Marriage Improvement Monday

aka

How to Stop Nagging Your Spouse

Last week’s Marriage Improvement Monday gave you a strategy for forgiving your spouse of past indiscretions. Someone rightly asked in the comments, “But how do I forgive my spouse for something he’s doing right now—and keeps doing over and over again?” I’m glad she asked.

You can’t forgive until you see a change in behavior, and you can’t see a change in behavior until you ask for one.

But then, sometimes, even when you ask for a change in behavior, you still don’t seem to get it. So you resort to nagging. “Could you PLEASE vacuum the floor? I’ve already asked you 10 times!” And nagging usually leads to one thing: you planning your spouse’s funeral.

My Story

I went through this with my husband with two issues. One was housework. The other was The Voice, and the way he talked to me as if I were stupid. There was a time in my marriage when I didn’t think either issue would ever be solved. There was a time when I thought that I’d be doing 90 percent of the housework for the rest of my life. And I thought he’d be talking down to me for the rest of my life, too.

But now neither is the case. Although he certainly regresses every now and again, we’ve addressed both issues. The rest of this post explains how we did it.

Pick One Grievance

You probably have 2 or 3 or 168 issues that you’d like to solve in your marriage but, for now, pick just one. Discussing more than one issue at a time is not only overwhelming, and it sets you and your spouse up for failure. Your spouse is probably capable of changing one small aspect of his or her behavior in the short term. She or he probably isn’t capable of changing 60 million aspects of it.

Explain How the Problem Affects You

It’s important not to blame here. As soon as you go down that “you are a bad spouse because you do this” road, your spouse will check out. Therapists will tell you to talk in “I statements,” which are great if you can pull that off. I never could. Trying to talk in “I statements” made talking seem too dang hard, so I almost stopped talking all together. Instead, now I just try to explain how a behavior affects me. Sometimes I don’t even mention the behavior. I just state a problem.

For instance, about housework I might say, “I’m stressed and overwhelmed right now. I wish I could spend more quality time with you and Kaarina, but I just can’t get on top of things. Could you help more with the housework? I was thinking that we might all work on it together at the same time. Like every Sunday morning we all do housework together until it’s done.”

Actually I did say that, and that is what now we do.

About the talking down to me, I said, “Sometimes when you talk to me, I feel like you think I’m stupid.”

My husband had no idea. He really didn’t. He felt horrible that he’d been affecting me that way and he promised to stop.

Create a Code Word

Now, your spouse is going to regress. Expect that. And understand it. It takes an enormously long time to change a bad habit. If you are a parent, you already know this because you know just how long it took to, say, teach your child not to whine at the dinner table. Also, think about any self-improvement you’ve done in the past. Have you ever tried to stop gossiping or to stop lying or something else? Then you know it took a very long time before you completely stopped. You regressed a lot.

Your spouse will, too.

The irritating problem with regression, though, is that you will start to feel like a broken record, saying things like, “You agreed to do the housework and now you are sitting on the couch watching football!”

That’s why you need a code word, code sentence or code phrase regarding this change in behavior—and you need your spouse to know what it is. When I was trying to get my husband to stop talking down to me, my phrase was, “Please don’t talk to me like that.” Toward the end, when he hardly did it at all, my phrase was “you did it again” with a playful smack on the ass. It was just enough to help him see and correct the behavior, but not so much that I felt as if I was nagging.

With the housework, it was, “Can you help me with this?” and “I could really use some help.”

Reward Your Spouse

Too often in marriage, we function only with punishments. He doesn’t do the housework. You decide that you no longer wish to have sex. She nags you about the housework. You decide to ignore her because she knows you hate it when she nags.

After a while, the punishments fail to motivate.

Instead, switch to rewards. Whenever your spouse does what you’ve asked, say, “Thank you.” If appropriate, offer a hug. Or a kiss. Or the beauty of your naked body.

Be Patient

This is important. People don’t change overnight. Keep reminding yourself of that. Try to notice the positive changes and forgive the backsliding. Eventually, you’ll solve this problem and you’ll be able to tackle another one.

Let me know how it works for you.

