Expert: Nagging is a relationship killer

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DENVER -- It can be as destructive to your marriage as infidelity or money problems, and it is something every couple deals with at some point during their relationship--nagging.

The nation's leading marriage researcher, who happens to live in Denver, says if you don't deal with it then it can lead to divorce.

Jackie and David Gebel know how detrimental nagging can be for a relationship.

It's "date night" for the couple at the Mercury Café in Denver. Times like this are important for the pair, because years ago time together was a source of nagging for Jackie.

"I was at home with the little ones and he'd come home. I'd miss him. I'd want to date. I’d want to go out. I’d want to have fun with him. He wants to come home,” she says.

“I was content to take off my shoes and relax," says David.

Jackie says she kept nagging David about "couple time" and he avoided it.

"My belief was he didn't want that,” she says.

David's perspective was different.

“When in reality, I would feel defensive," he says.

'It’s the enemy of love,” says Dr. Howard Markman, with University of Denver's Center for Marital and Family Studies.

Markman taught the couple how the tone of their words can damage their love.

"The person that is being nagged gets upset … not about what’s being asked, but how the other person is bringing it up," Markman says. "Often, it’s way too negative."

He says nagging leads to negative thoughts about your partner.

"When your partner doesn’t do something. ‘Why aren`t they doing that? It’s a small little thing. Isn’t it? Maybe he doesn`t love me.’ Or, ‘maybe she doesn’t care about me," he says.

He says couples that don't resolve the issue can fall out of love and eventually end their relationship.

"The best way to deal with nagging is to recognize that it's happening. Second, stop it," says Markman.

After 31 years of marriage, Jackie and David know they can't dance around the issues. They've learned to not only talk, but to hear each other.

“Talk in a way where everyone can express ideas in a safe environment, so that you’re really hearing each other," Jackie says. "Then, repeating what the other person says is essential."

Markman says the bottom line is to express yourself in a positive and constructive way.

Dr. Markman will head a marriage retreat and workshop Feb. 25-26 at the JW Marriott Hotel in Denver. The cost is $999 per couple. Enrollment is limited.

The Gebel’s say you will walk away from the event with tangible skills that will help your relationship for years to come.

For more information visit www.loveyourrelationship.com.

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