Doing Life Together

conversation-799448_1920Jan repeatedly asks her husband not to leave his briefcase by the bedroom door. But every day when he comes home, he drops it right where she said not to. So she repeats the request. He agrees he won’t do it again. But he does. This night, Jan tripped over the case and stubbed her toe. She was upset and yelled, “How many times do I have to tell you to stop doing this? You are a grown man. Is it too difficult to put your briefcase on the chair instead of the doorway?” But every night it it the same despite Jan’s repeated pleas to stop.

There are some things you simply do not do to make a relationship better. One of those you see in sit coms. The “I don’t have a clue” husband whose wife is constantly telling him what to do, or reminding him what he seems not to be doing. While we may laugh at this comedy routine, there is nothing funny about it in real couple relationships. It’s called nagging.

Nagging is a relationship killer and works this way. You make a request, the request is ignored and you make it again. But the more you badger the person to do something, the more he or she withdraws. Repeated asking doesn’t work. It usually ends in more distance between a couple. Yet many couples are locked into this pattern.

What Dr. Markman, at the University of Denver’s Center for Marital and Families Studies, found was that when couples start fighting about  nagging and not the issues that created it, couples are in danger of divorce. Nagging is part of an overall negative communication pattern. It basically says you don’t trust your partner to complete a task. It’s counterproductive, often emasculating, and can bring out a feeling of resistance or rebellion.

So if you find yourself nagging and the other person ignores you, stop the pattern. It isn’t working and leads to lost love. Listen to the tone of your voice. Check your body language.

Instead, begin a request with a softened tone. Figure out what is behind the nagging and asked yourself:

    Are you afraid you won’t get what you want from your partner?

     Are you overloaded with too much to do?

     Are you overly obsessive about things getting done immediately?

     Are you expecting your partner to think and be like you?

     Are you Type A living with Type B?

Understanding what prompts you to nag, may help you take a different approach. You and your partner can talk about these issues. Then look at whether or not the nagging actually works? If not, it is probably setting up a negative cycle of communication that leads to resentment and emotional distance.

Try this: Before repeating yourself again, say, “I am trying to understand what is happening right now, could you help me understand?” Make sure there is more praise than criticism in your relationship. Think about what might be behind the nagging–are you feeling ignored, overwhelmed, in need of more closeness, etc. Then, talk about expectations. And stop the nagging because it is doing harm not good.

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