Lessons Learned from Being in a Screwed-Up Marriage

Some women constantly weigh the pros and cons of remaining in a lousy marriage vs. being alone after a divorce.

When you’re in the midst of a bad marriage, it makes it challenging to view your situation objectively. It’s also difficult to see ahead to potential singlehood and accurately compare. But, once you’ve released all the stress and emotions, it’s pretty simple to look back and discover things in your screwed-up marriage that you can learn from to apply to future relationships.

Here are some things a bad marriage can teach you, even if you aren’t aware you’re learning.

1. Looks Aren’t Important

It’s safe to assume that, at one point, your husband was attractive to you. But what about now? Is he still hot when he’s yelling and screaming at you for not doing his laundry correctly?

Do you still want to jump his sexy bones when he’s ignoring, blaming, or demeaning you? Probably not. That’s why looks don’t matter when you’re in a bad marriage.

The world could view your man as the hottest guy in the world, and at one point, you did, too. But because you have a different relationship with him now, you no longer see him as good-looking. So, the most handsome guys become ugly when they make you miserable. Like your wise grandma used to say, “Ugly is as ugly does.”

2. Good Sex Doesn’t Make You Forget About the Bad Stuff

You may have heard a friend complain about her partner but then shrug and comment, “At least the sex is good!”

That’s usually the sentiment from someone dating rather than married to a person. When you’re only dating (and don’t live together), you don’t have to deal with all of the issues cohabitation brings.

For example, when dating, after sex, you can go home. In a marriage, you’re already home–and unfortunately, so is he.

During the dating phase, you’re not dealing with bills or small agitations with each other like you are when married. So, of course, sex may cancel out all your issues because you aren’t dealing with those daily grievances.

For those “trapped in a bad marriage,” it doesn’t matter if he’s great in bed because chances are you’re not even having sex, let alone mind-blowing, multiple-orgasmic sex. When he makes you feel disrespected, the idea of being intimate turns your stomach. What remains is a husband who used to be great at sex a long time ago when you could stand to do it.

Marriage Behaviors That Seem Normal but Are Toxic

The signs of an unhappy and toxic relationship aren’t as apparent as you’d think. However, if you look closely, you’ll see it’s not how a person who loves you should act.

Are you in a toxic marriage? Do you admire other’s people’s relationships because you feel like yours is a fraud? Every morning, you wake up and wonder how you got trapped in this situation and whether or not you should stay.

When we’re in relationships or get married, we aren’t given a detailed guidebook on how to have a successful union. No one provides us with step-by-step instructions on how to cohabitate with another person happily.

Instead, we’re thrust into a situation that we’ve never done before. We’re expected to have all the answers to live happily ever after. Yeah, good luck with that!

That said, it’s no surprise you find yourself in this situation, wondering if your married life is unhealthy and toxic, but you’re not sure.

Toxic marriage and relationship traits that appear normal but aren’t:

Contempt

Contempt is the feeling that an individual is beneath consideration, deserving scorn, or worthless. Behaviors include rude words, sarcasm, eye-rolling, and dismissal.

Unfortunately, someone may be exhibiting contempt toward you, but you don’t recognize it. It’s difficult to detect because you can easily explain it away. “He is so rude,” or “He was only acting like that to impress his friends.”

Think about how you interact with your husband. Is their contempt from either you or him? Do you speak to each other in a sarcastic tone? Maybe you talk behind each other’s back. Do you roll your eyes when your spouse attempts to make a point?

One of the bigger signs of a toxic relationship is contempt. Toxic individuals treat each other with contempt, eventually disrespecting one another. When you no longer have respect, you’ve lost the foundation of your relationship.

Secrets

Often, as time goes on in a marriage, couples tend to keep more and more secrets from each other. They stop discussing their feelings or how they’re raising their children together. So, it’s not always the more critical secrets like infidelity or financial issues.

For example, you don’t like to give the kids sweets before dinner, but you find out your husband has been giving them candy after school for years and never told you about it. Or, you forgot to pay the electric bill but then acted shocked in front of your husband when the power company turned off your lights.

These are the secrets that toxic couples keep. You don’t think they’re a big deal, but they are.

Other secrets that seem normal but are toxic traits include:

  • Hating their clothing choice
  • You color your grays
  • You’re a vegetarian
  • You hate their specialty dish
  • You don’t like flowers for special occasions

In many ways, your friends are a substitute for your partner. They know how unhappy you are with your spouse, but he doesn’t know your true feelings. You tell your friends the things you don’t tell your partner.

Sometimes, you may believe you’re not telling him because you want to protect him from the contempt and anger that’s already there in your marriage. You may think this behavior is okay. After all, you consider the secrets no big deal because you’re not sneaking around on him.

