August 27th, 2013

A nagging question

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.]

42 Responses to “A nagging question”

  1. JuliB Says:

    … getting my popcorn…. Thank you neo for what I hope is to be an interesting discussion.

  2. Knucklehead Says:

    “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.”

    I’d say that is the majority of the problem right there. If it were high on our priority list (speaking from Hubby’s perspective) we’d do whatever it is right snappy like. You may tell us what you’d like us to do but not how or when to do it. And when you add to the list of things you’d like done you must understand that it all can’t be priority one.

  3. carl in atlanta Says:

    Some of my favorites:

    “When are you going to:

    “..organize your closet”;
    “…go through your old clothes and take what you never wear up to Goodwill?”;
    “..take out the trash?”;
    “..clean up the basement?”;
    “…do the dishes?”

    Nagging has a way of making the nag-ee cringe with a combination of guilt and resentment that is fairly low grade in intensity yet at the same time somehow chronic or cumulative. And therefore debilitating over time. In my case it certainly triggers avoidance and even passive aggression that never seems to work ( e.g., “When are YOU going to start helping me with the the yardwork?”). The problem is that the nagger [ the nag-ess?] always seems to speak from a position of absolute moral authority.

    I know of no man who nags other than professionally (e.g., a dentist, doctor, lawyer, or other member of the nagging professions).

    My wife will not admit that she nags but she does; she just can’t help herself.

  4. J.J. formerly Jimmy J. Says:

    Yes, men nag. I nag. My wife calls it “controlling.” To her, my voice asking her to do something, triggers feelings related to her contentious relationship with her father. Her requests trigger a similar response in me that’s related to my relationship with my mother.

    57 years of marriage requires either two people who are perfectly attuned in all ways – the perfect couple. OR both parties will learn to have vigorous debates and will learn to do some compromising and forgiving. If not, it’s either divorce court or one member of the marriage is a doormat (the long-suffering downtrodden spouse) for the other.

    My wife and I were not the perfect couple. (Few couples are.) So, over some productive years when we were close to divorce, we learned to stand up to each other in a respectful way, hammer out our differences, and make the compromises that we have to make. I think most people could do it if they worked at it. But work is a four letter word. It’s much easier, and may sometimes be better, to split their household up and start over. I can just say that I’m glad it wasn’t for us.

  5. physicsguy Says:

    The definition of nagging, as Neo presents it, needs to be refined. It’s not just the asking of chores to be done, it also involves that tone of voice in which the asking is delivered. I can’t describe it adequately, but I’m certain every male reading this knows exactly what I mean. And the “peck, peck, pecking” is also very much a part of the process.

    It’s amazing how well I respond to my wife when the request does not meet the nagging definition.

  6. blert Says:

    Nagging consists of filing the husbands “in box.”

    If this box ever runs low, the nagging wife expands her demands.

    The TRUE way to stop the nagging is to be counter-responsive.

    Incredibly, this will make the wife much, much, happier.

    Beta boys don’t comprehend that naggers WANT to be put back in their feminine place.

    No woman DARES nag an alpha male. She instinctively knows he won’t put up with her…

    By responding to nagging on a strictly occasional basis the husband has set up the ultimate reinforcement mechanism from deep within human biology. Consequently, there will be NO END to her nagging.

    Such is the nature of woman — and man.

  7. Richard Aubrey Says:

    If it’s important enough to be the subject of discussion, it’s important enough for either party to do it.
    Some items can only be done by one party–organize the closet, ex–but many can be done by either.
    In which case, “Go ahead.” If the other party doesn’t do it, it was a power play, not a genuine reques something be done.
    OTOH, if you agree to do something, bloody well do it. Pisses off the other party who has nothing to complain about. If you’re not going to do it, don’t agree just to make the moment easier.

  8. neo-neocon Says:

    Richard Aubrey:

    But what about something that’s generally considered a basic daily task, but to which the messy person does not agree? For example, a classic example is a messy person who leaves clothes on the floor constantly; virtually never hangs up or puts away clothing. The other person faces two non-nagging options: be prepared to live with the mess indefinitely, or pick up constantly after the other person.