38 comments… add one

  • Melissa March 1, 2010, 10:34 am

    Solid advice, as always.
    .-= Melissa´s last blog ..How to Write a Press Release =-.

    Reply
  • Kathy March 1, 2010, 10:41 am

    Fortunately I don’t nag about housework – it’s my job and my job alone. But I do have other things I can nag about. LOL!!! But truly, my hubby is very neat and organized. We do have an issue with bottled water. We have a distiller that’s not worked for two years. I said to him last year, “since you aren’t fixing the distiller, it is your job to buy bottled water”. I do buy it on occasion since he does work so hard and so many hours. But currently I’m not allowed to life anything heavy.

    Yesterday, we needed a new bottle on the counter, so I asked hubby to get me a new bottle. Well, there wasn’t any left in the pantry. I said “guess who’s going to the store?”. He got dressed and immediately went to the store. Such a good hubby.

    But if either of us is nagging the other, our code phrase is “yes, dear”. Then if it’s truly a nag, the one doing the nagging can voice their concern/opinion/upset without it turning into a fight. Yes, it took us about 3 1/2 years to come up with that solution for our numerous nagging fights.

    Reply
  • Kathy March 1, 2010, 10:43 am

    Sorry for the typo. Life = Lift.

    Reply
  • Alexandra March 1, 2010, 12:40 pm

    Great advice. Wouldn’t it be nice if people could learn these things right before or right after getting married, so they would not fall into a behavior rut?

    I often feel like sending your columns to my daughter-in-law. Some of the behavior my son exhibits towards here mimics what I endured with his father.

    Reply
  • Holly March 1, 2010, 2:41 pm

    Great advice, Alisa. We also had the problem of him talking to me using ‘that tone of voice’. For years I would get upset about the tone of voice he used when he talked to me – to me it made me feel like a dumb little kid. I would bring it up frequently, and he would try for a while, but never really even understood what that tone of voice was, so how could he really fix it?

    About 6 months ago, I finally said it like this: “I’ve been telling you for more than 10 years that I don’t like when you use that tone of voice. I feel hopeless that it will ever change. I want you to know I feel like a stupid little kid when you talk to me like that. It’s to the point where it bothers me so much that if we can’t fix this, I can’t continue to live with it. You need to do something about it’. Somehow, that’s all it seemed to take for him – realizing how much it upset me.

    Also, I came to the decision within myself that I didn’t need to put up with it…in that I would NOT put up with it. I would stand up for myself when he started talking like that and say, ‘you’re doing it again. You need to stop’. And somehow, that worked to the point he really doesn’t do it anymore. I can’t believe he doesn’t, but I guess he FINALLY understood the extent of my feelings about it.

    Reply
  • Sarah Liz March 1, 2010, 3:04 pm

    This is a wonderful post, and absolutely will improve many marriages! I think it’s important for men (and women) to recognize the difference between being called out on something (bad behavior, an unwanted tone of voice, etc.) and actual nagging. Sure, women nag more than men, I know that, but sometimes it’s frustrating when men automatically assume that the minute we open our mouths, we’re nagging. I also have to say that this goes both ways, men–if your wives are loving and honest enough (and do so without sarcasm or impending anger) be willing to hear her out. I think men and women stop being nice to each other sometimes because when they are nice, it’s ignored. I don’t know if that makes sense, but that’s how I feel—and some of my friends feel too–in our marriages. I find it hard to talk in “I statements” too, but I’m getting better at it and it does help. Also, learning to LISTEN to your spouse without interuptting them, defending yourself or pointing out another one of THEIR flaws is also key! Hard to do, but totally worth learning how to. Thanks for this post, Alisa, have a great week!

    Many Blessings,
    -Sarah Liz :)

    Reply
  • Robert Keteyian March 1, 2010, 9:08 pm

    I really like your practical approach. It cuts through all the psychological spin that we are all guilty of. This straightforward approach really is worth the effort. Thanks.

    Reply
  • Kate March 1, 2010, 10:18 pm

    What a great post. I learned the hard way to just ask nicely when I need help with the housework. It works great, much better than slamming things around. He’s very helpful when I ask nicely, and then I say thank you while batting my eyelashes and he’s thrilled. Btw, we worked out a compromise with my hair!

