Is there a solution to nagging? Just stop doing it, says Taffy Brodesser-Akner (that’s quite a moniker, by the way).
For most people, easier said than not-done.
But of course, I wouldn’t know. I never, never ever nag; I merely offer the occasional exceedingly helpful suggestion, the timely reminder, or the insightful non-directive open-ended question.
But enough about me (please!). The larger question I’m interested in is this: what is nagging? And why is it something men tend to accuse women of, but seldom vice versa? Is it just a question of labeling, or do women actually do more of it? Or is it that men are just more bothered by it, because they perceive it as being given orders rather than receiving requests?
Nagging tends to occur when the members of a couple have different standards about what’s desirable, often in terms of neatness or other tasks. Chore reminders are a classic source of marital nagging, and they can be highly annoying, leading the man to feel he’s married to either his mother or a schoolmarm or some combination of the two. A real turnoff.
But what’s a wife to do when her husband has agreed to do a certain chore and keeps neglecting, avoiding, or forgetting it, over and over and over? She can ignore the fact that he’s ignored it, but that can lead to a lot of pent-up anger and frustration on her part. She can vent that anger and yell at him and insult him—but good luck with that, because it can only escalate the problem and even ultimately destroy the relationship. Or she can nag very politely, making “I” statements and being careful not to order him around, which can sometimes still trigger his annoyance at the fact that she’s peck, peck, pecking away at him.
Some of these problems start when the woman makes a request and the guy says he’ll do it. Maybe at the time he says that he really does intend to do it, but it’s just not as important to him as it is to her, and later it slips his mind. Or maybe he never intended to comply in the first place, and was hoping she’d forget. Or is he showing her he can’t be pushed around? Or is it some combination of those things, plus embarrassment when his failure to do the task is pointed out to him, resulting in anger and counter-accusation (you’re a nag!)?
And by the way, these vicious cycles are usually a lot easier to avoid when you don’t live with someone. It’s also a great deal easier when there are no kids around to stress both parties out. So women who never nagged before can suddenly start doing it after living together a while, or after having children.
So, do men ever nag? And if and when they do, what’s it called?
[NOTE: Without really thinking too hard about it, I'd always assumed that the dual meanings of the word "nag"---to annoy by constant urging and chiding, and an old worn-out horse---were related in their origins. Surprisingly, however, they're not.]