    Some couples therapists who work with such problems recommend the neater person announcing that if clothing isn’t put away it will be thrown out. If a person follows through with that, though, it can pretty much be a declaration of marital war.

  9. neo-neocon Says:


    You sound like a reasonable person. But some people will respond with anger to any request no matter how nicely- and respectfully-voiced.

    I guess the answer is: try to marry a reasonable person.

  10. zipper Says:

    you all probably heard this old joke

    the farmer arrives at the city lawyers office and says he wants a divorce

    lawyer do you have grounds sir

    farmer well i have about 40 acres south of poduck

    no sir i mean is your wife an adulterer

    no she was 16 when we married but she is 18 now

    no no sir is your wife a nagger

    no sir but she ran off with one and thats why i want a divorce

  11. physicsguy Says:

    Ahh but Neo, is the request also part of the “pecking” side of the definition, even if reasonably stated?

    I have tried to tell my wife: relax, life is too short to worry about whether the sink is full of dishes, and has been since this morning. It will get done well before the bio hazard develops.

    You’ve hit upon a basic difference between men and women. Men will eventually “git er done”. Women want it done NOW.

  12. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    I have some insight into this subject. My ex used to nag, then when I complied the goal posts were moved…(issues with her father arose once he passed, unknowingly I was appointed the heir, nor did I figure out what was going on until after the fact)

    My step Mother (whom I care for deeply) is unfortunately, a huge nag and so my life placed an onus upon me to get a handle on it.

    Nagging is an attempt at manipulation, arising out of an unwillingness to state and follow through with appropriate consequence. Creating a sense of powerlessness in conflict with an emotion backed demand for compliance.

    To understand the critical difference between an “emotion backed demand” and a preference, I highly recommend Ken Keyes Jr.’s “Prescriptions for Happiness” (use neo’s link to Amazon;-)

    The author, a psychologist, suffered permanent paralysis as the result of an auto accident and consequently had to deal with rage, resentment and self-pity. Out of that experience he developed unique insights into the human condition.

    An Amazon reviewer’s summary;

    Ken Keyes, not to be confused with Ken Kesey the novelist, published this simple but profound book in 1982 but it still works. “Simple” because it’s written to look like a poem, with only a few words on each page, making it fast and easy to read with only 127 pages in the edition I have. Plus, the prescriptions themselves are deceptively and disarmingly elementary. “Profound” because Keyes is relying on the wisdom of ancient and modern religions and spiritual systems, a wisdom that is effective because it reflects how the world actually works, rather than how we might want it to be. I find his words both challenging and reassuring.
    For instance, the first prescription is: Ask for what you want, but don’t demand it. He says we can practice non-demanding asking by keeping the tone of our request casual and light, as in “Please pass the pepper.”

    This isn’t Hegel or Kant, OK? It’s down home advice, with a slightly but not off-putting hippie or New Age tone. Anyway, it’s a truth we all know intuitively. Can I do it? Not always, but I’m happy working on it.

  13. GoodShipGeorge Says:

    How about pick up messy person’s things and put them in an inconvenient place, like on top of the car?

  14. Richard Aubrey Says:

    The person who never puts away the clothes or puts them in the laundry is a rare one.
    IMO, the problem is the difference in what is considered necessary.
    Years ago, I talked to a MSW family practice person who said that guys, especially guys who’d been in the service or had physically difficult jobs don’t take some things seriously that others may.
    i’ve asked my wife not to try to explain why something she wants is necessary. We get into a discussion about why something which is not necessary is necessary. Instead, she asks me to do it for her. I’m happy to. But I don’t have to, in effect, give in to a bogus argument.
    If the clothes issue is really, really bad, then the offender can wash them.

  15. View From The UK Says:

    Women nag and men control – the semantics of the same thing.

    I place doing the accounts and avoiding a revenue fine a higher priority than tidying the garage. My time is limited so that’s where the nagging starts.

    I lover her still and know that ultimately, she wants me to hear her. I do, always but I can’t always deliver on schedule. I’m only human.

  16. DNW Says:

    Neo writes and provides a link,

    “[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.]<

    And I find this there,
    ” A small saddle horse or pony.”

