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Why Nagging Doesn't Work

Quit Nagging!

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Photo: Alex Gumerov / iStockphoto
Photo: Alex Gumerov / iStockphoto
If you are at your wit's end because your spouse leaves the bathroom in chaos, never cleans out the bathtub or shower, lets things slide, throws clothes on the floor, conveniently forgets to take out the trash, doesn't follow through with promises to do household chores, ignores reasonable requests to pick things up, refuses to quit smoking or lose weight, watches too much television, is on the computer a tremendous amount of time, and on, and on, and on... you may find yourself nagging or being demanding.

Face it. Nagging doesn't work!!

What is Nagging?

Have you ever thought about what nagging is? Here are some related terms for nagging:
faultfinding, continually complaining, criticism, catty, carping, coaxing, cynical, demanding, dunning, hairsplitting, insistent, nit-picking, overcritical, peevish, persistent, pestering, pettish, pressing, quibble, recurring, relentless, shrewish, slam, swipe, unrelenting, urging, and wheedling.

The Vicious Cycle of Nagging

Nagging can become a vicious cycle. The more you nag, the more your mate avoids you or withdraws both emotionally and physically from you, so the more you nag.

Is this really how you want to live?

Why Nagging Doesn't Work

  • Even though your gripes may be valid, nagging makes your spouse resentful.
  • Nagging makes your spouse defensive.
  • Nagging puts you in the parent role and your spouse in the child role. This isn't healthy for your marriage relationship.
  • Nagging is disrespectful.
  • Nagging is often perceived as criticism, so your spouse may tune out making what you are saying ineffective.
  • When your spouse is being nagged, he/she probably feels attacked personally.
  • Nagging can make your spouse feel inadequate.

Ways to Avoid Being a Nag

  • Don't blame.
  • Don't demean.
  • Don't attack.
  • Don't criticize.
  • Don't manipulate.
  • Avoid making your spouse feel stupid.
  • Don't give in to your frustration and do your spouse's chores. Your mate needs to learn to deal with the logical consequences of being messy.

Instead of Nagging, Try Positive Approaches

  • Share your feelings.
  • Stick to the issue at hand.
  • Keep your statements brief so they don't turn into long lectures.
  • Don't make ultimatums.
  • Avoid using the phrases, "You always..." and "You never..." and "You should..."
  • Consider saying "would you" or "will you" rather than "could you" or "can you". There's a subtle difference in the way the request will be heard by your spouse.
  • Set a good example in picking up after yourself, putting your clothes away or in the hamper, leaving the bathroom is good shape after your shower or bath, eating healthy foods, exercising, etc.
  • Try to brainstorm solutions with your spouse. Hiring a housekeeper or a handyman now and then may be a good alternative for some couples.
  • Acknowledge your different perspectives regarding chores and housekeeping expectations.
  • Show your appreciation when your spouse does put dishes in the dishwasher, or picks up a towel, turns off the television to take a walk with you, or when dirty clothes end up in the hamper.
  • See what happens if you stop nagging.

Elizabeth Bernstein: "The first step in curbing the nagging cycle, experts say, is to admit that you are stuck in a bad pattern. You are fighting about fighting. You need to work to understand what makes the other person tick. Rather than lazy and unloving, is your husband overworked and tired? Is your wife really suggesting she doesn't trust you? Or is she just trying to keep track of too many chores?"
Source: Elizabeth Bernstein. "Meet the Marriage Killer." WSJ.com. 1/25/2012.

If you are the One Being Nagged

  • Accept your responsibility in helping to create a home environment that has triggered a nagging response in your spouse.
  • Honestly evaluate your attitude about chores, picking up after yourself, annoying habits, and more.
  • Ask yourself if you have a pattern of avoidance when it comes to chores or other issues.
  • If you ignore your mate's requests or refuse to even acknowledge that you heard what your spouse has said to you, stop this behavior. Really try to listen and to respond to your spouse. It is okay to say no. At least your spouse will know you heard what was said.

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