    Reply
  • Paula March 1, 2010, 11:10 pm

    Great advice! This is probably the biggest issue my husband and I have. He thinks I nag, but that’s because when I just ask him nicely to do something (like he’s asked me to), he doesn’t follow through. It’s getting better, with both of us seeing the other’s point of view, but it definitely takes time and patience!
    .-= Paula´s last blog ..Let’s Go to the Movies =-.

    Reply
  • Kari March 1, 2010, 11:39 pm

    This advice couldn’t have come at a better time for me! Without going on and on, I am desperatly in need of this and thank you for giving me a new perspective. I’ve been trying to come up with a way to approach my husband about a few repeat issues and, thanks to your advice, I will try one problem at a time. Since this has been an on-going issue for quite a long time, I expect setbacks, but it doesn’t make me feel any better knowing that these are common and should be expected.

    Reply
  • Elisa March 2, 2010, 9:28 am

    I like how you use examples with this activity. Seems more relatable. I tried the exercise of thinking about my husband as a human being not only as my husband, someone who deserves happiness. It’s helping ,slowly, but in the right direction. Patience will be a test for me.
    .-= Elisa´s last blog ..El Amor de un Abuelo =-.

    Reply
  • Steve March 2, 2010, 10:17 am

    I dont want to be funny about it but my wife has not finally started being happy, I put it down to Barleygrass Powder it has made the world of difference – good nutrition is clearly the key.
    Great site by the way….

    Reply
  • Andi March 2, 2010, 11:07 am

    I am a *bit* of a control freak…so I have a tendency to give a lot of suggestions, and I when I have to give those suggestions over and over, it turns into nagging. I am going to give this advice a shot as it looks SOLID. Wish me luck :-)
    .-= Andi´s last blog ..Misadventures in Venice Hotel Hunting =-.

    Reply
  • Angelia March 2, 2010, 3:05 pm

    I’m forwarding this to the hubby. We both have things like this that need to be addressed. It’s so difficult not to nag!
    .-= Angelia´s last blog ..Blogger Confessional =-.

    Reply
  • Sheryl March 2, 2010, 9:13 pm

    As usual, you’re so right, Alisa. Thanks for the reminder that there are ways – and then there are ways – to get a point across. Taking the emotion/blame out of it works wonders.

    Reply
  • Jim in Oklahoma March 3, 2010, 2:47 am

    It is the “rewarding” that my wife has a problem with. She looks at anything that I do around the house as, “Since you don’t have a job, [i]this[/i] is your job!” I try and keep the maintenance on the cars up, keep the tractor running and driveway worked so we can get up to the house (we live on a farm with a dirt and gravel driveway), keep up the house maintenance and repairs, cook the meals, do the laundry, and make sure that the kids are clean and off to school and brought home in the afternoon. I have the kids help me with the dishes and keeping their clothes picked up, but with three boys and a little girl living in the house, none of them want to help and just drop their things all over the house. I really never get the living-room clean to where I can start on another room, I am just perpetually cleaning the living-room. It is really depressing to me that when I spend an entire weekend working on the house trying to get caught up on the house work and laundry, she barely notices when she gets home from work (she puts in 40 hours in 2.5 days at a hospital and is taking 2 different classes at a local university–one on line and the other, one night a week). I understand that she may be tired after all of that, but you know, so am I, and the “Atta Boy” that you mentioned is something that I very rarely get from her. And this really hurts me, and now you all know that I am totally whipped. But just writing this makes me tear up that she has turned so hard and cold on me after 12 years of marriage, 12 years that I thought were happy ones until Jan of this year.

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  • Sarah Liz March 3, 2010, 3:23 pm

    I had to comment on Jim’s comment:

    I am so glad you commented, Jim, because nagging and lack of appreciation can go BOTH ways in a marriage. I was out of work for a year and a half and my husband kind of expected me to clean and take care of the house–rarely did he thank me for it. He got WAY better about it as time went on, but still–it was hurtful and incredibly frustrating.

    On the upside here, though, you now know what countless women go through while keeping a house and raising a child. It’s HARD work, and sometimes, I’d rather just go to work! LOL! I don’t have kids, I’m just stating my opinion.