    Finally, a question that had lain at the back of my mind since childhood, is resolved.

    Why does Dad sing, “And I won’t brag but I rode that nag, til his blood began to boil …” when a nag is an old female horse, and not a unbroken bronc?

    I should have asked … And now I know.

    I guess the commercial version of Strawberry Roan has the word nag in it just before,

    “His laigs is all spavined an’ he’s got pigeon toes,
    Little pig eyes an’ uh big Roman nose,
    Little pin ears that touch at the tip
    An uh double square iron stamped on his hip.”

    Thanks Neo. You’re a font of information in more ways than you know.

  17. kolnai Says:

    My ex-wife was a huge nag (hence “ex-wife”) and it played a huge role in ending the relationship.

    We lived in a tiny studio in Manhattan and big messes were impossible (and I’m actually a person who likes a clean, relatively ordered environment). But the things she would nag me about – take out the garbage YESTERDAY, not today; don’t leave your half-filled coffee cup on the table overnight (even if I plan on using it in the morning), etc. It got so bad that she started to nag me about not shopping with her (I don’t mean food shopping, I mean chick shopping – clothes, window-gazing, etc.). As if I’d ever done that before or had any inclination to do it.

    She was nagging me to go look at clothes with her instead of doing my work; and then she would nag me about not doing enough work.

    A big problem with nagging, and a sign that it is often a product of an irrational will rather than a reasonable demand, is when it winds up putting the recipient in a self-defeating, catch-22 situation. If I give into all of her wishes and spend more money and work less, then we have less money and she nags me about being irresponsible; if I resist her demands, then I am a dirty pig who only cares about his work. No-win situation. The woman simply didn’t know what she wanted; at least it was clear soon enough that it wasn’t me.

    I began near the end to assume the situation was this: we had nothing in common to hold the relationship together anymore, so we reached a kind of perfect disequilibrium where mutual hostility and the intense emotions it generated served as proxies for the glue of loving-kindness. We were held together by intense (negative) emotions.

    My basic rule is to say no to everything, especially if it is irrational (or at least non-rational). It makes no difference if the garbage is taken out (in an apartment) yesterday or today, so long as it doesn’t fester, and my view was that we should let it fill up more so we don’t waste more money on garbage bags. I was paying the bills after all.

    So no to that one.

    The coffee cup related to my grad school work, and if I could spare the dishwasher filling up quickly I could spare more money being spent on electricity and dishwasher fluid. I did it partly out of consideration for her, which made it even more galling when she attacked me for it.

    Big hell no to that one. Big fights resulting. Pretty absurd, but such is the fabric of so many relationships.

    Intransigence renders these situations not long for this world, and it ended quickly by the time we were fighting over a coffee cup.

    Anyway, my point relates more to what Richard Aubrey said above. If the woman asks me nicely and I answer “why?”, and she says, “Well there’s no real reason, it would just make me happy – do it for me,” then I would do it. “Do it for me” works wonders. It makes it sound like you are helping someone you love, and doing it without coercion. Noblesse oblige, if you like. The form of the words I find soothing.

    I’m not saying that’s the case for everyone (of course it isn’t), but it is for me and for many men. Men like to white knight; it’s in our nature, especially beta males (of whom I am one, or at least borderline). In any case, if the woman tries to give me an order based on an irrational preference she has, then every time I will say no, I don’t act on command and I certainly don’t act according to others’ irrational whims, when I can help it. If it matters so much to you, then you do it. I certainly never agreed to any such thing, and I never would.

    I guess I should clarify that not every nag is based on something irrational. But all too often it is.

    And having had the fortune to live with and love a woman who was not a nag after all of the above was the greatest joy I have ever known.

  18. Lizzy Says:

    “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?”

    I hate nagging and the general frustration/resentment that comes with it. I don’t recall the source (maybe the Dennis Prager male/female hour?), but I heard it explained about 6 yrs ago as follows:
    It’s a sign that the task is more important to the one nagging than it is to the naggee. So if it’s more important to you, the one nagging, then just do it yourself. Everybody wins.

