Divorce rates are continuing to climb in record numbers all around the world.
And the word ‘toxic’ is thrown around as a way to blame your spouse for all of your marital issues: ‘toxic relationship’, ‘toxic marriage’, ‘toxic behaviour’.
But how many of your marriage problems are truly one person’s fault? Or is the word ‘toxic’ used as an excuse to end a marriage without even fighting for it?
This is what thought-leading coach and founder of the Marriage Reset program, Cass Morrow, wants to challenge men around the world to think about.
After growing up with narcissistic parents, Cass entered every relationship in his life full of rage for over 20 years.
This only escalated when he met his wife, Kathryn. She experienced years of emotional and narcissistic abuse from Cass, and it all came back to his learned behaviour from childhood:
“I attacked Kathryn’s character as a woman, as a wife, and as a human being. I screamed at her daily, trashed the house, threatened divorce, and blamed her for all of my issues. I thought that was the way a ‘normal’ relationship worked.”
It wasn’t until Cass started working on himself – particularly his anger issues – that he realized his marriage didn’t have to be full of hostility, bitterness, and blame. Instead, there could be harmony, love, and passion in his household.
But to get more of the good stuff, both Kathryn and Cass had to do a lot of work:
“My wife and I are not excusing abuse in any way. But we are living proof that even the worst of marriages can be fixed – you just have to be willing to change rather than throw in the towel. We are crazy in love, and we want to help other people get that passion back.”
And the reality is, if Cass and Kathryn had gotten divorced, this cycle of abusive behaviour would have continued:
“If we had split up, I would have been left with even more hurt and pain and wouldn’t have done the work. This would have impacted how I acted with everyone in my life – and even worse, our children would think these kinds of interactions were normal.”
So, how do you overcome marriage issues when it seems like there is no way forward?
Here are Cass’s four key steps.
1. Decide to feel better than you do right now
Sometimes it can seem impossible to get out of the place you are in – but you can choose a different path.
“We chase emotions that we don’t want out of fear. It could be fear of rejection or of our needs not being met. This just leads to anger and sadness. When I started working on myself, it hit me how good it felt not to fight with my wife for three days. Three days! I finally realized that I could – and deserved to – feel differently.”
Rather than following these negative emotions, you need to allow happiness, joy, and passion to come through. Once you do, you can follow these positive feelings instead.
2. Lose negative influences
Do the people in your life support and motivate you by showing you solutions? Or do they want to dwell on your problems without suggesting how you should fix them?
If you are surrounded by people who tell you over and over again that you need to leave your marriage, Cass suggests you should walk away from them – regardless of if they are friends or family:
“You are influenced most by the five people you spend the most time with. Why would you include someone in that small circle who wants to tear your family apart? If they aren’t telling you how to move past it, it’s time to move past them.”
3. Show Up Consistently
If you have engaged in negative behaviour for a long time – abusive or not – your wife is never going to believe you have changed overnight.
The only way you can work to not only save your marriage but build an even stronger one on the other side is to consistently act differently from how you did before. This is how your partner will see you are committed to change.
And you can’t just stop or revert to old habits when things improve. You need to prove yourself day in and day out to show that you’re a better man.
4. Be Patient
The reality is, if you have engaged in behaviour that resembles anything like Cass did in his marriage, you have inflicted real pain on your partner. As a result, your wife may lash out as she is working through her experiences and feelings and will struggle to believe that you have changed.
“Your partner needs some grace. She is being triggered all the time by the red flags you have raised through your behaviour. You need to approach her with compassion and continue to practise patience until she fully understands how much you have changed.”
So, it’s time to stop asking yourself if you are in a toxic marriage, or if you are exhibiting toxic behaviour towards your partner. Ask yourself this instead: What are you going to do about it? If Cass and Kathryn had listened to everyone who told them to break up, they wouldn’t be here today providing a guiding light to couples around the world, proving that bad marriages can not only change – but they can become better than you ever dreamed of.
“If you are willing to lead by example, change your reactions, and genuinely act differently, even the worst marriage can be transformed. Don’t let a blip in time get in the way of what could be decades of happiness.”
You can find out more about Cass Morrow and the Marriage Reset program at ryancassmorrow.com.