    Let me say though that I totally agree with the premise and concept–if one person isn’t working than they SHOULD take care of the house–BUT….there should ALWAYS be an attitude of gratitude!

    I think saying “Thank You” to your spouse for anything and everything that they do to make your life run smoother or be better should be acknowledged with a “Thank you.” Or “I really appreciate that you….” or “It really helped me out when you did….”.

    I actually think ‘Thank You,’ is more important sometimes than the other two words that are so important in a marriage “I’m sorry.”

    I think an attitude of gratitude will get a person further than anything in life, and especially within in a marriage.

    And honestly, Jim, now that I am working, I’m less busy than I was a full-time house wife. Just because you’re a house-husband doesn’t mean you’re less tired or less busy than she is–so I understand your frustration there.

    The reality is that taking care of a house, managing the cooking, cleaning, errand running and yard work (in your case, not mine) is a full-time job and it is a TON of work! Unfortunately, I think the non-working spouse just assumes that because they get up and GO to a place with a certain dress code (or uniform) that they work harder or more.

    I’m sure your wife does work hard, my husband did and still does–and I absolutely appreciate it–beyond measure.

    But, my point is, please don’t downplay what you do–what you do to keep the house up and maintain the yard is just AS important as what your wife does.

    I don’t blame you for tearing up and I don’t think you’re whipped.

    I actually think a lot of men these days ARE in your position because they’re unemployed too–think about that for a moment–there are TONS of people out of work right now, and while you’re quite lucky that your wife still has her job, you’re not alone.

    I know this goes against male nature, but it sounds like your a bit depressed (which being out of work can do to anyone) about all this–not working at a “real job” is hard enough, and living with a seemingly ungrateful partner/spouse is hard too. So I would try and connect with someone who is going through what you are. I know it’s not like guys to talk about their feelings, so I’m not saying reach out and cry your eyes out to another guy (but if you can find one and do that, than go ahead, more power to both of you) what I am saying is take time for yourself!

    Make a list of things that HAVE to be done today, and let the rest go. Be sure to take time–each day–to do the things that YOU love and enjoy doing.

    Work in your job search (if that’s in the cards for you two), take a moment to have a bag of chips or watch a favorite TV show. Do things that make YOU healthy and happy!

    And TELL YOUR WIFE how you feel! She is not a mind reader (women are no better at reading mens’ minds than men are at reading womens’ minds) and explain to her (with respect and at a time when you’re both calm) that it’s hurtful to you that she doesn’t encourage you more and thank you more.

    Also, tell her how much YOU appreciate her–how hard SHE works, what SHE does. Encourage her, support her–as hard as that is to do when your spouse isn’t giving you the same treatment–it’s like Alisa says–someone has to be the bigger person and STEP UP! It’s quite possible that you’ve forgotten to thank her and it’s just become a cycle. So, make it a sandwhich discussion “I appreciate that you work so hard…..and that you…..I really need you to support my job search, and say “thank you” when the house is all in order, it’s hurtful when you don’t….here’s what you can do to help me…(say thank when I….), do this for me….thank you for listening.”

    Your wife probably doesn’t even notice that she’s doing this because she IS tired from working, still, that’s not an excuse. Just bring it to her attention in a loving, calm way. And tell that you’re tired too, that you would appreciate some appreciation and that you NEED and DESERVE to hear “Thank you,” occasionally.

    I’d even give her a list of two or three things that you REALLY dis-like doing (but do anyway, so she doesn’t have to) that you would love to hear an “Atta boy” for!

    I know what I’m advising you to do kind of seems “girly,” but you seem like a good guy, with a sensitive (good thing!) and good heart.

    We can never expect our spouses to know what’s going on in our heads, or how we are feeling without telling them, we can, however, hold them mutually accountable for helping to sustain a happier and healthier marriage.

    A marriage without gratitude, encouragement and a spoken “Thank You,” is not a very happy one, believe me!

    I wish you all the best, Jim, and hang in there–it will get better, it always does!

