Finding the Mirror: Understanding Your Role in a Toxic Relationship

In navigating the tumultuous waters of relationships, it is quite easy to point fingers, often neglecting our own reflection in the mirror. We shroud ourselves in the comfort of being the victim, oblivious to the harsh reality that we might indeed be the toxic one. This realization is a tough pill to swallow, but it’s the first step towards creating healthier relationships. But how can we distinguish if we’re the toxic person in a relationship? It requires a brutal honesty check, self-awareness, and the willingness to change.  Some preliminary patterns of behavior may be if you (or your spouse) is:
  • Verbally or physically abusive
  • Manipulative
  • Narcissistic
  • Self-absorbed
  • Controlling
  • Quick to anger
  • Dishonest
  • Blames others for everything
  • Non-supportive
  • Hypercritical
  • Feels entitled to get their way
  • Gaslights others.
While there are two people in a marriage, sometimes one person can bear more responsibility than the other for causing issues that lead to divorce. Toxic people do this by consistently acting in a way that makes their spouse feel invalidated, emotionally drained, hurt, and unhappy. The toxic person may do it intentionally or not even know that their behavior is harmful to their spouse. Here are a few pointers to guide you in this introspective journey. Firstly, do you often find yourself in a cycle of blame, criticizing your partner for everything that goes wrong, without taking time to look inwardly? Remember, it’s easier to spot another’s faults than to recognize our own. Secondly, pay attention to how you handle disagreements. If your default approach is aggressive or manipulative, this is a red flag. Healthy relationships thrive on mutual respect, open communication, and compromise. Moreover, consider your partner’s feelings and reactions. If they seem perpetually upset, anxious, or fearful around you, you might be the cause. Domestic violence, whether physical or emotional, is a serious issue and a clear sign of toxicity by one of you. If this rings a bell, seek professional help, like a counselor or a divorce attorney.  Being a victim of domestic violence, whether male or female, is serious and can have long-term implications if not appropriately dealt with by consulting a professional. However, being a toxic person in a relationship doesn’t mean you’re inherently bad or doomed. It simply means your actions and attitude in the relationship are causing harm. The road to change might seem daunting, but it’s worth embarking on.

Toxic Relationship Issues that Affect a Divorce

If you find yourself in a contested divorce situation, leverage this as an opportunity for introspection. It’s a chance to understand how your behaviors might have contributed to the divorce and how you can improve for future relationships.  The divorce issues, such as property division, child custody and, others can be resolved through an agreement between spouses, which generally makes it less stressful for everyone; if agreement can’t be reached, the issues will be decided by a judge in the New Jersey court. That said, Toxic relationship issues can greatly influence how smoothly—or not so smoothly—the divorce process goes. Only you can adjust your own behavior and potentially save your marriage, it if is salvageable and within the goals of you and your spouse. And if divorce is definitely on the horizon, it’s a good idea to recognize the behaviors that will probably make an already difficult situation even worse in order to try and refrain from them.

Uncontested Divorce

Negotiating the issues requires compromise. If you bring the toxic behaviors displayed in marriage to your divorce negotiations, you will not do yourself any favors. You cannot play the one-upmanship game or draw lines in the sand and demand to get everything you want. It doesn’t work that way—you must give to get. Even in healthier relationships, however, where spouses are not always at odds, a complete agreement is not always possible—never mind that unless you consult with a professional, it is guaranteed that you are not even identifying all the issues or worse, may be giving away too much because you are unfamiliar with the law.

Contested Divorce

The goal of every divorce matter, whether you have an attorney or not, is to reach an agreement through negotiation and compromise.  Until that happens, your matter is considered ‘contested’.  You want to take this very seriously, as decisions about the issues will affect you for the rest of your life.  If you are in an emotional state or continuing to exhibit the same toxic behaviors, you may miss the forest through the trees.  On top of that, you certainly don’t want to inadvertently bring those toxic patterns into the Courtroom because, bet your bottom dollar, the Judge won’t tolerate that and it could lead to you an unfavorable outcome.  We, unfortunately, see this all the time.  You want to avoid verbally abusing your soon-to-be ex in court, blaming them for all the problems in your marriage, arguing with your spouse or the judge, and steer clear from displaying poor behaviors. Most of us believe we will be able to control ourselves during important situations, but it is our experience that most of us can’t help it (we are only human after all).  This is where having an attorney also comes in handy.  Not only will that attorney guide you along with substantive issues, but they will help present your case and legal position in an appropriate fashion given the particular circumstances of your case.

Divorce Grounds

Another thing to keep in mind is that toxic relationship issues, such as adultery or abuse, may also influence what ground the divorce is filed on. In New Jersey there are both fault and no-fault grounds for divorce.  They include the following:
  • Irreconcilable differences
  • Separation for at least 18 months
  • Adultery
  • Desertion for 12 or more months
  • Extreme physical or mental cruelty
  • Addiction or habitual drunkenness
  • Imprisonment for 18 or more consecutive months following marriage
  • Deviant sexual conduct without the consent of the other spouse.
So, for example, if it’s determined that a spouse spent a lot of money during an extramarital affair, that could be reflected in property and asset division decisions. If a spouse committed domestic violence against the other, it could influence custody and visitation decisions.

Owning Your Part in a Toxic Relationship

It’s essential to understand that toxicity is not a life sentence. With self-awareness, honesty, and a willingness to change, you can break free from these harmful patterns. Seek professional help if needed, engage in self-care, and embrace the journey of personal growth. What should you do if you are in a toxic relationship? Own your part in it—especially if you are the toxic person. Think about how you contributed to the issues in your marriage, which can help you look at the relationship and marriage through a clearer lens, potentially make you feel some empathy for your spouse, and hopefully position you to have a less antagonistic and possibly easier divorce. Both spouses can contribute to a toxic marriage environment that spills over during divorce. Even if you feel your spouse is the toxic one who has caused the problems, it is valuable to examine your own behaviors to see how you may be contributing to the dynamic. Are there things you can change that may improve your spouse’s behavior—allowing the divorce process to go forward with less antagonism and conflict? Maybe there are, and maybe there is not, but it is something to examine. In conclusion, recognizing that we might be the toxic person in a relationship is a bitter but necessary pill. This realization is the first step towards change. By embracing self-awareness and change, we can morph from being the catalyst of pain to being a source of love, respect, and positivity. Remember, it’s not about the blame game; it’s about growth. It’s not about casting stones; it’s about building bridges. It’s not about being perfect; it’s about being better. And it starts with you. So, hold up that mirror and take a long, hard look. The reflection may not be easy to face, but it is the first step towards a happier, healthier you.

Call a Knowledgeable Hackensack Family Lawyer for Help

Nobody deserves to spend their life in a toxic relationship. At [MFR] Men’s & Fathers’ Rights Divorce Lawyers, we can help you when you are ready to move on or represent your interests when your spouse has filed for divorce from you. Our experienced attorneys will examine the aspects of your situation to develop a beneficial approach that is tailored to your relationship, goals and circumstances. Call us at (201) 880-9770 to arrange a confidential case evaluation.

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