Would you know if your marriage was unhealthy? Do you have ideas of a “perfect marriage”? If so, what do you base your concept of a “healthy marriage” on? Friends, family, social media, celebrities?
Everything That Glitter Is Not Gold
I remember when I had been married about 10 years, and I had just found out about another of my husband’s affairs. We had one of his employees and his girlfriend over for dinner. They were in their early 20’s and in love. I remember they went into a speech about how they wanted a marriage like mine and my husband’s. Y’all, I felt dizzy, and everyone talking sounded like Charlie Brown’s teacher. I was so sad that our toxic marriage was their goal. I wanted to shout, “NO! Not us. We are messed up.” However, you can’t see behind closed doors. I sat there with a smile on my face and kept my mouth shut. They didn’t need to know how unhealthy our marriage really was.
You don’t know what is going on behind the smiles…behind the closed doors. It may look perfect, but it rarely is, and as a result, we base our ideal marriage concept off of false realities.
Social Media And False Expectations
Don’t even get me started on social media. Never mind, I have already started. Social media does not tell you the whole story. I know I have been guilty of looking at pictures and being envious of someone’s marriage when mine was in shambles. Wishing I looked like the lady sipping her coffee on a deck overlooking the ocean or hoping my family would wear matching outfits and take cute holiday pictures without complaint. I know I can’t be the only one that has been guilty of comparison syndrome and social media envy.
Listen, I am guilty, and I am sure most of you are too. We use the filters that make us look younger, post the beautiful views from our vacation, and about our kids’ accomplishments. We share when we buy a new car or home, or of a lovely meal we made, or we tell how thoughtful our spouse is.
On social media, no one shouts to the world that they have an unhealthy marriage that is falling apart. We don’t share that we feel overwhelmed and sit in the closet and sob. People don’t tell that their spouse had an affair, they don’t share that their spouse punched a hole in the wall, and they don’t certainly don’t share that they are miserable in their marriage.
Your Marriage Is Yours, No One Else’s
Even if you find a healthy marriage to model, the two people in that marriage are not the same two people in your marriage. You can not recreate that marriage, no matter how hard you try.
Theodore Roosevelt said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Yes! Have you been guilty of looking at social media and having #relationshipgoalsenvy? If you have to, turn off your social media and put the work into your marriage. Above all, work on creating a healthy marriage with what you have and who you are, not some fantasy.
7 Clues You May Have An Unhealthy Marriage
Marriage is tough. Some days are beautiful, and others are challenging. Moreover, the continuation of certain behaviors and challenges may mean something. For instance, do you regularly struggle with:
- One-sided conversation, scared to speak freely. One person is critical, judgemental, or defensive.
- One partner makes decisions without consulting the other partner or tries to hide the decision
- You or your partner look to others for support, or one partner does not feel safe turning to their partner for support
- One or both partners are physically, emotionally, or mentally abusive. If you are physically abused, leave immediately and find a safe place to stay immediately. Going does not mean that you can not work on your marriage with the help of a professional and reunite later, but for now, seek safety.
- Lack of respect from either partner or both. Respect does not mean that you have to agree with the other person 100% of the time. You can still admire them for their qualities despite not agreeing with their opinion.
- There is doubt and suspicion. Trust does not just mean not having a physical affair, but also emotional affairs in which you share your emotions, dreams, struggles, and goals with someone other than your partner.
- Have not set boundaries or no respect for each other’s boundaries and constantly cross them.
If these examples are a constant issue, then you are likely in an unhealthy marriage.
There Is Good News
The good news is those unhealthy marriages and having unhealthy marriage expectations are repairable.
Talk to a professional therapist and remember marriage takes the work of two people. If one spouse does not want to do the work, it does not matter how hard the other spouse works on the marriage; it will not work.