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Marriage Advice: Ten Danger Signals to Watch for in Your Marriage

Healthy marriages require time, attention, energy, and vigilance. It's not realistic to think that you can have a super marriage without effort on your part.

It pays to be observant, to ask questions when you don't understand something, and to notice changes in behavior, tone of voice, and attitude. Communication experts have found that only seven percent of our communication is verbal, while the other ninety-three percent depends on body language and tone of voice. Thus, it only makes good sense to pay attention to much more than just the actual words a spouse says.

There are ten danger signals that can help you to head off trouble in your marriage before problems become more serious. Pay attention when:

1. Your spouse acts upset but says "Nothing's wrong" when you ask, yet you're sure there's more to it. Trust your intuition about this. Females in particular are prone to say "Nothing" when asked "What's wrong?" This often indicates that there is something they need to say, but they don't feel comfortable saying it. Work on creating a safe environment for the sharing of mutual concerns.

2. You ask your spouse about something and get a listless, barely audible "Okay, that's fine," but the tone doesn't sound sincere. This response is similar to number one. What's usually obvious from the tone of voice and other non-verbal communication is that most assuredly something is wrong. Everything is not fine. And if that "something" doesn't come out into the open where it can be resolved, it will pop up later and cause difficulties.

3. Your spouse is unusually anxious or agitated when you walk in unexpectedly while he or she is on the computer. It may just be a coincidence, but it could also be that your partner is involved in doing something that he or she doesn't want you to see. To know if it's nothing or if something is brewing will take observation over a period of time. Becoming involved with someone online isn't harmless, as some spouses will claim. It robs a marriage of commitment and focused energy, plus it can lead to an affair in real time.

4. You observe that your spouse is being secretive about cell phone calls or text messages. Sometimes spouses will find a partner hiding in the closet or locked in the bathroom talking on the cell phone. This is certainly something to pay attention to, but don't jump to conclusions. Just observe for awhile. Sometime there's a rational explanation such as a spouse who is making secret calls to set up a surprise birthday party for the partner. But if that's not the case, the secret calls could be a signal that your marriage is in danger.

5. Your spouse has a significant change in moods, enjoyment of life, socialization patterns, or grooming/appearance. A spouse can become depressed and sometimes the partner doesn't put the clues together to realize what's happening. The spouse who is feeling depressed may experience changes in sleep patterns, eating, appearance, and hygiene. There may also be uncharacteristic isolation from friends and family, as well as crying spells or loss of interest in things that used to bring pleasure. If this happens, it's time to consult with your spouse's physician.

6. You realize that your spouse is developing a pattern of trying to avoid going to bed at the same time you do and sleeping in the same bed with you. Numerous wives have shared in counseling that they deliberately stay up later than their husbands to avoid sex. Or they say that a child won't go to sleep unless they lie down with them. Often, then, the parent ends up going to sleep in the child's room, giving the excuse that they didn't want to wake the partner or that they fell asleep without meaning to. The warning sign comes when this turns into a nightly pattern, not an occasional occurrence.

7. You realize that you don't know who your spouse really is any more. This is certainly a wake-up call that it's time to make your marriage a top priority. You'll want to spend extra time together talking and sharing from the heart. One common lament marriage counselors hear is, "He (or she) doesn't really know me. I'm just a paycheck to her (or just someone who keeps the house clean and takes care of the kids). Take the time to find out what your spouse is really thinking and feeling.

8. Your relationship feels stale and dull. If this stage continues, both you and your spouse could be more susceptible to the lure of an affair. Deliberately schedule plans to do new things and go new places, and of course, look at how you could spice up your sex life with your partner. Do you need to trade off babysitting time with a friend so you can leave the kids and take a weekend trip with your spouse? Or let the friend keep the kids while you and your partner stay home alone?

9. You find yourself co-existing in the same house with your spouse but never really connecting. When this happens, it's time to schedule a time each day to sit, talk, share feelings, hold hands, hug, and reconnect. You can't afford to lose your feeling of closeness and bonding with your partner. Cut back on extra activities and immediately make your marriage your priority. Without emotional intimacy, your marriage will lose its momentum and passion.

10. You realize your sense of fun and joy has been replaced by resignation and complacency. It's time to shake things up. Have you gotten in a rut? Turn things upside down and put some variety in your marriage. Maybe it's time for those dance lessons your wife has been begging you to take with her. Or maybe it's time to go on that camping trip your husband has been talking about for months. Whatever you do, don't just sit there-plan something fun!

Nancy J. Wasson, Ph.D., is co-author of the book Keep Your Marriage: What to Do When Your Spouse Says "I don't love you anymore!" This is available at, where you can also sign up for the free weekly Keep Your Marriage Internet Magazine to get ideas and support for improving your marriage.

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