The first time I heard the phrase "toxic marriage," I felt a little sick. That couldn't be me, could it? If you're reading this now, you've got that little nagging intuition that tells you something in your relationship is off. Is it? See if any of these eight signs sound familiar and you be the judge.
1. You find yourself sad, crying all the time, or much more than usual. I'm not a crier by nature, but in the last four years of my marriage, I found myself crying a lot; driving home from work, lying in bed trying to get to sleep, doing dishes when the kids were occupied after dinner. Sometimes our subconscious emotions are so strong, they simply push their way into our "now" so we don't continue ignoring them.
2. Your spouse finds fault with everything you say or do. Sometimes, we all feel that we can't say or do anything right, but it's a completely different thing when your spouse jumps on that bandwagon. Is he criticizing more than usual? Has it become personal, or is he attacking you? If you feel the need to retreat, or that you simply "can't say anything right," this might be a sign.
3. You're lying to your friends or family about your relationship. Look, we all don't air our dirty laundry to everyone in our immediate circle. But when you keep telling people that everything is "fine" when you know it's getting bad, there could be a problem. If close friends and family ask, "Is everything okay with you guys?", there is a reason. You may think you're the Willy Wonka of keeping secrets about how you're really coping, but it's unlikely that everyone is fooled.
4. You don't have sex anymore. Touch is a basic human need, like food and water. We all need it to feel connected, loved and cared for. The first year rule doesn't apply here. Every married woman knows her husband's sexual habits; once a week, after the gym, twice a month -- whatever was normal is now not happening. If your spouse is withholding that affection, refusing to re-connect with you or even reducing you to begging for basic things like hugs or holding hands, then Houston, we have a problem.
5. You find yourself withdrawing from friends, family or social interaction. This one's nothing to fool with. You used to go out with the girls every Friday night after work and now it's an effort to lift the remote to watch the next episode of Game of Thrones. This is a sign. Talking to your friends or mother on the phone only frustrates you, you feel like no one understands what you're going through, or your best friend has left more messages for you than Beiber for Selena Gomez. Toxicity in a relationship manifests itself in really ugly ways, and one of them is depression. Be careful, my lovelies.
6. You fantasize constantly about leaving your husband. Now, I'm not talking about the kind of fantasy where you momentarily consider running off with Channing Tatum and being his lotion girl. No. I'm talking about an actual feeling of relief that you get when considering life without your husband. If you find yourself glancing through the "for rent" section with more than passing curiosity, then your mind could be trying to tell you something. We're all born with a "fight or flight" reaction inside of us. When things get unbearable emotionally or physically, our natural reaction is to flee and get away from the pain.
7. Your interactions with your spouse have turned downright mean. If the occasional barb about leaving the toilet seat down has transformed into ripping off the toilet seat, nailing it to the grill on his truck and placing a banner across it reading, "Now it's down, sucka!", things have taken a turn for Nasty-ville. As husbands and wives, we all know our spouse's hot buttons and how to push them. But most of us avoid them (for the most part) because we don't want to do or say something that will cause irreparable pain to the one we love. If that barrier is no longer there, it's like a no holds barred for verbal sparring that usually gets ugly...fast.
8. You can't remember the last time you were really happy in your marriage. I'm talking about that feeling you get when you look at your husband that everything is right, that he's still the one you're meant to be with...and that everything is really going to be okay. If you simply can't recall the last time you genuinely looked at his face and felt that -- or instead were only filled with the urge to punch him -- you might want to take a step back and determine whether this relationship is helping you...or hurting you.
No relationship is perfect, but you should be aware that if the majority of these signs sound like your marriage, you need to assess whether staying is the best thing for your emotional (and physical) well-being. Use your best judgment, rely on friends and family and seek professional help to guide you through the murky waters. You may discover someone who was there to help you all along -- yourself.