Situation comedies are the worst when it comes to portraying relationships. Typically we see the “I don’t have a clue” husband whose wife is constantly telling him what to do. While we may laugh at this comedy routine, there is nothing funny about it in real life. No one likes to be belittled and told what to do! We call this nagging.

Nagging works like this. You make a request or a demand. You are ignored so you make it again. However, the more you badger the person to do what you want, the more he or she withdraws or purposely doesn’t do it. Repeated asking doesn’t seem to work. It usually ends in more distance between a couple. Yet many couples are locked into this pattern. And when this pattern continues, it is a relationship killer.

Eventually, actual problems in the relationship take a back seat to the experience of nagging. In fact, Dr. Markman at the University of Denver’s Center for Marital and Families found this to be true. When a couple starts fighting about the nagging and not the issues that created it, the couple is  in danger of divorce. Nagging becomes part of an overall negative communication pattern.

The impact of such a negative communication pattern is a growing insecurity. It feels like you can’t do anything right. And that insecurity then leads to relationship dissatisfaction. If that dissatisfaction continues, it can lead to bitterness and resentment. In some cases, nagging results in anger and blow ups. Over time, the person who nags eventually becomes a source of stress-someone you don’t want to be around. Then, nagging can lead to lost love.

Consider these 6 tips to stop the nagging pattern: 

1. Listen to the tone of your voice. Does it sound demanding, negative or unpleasant?

2. Check your body language. Do you look angry, unapproachable or even disgusted?

3. Begin a request with a softened tone. We know from couples work that a soft start up with conflict works best.

4. Figure out what is behind the nagging. 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? Whatever the issue, get to the why.

5. Once you understand the WHY behind nagging, take a different approach. You and your partner can talk about these issues. Discuss the WHY and then other ways to solve the issue. Take nagging off the table as a productive solution to getting needs met.

6. Then ask, does the nagging actually works? Not usually. And it sets up a negative cycle of communication that leads to resentment and pulling away. So lose the nagging in order to save your relationship.

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