2020 Is The Year to stop nagging your spouse. Because, seriously, haven’t they already suffered enough this year?
Do any of these sound familiar?
- Why don’t you ever pick up your socks?
- All you ever do is play video games.
- I have to do all the work around here.
- Didn’t I tell you to mow the grass?
If you are married to a nagger or are one yourself, you’ve probably heard statements and questions like these quite often.
What is Nagging?
Nagging is an interaction where one person repeatedly makes a request, the other repeatedly ignores it, and they both get more and more annoyed.
If you are like many other married people, you may believe that the only way to get your spouse to do what you want them to do is to nag them. If they don’t do it when you’ve asked once, you think you have to ask again and again and again. But nagging to get what you want is hurting your relationship more than you probably realize.
Wall Street Journal columnist Elizabeth Bernstein once said that nagging is a “marriage killer… more common than adultery and potentially as toxic.” If you don’t stop nagging, your marriage will be stretched to the limit.
You can also think of nagging as “persistently annoying or finding fault with someone due to a lack of open and honest communication.
“It is better to live in a corner of the housetop than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife.” Proverbs 21:9
Nagging is more than just annoying. It demoralizes your spouse, making them believe they are not good enough. They accept what they see as fact: They are never going to live up to your expectations. Why should they even bother trying?
Why do we nag?
Most people think of wives as the naggers, but both sexes can be guilty of it. It happens when one of you is perturbed, either physically, emotionally, or psychologically, and you have difficulty communicating productively.
If either one of you feels overworked, ignored, overwhelmed, or taken for granted, well then, let the nagging begin!
Nagging also happens sometimes for the best reasons. For example, if your spouse is overweight, you may believe you’re helping when you suggest they lose weight, although the constant nagging is probably going to have the opposite effect.
If the only way you think you can get your needs met by your spouse is to repeat your request for it, day after day, something has gone really wrong in your relationship.
Part of the problem may be that your spouse is not listening to you, but the other part of the problem is you. Yes, you. The constant nagging is probably more about you than it is about them.
What nagging affects
Nagging stops you from having real, effective communication. The one who is being nagged feels invisible and insignificant, so they are less willing to discuss the issues because they don’t want the nagging to begin again.
Can you really blame them for this?
The more someone nags, the less the other person will be inclined to do what they’ve been asked.
“A quarrelsome wife is as annoying as constant dripping on a rainy day.” Proverbs 27:15
If the nagging in your marriage is continual, you may start to believe that you are two people who just can’t get along, and nothing can change it. This belief about your marriage makes you begin to drift apart.
If you are the nagger, you may feel uncared for when your spouse repeatedly ignores your persistent pleas. If you are the one being nagged, you may think that your spouse does not trust you to be responsible.
Nagging creates a negatively charged atmosphere in your marriage. It hurts both of you, not just the target of the nagging. Your spouse feels unappreciated, and you are continuing a cycle of negativity that does not recognize what God has blessed you with. This mindset makes you heavy-hearted instead of living a life of freedom in Christ. You weigh yourself down when He wants you to cast all your cares on Him. Yes, even how you approach getting the kids to bed at night.
Is the nagging communication style in your marriage something you want to improve and change? If yes, then there will never be a better day to stop nagging and have open and honest conversations.
It’s better to live alone in the desert than with a quarrelsome, complaining wife. Proverbs 21:19
Fix your mindset
Part of the problem could be your spouse not listening to you, but the other part of the problem is you. Yes, you. The constant nagging is probably more about you than it is about them.
Instead of believing that your spouse is somehow intentionally ignoring you, or that they are just immature and irresponsible, switch up your mindset so you will think of them as God’s child. Take some time to reflect upon what you love about them and why you married them in the first place. Look at the big picture of what you want your marriage to be.
Don’t look at their inaction as a direct reflection of their feelings for you. There are many other explanations for them not doing what you ask them to do.
“It (love) does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.” – 1 Corinthians 13:5
Are they forgetful? Before you go jumping and say no, remember that our memories do become less reliable as we age. Just because they remembered everything years ago, doesn’t mean they always will now.
Are you sure they knew what you wanted and when? Sometimes we’re 100% confident in our minds what we want them to do, but we might not always communicate it clearly.
Were they distracted when you spoke to them? Perhaps there was something on their mind, and they couldn’t give their full attention to your words, but you didn’t realize that they weren’t really tuned in.
Give your spouse the benefit of the doubt first, and then make a plan that will help you communicate your needs more effectively.
Make a plan
So, what do you do when you’ve asked your spouse to do something, and it isn’t done when or in the way you want? Here are some ideas. Don’t try to do all of them at once. Instead, choose the one that seems the easiest to implement and change the thought patterns so you can stop nagging.
- Pray for strength and wisdom to deal with the situation in a mature, positive way.
- Keep quiet rather than complaining. Take a minute or two to reset your mind and say a prayer before approaching the situation again. Leave the room if you need to. This extra time could prevent you from saying hurtful or disrespectful things.
- Take a look at yourself. Are you tired or cranky? It may be time for bed and not time to get into a difficult discussion. Also, learn more about your own weaknesses and shortcomings and work on improving yourself.
- Accept that you cannot control your spouse. Focus on managing your mindset, feelings, words, and actions. Do your jobs well, and set a good example. Not so you look good, and they look bad, though.
- Use positive reinforcement. No one likes to hear how we don’t measure up. Stop nagging and focus on the good things. If your spouse does the dishes, but not in the exact way you would, thank them for doing them, and accept their effort. This approach will most likely lead to more desirable behavior.
- Put yourself in your partner’s shoes. Ask yourself if you would put up with never-ending criticism if you were them.
- Make sure that you are specific when you communicate your needs. Instead of letting the conversation stop after you say, “Take out the garbage,” and they say, “I will.”
- Make sure you are on the same page as to how and when the task should be done. (This is not a “my way or the highway” situation. Find the best way to do it so you both can be happy.)
- Leave the sarcasm behind. You’ll catch more flies with honey than vinegar, and you’ll get better reactions from your spouse with sweet words than sarcastic ones.
- Drop the absolutes. Never. Always. These words shut down communication. And they do not motivate anyone to do anything.
- Stop asking for things more than once. If you want something, be specific and don’t expect them to read your mind.
- Ask yourself how you feel about making your partner feel rejected and resentful. Unless you are a monster, you probably will feel bad about it, and you’re not a monster, right?
Nagging can erode a relationship’s foundation. It’s like the rocks on a mountain face. Rain, water, and wind erode the surface until the rocks drop. One stone is not a big deal most of the time, but when hundreds of rocks fall, the avalanche can be devastating.
“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord.” Ephesians 5:21-22
Each nagging tone or disrespectful comment is a rock falling on your marriage. If there’s only a few, the damage is minimal, but a continual deluge can permanently destroy your relationship.
You also may enjoy: How To Stop Keeping Score Before You Destroy Your Marriage
If you can’t stop nagging in your marriage, we’d love to help you stop the rocks from falling in the first place. Fill out the form below, and we’ll get back to you with some ideas that may help you.