"You actually call this making the bed?! This is ridiculous. You need to do it the way I do it."
"Will you turn the TV off already and help me get these wet, naked children out of the bath?!"
"Thanks for not giving me a kiss goodbye this morning… You know, it would be nice if you thought about me before leaving!"
Do any of the above comments sound familiar? Perhaps the above are something you are nagging your husband with on a daily basis? Are you feeling like a broken record as you continue to repeat yourself while he continues to quietly dismiss the sound (dare I say "the noise"?) of your nagging — only to leave you feeling more dismissed by than ever? If the answer is yes, then allow me to remind you this: It takes two to tango. That being said, part one of the issue is, yes, he's either not doing things the same way as you or not listening to you.
But part two is you. Yes, you. You may feel entitled 'till the cows come home, but underneath that consistent nagging are deeper pieces that are more about you and less about him. So let's break it down into three categories with an example for each, what the nexus is underneath, and, finally, the healthier way to communicate in the given examples:
1. Critical nagging.
Your husband comes home from work. After a long day with the kids, taking care of the house, homework, walking the dogs, and etc., you are officially off duty as your husband takes over with bath time with the kids. As you relax into a curled up ball on the living room sofa while reading your favorite book, all of a sudden, you hear your husband talking to the kids in a more-than-firm tone in order to get them settled. Clearly, he hasn't asked for your help, but your over protective Super Mom antennas go up as you jump to your feet and run over to the squabble.
"I know what you need to do!" you exclaim at the top of your lungs. Your husband stares you down with disdain and says, "I didn't ask you to jump in! I'm fine and they're fine, so let me handle this!"
"Uh ohhhh," you think. Yes, "uh-oh" is right. Here's why it's about you: despite the fact that you are with your kids all day and that you are probably attuned to them more than anyone else, your husband has his own relationship with them — and it's imperative that he and the kids figure that out, without you getting in the way. I know you mean well, but to be frank: it's not all about you.
So what would be the healthier way to go? It's simple: nothing. Your husband will figure it out and so will your kids. So unless he calls for you to intervene, your job is to continue to sit on the couch, read your book, and bite your lip.
2. Hostile Nagging.
After a long day of work, errands, homework, and end-of-the-day sprawled-out-on-the-floor children tantrums, you have finally arrived to bath time — you desperately want to finish and get those children to bed. In the middle of this, your husband unexpectedly arrives home from work early. As he walks into the house, you hear him call out in a sunny, jovial voice, "Hey honey!" and you're now thinking, "Mr. Cheery better take over now!" You step out of the bathroom, cock your head around the corner to where he is standing, and with soapy hands dripping soap all over the wood floors, you point at him and exclaim, "I need your help now."
Jarred and confused by your demand he replies, "Okay... I just walked in. Can you give me a minute to change?" With attitude, you say, "Fine" and away you go back to the awesome spa getaway.
Before he can get back to the bathroom to help you, you have already rinsed the kids and begun to towel dry them. He then arrives in to the bathroom and with a sarcastic attitude says, "Huh. Looks like you needed a lot of help now that you're done with them. Really?" and walks away in a huff.
Nice communication indeed. So why did you just word-vomit all over your husband? It's because you're burnt out and overwhelmed. Are you entitled to have those feelings? Absolutely. However, how you handle the feelings is what's important. Let's be honest: your poor husband had no idea that he was about to walk into the grenade field of your feelings and he likely had nothing but good intention. You couldn't contain your feelings from the day and he became your punching bag.
So the alternate way to handle this is not difficult. Since you know that at the end of the day you're simply done, all you need to say to your husband is, "Hey, whenever you come home early, can we have an agreement that whatever I'm doing with the kids — once you've changed, etc. — you'll take over?" My guess is that he'll easily say yes and then voila: you are a nag-free woman.
3. Anxious Nagging.
Let's say you have a to-do list these days that is more-than-usually difficult to break down. You're feeling anxious, frenetic, and extremely disorganized (with possibly some ADHD sprinkled in there). One of the top priorities on your list is cleaning out the garage. You definitely need your husband's help to execute the task, but as of now no start date has been set. However, at the end of the day, you say to your husband, "Okay! Tomorrow we're gonna figure out the garage plan. Okay?" to which he replies, "Sure" and the same dialogue occurs every night for the next seven days. By the eighth night of your husband's Ground Hog Day experience he finally blurts out, "I've said 'yes' seven times already! What more do you want from me? If you want to do it, then let's talk about it seriously and just do it!"
"Oops," you think, "I probably should stop asking him this." Yes, I would agree with you. But first, let's understand why you continue constant question with him. Well, it's likely that considering how overwhelmed you feel, you have an unconscious wish that he just sweep in and rescue you from have to think about the whole plan. However, since he can't read your mind and it is not his job to rescue you from something that is more of a priority to you, then the solution (believe it or not) is simple: Pick a date. Yes, it's that easy. Pick a date and on that day, the two of you will stand in front of the open garage and figure out which area you will both start to clean out. Nagging and defensive reaction issues solved.
No one likes a nag — and even you've got to admit that it doesn't feel good to pick and pester to get what you want. If you feel yourself slipping into nag territory, step back and ask yourself why you're nagging, then move forward with one of these better communication strategies.
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