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Nagging: The Naked Truth

Far too many marriages in the world have died the ‘death by a thousand reminders.’ From the ‘put down the toilet seat,’ ‘do not put the wet towel on the bed,’ ‘take out the trash,’ and ‘did you forget to pay the VISA bill again,’ to ‘can’t you ever do the dishes’ and ‘could you change the nappy of the cat napper you had an equal part in producing’ – the list of these fatal reminders is endless.

But do you think nagging, as a marriage killer, is the poisonous toxin that women inject into their own marriages, for the pleasure of watching a relationship they’ve built and worked hard to sustain – writhe in agony and die in front of their own eyes? And do you think nagging, as a fatal catastrophe, claims men as the only victims? Do you think anybody likes to be nagged?

couple arguing1

Image source: Google, copyright-free image under Creative Commons License

If you are nodding your head in a ‘yes,’ I have news for you. Nagging, just like any part of marriage (a partnership), is team work. And while you may be tempted to stop reading now, for fear that this shall be another of those biased pieces doing the rounds of cyberscape, I can vouch that as I write this, I am striving to do so with complete objectivity (and I am not naïve enough to think that ideal is not possible, and hence, I said striving) and shall have you thanking me, by the time you near the end.

Smug-much? Well, I don’t mind. Just as long as you continue reading.

Suggested read: A letter to all the men I have loved before

Nagging meaning

Nagging, unlike what most people believe, IS, in its most simplistic definition, a mode of communication. Of course, the effectivity is open to contestation, and we shall soon launch into the nooks and crannies of that one – but as of now, let’s me define nagging.

couple disagreement

Image source: Google, copyright-free image under Creative Commons License

You may roll your eyes at me whilst I continue in the ‘nagging-is-a-mode-of-communication’ vein, but please continue reading, even if it means continuing by wearing that cut look. Nagging is a form of communication in which one person (the nagger) repeatedly asks for a thing (in the form of verbal reminders, pleas, requests or even angry threats) from the other person (the naggee), who continually ignores it and this vicious cycle continues. Until an otherwise easygoing person becomes a snippy nagger who does not tire of pressing the demands (as they aren’t being met) whilst the naggee, tired of the badgering, withdraws and becomes more reticent, unresponsive, and withholding. And the cycle continues.

What happens when the saturation point is crossed?

That’s right – patience snaps – and so does your relationship!

Who nags

I will sincerely agree that women lead this front by leaps and bounds but shall never admit that men do not nag! True, they have their own methods and nag about different things – but yes, we need to move away from the dominant script about nagging, challenge the stereotypes, and accept that men and women (or women and men, if you prefer it that way) nag – and sometimes, together!

Suggested read: How to love an emotionally unavailable woman

Why does nagging happen – ripping apart the illusion of ‘nagging’ and ‘nagging works’

More often than not, naggers believe that talking until one is blue in the face or drilling it in a million times coz it’s in one ear and out the other is THE effective formula for getting things done. Most naggers aren’t even aware that they are nagging as they completely and wholeheartedly believe in the effectivity of their repeated reminders. It takes the naggee to get offended by the reminders for the nagger to realize that there is something inherently wrong with the ‘nagging approach’ toward getting things done. It is only when a naggee makes it clear that the nagger’s ‘helpful reminders’ are becoming ‘stinging nags’ that the naggee realizes the counterproductive nature of nagging.

However, even a tangible manifestation of ‘no visible results’ does nothing to break the vicious cycle. Wondered why? Because nagging is more deep-seated in the realms of psychology than one may want to believe. Many just chuckle it off as a mere offshoot of PMS-ing or some other sexist remark that does little to help matters. The lack of insight into the underlying processes that go into constituting that ‘angry-wife-baring-her-teeth-speaking-through-gritted-teeth-presenting-her-beefs-and-criticizing-his-inaction’ that triggers a ‘fight-or-flight’ response in the man.

I mean, how hard would it be for a husband to offer to clear the table or the wife to stop griping about it?

Not too hard, I believe. And yet, lo – there they are, bickering about why the table is still not cleared out!!

couple arguing

Image source: Google, copyright-free image under Creative Commons License

Why do women nag?

Reason – a complex of factors. Nagging owes its existence to a number of factors, many of which are specific to a couple and their situation. While external factors like the rigors of new parenthood or financial duress are not unknown, intrinsic factors might include personality factors, conditioning or even experiential learning!

I mean, isn’t it normal for a new mommy who is skipping the daily office banter, promotions, and appraisals for being at home to take care of the baby who needs to be fed and clothed ten times a day to be irritable if she is single-handedly shouldering responsibilities of the home without even an iota of help from the husband? Isn’t it quite clear that an organized, obsessive or anxious person is likely to be incapable of holding back his/her reminders, especially if the partner is laid-back, lazy, and has a track record of doing things last minute? And it isn’t always the nagger’s personality traits that may birth the nagging cycle. A resistant naggee may be equally responsible for bringing out the nagger in an otherwise easygoing person!

