Nagging is one of the most debilitating marriage issues, right up there with adultery as a leading cause of divorce, says Wall Street Journal columnist Elizabeth Bernstein. Nagging is a pattern of negative communication in a relationship. One person asks for something and receives either a vague response or silence. The asking continues, inciting more resistance in the other person.
According to Bernstein’s research, women are more prone to nag because they are conditioned to feel responsible for managing home life. They are also more sensitive to signs that there is something wrong with their spouse. A vague or non-response from their spouse tends to worry women, and so they continue asking. An anxious, obsessive, or highly organized personality of any gender will be more inclined to nag.At the same time, nagees report feeling scolded like a child, not being trusted to be responsible, and having their needs and way of doing things unappreciated. Many couples begin fighting about nagging and end up ignoring the core issues underneath–each individual’s concerns and needs.
1. Admit you are part of the problem. When it comes to the nagging cycle, both parties are guilty and both have work to do to solve their marriage issues. The good news is, there are many steps you can take to find win-win solutions that will leave you both satisfied.
2. When you ask for things, try to frame your request in the least aggressive way possible. The wife in the article began using Post-it notes with funny messages from, for example, the sink that needed unclogging. By communicating through notes instead of face-to-face her husband didn’t feel so attacked and stressed.
3. Try an experiment. Ask once, give a reasonable deadline, and then wait–no more asking in between! Chances are, your spouse will end up accomplishing the task. This may help you realize that he/she does things at his/her own pace, and your requests do get honored in the end. If he doesn’t follow through, you two need to site down and talk about expectations. Begin by explaining your own feelings –how you feel let down and frustrated when something that matters to you is left undone–to avoid being accusatory. Remain open-minded and interested to hear his side of the story.
4. For repeated things that need to get done, such as chores, make a written agreement of how and when each task will be accomplished. Explain to each other what you are willing and able to do each week, and how you prefer to have it done. If you disagree about something, remember to look deep into your underlying reason behind your opinion–don’t get stuck on one solution to your concern when you can find another solution that works for both of you!
Working through nagging issues involves much learning about “what makes the other person tick.” You will grow closer from the process and your marriage will grow stronger!