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Secrets To A Happy Marriage Part 12: Stop the Nagging!

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Secrets To A Happy Marriage Part 12: Stop the Nagging!

On May 20, 2013, Posted by , In All Posts,Happy Marriage, With No Comments

Hi, this is Mike Tucker with Mad About Marriage.

I usually have the privilege of bringing our weekly blog posts to you, but today we have a guest blogger who is very special to me: my wife, Gayle Tucker.

I’ve asked Gayle to write a post on a topic/problem that is common to many marriages: Nagging.

In our travels throughout North America and beyond, one of the most common complaints we hear from couples is that there is altogether too much nagging in marriage and it’s driving them crazy!

So today, Gayle will share four steps with you that will reduce the amount of nagging in your marriage, if this is something you’re dealing with. But if it is not, then consider sharing these four steps with someone you know who is.

So, it is with great pleasure that I introduce our guest blogger for today’s post: Mrs. Gayle Tucker!

Modern Day Chinese Water Torture

It has been said, “Unpleasantness outside is easy to bear, but nagging at home is hard on the ear.”

Indeed, one of the stereotypical arguments against getting married is that one will be chained for life to a nagging wife or husband.  You will never again experience freedom because of the constant, irritating demands of an overbearing spouse.

Typically – and unfairly, I might add – nagging is attributed to the wife. Even Solomon endorses this view when he says in Proverb 19:13: “…the quarreling of a woman is a continuous dripping.”

Truthfully, we know that a quarreling, critical spirit can be equally present in both men and women, but it is difficult to argue with Solomon’s comparison: Drip…drip…drip.

When you’re on the receiving end of nagging, it seems that the requests, the criticism, and the over-instructing never stop.

Like Chinese water torture, the effect is to slowly drive you out of your mind.

What Is Nagging, Really?

In preparation for writing this article, I consulted a dictionary and thesaurus in order to get a more complete grasp on the definition of nagging.  My conclusion was that, for most people, merely reading the dictionary would serve as a huge deterrent for nagging!  Here’s the definition:

Entry word: Nag

1) to subject (someone) to constant scolding and sharp reminders

No one really wants to be thought of in those terms – as sharp and scolding – but when you read the accompanying description, it gets even worse:


dog, henpeck, hound, needle, peck (at)

Related Words:

carp (at), fuss (about or over), nitpick; annoy, badger, bait, bother, bug, chivy (or chivvy), harass, harry, hassle, irk, pester, plague, ride, vex, yap (at); egg, goad, incite, prod, prompt, spur, urge; exhort, insist, press, pressure, push; blandish, cajole, coax, wheedle; beg, importune, plead

Wow! No wonder we avoid nagging people.  Nitpicky, annoying, badgering, bothersome, harassing, irksome, and more. We don’t want to be around that person – and we certainly don’t want to be that person.

The Opposite of Nagging

On the other side of the coin, look at the dictionary listing of antonyms, or opposites, of nag:

Near antonyms:

commend, laud, praise, recommend, tout; acclaim, applaud, build up, eulogize, extol

Note the stark contrast.

It seems that the solution to nagging begins to emerge simply through the understanding of the behavior itself.  Do you want to be around a person who nitpicks, annoys, and badgers? Or would you rather be with one who commends, lauds, praises, applauds, and build you up?

The answer is obvious. Now, how do you think your spouse feels?

Employing the “opposites” of nagging may be one of the best strategies for curing the problem.

But, you say, it’s not always that easy. You’ve tried asking nicely, and your spouse seems to ignore you or doesn’t do things the way you want them to be done.

Often, husbands and wives nag each other out of frustration. They have a desire or need, and they seem to encounter a brick wall when asking their spouse to meet the need.

All they know to do is continue to ask again and again, with increasing force and criticism, usually to no avail. If the spouse does comply, it is usually a grudging compliance.

The eventual result is resentment on both sides, as the requesting spouse concludes that their partner is cold and uncaring, and the receiving spouse feels judged and disrespected.

Resentment is caustic and very dangerous in marriage.

When resentment builds over one issue, it easily spills over to other aspects of your relationship and soon begins to color your entire attitude toward your spouse.  You no longer see the wonderful, funny, talented person you married.  In fact, before long, you can’t see anything good.

Steps For Overcoming Nagging

So, what can you do? Here are a few suggestions for overcoming nagging and the resulting resentment:

1) First, ask yourself how important this issue is

Take an honest look at the issue. Is it something that you could let go or simply do yourself? Does it really matter that it be done your way, or can you be content with your spouse doing it in their own way and on their own timetable?

If you see that this is not important in the big picture, and it’s possible to let the issue go without creating greater resentment, then let it go. If your core relationship is in good shape, it’s often possible to do this.

2) If you want something, learn to ask clearly and kindly

It’s unfortunate how many married people expect their spouses to read their minds.

Nagging sometimes begins because a need was not clearly expressed in the first place. It’s important to let your spouse know your needs and wants.

Be sure to ask, not demand.

Make it a request rather than a command, and be open to hearing your partner’s response. Be respectful of their schedule and their thoughts about the request.  You may find that they are willing to do what you’ve asked, but perhaps it will be later than you anticipated. Knowing this will make you feel more content, rather than assuming the worst when it doesn’t happen on your timetable.

Don’t just drop hints that they might never pick up on – and even if they do, it will take longer to get what you want than if you would’ve just told them in the first place.

3) Assume the best about your spouse’s response

Once you have expressed your desire, assume that your spouse will respond positively. Don’t keep repeating the request, but patiently give your spouse a chance to respond.

4) Learn to use “I” statements

If you meet resistance to your request, practice using “I” statements.

Express your request to your spouse using statements that focus on your own needs and feelings about the situation. For example: “I need you to do _____.  I feel like we’re on the same team when you take responsibility for handling this task.”

If you are attempting to deal with a previously unmet need that has caused a negative situation, a pattern for expressing your concern is:

“When (describe the behavior or incident) happens, I feel (hurt, angry, disrespected) .  I need (describe what you would like to have happen now) .”

You are responsible for your own feelings and perceptions. Expressing what you feel, think, or perceive will make much more of an impression on your spouse (who loves you) than will “you always” or “you never” remarks that put them on the defensive.

4) Respond promptly to requests

Much nagging comes as a result of frustration over a lack of action after a request has been made. So, if you feel that your spouse is a “nagger,” be proactive in solving the problem.

When your spouse asks you to do something, respond promptly: 1) acknowledge that you have heard the request; 2) tell them whether or not you can do what they have asked, and why; 3) give them a timetable to put their mind as ease; 4) complete the task as quickly as possible.

Developing a track record of honest response to requests and of completed tasks will begin to put your spouses’ mind at ease and will foster an attitude of respect.


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