    I gave this a try, and guess what? It’s worked beautifully! I think twice before I ask my husband to do something either one of us can do, and if I do ask him to do something, I’ll only ask him once. If he doesn’t do it (and I can), I’ll do it myself. Not only does my husband appreciate the break from nagging, but when he sees me do something he said he would do he generally ends up doing something else unasked in return (note: no one is keeping score, just happens as the opportunity arises). Naturally, this has led to a self-selected division of labor with household and kid-related chores. Everybody wins!

  19. Artfldgr Says:

    ever see a scolds bridle?

    A scold’s bridle, sometimes called brank’s bridle or simply the branks, was a punishment device used primarily on women, as a form of torture and public humiliation

    It was an iron muzzle in an iron framework that enclosed the head. The bridle-bit (or curb-plate) was about 2 inches long and 1 inch broad, projected into the mouth and pressed down on top of the tongue.

    The “curb-plate” was frequently studded with spikes, so that if the tongue moved, it inflicted pain and made speaking impossible.

    First recorded in Scotland in 1567, the branks were also used in England, where it may not have been formally legalized as a punishment. The kirk-sessions and barony courts in Scotland inflicted mostly on female transgressors and women that were considered to be “rude”, “nags” or “common scolds”.

    Though primarily used on women, according to the Burgh Records of Scotland’s major towns, the branks were at times used on men as well: “Patrick Pratt sall sit … bound to the croce of this burght, in the brankis lockit” (1591 Aberd. B Rec. II. 71) / “He shall be put in the branks be the space of xxiiij houres thairafter” (1559 (c 1650) Dundee B. Laws 19. ) /” Iff evir the said Elizabeth salbe fund scolding or railling… scho salbe sett upone the trone in the brankis and be banishit the toun thaireftir” (1653 Lanark B. Rec. 151).

    its the kind of thing that the bonniest Kate in Christendom would eventually wear…

    My mind hath been as big as one of yours,
    My heart as great, my reason haply more,
    To bandy word for word and frown for frown.
    But now I see our lances are but straws,
    Our strength as weak, our weakness past compare,
    That seeming to be most which we indeed least are.

  20. Artfldgr Says:

    How about pick up messy person’s things and put them in an inconvenient place, like on top of the car?

    that reminds me of a friend who was having problems with her beau who would leave his construction boots in the middle of the floor. her beef was she would trip over them at night.

    now. john is a nice guy, but nothing would work in a way that would work. so i told her next time he does that put his shoes in the freezer.

    when he goes to look for them, he wont be able to find them anywhere and will ask where they are (and he did). tell them their in the freezer and let nature take its course and he said they don’t belong in the freezer. to which she said they don’t belong in the middle of the floor either, so whats the difference?

    and to those that are wondering…
    yes to steel shank and yes ny state winter

    once her problem became his problem, it stopped being a problem since he was the source.

    most things don’t work that well though.
    at least that strange situation was able to bonk him
    usually. people don’t want to realize that the issue revolves around something they are doing or asking, and at that point, projection is easier. (and at that point, stalemate occurs as repairing my car wont fix yours).

  21. Mary in OH Says:

    You know what? I just do all those little chores. Help with yard work, take the car in for oil changes, garbage, bills,meals, laundry and if I can’t figure out something, I call a professional. I gave up long long ago feeling resentful he wasn’t doing his “chores”. I do the necessary work,NBD.

    He is the one climbing on an commercial airplane at zero dark thirty hours and is gone, to make a life for us. And he is a neat and orderly man. He thanks me for everything I do. IMPORTANT

    Once I figured out bitching doesn’t work,I consider it is MY contribution to make our life one with a little less stress.

  22. Oldflyer Says:

    I sometimes think that nagging is just another way of expressing love. Still, it can be corrosive even when you understand the motivation.

    Fifty-five years. The tolerance is thin.

  23. sdferr Says:

    Xanthippe seems to translate as “pale-horse”, if that helps any.

  24. Gary Says:

    My guess is the cycle of: request, fail to honor request, nagging re-request, passive-aggressive ignore request, nag, ignore, nag, ignore, nag, ignore, nag, ignore…–all this is probably just a proxy war for some deeper conflict.

    But what do I know? Perhaps we could ask a professional, like a Family Therapist.

