Are Nagging Wives as Bad as Adulterous Husbands?

Some experts say nagging is a real marriage killer -- and women are the usual suspects

A story in The Wall Street Journal today proclaims that nagging may be “as toxic as adultery.” And, natch, it’s mostly women’s fault.

The story starts with a cute anecdote about Ken M. finding a reminder to go to Home Depot in the middle of the sandwich that his wife packed him for lunch. She thought it was genius -- using humor to get her point across -- while he found it ridiculously overbearing, especially since he only found the note when he bit into it.

The article goes on to say, “a husband might tune his wife out because he is annoyed; nagging can make him feel like a little boy being scolded by his mother.” Mm-hmm. Of course, what isn’t acknowledged is the fact that having your lunch made and packed for you should make you feel the same way. Clearly, Ken M. has no problem with his wife’s overly maternal instincts when it benefits him.

So women have a strong urge to run -- some might say control -- the household. While that might mean women nag, it also means husbands get their lunches made, or dinner served or laundry folded. All in all, not a bad deal, from where I’m sitting.

Of course, this is coming from a wife who struggles to suppress her Herculean urge to pointedly -- but gently! -- hint about things. According to the piece, people – usually wives – nag because they feel their needs aren’t getting met. So they keep asking or reminding in order to get what they want. However -- lest you thought otherwise -- nagging is not an effective form of communication. Instead of bringing couples closer together, it pushes them apart. The naggee withdraws and the nagger’s wishes go ignored. Walls go up, resentments set in and suddenly there’s a chasm too wide to bridge.

I am overly anxious and organized and like everything just so. Only after some quiet time of self-reflection do I recognize when I’m being inflexible or overbearing. My husband isn’t any more laid back than me, but he does like to do things at the last possible minute, and -- from my point of view, anyway -- is not the best at time management. This stresses me to no end. Luckily, even as a newlywed, I have enough experience nagging him to know it doesn’t often generate the results I want. I used to ask my husband on a near daily basis how many servings of vegetables he’d eaten, and admonish him for eating bagels and cookies for breakfast. While it didn’t change his attitude towards his diet, it did change his attitude towards me for a good 30 minutes. We’d both stew, and then he’d go out and grab a cheese and steak sub. Now, I get him to eat healthfully by making an extra yogurt and fruit for him in the morning or an extra salad at lunch. It might be more work on my end, and maybe he hasn’t had the revelation I’d like him to have about his diet, but since he’s happy to eat any kind of food that’s put in front of him, it gets both of us what we want without the power struggle.

Of course, not everything is easily solved with a salad, and I do think nagging in some situations is warranted -- say, should your hubby forget to pick the kids up at school. Again. But I do believe it should be followed up with a discussion about how spouses can meet each other halfway. “I know you don’t want to do this, and you hate it when I nag, so what can I do to make this easier on you?” Yes, I know it sounds like cringe-worthy dialogue that Stuart Smalley would spew. And if that all fails, well, let’s just say my husband might find himself chewing on a Post-It note the next time he eats nachos for breakfast. Course, being as indiscriminate as he is about food, he might not even notice it.

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