The Finer Points of Nagging

Today I Learned…

… There is a difference in the way men and women perceive “nagging.” First, let’s define what nagging is. I’m going to use stereotypical gender lines, because in my experience (which I’m writing about here and not publishing a paper in the name of science) men hear women as nagging and women hear men as ordering.

Nag – verb

  1. To annoy by constant scolding, complaining, or urging.
  2. To torment persistently, as with anxiety or pain.
  3. To scold, complain, or find fault constantly.
  4. To be a constant source of anxiety or annoyance.

That sounds like hell. I noticed that it’s mostly men that complain that their significant other nags them about housework or child care or running errands. Women tend to see it as being ordered or told to do whatever task.

I’ll agree that any sentence that starts with, “why can’t you…,” “you never…,” “if I told you once…” is a clear sign of nagging in action. Ordering, which is what women think men do, looks like, “you have to … right now,” and the more clear cut, “I’m not asking you.” Both men and women have every right to be annoyed with their partner when they are treated like a five year old child. The emotions that make checking status on a request seem like nagging are anxiety, frustration, and/or disrespect. If your S.O. (significant other) hits one or a combination of those emotions, you might want to have a deeper discussion about what’s really going on.

And guys, the “Yes, dear,” bullshit is passive aggressive and does you no favors. Nor does it absolve you from taking responsibility for being a patronizing ass.

Ladies, if you start a sentence with “you always…,” or “you never…,” or any variation on that you’ve already lost your audience and will be faced with the “Yes, dear,” or the “stop nagging me!” battle cry.

This brings me to the crux of my learned lesson. Things need to get done around the house, there’s no avoiding it. You and your S.O. are a team and part of being a team is to support, understand, and work together. Part of working together is checking in on each other which can take the form of “How are you?” or “Did you get/do/remember…”

The latter is where the magic happens. Men hear “Did you —” and a light goes on in their brains that says NAG WARNING!!!!! It’s this stage where women are in the danger zone. One step toward any exasperation and the nag is validated. However, if what follows is instruction or a request for time of completion the interaction is not nagging. Instead is it the anxiety or guilt (or both) that is “nagging” at the man’s conscience because he didn’t do what was agreed or expected of him.

And that’s his problem. Which means, most of the time when I ask about the status on ‘whatever’ it’s not me, it’s him!

Today I learned that being right is awesome. 😀


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