Why You Nag and Your Spouse Keeps Messing Up

It seems like nagging creeps in and rears its ugly head into every marriage after some time.

“Are you going to just sit there?”
“Don’t forget you need to take out the garbage later today. You forgot last week, and now we have a heap load!”
“Make sure you feed the baby at these specific times.
“When are you going to finally fix the stove?”

You get the gist…if you can identify with nagging, you can also probably identify with the frustration of your spouse not listening. If your spouse nags you, well, you probably shut down or feel annoyed. In any event, the nagging continues and nothing gets done exactly as specified. Oh dear.

I guess I don’t have to tell you the danger of this kind of back and forth going on for years and years, but oblige me anyway. Spouses move emotionally apart, resentments build, and eventually you have an estranged marriage or you’re filing for divorce…or worse, infidelity becomes part of the picture.

You can avoid all this, and it’s not rocket science. Here’s how and why…

Nagging is about control. There is usually one spouse that is “controlling” or both, at times. But, no matter what, there is always an element of control in a problematic relationship. The “controller” usually feels like he or she is helping rather than controlling. The other person sees imposing “help” as control. Not good.

People who tend to control have had significant disappointments in the past (divorce, abuse, a break-up, something traumatic, etc.). This disappointment(s) lead people to subconsciously believe that if they control everything in their lives, they will not have to suffer further losses or disappointments.

Here’s the sad part though…the more one controls, the more…

The relationship will suffer
Intimacy will dwindle
You’ll have no control over preventing heartache, loss, or trauma
Heartache is much more likely in the end

And here’s the thing, true love requires vulnerability. This means control can’t be part of the picture. Control is the opposite of true love, and you cannot have real intimacy without vulnerability.

You have to expect disappointments.
You have to trust that your partner will have your back.
You have to step out of your comfort zone.

Lack of trust is a reaction to fear, and that’s where the need to control comes from. When you trust, you don’t double-check, make back-up plans, expect danger, manipulate, dominate, or control. When you trust, you anticipate the best outcome.

And here’s the thing…you don’t have to let your feelings dominate your behaviors. You can choose to act differently despite your need to control. Give up control for a month, and see what happens. If your spouse comes home an hour late for dinner with your children despite knowing dinner is at 7, don’t say anything. Just throw everything in the nuke, and enjoy your reheated dinner together. If your spouse doesn’t take out the garbage this week, don’t say anything, and don’t remind your spouse next week to do it. The pile of garbage will speak for itself. Throw out the family calendar you manage all by yourself, and put the whiteboard in the garbage. Unless your spouse wants to plan the week with you, don’t plan it all by yourself. Just manage your “to do” list.

Here’s a common and welcome consequence to giving up control – In most cases, your spouses will live up to your expectations. If you expect a negative response, you will probably get one, and that’s why you control in the first place – because you don’t think your spouse will live up to your expectations. And that inevitably happens. Your expectations are let down. However, if you stop trying to control everything and let your spouse fend for himself or herself, your spouse will be forced to take responsibility (and you’ll both be happier for it).

I know that sounds scary, but challenge yourself anyway. And take pride out of it. You might be saying, “But I’m Right!!” You You very well may be. Your partner may be completely wrong. However, the only thing you can control is your behavior.

At the end of the day, would you rather be right or have a good marriage?