You’re in a relationship and find yourself asking your partner to do something repeatedly. You ask them, they forget to do it. Then, you ask them again, and it’s the same hamster wheel again and again. And before you know it, your calm requests take on the subtle overtones of a nagging confrontation! Here’s how to stop nagging for a happier relationship.
What is nagging?
Nagging is a repetitive behavior of persistently annoying someone to do something or to put them down. It sounds awful but is rarely meant with malice. Nagging isn’t usually about the person being nagged but the person doing the nagging, i.e. you.
[Read: Relationship facts – the real facts of love no one talks about]
Sure, you may nag your partner to pick up their dirty clothes and put them in the hamper, but the reason it bothers you so much is usually deeper. And the fact that the behavior you’re nagging about isn’t changing proves that the nagging doesn’t work.
Why we nag in the first place
You came looking for this article for a reason. Either you’ve picked up on your habit of nagging on your own, or, more likely, it is driving your partner crazy and you want to do better. First off, good for you.
It is hard to admit that you are nagging. Most of us who nag make excuses for the behavior like, “I wouldn’t have to nag if you would just do it the first time I asked.”
[Read: Why you keep having the same fight and how to break an unhealthy cycle]
This is a behavior we learned from experiencing it ourselves. Maybe it was your mom on your dad to fix the sink or your parents nagging you about homework or chores. We are exposed to constant pestering from a young age. And I’m not blaming your parents. Their parents did it too.
We all hate it being done to us but yet the day comes where we pick up on this annoying habit. And it comes on slowly so we don’t always realize it.
Nagging in a relationship
It starts with something small. We tell ourselves we are just reminding our partner to do something so they don’t forget. Then we tell ourselves we are just worried about them so we bring it up, and then bring it up again.
Those reminders and worries then turn into suggestions and complaints. And that nagging does not help a relationship.
[Read: How to love someone: The easy guide to grow closer and love deeper]
But, why does this happen? Well, both men and women nag, but about different things. Stereotypically, a man may nag his wife to bring her car for an oil change and a woman might nag her husband to unclog the toilet.
This is because traditionally women take on the responsibility of the home and men the yard or cars. This isn’t to say this is normal or common, but an archaic example.
When you are nagging, it is because you feel responsible for the action that isn’t being done when really you have no control over it. You may feel you must keep a clean house, but when it comes to your partner’s items, it is up to them what to do with it.
[Read: The biggest and most obvious signs of a controlling person]
Why nagging someone doesn’t really work
You may think, how hard is it to put dirty clothes in the hamper? But because it isn’t a priority to them, they don’t do it. And the more it bothers you, the more you nag, and the less likely they are to do it.
You end up have the same argument over and over which only adds to the negative effects of nagging.And this goes deeper than household chores. When you nag, not only do you feel in control, but you are seen as the one who is right. Clearly, your intent is for the good of the home while your partner is simply ignoring you. You see them following your requests as a favor for you. And when they don’t follow through, it is an issue for them, not for you.
This leads to you continuing to nag as it is something they need to do, not something you need to stop doing. And this continues until the action is changed, that is, until the next thing.
Why you should stop nagging
The reasoning behind nagging goes very deep. This is why according to therapists, nagging is the leading cause of divorce.
Someone who is prone to nagging won’t stop when things change. Even if your partner follows through on what you’re nagging about, you’ll find a new focus.
This is why so many relationships don’t come back from incessant nagging. The occasional nag is not something to worry too much about, but if it is a major issue in your relationship, it can be hard to overcome.
[Read: The critical signs of an unhealthy relationship]
Nagging is essentially a learned behavior that you are now addicted to in a sense. It is your baseline. Nagging comes from wanting more done. It is a way to look for a problem, and there are a ton of psychological issues behind that, which can be brought on by your childhood.
Next to therapy to help train you out of this habit, there are some ways you can practice breaking your nagging habit before it destroys your relationship.
How to stop nagging and learn to communicate well instead
Appreciation and gratitude can help you fight your urge to nag. Cheesy, yes, but stick with me. Focus on what they do for you instead of what they aren’t doing or the behavior you’d like them to stop.
Maybe they can’t get their dirty socks in the laundry, but they do scrub the toilet once a week. Maybe you feel they play video games too much, but they sit down and eat a meal with you every night.
I am not saying you should forget about things your partner does or doesn’t do. But appreciating the good things can lessen the effects of what you’re nagging about. Changing your thinking will do a lot more good for you than them changing their behavior anyway.
[Read: How to show your appreciation to those you love and express gratitude]
Every time you feel on the verge of nagging your partner about something, repeat to yourself, “I am grateful for *something your partner does*.” The mindset can help you see your partner in a more positive light, so your go-to reaction isn’t to nag.
This is similar to picking your battles. Is nagging about this worth a fight? Is nagging about this worth your relationship? Taking time to think about why you nag can help you retrain your brain to respond in a different way.
When your partner does something that annoys you, forgive them. If they leave beard trimming in the sink, instead of losing your cool, forgive them. Remember, forgiveness isn’t about them, but about you.
Do you want to feel stressed, high-strung, and annoyed? Do you want to carry all the responsibility for the things you’re nagging about? No.
Forgiving your partner for these things will not only ease their burden but yours too. [Read: How to forgive someone and learn to unburden your own mind]
The psychological effects of nagging someone
You expect your partner to love and cherish you through your nagging, but you can’t forgive them for leaving the toilet seat up? How is that an equal relationship that is based on respect?
[Read: How to manage your expectations in a relationship]
Relationships cannot be everything for you. You cannot expect your partner to please you in every way just as you can’t please them in every way. That is an expectation so many people have of relationships that is unhealthy and unrealistic.
A relationship will not fill every void. And for many women, nagging puts pressure on a partner to be better or do more. In reality, men recede from nagging. They turn into themselves which doesn’t help you or the situation. Again, proving nagging doesn’t produce results, or at least not positive ones.
If you expect your partner to change their behavior because they love you, can they not expect that same thing of you? If you love them, why would you not change your behavior? Because loving someone isn’t about changing for them or them changing for you, but about loving each other with these annoyances and still making it work.
[Read: Insecurity in a relationship: How to be more secure and love better]
Learning how to stop nagging isn’t about changing your behavior, but it’s time to adjust your behavior. Start small, and with some time and effort, you can get rid of the addictive habit of nagging.
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