    Many Blessings,
    -Sarah Liz :)

    Reply
  • Marissa March 3, 2010, 6:42 pm

    sometimes i feel like Sandra Bullock in 28 Days, with the cast on her leg, trying to get out of the room with crutches, the mop bucket, and that sign that says “I need to ask for Help”

    Help is such a hard word for me to say, I just don’t think about it. I always feel like if I’m saying “I need you to…” that it is the same thing. My husband disagrees. It is something that he has asked me to work on, and still it frequently becomes absent from my vocabulary!

    this is great advice, and I’m glad to hear it. great job!

    Reply
  • Sarah March 4, 2010, 12:12 am

    Jim, your post made me so sad! I think a lot of us here understand where you are coming from, because this is traditionally what we women/mothers do, all this seemingly endless work that never really gets acknowledged, it’s very frustrating. Here’s a book that I found really helpful, although it was written to give women a man’s perspective, so you’d have to know that while reading it, it’s basically about showing your spouse love and respect, it’s called The Proper care and Feeding of Husbands (I know, silly title) by Dr. Laura Schlessinger (I don’t agree with her hard-line attitude about some things, but the message of the book is a good one.) It was a total eye-opener for me, and it might be worthwhile for your wife to read it after you do. Also, I remember reading once that most people don’t get complimented/rewarded for doing their job (even though it means so much to have your hard work acknowledged), it said that it wouldn’t occur to your spouse to say “thank you for doing all the housework every day” any more than you say to them “thanks for making money again today” as they head out the door. I think everyone needs to remember how great it is to be appreciated. Sarah Liz had some wonderful comments/advice, to add to that: How old are the boys? (sounds like the girl is little) I think you need chore charts, not just help with the dishes, that’s what we did when our kids were younger. If these aren’t toddlers you’re talking about, then they should be bringing their laundry downstairs, (sadly, you’ll be doing it!) then once it’s folded, they can put it away. They can take trash out, sort recyclables, make their beds (these are some of the things on our lists) If they get an allowance, it should be tied to doing this, and also doing a sweep of the living room, etc. for their stuff before they go to bed. In the beginning, you basically need to be like a general and follow them around as they pick stuff up and take it to their rooms. You can say if you find stuff there in the morning (that they forgot) you can start removing favours, like rides/get togethers with friends, etc. and docking allowance, or confiscate the stuff for a period of time. I’m all for letting kids be kids, and not having a house that tries to look like a showrrom, but at the same time, you’re teaching your kids a really important lesson if they learn to clean up after themselves. You’re their dad, not their maid! Also, maybe Saturday morning could be a time when you do something fun for them, like make pancakes, and then everyone has their “job”, cleaning bathroom sinks, picking up random stuff and dropping it in bedrooms, gathering dishes from around the house, whatever you feel like needs to be done, and then they have to straighten up their rooms quickly (dirty clothes brought to laundry room, beds made, toys off floor.) Also, depending on their ages, it really helps to have proper storage if they have a lot of stuff, it makes clean up/organizing much easier. If they do this, they will, in turn, be great husbands some day, just keep that in mind! Also, you wife has to be on board with this, there’s nothing worse than a spouse undermining the battle plan!
    Re: The ending of your post: you are being way too hard on yourself, you’re not whipped, you are tired and running in circles, and, I think, feeling like your best effort isn’t good enough, it’s enough to make anyone sad. Try to remember that even though your wife isn’t seeing the committment you’ve made to your kids, it’s making a difference to them, even if they don’t realize it right now. Wish we could give you an “E-hug”! :)

    Reply
  • Ben Klempner, MSW March 4, 2010, 5:26 am

    Alisa, As always your right on the mark. As a therapist, I frequently tell people to have code words, hug and kiss in the middle of a fight, to embrace imperfection, and generally to love each other and make love regardless of whether or not the couple is “in the mood.”

    Shortly after my wife and I got married we made code words to let each other know when we aren’t feeling listened to or validated.

    Thanks again for another great post!

    Reply
  • Alisa Bowman March 4, 2010, 6:51 am

    Jim–I think you will find plenty of support here. Honestly, that can be half the battle. It sounds as if, from what you wrote, that your main problem is that your wife is unhappy (Ie you’d be happy if she was). Have you asked her why she’s unhappy?
    .-= Alisa Bowman´s last blog ..Marriage Improvement Monday =-.

