Why we do it and how to break the cycle
I had a short ‘conversation’ with my husband a few weeks or so ago that went a bit like this:
Me: “Darling, is there any chance you’d mind putting the loo seat down after you’ve used it as it looks really horrid, isn’t hygienic and I hate looking at it….”
Husband: “Oh sorry, yes of course”.
Later that day:
Husband: “Yeah okay, sorry”.
The following day:
Me: “Brett (darling)….loo seat – still up. Please can you put it down….THANK YOU”.
Me: “PUT THE BLOODY LOO SEAT DOWN!!!!”
Where do I start on the subject of nagging? It feels like a war mainly waged by women on their husbands (or children) to PLEASE just KINDLY DO or DO NOT DO that thing I have repeatedly, incessantly asked you!!!
Personally, I hate nagging, I hate the way it makes me feel and I hate to think that I have fallen into the trap of becoming ‘a nag’. Nagging, after all, has so many negative connotations, who would want to wear the label? For women though, it’s simple.
If you just did what I’m asking then I wouldn’t have to keep repeatedly reminding you… or… If you don’t want me to nag, just do what I’m asking and I’ll stop.
In my experience, most nagging is centred around all things domestic. What may seem important to us however, is often seen as insignificant to the partner that is being nagged, hence the reason they are repeatedly committing the said ‘offence’ in the first place. It is an age old battle where no-one it seems comes out a winner. The nagger feels resentment and so does the recipient of the nag. So what can we do to break the cycle, a cycle that is in danger of damaging our marriages and partnerships? Firstly, we need to understand a few things…why women nag, why men don’t listen and what we can do to help create positive change…
Why women nag – husbands take note
1. We nag because we care. If you aren’t looking after your health for example, we may nag you to go to the gym, eat better, stop smoking, stop drinking so much. Nag, nag, loving nag.
2. We nag because we are unhappy or stressed about something other than the thing we are nagging about. If we are unhappy, in a generally bad mood or stressed, it stands to reason that we will nag you more than if we were in a relaxed happy place (sorry about that).
3. We nag because we may irrationally (or rationally) believe that you not doing what we’ve asked is a sign that you do not care for our feelings or respect them. This can build resentment and create a disproportionate level of anger towards the seemingly most trivial of issues.
4. Finally, we nag because you are plain and simply bugging the cr*p out of us by not respectfully completing the basic request we have put before you!
I quizzed my husband on the subject of nagging so we could hear it from the other side. This is why he believes nagging doesn’t work:
1. Timing. Having a bad day or worse having a good day can either be exacerbated or stopped in its tracks with one good nag from the wife.
2. Perceived insignificance of the issue compounded by the demoralising and negative impact it has on your outlook towards your partner.
3. Tone often disproportionate to the issue…(note from the author: possibly after the 5th time darling but as men don’t listen the 4 times before I can see how this would appear to be the case).
4. Forgetfulness is mistaken for a wilful desire and deliberate intent to annoy you by not caring. Men are forgetful about these things – fact.
5. It doesn’t work 90% of the time so what is the point in doing it? More than 2-3 times a day and possibly across a variety of issues and the man will likely switch off completely, resulting in no action and high levels of dissatisfaction from both parties.
6. He suggests no more than ONE nag a day delivered ‘playfully’.
How to break the cycle and control what’s nagging at YOU
The truth is nobody likes to nag or be nagged. Nagging is often perceived as criticism and is both wearing and potentially damaging if it is done too frequently. Nagging certainly doesn’t make you feel loving towards each other, instead it creates an unpleasant atmosphere full of unspoken friction and hostility. So how do we break the cycle?
1. It’s not what you say, it’s the way that you say it…Patience is key here. Your nag may well have started out as a reasonable request but by the 3rd, 4th or 5th time of asking you have already entered into the ‘nagging zone’. A zone fraught with frustration and annoyance where the naggee mentally hits the mute button on you if he sniffs even a hint of your inner angst. No matter how you maybe feeling, take a step back, go scream into a pillow, come back, take a deep breath and apply a neutral easy-breezy tone to your ‘gentle reminder’. The ‘always nicely’ approach is much more likely to produce a positive result than the snarling put down.
2. Look at the bigger picture and accept what you cannot change. This may feel like a tough one but sometimes you have to question whether what you are nagging about is really important enough to risk damaging your relationship and your emotional health. Whether your nagging is valid or not, maybe it’s time to let go for your own sanity. Question what the ultimate cost of your nagging could be and whether it would be worth it? Unless you intend to leave them, accept there are some things you will have to live with in your partner whether you like them or not. Instead of channeling your energy into all the things that annoy you, focus instead on all the great things they do right.
3. Is the nagging really about what’s going on with your partner or about what’s going on with you? Do you find there are times when you are more prone to nagging than others? As I mentioned earlier in why women may nag, our own general emotional health and happiness may have a direct influence on our nagging behaviour. If we can recognise that there is a pattern then we are more likely to be able to control it. I know myself that when I feel relaxed, I am much less likely to nag. If your nagging is related to a bigger picture in your relationship then instead of picking on the little things perhaps it’s time to have a real chat about the deeper meaning behind it. Instigate the conversation when you feel calm and try not to dish out the blame. Loving communication is the key to unlocking a more harmonious ‘nag free’ relationship for you both.
P.S. I overheard my husband tell my son to put the loo seat down today….one small step for him…one giant leap for womankind!