  25. scottthebadger Says:

    On the BBC’s show Worst Jobs in History, ( available on YouTube ), Tony Robinson does the worst jobs in history, to see just how bad they were. He does the job of fishwife in one of them, and gets put in a nags bridle, and also rides the ducking stool.

  26. Shouting Thomas Says:

    Feminism is nagging. Nagging is feminism.

    So, yes it is about women.

    The feminist nagging has been the vile hell of my life on this earth.

    Fortunately, I discovered that I could simply disassociate myself from feminist women in my personal life. Now that I’m no longer working, I have no contact with feminists. Thank God!

  27. Steve D Says:

    I have a wife who nags constantly. I resent the hell out of it so tasks that I would ordinarily not give a second thought about checking off the list I deliberately delay as a type of petty revenge.

    The only men I know who could even remotely be classified as nags (at least in my wife’s league) are all gay. no I’m not joking.

  28. Knucklehead Says:

    My auto is nagging me. A few days back I used the windshield washer. Shortly after it rang a little bell to tell me the fluid was low. Now every time I start out on my way to work it dings and gives me the message. On the way home it dings and reminds me. But by the time I actually get home where plenty of fluid is waiting in the basement I’ve forgotten about it and moved on to fretting the more important things. It will nag me until getting rid of the dinging reminder is high enough on my priority list to fill the fluid reservoir to make it stop.

  29. JuliB Says:

    I’ve tried the route of doing things that I’ve asked my SO to do, and then he gets ticked off: “You always have to go and do these things by yourself”. And these are things that are not chore related, but perhaps things that men might even enjoy doing (advising on a type of firearm to buy, etc).

    Given that I’m single, but engaged, I still prefer to do things myself or pay for it. But then I run into flack. I think there’s a huge power play going on here. I’m a very straightforward person, so don’t get it.

    For those who admit to petty revenge, or classifying things as ‘irrational’, have you ever come out and said it to the nagger?

  30. Richard Aubrey Says:

    I think it ought to be agreed that a certain portion of nagging is designed to be aggressive, passive aggressive, or obnoxious. I don’t know what the proportion is, but it can’t be zero.
    Then there’s the shit test.
    Solution is to, 1, never agree to something that sounds like a bad idea or that you do not intend to do, 2, if you agree to do it do it in a reasonable time, 3, if it doesn’t sound reasonable or necessary, make sure the request is couched as “do it for me” instead of some bogus argument that it really is necessary. Agreeing to a bogus argument makes you a loser.

  31. Mr. Frank Says:

    The root of much of this is women’s failure to recognize that people don’t change much.

  32. raf Says:

    So, do men ever nag? And if and when they do, what’s it called?


  33. Steve Says:

    Funny no one has mentioned drama. There is a lot of drama with women (externalizing problems and personalizing conflict). Drama + control = nag.

  34. neo-neocon Says:

    Shouting Thomas:

    I don’t agree about nagging and feminism. Nagging WAY predated feminism. The nagging wife is a staple of folklore, for example.

    This story always seemed to me to be about the nagger par excellence.

  35. sdferr Says:

    Don’t the phenomena (nagging and being nagged) resolve in general terms on what women and men, respectively and differentially, spend their efforts thinking and acting on?

    If that’s so, then Harvey Mansfield’s suggestion that feminism as such tends to take up a manly orientation as the standard for action, in contradistinction to a feminine orientation, and makes a kind of reasonable account of that problem with feminism vs. nagging, as a bad fit with nagging on its own terms.

  36. Surellin Says:

    Eh, my wife asks me to vacuum the house, which is fine because she has a pinched nerve and it hurts her. Then when I didn’t use the wand to get the dust out of the back of the pantry closet or whatever, she basically regards it as if I hadn’t done any vacuuming at all. Frustrating, but it’s just that she wants 100% clean and I’ll settle for 95%. It’s still better than listening to her curse while SHE’S vacuuming! :-)

  37. kolnai Says:

    JuliB -

    Did I ever say “You’re being irrational”? Frequently.

    I tried patiently explaining, deliberating, drawing up actual logical deductions so she could see the reductio ad absurdum of her own demands (true story – yes I was in full snark mode, but by then I was just thinking about how to salvage my sanity).

