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Red Alert!

How to tell if your marriage is approaching a danger zone

Is your marriage headed toward lasting bliss or a breakup? For a clue to what the future might hold, look at how you and your spouse relate to each other. This quiz will help you identify any potentially destructive patterns that you need to start changing now, before they do permanent damage.

Circle one number after each statement to indicate how often you and your mate relate in that way.

1 = almost never
2 = once in a while
3 = frequently

1. Little arguments escalate into ugly fights with accusations, criticisms, name calling or bringing up past hurts.

1 2 3

2. My partner criticizes or belittles my opinions, feelings or desires.

1 2 3

3. My partner seems to view my words or actions more negatively than I mean them to be.

1 2 3

4. When we have a problem to solve, it is like we are on opposite teams.

1 2 3

5. I hold back from telling my spouse what I really think and feel.

1 2 3

6. I think seriously about what it would be like to be married to someone else.

1 2 3

7. I feel lonely in this relationship.

1 2 3

8. When we argue, one of us withdraws … that is, doesn't want to talk about it anymore or leaves the scene.

1 2 3

Total Score ______________

What Your Score Means

If you and your spouse both take this quiz, you may want to share your total scores. However, we don't advise sharing each individual response—especially your responses to question six. Doing so would invite trouble if you are struggling in this area. If you do share your reactions to the other statements, pick a time when you are both in a constructive mood and able to respond peacefully.

Green Light: Keep Cruisin'

If you scored 8 to 12, your relationship is probably in good, or even great, shape. But remember—relationships don't stand still. In the coming year, if you continue to nurture your marriage and build a deeper friendship, you'll have a happier, stronger relationship. However, you could head in the other direction if you fail to guard against the negative patterns of relating that are described in this quiz.

The best time to improve your communication and conflict-resolution skills is when things are going well. So use your positive motivation to make a great relationship even better. Read a book with your mate or attend a marriage-enrichment seminar together. Or consider having a "state of the union" talk about your marriage. Look for areas in your relationship that could use some extra attention, and keep investing in your marriage.

Yellow Light: Proceed with Caution

If you scored 13 to 17, you may very well be happy in your relationship. But a score in this range indicates patterns you shouldn't overlook. Make time to discuss what you can do to improve the way you relate to one another. Begin by identifying the areas where your marriage is on the right track. Next, look at the statements you ranked as "once in a while" or "frequently" and make plans to address those areas.

For example, if you have difficulty telling your partner what you really think and feel, work on ways to express your emotions with confidence. Make a dedicated effort to work on your communication and conflict-management skills. Poorly handled conflict is like a cancer than can spread and easily ruin all the good things you have going in your marriage.

Red Light: Stop For Repairs

If you scored 18 to 24, your relationship is at significant risk. While some couples might have a score in this range and still preserve a good marriage, most won't succeed. You may already notice signs of damage in your relationship such as unresolved anger or a growing sense of resentment.

Don't make the mistake of waiting too long to repair the damage. Many couples who wait find it nearly impossible to get their marriages back on track. The good news is that when two people agree to alter their negative patterns of relating, they are often successful. You might consider seeking professional help from either your pastor or a counselor. The approach you take is your choice, but the key is to act now.

Scott M. Stanley, Ph.D., and Howard J. Markman, Ph.D., direct the Center for Marital and Family Studies at the University of Denver. They specialize in research on marital success and failure and are co-authors of the book Fighting for Your Marriage (Jossey-Bass).

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

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