Great Relationships: How to Create a Nag-Free Zone

Q: My wife and I have a good marriage that is being destroyed by nagging. I've tried to get her to stop and even begged her to stop. She won't stop, and it just makes me less willing to do the things she is nagging about. How can I get her to stop nagging?

A: I think I can help you to create a "nag-free zone" in your home. I will tell you in advance, however, that you may not like what I suggest. But you do sound desperate enough to try it, and it has worked well over the years.

I have rarely, if ever, seen a situation in which one member of a couple was nagging without the other member of the couple being irresponsible in some way.

They just seem to go together.

The situation is made worse when you try to tell her to stop. This is because it's rather like throwing gas on a fire and wondering why the fire did not go out since the gas was wet.

Nagging hurts both people

Whether it's a spouse or a parent, I've yet to meet the person who stays up late at night wondering "How many ways can I nag tomorrow? Let's make a list." It just doesn't happen. Believe it or not, nagging is no fun. Not for the "nagee," and not for the "nagger," either.

So, if you are still reading and listening, here's what to do.

First, you have to think in terms of breaking this cycle. As you so correctly identified, the more she nags, the less you do, and so she nags more, and you resist more. This creates a situation where a breakup is just matter of time.

Second, you need to keep at the very front of your mind the notion that nagging comes from fear. This has been verified by every nagger I have ever known. The fear is usually something like fear of not getting important things done, fear of not being taken care of, fear of not being cared for and loved.

So the next time you are feeling nagged, ask your self "What have I not taken care of?" Answer honestly, then step up and make a plan for fixing it.

Next, and this is the most powerful thing you can do, ask your spouse,

"What is scaring you right now?"

Be sure to ask it kindly and gently and not with an irritated or accusatory tone. Then listen. Take care of the fears. Then keep behaving in ways that continue to take care of the fears.

I hope you have the courage to try this at home. If you think about it, not only is this a strategy for creating a "nag-free zone," it's also a strategy for drawing the two of you closer.

For more tips and tools for creating and living a great relationship, visit leading relationship coach Jeff Herring's

In The News:

How to Mend a Work Relationship  Harvard Business Review
Long-distance relationships at U.Va.  University of Virginia The Cavalier Daily
Past Relationships  CBS Pittsburgh

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