The day my husband called me a “nag,” I locked myself in my bedroom and cried. Because from the day we got married, I vowed that I would never, ever be the stereotypical nagging wife.
Growing up, I got the impression that nagging was something wives just “did.” I expected that most wives had to beg their husbands to do the simplest of tasks, like take out the garbage, pick up their socks, and “help” with the children.
I saw marriage depicted with the idea that wives rule the roost, so to speak, and husbands are there to pretty much drag their feet against whatever their wives ask them to do. (Not the prettiest of pictures, right?)
So I vowed my marriage would be different — I would never nag my husband.
I’d be the type of wife who was content just doing her own thing, looked at marriage as a partnership with a man who was completely capable of sharing household responsibilities, and never considered himself a hero for taking care of his own children.
And most of all? I would never, ever nag. Nagging, in my mind, equals everything that’s wrong with a marriage.
Nagging represented a shift in power from two people who loved and committed their lives to each other to two people stuck in a cycle of resentment, sexless nights, and bitter fights.
Of course, like most things that come with growing up and growing wiser, I had things about half right.
I soon realized that marriage was a partnership, but throw in a few (or four) kids and there definitely was no such thing as 50/50 anymore.
Marriage is about survival when you’re in the trenches of parenting young children. And like it or not, my husband and I have different standards about what a clean house and a stocked cupboard consist of. (And as for those socks on the floor? Yeah, that’s definitely a stereotype that exists for a reason. Mostly because it’s totally true.)
And yet even through the hard parts, and as the veil of the feminist marriage I envisioned fell from my eyes, I refused to fall into the role of the nagging wife.
Did my husband switch the laundry before coming up to bed as I asked him to? Well, no.
Did he take the garbage out every time I kindly requested it? Er, not exactly.
Did he sometimes leave the bulk of everything childcare-related in my hands? Well, maybe.
But, I reasoned, these things were not naggable offenses. The laundry would get done eventually, I don’t need him to take the garbage out, and I’m fine juggling the work/babysitter schedule.
I certainly wasn’t going to start nagging him over those things, because what good would nagging him to do?
Nagging would only push my husband even further away, and as the not-delicious cherry on the top, ensure that those tasks I wanted to be done would never get done.
So, I tried different tactics — visual cues or simply doing things myself. And it worked … mostly.
I repeated the mantra that I couldn’t ever change my husband, but I could change myself. And if something really started to bug me, I knew we needed to hash it out like two grown adults.
When the day came that my husband called me a “nag” — an event that didn’t happen until we were seven years deep into our marriage — it definitely broke my heart.
We were having a “discussion” about my husband putting off visiting the doctor.
It’s one of those topics that we struggle with because he seems to be like a stereotypical male who never wants to go to the doctor. And in my mind, it just doesn’t make sense.
If you’re married and you have a family, getting check-ups isn’t just about you; it’s about your entire family. So, you best be getting your butt to the doctor when you need to.
When I expressed my opinion to him, he suddenly exploded: “Stop nagging me about it!” he shouted.
With those words, a seven-year streak of “no nagging” was suddenly broken and I was devastated. I looked at myself through the eyes of an outsider.
Had I become that wife that I dreaded? Would my husband forever mark me as a nag? Would we resort to insulting each other and plotting ways to annoy one another for the rest of our lives?
As it would turn out, my nagging offense didn’t ruin our marriage. My husband, of course, later apologized and admitted that fear had gotten the best of him.
Related Stories From YourTango:
Instead of facing his fear about going to the doctor for a health concern, he’d taken out his emotions on me.
It wasn’t exactly fair, but it’s also what happens sometimes in a marriage. The one you love the most also becomes your punching bag.
But the experience did show me that I was right all along.
My husband, whether through conditioning or by some kind of natural trigger, doesn’t exactly take well to the thought that a woman might be “nagging” him.
And honestly, it didn’t make me feel too hot, either. I didn’t get married to have to tell my husband what to do like he’s a little boy.
Instead, open and honest dialogue, being upfront about my needs, and approaching difficult conversations by looking at my own emotional background first got me a lot further in our marriage than “nagging” ever did.
And if all else fails, I can always try calling up his mom to get on his case for me. Because no man would ever call his mama a “nag,” right?
Chaunie Brusie is a Registered Nurse, writer, editor and the author of Tiny Blue Lines. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, The New York Times, Real Simple, Parents, and Glamour.