    Reply
  • Michelle March 4, 2010, 1:04 pm

    Jim I know where you’re coming from. For my husband and I, our roles have reversed. For the first 7 years of our children’s lives I was the stay at home mom. And my husband would come home from work tired and grumpy and ask me “what the hell did you do all day.” (For all of you stay at home parents I don’t have to go into detail regarding why the house look like nothing was done.) It was a very hard time for me. Being home not feeling appreciated, and never ever getting a break can be very stressful. Now that he is a stay at home dad he says OMG how did you do it. I know it’s a cliché but sometimes it takes walking in someone’s shoes to fully understand and appreciated them. Unfortunately I’ve lost some of my favorite blouses to my husband’s effort of doing laundry, but I don’t complain I just take it in stride and do my fair share, even after a hard day at work.

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  • MarthaandMe March 4, 2010, 5:38 pm

    Very good advice. I agree that it is important to say thank you. And I must confess I never understood “I” statements because even if they start with “I” they always end up being about “you”.

    Reply
  • Meg at Demanding Joy March 4, 2010, 7:48 pm

    It took my husband and I a ridiculously long time to figure out to talk about our issues when we weren’t arguing about them. I indeed planned his funeral in my head several times. Learning that made a huge difference in the quality of our relationship and is probably why we’re still together 15 years later.

    Reply
  • Jim in Oklahoma March 5, 2010, 3:14 pm

    To those who have asked, my kids living at home are 17 (step-son and one of two. The other step-son is in the USAF and is stationed over seas), 11, 8, and 4 1/2(that is the little girl). If I follow them around and watch their every move like a warden in a prison, then things get done, but even with the 17 year old, he tends to goof off too much which really stresses me out. And if my wife hears me chewing on him, she comes to his rescue. And makes me out as the bad guy. There have been so many times that I have thought about just taking my kids and leaving her, because I feel like everything that I feel or say falls on deaf ears, that I am not important to my wife and all around basically ignored. I stay because our children deserve to live in a home with BOTH parents there to guide and love them, and because I really and truly love my wife…more than she can ever imagine.

    Alisa…I have asked her why she is unhappy and she starts digging on my every transgression that I have ever done to her, she says that she has had enough of me. The big one is she has this idea in her head that she wants to be alone, to find herself. Her telling me those exact words really hurt me, because I was brought up in a home where both my parents did things together, and she tells me that she wants to do things by herself. Yes, I have given her her space, and when she goes out and does things with her friends, I don’t know about it until the bank statement comes in and I see that she wither went to a casino with her friends or to a bar with them. I really don’t have a problem with her going out with friends and having fun, I just don’t see a problem with her either telling me that she is doing it (and who she is hanging with) or where she is going. I feel that since I am her hubby, that I would like to share in the fun, and if I cannot be there, then to at least have the common courtesy for her to tell me that she is doing it. I just feel very left out, and hurt about it. There is a huge longo-tello about this, and if anyone would like to hear it I would gladly tell them.

    And as far as Dr. Laura Schlessinger’s book, that is the next one I am going to get, I have read her book “The Proper Care & Feeding of Marriage” and seen alot of things in it that were almost shouting to me that this was our marriage. I read the book in 3 days, and I have found out that some of the things that she suggests in it were things that I had already been doing. I, too, agree with you that there are some of her view points that I do not agree with, but overall it was a really good book and had many helpful ideas in it about doing a better job in our marriage.

    Thank you all of the E-Hugs, that is something that I have not gotten from anyone except the kids in better than three months.

    Reply
  • Sarah March 5, 2010, 8:54 pm

    Jim, two things come to mind: One, just doing the math given her first kids’ ages, I’m guessing your wife is about 45 (my age) and I can definitely tell you that I think a lot of women at this age fantasize about “freedom” after 20 years or so of looking after everyone else (perhaps our version of a mid-life crisis?) For me and my friends, it’s this silly idea of having a house where no one makes a mess (not looking for new relationships)! Anyway, I think it’s a phase a lot of women go through. That maybe be what’s going on with her “girls’ getaways”, too. I do that, but about once a year (in the same way my husband goes on guys’ only fishing trips) To me, it’s really about moderation: I think your relationship with your husband should be first and foremost, but hanging out with your girlfirends is important, too, as we talk about things that we wouldn’t with guys. It seems like your wife is maybe leaning a little too heavily in the “girlfriends” direction…maybe you need to schedule some time just for the two of you? Get a babysitter or family member to come stay, and try to get away for the weekend? Also, please try to get her to read that “proper care/feeding” book, it was SUCH an eye-opener for me, I realized I was doing some really hurtful things, and honestly had NO idea, so she may be in the same boat. Good luck!

