By Linda K. Laffey, MFT

Nagging is something that society pegs on women a lot—specifically wives. We like to call it aggressive reminding or helpful suggesting. After all, if our partners loved us, wouldn’t they try to accommodate our simple pleas?

It’s not rocket science to know that dirty clothes go in the laundry basket. And it doesn’t take marathon-like energy to toss them in the basket each day. But for many couples—with dirty clothes on the floor—nagging is a genuine problem causing a rift in the relationship.

Unfortunately, nagging isn’t a successful strategy—but there’s a better way. If you’re frustrated by your partner’s behavior and have resorted to continual reminders and suggestions, you might be nagging. Here’s how to tell.

Your Hints Are Too Vague

Plenty of under-the-breath or sarcastic comments slip out with the intent to evoke some change in the listening partner. Surely they’ll catch your drift! Instead, your words tend to tunnel through their mind—here and then gone again.

If you’re reminding your partner “in code” or by spouting off vague requests, it’s probably nagging. To avoid this habit, it’s best to talk in specifics and attach a positive emotion to your request.

You Feel Angry

Does the sight of crumbs on the countertop or a sock on the floor make you see red? Perhaps you’ve asked your partner two dozen times to wipe the counter off after making toast. Or, maybe you bought a trendy (and convenient) laundry basket for dirty clothes, but it just sits there, next to the socks on the floor.

It’s only natural to think angry when your partner doesn’t comply with your requests. Not only does it create more work for you, but you might also feel that they don’t love or respect you.

The issue behind the anger is that life and marriage are so much bigger than crumbs and socks. Nagging often blinds us to life’s landscape and hones in on the tiny details that currently irk you.

You Repeat Yourself Often

Do you ever wish you could record yourself saying the “helpful suggestion,” so you don’t have to say the same thing over and over?

Repeating yourself is a surefire sign that you’re nagging instead of promoting any effective communication. If you identify this habit in yourself, swallow the jagged pill that your partner doesn’t honestly hear you.

Instead of being a broken record, take a step back, and try to find a new approach. It will save you the frustration of saying the same thing repeatedly with little to no results.

You Focus on Negatives Not Positives

When you find yourself trying to help your partner with reminders, it’s likely because they’re not doing something right—according to you. One annoying “wrongdoing” can quickly snowball into them doing nothing right in your eyes.

Nagging has a way of only pointing out the negatives. Perceived flaws become a more significant problem, and negativity becomes the theme of your communication.

To battle this impact, try to focus on the anticipated needs that your partner is meeting. Sure, their socks never made it to the laundry basket, but did they frequently take over mealtime duties?
Nagging isn’t always the same as how the cartoons and sitcoms portray it—but it’s just as ineffective. Keeping the harmony in your household means understanding the dynamics of your relationship and improving upon them.

Take the first step…

If you would like to understand more about yourself and how you approach relationships, I would like to help. Please contact me via phone or email so we can discuss how we might work together to achieve your therapeutic goals as quickly and effectively as possible.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Linda K. Laffey, MFT

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