Is nagging hurting your marriage?

Posted June 23

After being called a nag, Erin Stewart says she realized it was up to her to fix her behavior. (Deseret Photo)

Nag is an ugly word.

It's become a chauvinistic term, often thrown out unfairly when a woman repeats a request or reminds her spouse of a task that needs to be done.

So when I was called a nag recently by someone who shall remain nameless (spoiler alert: we share a bed, a last name and a marriage certificate), I was legitimately steamed about it.

At first, I responded with a defensive gut reaction: I am NOT a nag! I proceeded to explain I don’t want to be the taskmaster but am forced into that role. I made some good points and left the conversation feeling I had presented a bulletproof argument on why I was not a nag.

But later, I thought about why he called me a nag. So I talked with him about where the disconnect was occurring. In my mind, I was offering reminders and suggestions to help our family run smoother. To him, however, I was critiquing his abilities and making him feel like a failure. Although that was not my intention at all, my words were coming across as something demeaning and unlikable.

And while I hate the word nag (and always will), I realized it was up to me to fix my behavior.

So I watched myself in certain situations that my husband might view as nagging. I reminded him about people he needed to call. I asked him when he would get the sprinklers done. I brought up multiple times that we still hadn’t hung all the pictures on the walls since we moved into our house, and at least once I said this in a very passive aggressive way to someone else just so he would hear.

Time after time, the things I “nagged” him about were things that mattered to me but not necessarily to him. And more often than not, my requests were less about the things actually getting done and more about me wanting reassurance that I was a priority for him.

Is my life ruined if the pictures aren’t hung now? No. The core of my nagging is this: I need to know I matter and that he is listening to me and valuing my time and opinions.

And yet, by nagging, I am robbing him of the chance to show me love and cheating myself out of the chance to feel love. If he does the dishes because I nag him to, then his service is out of obligation. But if he does it on his own, I feel he’s doing it because he loves me.

Nagging doesn’t make my husband move any faster or make me feel that he loves me; it just drives a wedge between us. My nagging was not about my husband, but about me. When I realized that, I also realized that I had the power to let it go.

So I am trying something new lately. When I want something done, I stop and ask myself two questions:

1. Do I really need this done now? If the answer is no, I try to let it go. If the answer is yes, I decide whether the task is something I could reasonably do myself. If not, could I hire someone to do it? And if, at the end of the day, I really do need my husband to do it, I ask him and tell him it’s important to me.

2. Do I want this done because I need to feel that I am important to my husband? If the answer is yes, I am trying a new approach where I forget about the task and instead go straight to my husband and tell him, “I need more validation.” I have done this twice now, and while it was super embarrassing to admit, the conversation ended with him telling me he loves me and hugging me. And as a bonus, he actually did the things I needed done just as a way to show me he cared.

Now, I’m sure there will be times when I become the dreaded nag. That is inevitable because I am an imperfect wife. But I'm working on it. And my husband has behaviors he is working on as well to better our marriage.

But guess what? I don’t control those things. I can’t change him, and I wouldn’t want to. All I can control is me, and as I try to rein in my inner nag, I find that I like myself more, am getting the love I need more often and am learning to live with the pictures on the floor because really, it was never about them anyway.

Erin Stewart is a regular blogger for Deseret News. From stretch marks to the latest news for moms, she discusses it all while her 9-year-old and 5-year-old daughters dive-bomb off the couch behind her.


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