Nagging… in short, it’s obnoxious and it does not produce desirable results. If you were to poll married men, or men who have been in a long term dating relationship, and asked them to list their top five things they absolutely cannot stand in male/female relationships, I would expect most of them to list nagging. Being nagged can feel like listening to nails on a chalkboard. While traditionally considered a female character trait, there are men who nag as well. They may prefer to call it “reminding” (as many women do); yet, at the end of the day, the recipient feels exactly the same after being repeatedly reminded of something – just like it feels being nagged. After being nagged, it is common to feel beaten up, listless, angry, frustrated, exhausted, and sometimes depressed. Additionally, whatever motivation the other person was feeling for accomplishing the task dies when he or she is badgered to do it.
‘Nagging’ is one of those words that is never used in a positive context. Some synonyms for nagging include “pestering,” “harassing,” and “hassling.” The word ‘nagging’ can be used to express a pain or problem that won’t go away. I have never heard the word ‘nagging’ used in the context of anything pleasant. We don’t read lines such as, “That nagging teacher blessed my life,” or “When that nagging pain in my leg got worse, I wanted to sing and dance.”
So, with all of its undesired results, one may wonder why nagging is still such a popular pastime if it has such a negative reputation?
Those who nag are generally those who struggle with worry. When worriers see things that need to be done and they can’t get the task done themselves – or they know that the task is better suited for someone more qualified to handle it – they may feel driven to remind others of their responsibilities until they finally complete them.
Those naggers who do not struggle with worry may instead struggle with bossiness or laziness. If they are not nagging out of worry, then they could be nagging because they either feel they have the right to order others around or because they are too lazy themselves to do what needs to be done. Whatever the reason for nagging, the same results occur: frustration, resentment, and bitterness.
Another reason that people nag is because they are discontent with their relationship. This is particularly germane to women. Instead of dealing with the issue in a calm, rational manner, we take the passive aggressive route by nagging our boyfriend, fiancé, or husband. We may feel better for the moment, but this doesn’t really solve anything for the long-term.
So, what does nagging say about you? It says that you don’t believe that the other person will follow through with what he or she said will get done. It says that you don’t trust the other person. It says that you feel you must act like the other person’s parent to get him or her to do the things you want that person to do. It says that you don’t love and respect your significant other. Seriously.
Does nagging ever work? Well, yes. Nagging may eventually cause people to do what you ask of them, but it comes at a steep cost. This is because when nagging others becomes a habit, then resentment will build into their hearts unless the recipients are taking specific safeguards against such resentment.
When I got married, I decided that I would not ever be a nagging wife. Watching men get nagged by the woman in their lives always left me feeling sick inside. So, I thought I would never fall into the “nagging wife trap.” By the grace of God, and because of a patient husband, I have not turned into a nagging wife; however, I have nagged Eric from time to time.
It could have easily become a habit if Eric had allowed it. Thankfully, when I begin to repeat a request, he calmly tells me that he’s beginning to feel nagged. That is usually all I need to hear. My husband’s opinion of me means the world to me; so, the last thing I would want is to push him away by disrespectfully badgering him.
A phrase such as, “You may have already been planning to take care of this, but just in case you forgot, _______ needs to be done” is much better than, “I thought I asked you last week to take care of this? Weren’t you listening?” However, some nagging-conditioned people still bristle at hearing a sweet request when it comes more than a couple times. It may be that he or she thinks you’re questioning their integrity in doing what he or she said would get done (are you?). But, in any case, always be sure to spend more time affirming your spouse or significant other than you do making requests of them.
So, what is the cure for nagging? It involves discovery, respect, a plan, and grace.
- Discovery. It is important to get to the bottom of why the person who is nagging is doing so. Is she doing it out of discontentment? … out of past anger or hurt? … out of laziness? Is he doing it out of a desire to control? … to suppress? … out of anger?Plan a time, preferably in public when both of you are calm, where you can both discuss this issue. Since nagging is counter-productive to intimacy, it is important to discover why it is happening and see what can be done to resolve the issue. If the conversation gets heated, it may be time to see a marriage and family counselor. Even if you don’t have serious problems in your relationship, a counselor can help you tweak those relationship settings to make your relational engine go from running okay to purring.
- Respect (and Love). It ultimately comes down to an issue of the heart. The fact is that a person who nags does not respect the person they are nagging. Wives, we are commanded to give our husbands unconditional respect as unto the Lord (Ephesians 5:33). But, husbands, that doesn’t get you off the hook. Husbands are to unconditionally love their wives as Christ loved the Church (Ephesians 5:25) – and Christ does not present a model of tyranny over His bride. Get your hearts in check toward each other and serve each other in love and respect to meet each other’s greatest need.
- A Plan. Practically, something needs to be done. If he or she does oftenforget things that need to get done, alternative methods may be more appropriate than the “friendly reminder.” A helpful method is to have a To Do list. This can be a magnetic notepad or whiteboard on the refrigerator, an Outlook reminder task, or a cell phone alarm. Even for those types who don’t flourish under such a list, I recommend that you give it a try for at least 30 days – especially for the sake of the elimination of nagging – and see how it works for you.Additionally, boundaries need to be put into place. I can’t control how others talk to me, but I can control what I am willing to tolerate and what choices I will make if a specific type of behavior is in my presence. I can choose not to get angry and choose to tell him/her that I do not appreciate their current behavior and will not comply with such tactics. If they carry on, that’s their deal – I can’t make them or stop them… I can only choose what I will do. So, define your nagging boundaries – what is reasonable for you to do when it occurs? Let the other person know (so he or she isn’t surprised when it happens) and then follow through. For example, gently let the other person know that you welcome an occasional, respectful reminder, but that you will no longer respond to disrespectful nagging and that you will calmly leave the room if it happens.
- Grace. Hopefully, both sides are making a sincere effort to reduce nagging and to accomplish the tasks in a manner by which both parties’ expectations can be met. But, at times people fail. We are fallen creatures and prone to sin. It is at these times where it is important to extend grace to the other person. Don’t react harshly or critically to the nagging and don’t react harshly or critically to the lack of demonstrated attention to the task; instead, give the other person grace and ask God (who is the Changer of Hearts anyway, right?) to work on your significant other.For those who are married, this is something that will need to be worked through. For those who are not yet married, you are still in the period of decision and nagging dynamics can break a relationship. It is important to get those dynamics under control before marriage; otherwise, put the marriage on hold until those issues are worked through. If the relationship is important enough to both people, those things will be able to be resolved.
On a humorous note, my mom gave me a Hallmark card when I was a kid that is near and dear to my heart. It read like this:
At times it must seem that I nag you a lot.
‘Cause I nag when you’re here, and I nag when you’re not.
I nag about garbage, and how long you sleep,
And the towels by the bathroom just left in a heap!
I nag about noise and clothes on the floor.
I nag about messes, late hours, and MORE!
The more that you’re loved, the more nagging increases.
So, wow, lucky you — I must love you to pieces!
If in the past you have given into nagging, now is the time to stop. “It is better to live in a corner of the housetop than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife.” (Proverbs 25:24)
Comment below and let us know how nagging has played a role in your relationships.