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  • Kathy March 5, 2010, 10:26 pm

    Jim, I’m just catching up on your situation you write about here. I feel for you.

    When I mentioned to my husband that I didn’t feel appreciated for what I do around the house, he responded with “when do you say thank you to me for earning the money?”. He wasn’t mean about it, and it was a valid question. I don’t say “thank you” for earning the money. But I do pay the bills on time.

    Marriage is a two-way street. Both spouses need to be acknowledged for what they each do. It sounds like your wife is blowing off steam with her outings with her friends. That’s understandable. But she also needs to be talking to you about what she’s going thru. I know when my husband doesn’t talk to me about his work stresses, I start imagining all sorts of horrible things. He’s not a “sharer of his feelings”, but he’s learned that it helps me from going nuts all over him if he keeps me informed.

    You and your wife need to get some time alone together to talk. Follow the guidelines that Alisa has set out in other blogs here.

    Now, the kids are another story. A 17 year old kid should be able to pick up after himself and help around the house. Actually, the kids are all old enough to be helping out. If they aren’t being taught at home how to care for a house, just imagine the filth they will end up living in once they move out. Or what their respective spouses will have to put up with.

    Make it a game after school. Such as “lets see how fast we can get the house cleaned up” or some such thing. My daughter always had chores and she got paid for doing her chores. It was all on a point system. Feeding the cats was worth X points. Cleaning up the dog poop was worth Y points. So she was responsible for how much money she earned each week. It taught her about “hourly” wages in a round about way. And yes, the 4 1/2 year old can help. She can pick up her own toys and laundry. She can probably even learn how to sort laundry by colors.

    Or you can do what I’ve done when my daughter didn’t clean up after herself. Throw all their crap in their rooms and shut the door. I even put dirty dishes on my daughter’s bed. She got the message: I’m not your slave or the maid, take responsibility for your messes.

    Dr. Laura’s books are good. But if your wife is really pissed about something (whether you did something or not – it could just be from her past), she may not be ready to read Dr. Laura. And I believe Dr. Laura used to recommend a book about raising kids to be delinquents, by not teaching them responsibility and consequences for their actions or lack of action.

    Does your wife need counseling? I was severely hating my husband last year (I wasn’t to the point of writing his eulogy, I was still figuring out ways he might die). And not for anything he did or didn’t do. With counseling it came down to what was going on in my own head and what I was imagining about my husband. In other words, it was my own crap making me feel that my husband didn’t care about me or love me or appreciate me. I am now over that. And with him taking an international flight on Monday, I’m worried about his flight (not to the point of driving myself nuts, just how much I’d miss him if something happened to him – big change from just 4 or 5 months ago).

    I wish you well it getting over this hurdle with your wife.

    Reply
  • OneHotTamale25 March 14, 2010, 6:54 pm

    All that was stated in this post is easier said than done. Nagging is probably my worst attribute, and I cannot believe my husband has tolerated that behavior for such an extended period of time. I appreciate this post and I do plan to continue to work on nagging less, fighting fair, and celebrating small successes.

    Reply
  • olaleye temitayo April 6, 2010, 11:54 am

    What of a nagging husband?My own husband nags on daily basis especialy when things are not working.He knows how to squander money when he is bouyant and been that he is now self employed if he is broke im in trouble couple with the fact that i can tag him a perpetual nag .His nagging habbit is now affecting my health ,what can i do?

