Clean the living room, wash the dishes, take out the trash ...
nag, nag, nag. The incessant nagging you do not only drives your partner mad,
it drives him or her away and hurts intimacy. How can you learn to communicate
more effectively and go from being a broken record to a poster child for
relationship success? The first step, say experts, is to recognize that asking
for the same thing over and over again -- believe it or not -- just doesn't
By Ann Hodgman
One woman's diary
I said to my daughter, "You know what I just can't stand about this
book? The long passages with no dialogue." -
She paused, then said, "Mom, are there any books you like
Now it was my turn to pause. How could she ask that, when everyone knows how
much I love to read? But then again, when had I last complimented a book — even
one I admired? Come to think of it, how often did I say anything without a
negative twist? I don't want my tombstone...
"Nagging takes the form of verbal reminders, requests, and
pleas," says Michele Weiner-Davis, MSW, a marriage and family therapist.
"You can say it in a number of different ways, but when you say it in a
number of different ways over and over again, that constitutes
The Essence of Nagging
"If a person thinks, 'If I've said it once I've said it a
million times,' or 'it's in one ear and out the other,' or 'I talk till I'm
blue in the face,' this should be a strong clue," says Weiner-Davis, author
of several relationship books, including Getting Through to the Man you
Love and The Sex-Starved Marriage.
Strong clue or not, most naggers don't know they nag -- they
think their nagging helps, explains Weiner-Davis. And it's not up to them to
decide: A helpful reminder becomes a stinging nag when the person who is being
nagged says so.
"It goes from a reminder to a nag when the person who is
being reminded gets offended," says Weiner-Davis. "How the behavior
gets labeled depends on how the person hears it, not on how the person who says
Feelings and emotions play a large part in nagging, which means
that women usually play the stereotypical lead role.
"Women take on the lion's share of
nagging," says Jamie Turndorf, PhD, a couples therapist. "Because many
women find it difficult to directly communicate their needs, they fall into the
fatal trap of whining and nagging about what they aren't getting rather than
directly stating what they want, need, or expect from their partner.
Unfortunately, whining and nagging doesn't put a man into a giving mood, and a
vicious cycle is born: The more her man starves her of what she wants, the more
she nags and the less likely he is to be responsive to her
But like any facet of a relationship,
nagging is a two-way street.
"Obviously, if a woman feels responded
to she won't need to keep bringing up the same issues," says Turndorf, who
is author ofTill Death Do Us Part (Unless I Kill You First). "On the surface, it's easy to assume that it's all the
nagee's fault -- if he responded better, nagging wouldn't be
But rather than assigning blame -- is it
the husband's fault for not cleaning the kitchen, or the wife's for griping so
much about it -- start looking for more productive ways to communicate, or risk
damaging the intimacy in your relationship: According to a study presented at
the 2003 Society for Personality and Social Psychology conference in February, nagging can lessen a couple's