Nagging is an unfortunate feature of too many marriages; it’s not just unhealthy it’s harmful. There is a big problem, though; it isn’t that easy to stop! So how do you break the nagging cycle?
When does a request become nagging?
It’s okay to ask for some help. We don’t want you to get the wrong impression and think that you have to start wearing a leotard and cape, you aren’t superhuman. Also, it’s not inconsiderate to expect others in your home to pull their weight. It is important though to know how to ask and get results. A request becomes nagging when it is repeated again and again, so if you start hearing yourself sounding like a broken record, then something is broken in the area of communication.
A childhood cycle
For some nagging is a natural progression from the whining of childhood. They found as a child that repeating themselves again and again until their parents caved in produced results. They wore down ‘the opposition’ in the hope that they would get what they wanted. Now they naturally fall into the same behaviour and apply it to their role whether it is as a spouse or as a parent. Most people would agree that a child whining is pretty annoying, it certainly grates on my nerves! Yet, most people who nag have no idea how irritating they have become. They focus on the object of their nagging rather than their own behaviour and often lose sight of their part in this negative cycle.
On the other side of the nagging cycle is the non-compliant spouse. This husband or wife refuses to respond to the requests of their spouse no matter how reasonable. It seems as though they have an automatic ‘dig-in-their-heels’ response to any and every request. The non-compliant spouse feels justified in not ‘giving in’ to their bossy, overbearing partner because the nagging is getting on their nerves. They simply start to tune them out. This response is often rooted in childhood too. As a child, this spouse learned that if they could ignore their parents’ requests, zone them out, be stubborn and resistant, they could get away without doing their part in the home.
An Adult Response
Recognise that both of you have a few bad habits to break. If you both own the problem, then you are more likely to see results. This means that you need to sit down and have an honest conversation and that starts off with being honest with yourself.
- Are you making unreasonable requests? What might seem reasonable to you might seem over the top to your spouse. If you are verging on OCD, don’t force your spouse to keep those standards. You should be able to expect help but make sure that ‘help’ is not slavery.
- Have you been hurling insults as well as nagging? Too often, in desperation people take to saying hurtful things in the hope that it will spur their spouse into action. If you are guilty of this, you couldn’t be more wrong! Tell your spouse that you are sorry, make sure you offer them a sincere apology.
- Are you resisting reasonable requests? Perhaps you have been digging in your heels when you should be getting up to help. If you have been guilty of this, ask your spouse to forgive you. It’s almost certain, in this type of relationship, there will be resentments on both sides. This means it’s also necessary for you to forgive them.
- Have you become defensive in your response? If you find that you are always justifying your actions or inactions, take the time to see if that defensiveness is warranted. Are there areas in which you can step up to the plate?
- Have you given up because you never seem to be able to please your spouse? This is a problem you both need to work through. It means taking action and doing your part, but it also means your spouse needs to lay down criticism and start appreciating your contribution.
We have found the following verse a helpful guide when we have needed an attitude readjustment. Why not stick it to the fridge as a reminder to break the nagging cycle.
Philippians 2:3 (ESV)
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.
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