    Reply
  • Alisa April 6, 2010, 12:21 pm

    Olaleye: take it one problem at a time. Sit down and talk about how the nagging makes you feel. Be gentle, but definitely explain that it makes you nervous (or whatever) and that it’s a lot less likely to get him what he wants. Ask him why he does it. Then figure out a way to help him nag less. Look at it like an addictive bad habit, like smoking. You both work together to help him kick it.

    Reply
  • olaleye temitayo April 9, 2010, 7:18 am

    I have sat him down,invited a respected elderly friend to talk to him even now i discover that when he isat home i prefer going out today im going for holiday to calm my nerves i feel bad leaving him at home as he has been saying :you are deserting your husband: i feel for him but i have have more than enough nagging for 13years i need holiday if i dont want emotional depression.When i come from my holiday i will mail

    Reply
  • Linda May 15, 2010, 9:51 am

    Hello,
    Great site, I have been searching and searching for something for help. I typed in how do you end the cycle of argueing in a hopeless marriage and your site came up. Must be fate, right?
    I will search around the site, I really need some insite here on my marriage. It is crumbling as we speak. 11.5 years and counting. last 2, friends only i guess.

    Any suggestions would be great.
    thanks, i will keep checking your blog

    Reply
  • Annie October 26, 2010, 5:03 pm

    Wow, as I sit and read all these I see alot of what goes around in my marriage but don’t think I would be able to get it out in words like you all do very well.
    That is one thing I really need to learn to do be able to talk to my husband but everytime I do I cry… i’m overly sensitive and it makes him crazy. I couldn’t nag if I wanted to. But I really do love this site glad I found it, it could help lots of people.

    Reply
  • Annie October 26, 2010, 5:23 pm

    And is wrong to ask you spouse to quit smoking????????????

    Reply
  • Andrew January 11, 2012, 7:58 pm

    Thank you for this sharing this post and your strategy. I found them to be very useful. I particularly liked how you ended on being patient. It’s never easy, but sometimes that’s the answer.

    Reply
  • Sara February 23, 2012, 11:44 am

    I have known my husband since i was 15 yrs old… and we have been married for a year and a half now… all was well until i started to get “Panic Attacks” for the past 6 months (irrational fear – had no idea wat was that)… and he handled so much…i do appreciate that. However, i have worked hard on myself and dint take any medications and trained myself to be tolerant… but i started a new job recently with a managerial position and whenever i am home… all i do is nag and mention that i am tired… he has tried several times to encourage me to workout (not that i am fat lolll) that all mental and physical stress will go, but i wasnt doing anything about it and still am nagging… he got frustrated that i am not doing anything about it and still nagging

    He told me that i cant live with the drama anymore, though he mentioned “if i dont love you i wouldn’t have gone this far in handling that much drama and pressure / Nagging”.
    There were times i dont say a word, i hold myself and get my mind of it, then again there are days i just dont stop and i am the type of person that WORRY a lot, i am always defensive and always give excuses… which i want to change…

    I actually need a solution or a way on how to stop nagging and to push myself to workout… any suggestions???

    Reply
  • Teena May 25, 2012, 2:38 pm

    Hey, I was just reading on the net and found myself writing to u. I’m helpless. I’m married , have 3 kids and a husband. A husband I never know how o handle after almost 5 years of marriage. He always have something to say about tideness, we never go out, I’m to blame for whatever happens in the house. Sometimes I just feel like telling him: get a Life!!!!! My mum passed away soon 2 years ago. And he is here just to piss me off for stupid things instead of enjoying and sherishing every moment in life. I think he hates me, I feel he can’t stand me, can you imagine that it pisses him off if I take the kids all the day out and that I propose at night when I come back if he would like to go out! The idea of me not getting physically tired overcomes him!! Anyway I just felt like taking all this out of me
    SOrry I bothered u

    Reply
  • Laid September 21, 2012, 8:29 pm

    I really enjoyed dis site.To have a wonderful home is determination.One must be determined to be happy.Nagging doesn’t resolve issues.Fine spouses won’t know how you feel if you don’t tell them but dia ar ways we can do dat witout naggin.I am 25 married for 4 years with 2 kids I was facing some challenges at first and I aLways nag.But later I learnt to talk politely and with a soft voice.My husby is a change man.I still hav some things I compLain abt but thimgs are better than when I always nag.

    Reply

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