Don’t get me wrong – I am NOT JUSTIFYING nagging. Only explaining the plausible causes.

Couple arguing

Image source: Shutterstock

An anthropological and cultural approach to the process uncovers details about the glorification of ‘worrying’ amongst women in society. Somehow, our socio-cultural coda have come to ingrain worrying as being equivalent to loving in our minds! Don’t believe me? Haven’t you noticed that the most worrying, most compulsive, and most protective moms walk away with the ‘best mommy’ trophy? Or do you not suppose that a wife who reminds her husband to take his pills (even if it isn’t in the most loving of intonations) is deemed the most caring wify? Now don’t get me wrong – there isn’t anything wrong about worrying about whether your little boy is big enough to ride the bike on his own or whether your hubby is hogging on sugar-free items – the problem is when we are so consumed by our worries that we make these ‘choices’ to ‘obsess’ over them out of fear or responsibility!

Again, I am not judging – but trying to explain – that most of us have internalized worrying as such a natural part of being ‘close and intimate’ to people that we have forgotten to differentiate the line. We delude ourselves into believing that our worrying is a cathartic process or even empowering. It may be too – to an extent. But more often, the ‘debilitating’ bit overweighs those positive outcome odds!

It is when the lines become so blurred that you begin to obsess and crib about the smallest of things – when the person you’d be ‘nagging’ to – shall deem it irritating and undesirable. Coz it is always the other person’s reaction that labels your behavior, not your intent.

And herein begins the problem.

Suggested read: Marry someone who is right for you

What is wrong with the process?

Nagging breeds resentment and discord that kills intimacy, and ultimately, marriage.

Problem – the nagger falls into the fatal trap of whining and complaining about things he/she isn’t getting rather than directly stating what they want, need or expect from their partner. The naggee, on the other hand, becomes complacent about the consistent badgering, and becomes increasingly reticent and unresponsive.

man woman disagreement

Image source: Shutterstock

The discount, I ask in the pattern – the nagger may not have a better communication mode at his/her disposal, may not be equipped to realize the fallacy of nagging, may not be competent to challenge and change, and perhaps, overturn the fatal process – all by himself/herself. The naggee, on the other hand, might be unresponsive because he/she is too tired to take action then, occupied at the moment or just plain unaware of the ‘how-to’ involved or even considerate that the answer he/she has for the thing being asked of him/her might upset/annoy/irritate their partner!

And it is in the ineffective transition from the being unwilling victims to the vicious cycle of nagging to becoming adults who can combat the nagging forces and vanquish them that the couples fail to make this negative communication pattern a positive one.

How to defeat the enemy?

In the nagging cage, women may feel neglected, ignored or not important while men may feel trapped in an unnecessary arrangement for urgency (assuming women are naggers and men naggees, in the case). So, how does one break the fetters and become free? By:

1. Facing it– You are creating this negative pattern as a team. You need to change it, as a team. Discuss it and set ground rules. Apply them!

2. Fessing it– Own up to your half in making the ‘nagging’ happen. And use the rules you set in step 1 to correct this erroneous behavior.

woman shouting at her husband

Image source: Shutterstock

3. Understanding it from your partner’s perspective– The nagger should get the fact that the naggee might feel unappreciated or seemingly incompetent when the nagger does not acknowledge what the naggee is already doing! The naggee on the other hand should get that the nagger might feel ignored or unloved when he/she isn’t being responsive.

4. Using better communication techniques– Use ‘I’ statements instead of ‘you’ statements. An ‘I fret myself over our bill payments when they get late’ is way more positive than ‘you always pay the bills late.’ Similarly, an explanation of the reasons why it is important or urgent might help. But remember not to drill it in a million times! You may even opt for post-its or other such non-intrusive reminders that lack the annoying tone of voice or body posture.

5. Managing one’s demands/expectations– Make sure you are asking for something that is realistic and appropriate. Does the light bulb need to be changed immediately?

6. Setting a time-frame– Ask when your partner can expect to finish the task. (‘Can you change the car oil this weekend?’) Let him tell you when it works best for him to do it. And when you do set a deadline, follow through.

7. Adopting alternative solutions– Maybe hiring a handyman might be better than arguing! Think about it!

It is THAT easy to accommodate each other! Fleeing and fighting are both terrible options! :)

Featured image source: Google, copyright-free image under Creative Commons License

Article Name
Nagging: What You Say And What He Hears
Is nagging widening the rift betwixt you two? The problem might not just be a nagging partner. Read on to find out the complete truth about it.
Sejal Parikh

Sejal Parikh

"I'm a hurricane of words but YOU can choose the damage I do to you..."