I received a phone call from a wife who was exchanging insults on the phone with her husband. It was quite disheartening listening to them.
It took me down memory lane, when hubby and I were dealing with our toxic issues.
“You are stupid! You will not amount to anything”. These are some of the words used in a toxic relationship.

Toxic relationships are not confined to marriages alone. We have peers, colleagues, friends, families (parents vs children), and many more that experience toxic relationships.

Today, we will be dealing with toxic relationship in marriages; how to identify them and suggestions on how to deal with them.

Proactive steps to take in a toxic marriage.
  • Denial: the toxic person usually denies their toxicity. They usually believe that you are the problem or you should accept them the way they are. Please do not!
  • Identify: Identify the toxic issue(s) you are dealing with. The most common toxic issues are; the way we talk to one another, repetition of a particular bad habit over and over, inability to take responsibility for the damage our habits are having on our marriage; controlling behaviour, resentment, jealousy, dishonesty, disrespect, negative financial behaviour, lack of support.
  • Boundaries: The spouse that is being hurt by the toxicity of the other spouse should create and insist on boundaries.
    Good boundary rules include – insisting on words that should not be used on each other or the children, discuss how to talk especially to one another, etc. If repeated abuse is involved, both parties would need separation for a while and therapy. Sometimes the only way these boundaries work is if we have accountability partners, counsellors or a third party the couple can listen to.
Rich says…

We must all stand against being involved in toxic relationships; because the effect goes beyond we the husband and wife and affects the entire generation with very destructive outcome.

From the point of choosing a life partner, getting married and living together; we must choose to confront it or not get involved in the relationship at all.

I was a major participant in fueling toxicity in our marriage and most of the time it was caused by me thinking of myself above everyone.
I learnt that respecting my wife means respecting myself and teaching our children how to respect one another. Philippians 5:28-29.

  • Guard yourself: I remember a friend who uses only curse words. One day I confronted her and she replied in shock that it is the way her parents spoke to one another daily, so she grew up with the notion that curse words are part of love. A very sad one. As parents, we must fight toxicity in our marriage. If not for ourselves and our spouse, at least fight for the children’s sake. Most of the time our children are a reflection of us, remember that!
  • Let God in: In my journey with hubby on toxicity, prayers played a major role on how I felt. I no longer saw only his faults, rather I saw the struggle of trying to speak right and falling short. This perspective helped me and ultimately us to work it out.
  • Give it time: Many toxic habits our spouses come with was learnt years before they met us. So asking/demanding that they change today is quite callous of us. Rather, we should be patient as they unlearn these bad habits and (re)learn the new habits required to preserve your marriage.

Remember, change is gradual for it to be permanent.

Action Plan:

Discuss as a couple the level of toxicity in your marriage, on a scale of 1-5 (1 being the lowest).

Permit your spouse to air their views as you have aired yours. Then apply the steps above and see your marriage bloom again.

Ngee and Rich
(Dr. Richard and Ngozi Okonkwo)
Relationship Coach/Habit Instructors
Founders – Keeping Marriage Alive Initiative

“Will two people walk together unless they have agreed to do so?” Amos 3:3.

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