How to Communicate Our Needs to Our Spouse Without Nagging
By: Ashley Willis
Nobody likes a nag. Nobody. So, why do so many of us struggle with nagging our spouse? And, contrary to popular belief, it’s NOT just wives who struggle with this. Nagging is toxic epidemic in marriages today, and there are so many healthier ways to communicate what we need to our spouse. Here are five important things to remember when it comes to communicating your needs to your spouse WITHOUT nagging:
1. Resist taking on a different tone of voice with your spouse whenever you are trying to “convince” your spouse to do something.
Whether it’s whiny and high-pitched or low and angry-sounding, we all know that nagging has a certain kind of tone for each person. And, it’s super annoying. I caught myself doing it once to my kids, and I wanted to run away from myself! It’s awful! Yet, those of us who struggle with nagging do it way more than we realize. But, it is much easier to spot in others than it is in ourselves. Therefore, we probably need to discuss with our spouse. Ask them if you tend to take on a certain tone of voice when “convincing”–ahem, nagging–them to do something. Prepare yourself to get an honest answer that you might not like. If they say “Yes, and it sounds like this ____,” take this information and try to catch yourself using this tone of voice throughout the day. This exercise will help you to resist using this nagging tone, and it will certainly improve the communication and climate in your marriage.
2. Don’t nitpick your spouse.
Nitpicking is the act of criticizing every little thing–even the most insignificant idiosyncrasy–about your spouse. Whether it’s how your husband folds the laundry or how your wife eats chips, a naggy spouse will point it out–and not in the kinds of ways. A naggy spouse might say something like this:
“Honey, you’re not folding that towel in threes.” (Pauses and looks at him.) “In threes!” (Rolls eyes.) “ I said: In. Threes. That’s two folds.” (Gasps.) “Huh. I’ll just do it myself since this is obviously so difficult for you.” (Grabs towel with attitude)
This kind of naggy approach will only hurt our relationship.
Instead, we can choose communicate our needs in a healthy way by saying something like this:
“Sweetie, thanks so much for folding those towels.” (Genuinely smiles as she walks away.)
I guarantee you’ll get a much better response from your spouse and the towels will still be folded–even if they’re not exactly the way you want them to be. The bottom line here is that we shouldn’t nitpick our spouse about anything. Nitpicking only creates unnecessary pressure on a spouse, and frankly, it’s degrading and disrespectful. So, friends, please steer clear of nitpicking one another and your marriage will be much healthier.
3. Don’t command your spouse to do something for you multiple times in a short period of time. Ask them one time and wait patiently.
This is nagging at its worst. Nags rarely ask their spouse to do something; they usually command them to do so whether verbally or via text message. And, not only that–they repeat the command over and over again until their spouse finally surrenders. Friends, this isn’t how marriage is supposed work. We are equals. We don’t command each other to do anything. We love each other and treat each other with respect.
Instead of telling our spouse to do something 5 times in the same encounter, we need to kindly ask them for what we need. Then, we ask them for an approximate time frame that they think they can complete the task–if our spouse says they can do it at all. And, then we wait. I know this is the hardest part of the whole thing–as one who has struggled with this, but the waiting time is important. This shows our spouse that we trust them to follow through on the task. If there is no follow through in the time frame that was agreed upon, then we kindly remind them of what was previously discussed. We resist the urge to become annoyed and snarky, and we choose to have a respectful and honest conversation with our spouse.
4. Refrain from manipulating and intimidating your spouse with your body language and facial expressions.
This is a biggie. Nags don’t just use words to do the nagging; they’ve got a whole non-verbal arsenal full of everything from eye rolls, to folded arms, to angry stances. Those of us who struggle with nagging know this all too well. But, this behavior leads to crushing consequences for our marriage.
Friends, these negative (and obnoxious) non-verbal responses are just as damaging as what comes out of our mouths. If we are going to communicate our needs to our spouse in a healthy and productive way, we must pay closer attention to this and train ourselves to choose more loving and respectful body language and facial expressions, and we must realize that we shouldn’t try to manipulate our spouse. Instead, we need to go to them and talk about how we feel, what we need, and what we desire. This is how we must communicate to cultivate a healthy marriage that lasts.
5. Don’t bring up your spouse’s past failed attempts at following through on your “requests.”
This one certainly stings. Nags tell themselves that their spouse needs to be reminded of past failures of follow through so that it doesn’t happen again. But, this is not only counterproductive, it is degrading to our spouse. It usually goes something like this:
“Rachel, the bake sale is coming up for Junior’s baseball tournament. Remember how you totally forgot to make something last time? Yeah. That was so embarrassing for all of us. You sure forget to do things A LOT. Write this one down. Please don’t embarrass the family this time.”
Yikes! I’m sure Rachel walked away from that exchange feeling completely disrespected and defeated–hardly motivated to remember to bake something for the tournament. Instead, her husband could have said something like this:
“Rachel, the bake sale is coming up for Junior’s tournament. It’s on September 2 at 11 a.m. Here, I’m putting it on my calendar so I can remind you the day before. And, I’d be happy to help get what you need to make it, or I could even bake it myself this year if that would help.”
As a wife, I LOVE that second response so much better, don’t you?
No pressure. No judging. No assumptions. Just love and respect.
I love how Corinthians 13:5 describes love. It says that real love “…is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
No record of wrongs.
This can be extremely difficult for those of us who struggle with nagging, but Friends, we must refrain from keeping a running list of our spouse’s failures in our minds if we are going to successfully communicate our needs to our spouse in a kind and affirming way. Let’s choose to forgive our spouse’s failures and look for the good in them. This mindset will help us to approach them in a positive, life-giving way and help us to communicate our needs to one another successfully—WITHOUT nagging.