Are you ever going to take out the trash?

Can you get off your phone and pay attention to me?

How many times do I have to tell you to stop at the store and pick up milk?

Do you bristle just hearing these questions?

If so, they just might remind you of nagging. You know, those repeated requests to do something, but nothing gets done. Yet, you keep asking or reminding, hoping something will stick. It doesn’t. What does stick is a feeling of tension related to the nagging.

Nagging literally means to irritate by constantly scolding or urging (Webster’s dictionary). Consequently, when we nag, we are irritating someone, hoping our nagging will move them to action. If it works to prompt action, it usually creates bad feelings because the person being nagged feels incompetent or blamed. Typically, nagging doesn’t work and blocks intimacy because it kills warm and positive feelings. And when nagging becomes part of a couple’s negative communication pattern, it can lead to divorce.

Nagging is often prompted by an arbitrary expectation that something needs to get done for you to feel OK. Check your expectations. Are they reasonable? Must you have things done your way or in your time frame? Beneath the nagging, are you are worried about issues in your relationship? Nagging isn’t the answer for any of these issues and will ultimately ruin your relationship.

Instead of nagging, make your request one or two times. After that, rather than repeat yourself (now you are nagging), ask the person to explain what is going on. Maybe say, “Help me understand what the problem is here. Is there a way to work this out?” If you feel frustrated, make sure your voice and tone are matter of fact rather than harsh or demanding. A negative tone can make the other person defensive and resistant to your requests. Avoid words that make a person feel belittled. Also avoid any nagging that indicates the person is disappointing or isn’t good enough.

Also, consider why you nag. Are you trying to control the other person? Are you afraid you won’t get your needs met? Maybe you are worried about your partner’s health or some behavior they are doing? Whatever the reason, you need a different approach. Nagging shuts down communication and doesn’t address the problem.

If you are worried, afraid or need something done, tell the person what is behind your concerns. Then address the issue instead of criticizing. To be able to address issues and talk about problems, evaluate the positivity of your relationship. Do you have more positive vs. negative interactions? Marital researcher John Gottman says we need 5 positives for every 1 negative. He calls this the 5 to 1 rule. Thus, if your interactions are more negative than positive, nagging could be part of the problem. It’s contributing to that overall rate of negative interactions in the relationship. Consequently, you need to build more positive interactions to handle those complaints when they come. One way to do this is to stop nagging.

Spiritually, to stop nagging, deal with your disappointment or frustrations by extending grace to the person. No one meets our expectations all the time. People are human and disappoint. We can’t control what other people do. We can control our reactions to them by being respectful, loving and forgiving. So, keep your heart tender, always building each other up so you don’t allow resentment and bitterness to grow. Also, don’t allow fear or worry to motivate your actions towards others. Trust that God is in control and will meet your needs. Talk to Him in prayer and make your requests known so worry doesn’t take hold.

Stop the nagging