    I’m a no BS person and I hate passive aggressiveness, far more than actual aggressiveness. If my SO is mad, then yell at me. Get it out. At least the issue is being aired and hashed out. Don’t mope around and give me that assassin’s “Nothing” when I ask what’s wrong, and then three days later burst out and tell me to do some inane thing. Honesty is good, bullish** is bad. Most nagging, in my experience, is just a wasteland of bullish**.

    I realize I’m oversimplifying this stuff (it’s not always easy to say who’s being “rational” or not in these intricate situations, for instance). I do admit that in some instances – how many I don’t know, but I suspect fewer than 50%, for what it’s worth – the woman has a legitimate issue and her “nagging” is actually just a reasonable expression of exasperation/frustration with a very real neglect on the part of the man.

    In general though, nagging is a bad omen, regardless of who is “in the right.” If a woman has the honesty to openly air her grievances with me and hash it out, I’m game for it, until it turns habitual and pathological (drama queen or emotional vampire type stuff). But if that hostility gets channelled into passive aggressive BS, I almost instantly call it off.

    Once you’ve been to hell, you know the landmarks on the way.

  38. Mac Says:

    “This story always seemed to me to be about the nagger par excellence.”

    I was pretty sure I knew which story that was going to be. I was right. I’ve always loved it, and I think of it occasionally when I hear feminist propaganda about women being less acquisitive, less materialist, etc., than men.

  39. Don Says:

    It seems to me nagging has a lot to do with blowing steam. You know, like nagging on a prior mistake, rather then dropping it once the mistake was aknowledged.

  40. Sarah Rolph Says:

    JJ said what I was going to say–and better than I would have, as usual. (Hi JJ!)

    I do have a potentially relevant book to mention, though–and it has a great title:

    Love, Honor, and Negotiate

    All about how to uncover the hidden assumptions of both parties and start talking about, and more to the point doing, what matters.

  41. Jamie Says:

    My husband and I have different standards for lots of things. After 20 years of marriage, we’ve pretty well worked out the division of labor so that whichever of us has the higher standard or lower threshold, that one does that task. This works beautifully because we have a reasonable, naturally arising division of what is important to whom.

    But what about the household in which one person has ALL the higher standards and lower thresholds? I’ve seen this situation with both genders. Where one is the neatnik and the other doesn’t care, the neatnik has the choice of doing everything him- or herself (which isn’t always fair if both have jobs and have agreed to share their life), or the neatnik nags and the other resents (but possibly complies), which is perhaps a more equitable division of labor but can lead to bad mojo.

    What to do? The nicest way out of this bind, I think, was articulated in “The Journal of Best Practices,” in which the Asperger husband realizes that hey, he loves his wife and kids, and therefore even when he doesn’t agree with or even understand what she wants him to do, perhaps he should get to the bottom of why she wants it and either do it on that account, or negotiate a compromise. Sometimes he even “wins” (though I am reminded of Lazarus Long’s advice that whoever “wins” a family argument has lost it). This approach does put the onus on the higher-threshold partner to determine what the lower-threshold, higher-standard partner’s reason is for wanting the task done, but also allows the lower-standard partner to decide whether that reason is good enough and act accordingly. I myself, assuming for the moment that I’m the neatnik, prefer this negotiated settlement to my having to beg (“Do it for me” – and yes, I know, you gentlemen above, you don’t see that as begging but as a way to couch a request in terms that make you think of what you are willing to do for love) or nag.

    See, I’d rather know that my husband is willing to walk into a burning building for me and our children, as I am for him and them, than know that he loves me SO MUCH that he’ll pit the hairbrush away when he’s done with it. In my calculus, one thing is proof of love; the other is courtesy any two people sharing living space ought to show one another. In my end, the socks are in the “wring”

  42. Jamie Says:

    Darn tablet! The “WRONG” drawer, by my lights, and we don’t have pickles in the house though I love pickles, and the budget has a few big categories instead of many small ones as I’d prefer, and I get my car washed whenever he comments rather than when I could plant potatoes on it, and…

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.


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