Living in a toxic marriage is exhausting and chips away at your soul. You’re depleted mentally, emotionally, and physically because there’s just no peace at home – the one place that’s supposed to be your refuge. If you think your marriage is toxic, you’re in the right place and you’ve taken the first step to saving a toxic marriage.
I want you to know that toxic marriages are usually worth saving. With the right changes, toxic marriages can heal and become healthy and secure partnerships.
However, not all toxic marriages can or should be saved.
Here’s the bottom line…if you have permanently lost security and safety in your marriage, the toxicity has reached a fatal level of no return. It will be best for you to muster up all your courage and exit your marriage, pronto.
I believe that there are a few times when you should stop trying to save a toxic marriage. Basically, that’s when your spouse is abusive to you or your children. Or if the conflict between you and your partner has escalated to the point of hurting your children, and you guys are unable or unwilling to change that pattern.
Another situation that would put the breaks on saving your toxic marriage is if your spouse has made a decision that they are completely done with your marriage and have firmly decided to move on.
Everything else that can make a marriage bad or toxic is possible to overcome.
With the right help, you can fix a marriage that has been damaged by frequent fighting, lack of respect, infidelity, terrible communication, cold distance, anger and hostility, or falling out of love.
One of the keys to reversing the toxicity in a painful relationship is for both spouses to be willing to do the work to become a loving and secure-functioning couple. In order to be successful, both you and your partner must make some changes in how you respond to one another.
But don’t wait for your spouse to start changing first. Make a decision today to start showing up as the partner that you aspire to be.
Mastering these two skills will help you start saving your toxic marriage:
1. Curtail Your Negative Impulses
A toxic marriage is full of negative patterns and impulses that keep it swirling around in a tumultuous sea of poison and pain.
That’s what happens when we let the part of our brain that is primitive and reptilian (I call it the lizard brain) be in charge.
I’m sure you can recognize when your lizard brain is at the helm…
That’s when you react to your spouse in ways that are blaming, hostile, name-calling, aggressive, passive, accusing, belittling, and just plain mean. Your lizard brain is like a bully. It’s selfish and wants what it wants right now.
In order to calm the toxic, choppy waters in a marriage in exchange for a peace and safety, we must learn to quickly quiet down our lizard brain and control our negative impulses.
So the first step is to interrupt your lizard brain before it acts up. Say “stop it!” to that part of yourself. And bite your tongue if you have to keep the negativity from spewing out of your mouth.
You probably won’t have perfect impulse control. So if and when you blow it, be sure to correct it as soon as you can. A simple, heartfelt apology will go a long way.
2. Focus On Bringing Out Your Best
In order to consistently interrupt and replace your reptilian impulses, you will need a higher focus. In other words, you must get in touch with how (and who) you aspire to be. Do this by focusing on your aspiration and your motivation.
This requires focusing on bringing out your best. By leaning into your ideal self. Ask yourself, “How would I like to be when things are difficult with my partner?”
Your answer to this question might be something like, “I want to be patient and positive with my partner. And not defensive.”
To keep a higher focus over the long haul, you’ll need to know why you want to respond in a way that you’re proud of. Ask yourself, “Why am I interested in a higher focus, in bringing out my best?”
Your motivation might be something along the lines of, “I’ll feel good about being a better, more compassionate person.”
Once you tap into your motivation, you’ll have an easier time controlling your impulses (lizard brain) and responding in ways that are consistent with your best self.
Before trying to start saving a toxic marriage, it’s important to remember that it will require you to do things that aren’t your automatic reflex and that might even be uncomfortable. And don’t forget that it will take time and practice to easily shift into focusing on who you aspire to be.
While there are no guarantees, if you get help from a skilled couples counselor, you’ll be able to turn your marriage around. You will be able to transform your marriage from one that is toxic and unhappy to one that is safe, secure, and happy.
If you need help saving a toxic marriage I can help. I’m an experienced Denver couples counselor and I’d love to be your professional guide on this journey.