Our world is filled with imperfection, yet you’d never know it as an outsider looking in. Society has programmed us to feel ashamed of any flaws and frailties we have, and to hide them to avoid judgment and being labeled as different. As a result, we strive to achieve unrealistic levels of perfection or present a façade and act as if we are perfect to be accepted by others. Despite our efforts to strive for perfection, we all have unique quirks and emotional characteristics that may interfere and cause issues in our long-term relationships and marriages.
Most marriages start off amazing in every way and the couple is head over heels for one another. But over time, the relationship and/or individuals may change and the once-perfect marriage becomes an emotional roller coaster for one or both people. Of course, there’s no such thing as a perfect relationship and every couple has their issues and conflicts. Still, there is a point in which couples’ issues go beyond normal and fall into the dysfunctional category. In this instance, the relationship can be damaging to one or both people involved.
Suggested read: 9 clear signs you’re in a dysfunctional relationship
Choosing to end a marriage is never an easy decision, but at some point, the emotional costs of remaining in the relationship far outweigh the benefits of continuing to live in a damaging situation. There are some telltale signs that you’re in a dysfunctional marriage and remaining in the relationship may be damaging to your emotional health and long-term happiness. If any number of the following scenarios sounds familiar, you may want to do some serious soul searching to determine if you may be better off long term without the relationship.
Signs of a dysfunctional marriage
1. You have to avoid certain topics.
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You and your spouse should be able to talk about anything and share thoughts and feelings without concern for recourse or consequences. After all, open communication, acceptance, and unconditional love are key components of a healthy relationship. Your partner should represent an emotional safe haven in which you can discuss any topic without being afraid of how they will react. But if you find that you have to censor your conversations, withhold information or walk on eggshells to avoid conflict, then you may as well just have superficial conversation with the neighbor, because you are unable to have ‘real’ conversations with your spouse anyway. I say life is too short to just talk about the weather. You will be happier finding a partner that you can talk about everything with and whom you can be totally honest with.
2. You have different versions of reality.
Everyone interprets situations and conversations differently. However, if you and your spouse have completely different versions of the same incident or conversation, this may be a sign of a dysfunctional relationship. To offer an example, my client’s husband accused her of having an affair with her boss after he saw the two of them interact at a holiday party. Regardless of how many times she tried to explain that this wasn’t the case and offer evidence to convince him otherwise, he interpreted the situation the way he wanted to perceive it, which was completely differently than what was really occurring. He felt that they were ‘too friendly’ with each other and assumed that she was cheating on him with her boss. This situation and the drama and accusations untimely lead to their divorce.
3. You feel constant blame, guilt or frustration.
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Are you made to feel guilty about how you feel or about past conversations you’ve had? Do you find that your spouse is constantly blaming you for anything and everything or making you feel ashamed of any number of things? Do you live in a constant state of frustration or hopelessness in trying to be in love with your spouse? If you answered yes to any of these questions, it may be time to consider your relationship and if it’s healthy or not. Your marriage is supposed to bring joy and happiness to your life, not stress, frustration, and complications. Remaining in this type of relationship can cause major damage to your self-esteem as well as depression and anxiety. You deserve to be happy and free of these negative and energy draining emotions.
4. You are made to feel inferior.
Healthy relationships are based on mutual respect and equality. Both people should feel appreciated, valued, and fulfilled by one another. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, and one partner is made to feel inferior and/or that the other is merely settling for them. This is both energy-draining and emotionally disastrous for the partner that’s being made to feel that they’re not good enough. This is a toxic situation that may jeopardize the self-image and self-respect of the person being made to feel inferior. This is a no-win situation, and it may be best to use your energy to get out of your dysfunctional marriage and find someone that builds you up, meets your emotional needs, and appreciates you for how amazing you are.
5. Your private matters aren’t private.
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We all talk to friends and loved ones about certain aspects of our relationships. Some topics and information about your partner and your marriage should remain private and between the two of you. Disclosing intimate details to others is a violation of boundaries and disrespectful to your spouse and your marriage. If your partner discusses private and intimate matters with others, you may want to question their loyalty and the level of respect that they have for you. If your spouse doesn’t respect your boundaries, feelings, and marriage in general, it may be best to cut your losses and move on.
If you think you may be in a dysfunctional marriage, it’s important that you recognize the warning signs and see that you may be sacrificing your happiness and emotional well-being. I recommend that you listen to the voice in your head and follow what your heart is telling you to do. You know what’s best for you long term, so be selfish and put you own needs first and do what you need to do to restore your sense of happiness and tranquility. You can’t please everyone and should not be concerned about what your spouse or others think. Remember, you are the common denominator to everything in your life, and your lack of happiness may jeopardize other aspects of your life.
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