At times I’m taken aback by the toxicity in so many relationships. Watching a person twist himself or herself into a pretzel to make a toxic relationship work is even more upsetting. And, almost without fail, the person doing the twisting is not the toxic one of the pair.
Women, it’s time to wake up. Stop twisting yourself into a pretzel to appease your emotionally abusive, dishonest, lying, cheating or fill-in-the-blank spouse. Really—STOP IT. It’s unattractive, unhealthy and certainly ineffective.
I’m a firm believer in doing everything in your power to make a marriage work—and even more so when there are children involved. I am not, however, a proponent of walking on eggshells, living in fear of someone’s wrath or shrinking so your “loved one” stays married to you. Yuck. That is no life for anyone—least of all for you or your children.
Below are blaring signs that you’re in a toxic relationship and it’s time to stop appeasing and enabling the toxicity:
1. Your partner calls you names, belittles you or puts you down frequently.
2. Your partner is unaccountable and responds to your upsets/requests/feedback with defensiveness, attacks or anger.
3. Your partner blows up frequently, yelling, screaming or intimidating you at the drop of a hat.
4. Your partner responds to your upsets by telling you that you’re too sensitive and you need to toughen up or get over it.
5. Your partner calls you crazy, a nag or a nut when you ask him to do something he has already agreed to do.
6. Your partner is abusive to your children, either verbally or physically, by grabbing them, yelling at them, slapping them or the like. When you see your partner do this, you cringe inside.
7. Your partner tells you you’re raising a sissy when you ask him to not be harsh with the kids.
8. Your partner turns your concerns about him against you and makes it seem as if you’re the problem. He seldom, if ever, takes responsibility or listens to your concerns with an open heart.
9. Your partner pressures you for sex, complains that you’re not giving him enough sex, acts like you “owe” him sex, or gets mad every time you say no to sex.
10. You’re responsible for all the household chores and he does little or nothing to help—even when you both work a paid job.
11. You’re embarrassed to have your friends see how he treats you, so you try to avoid going out in groups.
12. When you do go out in groups, he puts you down, treats you poorly, makes sarcastic comments about you and then says he was only joking (“Lighten up!”) when you tell him you don’t like that.
13. Your partner controls your spending, your actions or your social circles by making endless comments about them or getting angry when you do something in a way that he doesn’t like.
14. You’re in an extremely toxic relationship if your partner ever physically puts his hands on you in anger (grabs you, shoves you, slaps you, punches walls, threatens you, etc.).
The bottom line when it comes to relationships is the person you live with should be the safest person in your life. They should be the first person you want to turn to in times of upset, the one you feel the most at ease with and the person you look forward to coming home to. Living with this person ideally helps you grow to be your best self.
They should not be the person who sucks the life out of you and leaves you feeling miserable about who’ve you become, what you come home to and what you’re passing on to your children. Please don’t spend your one lifetime trying to make a toxic marriage work. Spend a concentrated effort to stop your enabling and seek help to tackle this issue until you are able stop sacrificing your life for a bad marriage. When you’re ready to stop living in the toxicity, be clear with your partner that you want the marriage to work—if it’s going to be a loving one—however, you don’t want the marriage if it’s going to continue to be toxic. Demand that you both get professional help (be sure the help is good!) and be willing to leave if there are no changes.
Toxic marriages create toxic legacies that get passed on to children from one generation to the next. They create toxic lives and a toxic world. Do NOT twist yourself into a pretzel to save a toxic relationship. Your enabling keeps the dysfunction and the legacy going.
Challenge: If you’re in a toxic relationship, recognize it and look at the behaviors you’re doing that keep this relationship as it is. Get the help you need to either turn this relationship around or have the strength to leave it if your partner refuses to change.
NOTE: Because this is a blog for women I am addressing this to women—however, I am also aware that there are women who are toxic as well and men who are afraid to raise the bar on their behavior. If this is your story, then replace the pronouns and heed the same advice!