YourTango Experts on how to know if you nag—and how to stop!
#4. You feel helpless. If you're nagging your partner to quit smoking, stop drinking or to put down the cheeseburger and fries, you may feel that your nagging is justified because you're concerned about his or her health.
"We hate feeling helpless," says Dr. Paul. "We'll see someone smoking or eating poorly and it scares us that they're harming themselves, so we want to do something about it. The first time you offer advice, maybe that person will take it. If they don't, you have to accept your helplessness or leave the relationship." She adds that we often think nagging is a viable third option, but it's not. Take The Biggest Loser contestants, for example. These are people who are revolutionizing their lives. Do the show winners have nagging spouses behind them, dogging on them to change? Or do they have partners who serve as cheerleaders, encouraging them to realize their dreams?
Try this instead: First of all, accept what you do and do not have control over. Say your partner smokes. "You're scared for the person and love them but you're not going to stop them," says Dr. Paul. Instead, focus on what you can control: your own intentions and behavior within the relationship. Want your partner to take better care of his health? Make sure you are exuding that in your own life first.
#5 Your partner acts out. "People hate to be controlled," Dr. Paul says. "If they feel that they have to give in to a particular situation, then they may put up resistance in another area of your relationship." Your partner may also feel rejected. "Very often if someone is getting nagged, the impression they get is that they're not OK the way they are," Dr. Paul explains. If your partner believes he or she has to do things differently in order to be accepted and loved, he or she might start to retaliate by withdrawing, getting angry, or becoming resentful.
Try this instead: Burley recommends picking your battles with your partner and to become like a scientist observing yourself and your relationship. "Observe how often you have an impulse to tell your partner what they're doing wrong or haven't done," says Burley. If you feel the urge to criticize, try keeping every other critique to yourself. And, as Dr. Johnson recommends, try using praise more than criticism. It can feel completely unnatural at first, but the results are more likely to be in line with what you desire than a nagging approach could ever produce.
#6. You feel like a parent, instead of a partner. Constant nagging can make your partner feel infantilized, and as if they're a disappointment to you. It also makes the nagger feel authoritarian. "When you nag," Burley says, "you lose your sense of partnership with the other person. It's like you're wagging your finger at them like a parent or authority figure."
Try this instead: If you're arguing about chores or finances, experts recommends setting acceptable standards for maintaining your home or your standard of living so that it will be up to both partners to live up to those expectations. "Ideally, you want to be working towards the same thing so there's no need to nag one another," Burley says. Dr. Wade agrees, stressing that couples who are struggling with nagging need to revisit their value systems together to see if they align. "If they don't, you need to re-negotiate them—together," she says.