YourTango Experts on how to know if you nag—and how to stop!
#1 You ask for something more than twice.
According to Relationship Expert Margaret Paul, Ph.D: "Requesting what you want from your partner a couple of times is important, but after that, it is NOT helpful." She says the third time you ask your partner to do something, it becomes nagging, not a request.
Try this instead: Dr. Paul says instead of voicing your request a third time, the communication gap needs to be addressed head-on.
"Instead of nagging, you need to say 'I'd like to understand what is happening with this issue. Why is there a problem? Is there a way we can work this out?'" And then be open to whatever his response may be.
Additionally, in her video "Effective Alternatives To Nagging Your Husband," Dr. Amy Johnson advises that the second request be in exactly the same tone and manner of the first. Letting judgment slip into your tone will quickly shift the request into nagging territory. Finally, she suggests using positive reinforcement as the alternative to nagging. Rather than focusing on what your partner is not doing, put your efforts towards praising what he/she is doing right.
#2 Your request isn't really about the dishes.
Experts agree that nagging can be a form of controlling behavior. "Nagging is a form of control where you keep at someone, trying to get them to do what you want them to do," says Dr. Paul. "Nagging becomes more than a request, but a way to control," Burley adds.
Try this instead: The next time you get upset about an unmet request, ask yourself: what is this really about? It's a common desire to want to control our lives and our partners, but the thing is, it's ultimately a futile effort based on fear of the unknown. Rather than waste your energy trying control your partner, practice exploring that fear. Simply acknowledging that you feel fearful is a great first step.
As Relationship Coach Julie Orlov writes in her article "The Illusion of Control": "Stop trying to control your life so that it fits an image in your mind on how you think it should be. Take some pressure off yourself and others. Be okay with the way things are. And then do something that brings joy to you and others. Do something that makes a positive contribution to the world."
#3 Your statements begin with "You.." Marriage and relationship expert Denise Wade, Ph.D. says recognizing a "nagging" statement is simple: It starts with the word "you" (e.g. "You never mow the lawn. You're supposed to mow the lawn! You always do this."). "You" statements are associated with blame, and are triggers for putting your partner on the defensive.
Try this instead: Requests start with the word "I" (e.g. "I'd like you to mow the lawn. I'm wondering why you didn't mow the lawn."). "I" statements show you're an active participant in the conversation, not a critic.