But you fail to understand those secrets ultimately kill your marriage.

Even if they believe their lies are to protect their partner, they are still betraying them by not telling them. If two people who choose to build a life together don’t want to share the little things, what hope is there for the union?

Arguing

Fighting in a marriage is normal. You will never witness two individuals living together for many years without issues leading to arguing. Some women believe as long as there is no physical abuse, any other kind of fighting is typical. But that’s not necessarily true.

Fighting that is both extreme and continuous, even if there is no physical altercation, is not normal. Instead, it’s a sign of a toxic marriage.

Couple Arguing

Do you and your partner argue regularly? Do you fight about everything from what to make for dinner to the color of the sun? Do you go for the jugular? Do you resolve disputes or take it on the chin and keep it moving?

If the above sounds like your situation, you are likely in a lousy marriage. People who not only can’t agree about things but also mistreat each other are in an unhealthy marriage.

Silence

One significant sign of a toxic union is silence. Silence indicates a breakdown in communication and only happens when someone is holding a grudge. You’ve lost a meaningful connection when you don’t speak to each other.

The staple of a healthy relationship is when a couple can communicate well. It doesn’t matter if it’s about what to make for dinner, your kids’ schedules, or that they pissed you off yet again; you need communication to stay connected.

If you’re angry and giving the silent treatment, your chances for a happy relationship lessen. Because you’re not articulating your frustrations, you hold in your emotions and stay angry. When was the last time you spoke meaningfully to your spouse? When you spend time together, is your communication beneficial, or are you sharing the space in complete silence?

You’re most likely in a toxic relationship when you and your spouse are no longer talking about anything, including the weather.

The best way to try to save toxic and unhealthy relationships is by recognizing the signs as soon as possible before it’s too late.

Distance

What is your first instinct when your husband walks through the door after a long day at work? Are you happy to see him and want to hug him, or do you ignore him?

When you have good news, is he the first person you want to tell? Is he the first person you would choose to go to the movies with? Are you happy to go to sleep next to him every night?

Over time, marriages evolve, and couples become so comfortable with each other that they take each other for granted. Sadly, sharing stories, hugs, and spending free time together aren’t always part of long-term marriages.

Marriages sometimes go through periods of distance, but there’s a difference between distance and chasm. If you’ve stopped touching each other, never spend any free time together, and don’t trust them enough to share anything personal, then your marriage is toxic.

When you’re in a healthy marriage, you attempt to be intimate with your partner. You genuinely enjoy spending most of your free time together, and you trust them enough to share everything–including all wins and losses.

If any (or all) of these situations ring true for you, you could be in a toxic marriage. Your options are to start working on it together or decide that you want to get out. Life is too short to waste, so don’t squander it in an unhealthy and unhappy marriage.

3. Don’t Stay Together For the Kids’ Sake

Of course, your kids might love their Daddy, but don’t discredit their sensibilities. Even if you aren’t shouting at each other, kids sense when there’s tension in the home. The fighting, the silent treatments, and the dirty looks all hurt your kids.

Even though divorce can shake them up and make them insecure, these feelings will only last a short time. The peace in your house and having a happy mom will help them heal much faster.

4. Money Won’t Buy You Happiness

Sometimes the most cliche expressions are the ones that are the truest. Sadly, too many women remain in terrible marriages because they stress about leaving their comfortable lifestyle behind. If this is you, don’t!

Understandably, you may fear having to worry about money, but in the long run, it’s much better to find a smaller place and sleep peacefully than to remain in a huge house, miserable and under constant stress.

5. There’s Only So Much Changing You Can Do

It’s always good to change the things about you that aren’t good for your marriage, but you can only do what you can do. Don’t expect your husband to change because you will be disappointed.

Only you can change yourself, but you can’t become a completely different person to be something you’re not to save the marriage–nor should you have to. Unless he’s making a few personality changes of his own, even your positive alterations won’t create a happy, healthy marriage.

6. Don’t Be Afraid to Be Alone

Sometimes the fear of the unknown is scarier than living the rest of your life in a loveless marriage. You may wonder how to pay the bills, what it feels like to be alone, or even wonder who you’ll eat dinner with. Those fears are scary but not as daunting as living a miserable life, especially if you have children.

If you want to remain in your relationship, that’s fine as long as you both work toward improving it. One person can’t make all the changes and expect a happy union. Eventually, they’ll become resentful because their partner continues to exhibit the same behaviors that frustrated them in the first place.

If you’re ready to move on, take baby steps. Look toward family, friends, and professional resources to help you make the first moves to a better life.