There is the West Nile Virus, Influenza, and the most deadly of all, The Marriage Flu. That's right, the most deadly sickness our country has to face is the devastating Marriage Flu. It infects over 75% of couples and can leave families grasping for air.

Common symptoms of the Marriage Flu are complaining, too much time spent at work, angry children, and unmet expectations. However, there are four severe symptoms of the Marriage Flu, that if left untreated, will lead to the eventual death of the marriage.

The four symptoms center around the way you communicate during conflict. Every couple experiences conflict, but if you have any of the most severe symptoms of the Marriage Flu, then your marriage is at incredible risk.

The four worst symptoms are escalation, withdrawal, belittling, and negative false beliefs. The good news is that scientists have developed a vaccination that can cure all of the worst symptoms. The bad news is that very few couples know about the vaccination. But before I get to the vaccination, let me briefly describe each of the four worst symptoms.

Escalation can be described as pure energy. It's when your conflicts get out-of-control and you say and do things in the heat of the moment you regret the next day. There's a lot of screaming, stomping, and potentially throwing of common household objects (preferably soft ones).

Withdrawal can be described like the plagues of Egypt. Nobody wants to be around when conflict is possible. You avoid conflict and try anything to just keep the peace. The problem with withdrawal is that the hurt and anger you push down and avoid eventually rears its ugly head years later. You never bury hurt or anger dead, it's always buried alive.

Belittling is actually placing very little value on your mate. You say hurtful things that are meant to degrade your spouse. Often you will hear stuff like, "Why did I marry you in the first place?" "What an idiot you are!" "I hate you!" These phrases destroy the core commitment level of the marriage and eat away at its stability.

Negative false beliefs are tricky. Because the victim is typically confused and bewildered because he or she can do nothing right. Every potentially positive action is views as a completely negative action. You can do no right in the eyes of someone who has developed negative false beliefs.

Now that you understand the worst symptoms, let me tell you about the vaccination scientists have developed to eliminate them. The vaccination is simply good communication. It's your ability to do three very important things:

1. Listen to the words the speaker is saying.

When is the last time you truly sat back and listened to what your spouse was trying to say to you? Listening has nothing to do with your ears, but rather, your posture, attention, and desire to understand.

2. Reflect back to the speaker what you think they are saying.

When you reflect back to someone you are basically validating their feelings and needs. Your spouse might say something like, "That really hurt my feelings." When you are properly reflecting back you will say something in return like, "Wow. It sounds like I really hurt your feelings."

3. When you value a person, value their words and feelings just as much.

The last step is to place high value on the feelings or needs you just heard. If your mate's feelings are hurt, then you want to ask what can be done to repair the damage. If your mate is frustrated, then you want to ask what can be done to end the frustration. It is your chance to truly love your mate for who he or she is and to not criticize or judge the feelings.

Effective communication is ultimately more efficient and takes less time than any other method you can try. Besides, the ultimate goal of any marriage is to love and be loved.
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The Marriage Flu doesn't have to infect your marriage. Take the vaccination shot of communication by ordering the Smalley Relationship Center's newest book, The DNA of Relationships, that teaches you not only to communicate effectively but three other important vaccinations you can take for any relationship. For information visit www.smalleyonline.com.