white thinking can cause problems in a marriage. An example of black and white thinking is if one spouse sees the other as always in the wrong. To catastrophize means that a spouse assumes everything will turn out in the worst possible way.

An example of this could be a spouse saying, “You never clean the kitchen well enough, so I guess we’ll just stop having people over.” If you notice patterns of either of these behaviors in your marriage, over time these toxic interactions can erode the trust and goodwill in your relationship.

You attempt mind reading on one another.

Since there is often a communication breakdown in toxic relationships one or both spouses may try to read each other’s minds to get a handle on the situation. In a healthy relationship, the spouses should ask each other what they are thinking and not make assumptions. But a sign of toxicity in marriage is that you often make assumptions because you are trying to read your spouse’s mind.

You play the blame game.

The very first marriage – between Adam and Eve – was plagued by the blame game. If you often blame your spouse or your spouse blames you for what is going wrong in your marriage, there is likely at least one spouse who is not taking responsibility for their actions. To turn this dynamic around each partner will need to take responsibility for their part, no matter how small that may be

Name-calling is common.

Name-calling is a toxic tactic that always backfires in a marriage. It’s simply unfair to label somebody by a name, which indicates they behave or act in a certain way all the time.

Calling someone a name is childish and mean-spirited, and it undermines the health of the marriage because it puts the other person on the defensive. However, you can learn how to stop using this tactic and build one another up instead of tearing each other down.

Gaslighting is employed.

Gaslighting is a toxic strategy one spouse uses to make the other spouse feel off balance. It’s a form of manipulation that one spouse uses to retain the upper hand in the relationship. An example of gaslighting is a husband telling his wife that he already paid a bill when she has proof that the bill went unpaid.

There are many ways the toxic spouse will use gaslighting to try to make the other spouse feel like they are going crazy. A Christian counselor can help you sort out the truth from the lies if gaslighting has entered your relationship.

Contempt has infected your relationship.

The Gottman Institute has compiled years of research indicating four qualities that can kill a relationship. These qualities are criticism, defensiveness, stonewalling, and the worst one of all – contempt.

The reason contempt is so destructive is because it’s a form of disgust for the other person, which can easily lead to malice and hatred. Once contempt is in place, it will be very difficult to overcome without help from a professional such as a Christian counselor.

Christian counseling for a toxic marriage.

A toxic marriage can feel intolerable. It places a heavy toll on your relationship, but also on your mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health. One of the key features of a toxic marriage is that you question yourself. So even after reading this list of signs of a toxic marriage, you still may be unsure whether your marriage is affected by toxicity.

Since marriage is such an influential part of your life, you owe it to yourself to seek the truth about what’s going on between you and your spouse. A qualified Christian Counselor can help you understand whether signs of toxicity are affecting your marriage and what you can do about it.

Don’t hesitate to reach out for help in either individual counseling or couples counseling. You will have greater peace once you have a fresh perspective from a caring and compassionate counselor.

“Broken Heart”, Courtesy of Kelly Sikkema,, CC0 License; “Estranged”, Courtesy of Getty Images,, Unsplash+ License; “Couples Counseling”, Courtesy of Getty Images,, Unsplash+ License; “Argument”, Courtesy of Getty Images,, Unsplash+ License


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