Nagging takes place when one person in a couple repeatedly makes an often simple request of the other who consistently ignores it.
As this behavior continues the couple become frustrated, fractious and likely to have a major row about who didn't take the bins out when the other thought they should have. If this sounds familiar then you will know the destructive potential of this seemingly simple relationship problem. Unfortunately it can be as dangerous to a marriage as infidelity.
Who does the nagging?
Perhaps the first myth to deal with is that it's only women who nag. Men do it too. Although there is some anecdotal evidence which might suggest women are sometimes a little more persistent.
Nagging is a manifestation of some more fundamental difficulties within the marriage. It's about the balance of power within the relationship and the esteem each holds for the other.
What actually happens
One of the couple believes that they won't get what they want from the other, so they feel the need to ask repeatedly in order to get it. It can be a vicious self reinforcing spiral. The naggee tires of the constant nagging and starts to resist even more. This can make the nagger step up the pressure by nagging all the more. Left unresolved the danger to the relationship will only increase.
Most couples confront this problem at some point if only because it is having such an effect upon their relationship. The sooner they learn to reduce this type of negative communication the quicker they will substantially increase their odds of staying together and keeping their love alive. So what can be done to halt the dangerous consequences of unconstrained nagging?
Some useful advice on how to stop nagging
The key to working on this problem is to recognise that the resolution of it lies in both the nagger and the nagee changing their behavior. Both need to play their part in changing their behavior to fix it.
Look at the situation from the other person's perspective
Always a good plan when trying to resolve relationship problems. The nagger may well feel that because they are being ignored they are not loved and cherished. On the other hand the naggee may feel that they are not being appreciated for what they are already doing.
Be positive in your requests
If you are the nagger then try to phrase you request in a positive way ‘Could you pay the credit card bill on time, it'll save on late payment fees' rather than the negative accusation of 'You never pay the credit card bill on time so we get late payment fees.' It makes a big difference.
Acknowledge the need to adjust the power balance
Nagging is often about the power imbalance within the relationship. If the nagging is persistent it may be that the nagger is trying to control his or her partner by the constant demands. So the nagging is not about doing the washing up, tiling the bathroom or paying bills on time. It's about who dominates the marriage. This needs to be discussed and resolved gently and kindly.
The job does not have to be done right now
If you want something to be done by your partner look towards a positive approach and a reasonable timeframe. ‘Oh, could you do so and so over the weekend' is so much less confrontational than ‘I need so and so done now.' This takes the controlling edge from the request and makes it gentler and more reasonable.
Every request needs a positive answer
Always respond to request in a positive way even if the nature of the response is not quite what your partner was expecting. ‘Can't do it tonight but will get it done before the weekend' is just fine. Making non committal noises or gestures is infuriating and is probably the worst reply you could give. It suggest that you are not interested and don't care either. This is to be avoided as it will be counterproductive and make something that is just very annoying a whole lot worse.
Nagging will only be a relationship problem if you let it be one. Take action to resolve it as soon as you can and it will rapidly be a distant memory.