There are two things that we married men hate more than anything else:
- Lack of sex
Nagging sucks. It drains the life out of men.
Nagging sucks for women, too. It takes a lot of energy to be a nagger. That’s energy that she now cannot put into being attracted to you, so the frequency of sex declines as the frequency of nagging increases. Once men can eliminate the nagging, sex is likely to increase again!
So we’re back to the big question: How do we eliminate the nagging?
We’re going to break this down and tackle it in two parts: eliminating the nagging about the tasks we MUST DO, and how to stop the nagging about what is OPTIONAL.
First, the stuff we MUST DO.
There are certain things that are unquestionably our job, as the men in the house. Stuff that we know we should do. Stuff our wives know we should do. This is the list of stuff that MUST be done.
These might include:
- Getting out of bed on time each day and going to work
- Picking up the kids from daycare on your way home
- Taking out the trash once a week
- Mowing the lawn every weekend
- Fixing stuff around the house
- Attending parent-teacher conferences
- Grilling the burgers for the weekend cookout
- Remembering to change the oil on the cars
If these are your jobs and you don’t do them, your wife is going to nag you about it. As unpleasant as it is, you have to recognize that YOU caused that nagging by not doing your jobs.
Your wife wants a man around the house, and if you’re acting like a kid who’s trying to get out of his chores, she’s not going to be attracted to you. It’s not enough to just do the MUST-DOs when you’re asked (nagged) about it. You have to go a step further and be pro-active. You must do them BEFORE you’re nagged.
So get a calendar. It can be an old-fashioned paper calendar posted on the refrigerator, or an online calendar, or anything in between. Put your responsibilities on it. Work, home, school, kids, trash, oil-changes . . . everything you agree that you MUST DO. Check it every morning and every evening. Including weekends. Set a recurring alarm to remind you of events you’re likely to forget.
I’m not going to belabor the finer points of calendar management. Most guys reading this will have already taken care of scheduling their obligations.
I will point out, though, that when the length of the MUST-DO list has become a serious burden to you, it’s your job to eliminate the MUST-DOs.
Eliminate the MUST-DOs when the list is too long
Eliminate the MUST-DOs? . . . that sounds like a contradiction. If I must do something, then how can I eliminate it?
The MUST-DOs are only mandatory because of your circumstances in life. You MUST go to parent-teacher conferences because you have kids. You MUST fix the leaky roof because you own the house. You MUST take out the trash because you don’t have a maid.
But all of these MUST-DOs go away or become optional if you change your circumstances in life. Sell the house and move into an apartment. The apartment will be less expensive than the house, so you can afford a maid. What about the kids’ parent-teacher conferences? You could home school them or send them to boarding school. (I don’t recommend these options. I’m just pointing out that you DO have options.)
“But my wife doesn’t want to sell the house.”
Now we get to the problem that most of us try to avoid. It’s a problem that ends up causing the constant nagging about the MUST-DO items: we want to change our life circumstances, but we’re not willing to have the difficult conversation with our spouses.
So when my wife says, “You promised to mow the lawn today. When are you going to do it?!?”
I can choose to have a little nagging about the lawn, or I can choose to have a big discussion about living in a house. Most of us accept the nagging, and avoid the big discussion. We’re overlooking one critical consequence, though.
The big discussion happens once. It’s not easy. It’s messy. There may be yelling or crying. There are a lot of reasons to avoid it.
Avoiding the big discussion seems a lot easier. Sure, it causes a little nagging, but that’s better than a big fight. But then that nagging happens over and over. Every Saturday. Every week. Forever.
Nagging sucks the energy out of women, and makes them feel decidedly un-sexy. So avoiding the big discussion relegates us to a life with very little sex.
It seems so counterintuitive, but having the big, ugly fights, and resolving the big issues, and cutting down the MUST-DO list cuts down on nagging and increases the frequency of sex.
So far, we’ve covered doing what you MUST-DO and having the difficult discussions that keep the MUST-DO list to a manageable length. How do we handle the nagging about all the OPTIONAL stuff?
Decide once, the first time.
When someone asks us to do something for them, it’s not called nagging the first time they ask. At that point, they’re just requesting help. It only turns into nagging if (1) we agree to it, (2) we don’t do it, and (3) they remind us.
To break the cycle of nagging, we have to short-circuit the process in step 1 or 2.
So when your wife asks you to do something optional, like cleaning out the closet, you need to decide the first time she asks, if you will do it or not. If you say yes, then you have committed to it and it goes on the MUST-DO list. It’s not a MUST-DO because she asked you to do it. It’s now a MUST-DO because you agreed to it.
But you CAN say no. In many cases, you must say no. It’s perfectly acceptable to state your objection to the request and tell your wife that you’re not going to do it.
Unfortunately saying no means having a more emotionally-charged conversation right away – something I usually try to avoid. But the alternative is worse. More nagging. Less sex. Every week. Forever.
Danger at the extremes and magic in the middle
It isn’t always easy to know when to say yes and when to say no. As husbands, we get ourselves into trouble when we go too far toward one side or the other.
- Men who always say yes, and don’t follow through are subject to constant nagging and get a spouse who’s been drained of energy and never feels sexy
- Men who always say yes and always follow through lose the respect of their wives. Women want to be married to a prince, not a servant.
- Men who always say no to their spouse’s requests lose the emotional connection in their marriage, which leads to divorce.
Your mission is to find the middle ground. The point where you can say “No!” to the unreasonable requests, “Yes!” to most others, and then follow through on all the yeses and MUST-DOs.
If you want to know more about this critical balance, sign up for the free Husband Power series of emails on the home page.
OK, so there’s one last case that we have not talked about. Maybe you noticed that I glossed over it earlier. It’s when you say no to a request, you explain your reasons, and your wife keeps nagging you about it anyway.
Note that if you give in when your wife nags you about OPTIONAL stuff that you said no to, you establish a dynamic where she’s going to nag you more. If you give in when your wife cries or gets angry, your future will be filled with tears or yelling. You wouldn’t let your kids get away with this type of manipulative behavior; certainly you can expect better from your spouse!
So if your wife starts nagging you about something OPTIONAL you’ve already said no to, it’s the perfect opportunity to establish the pattern of behavior that you want in your marriage. I recommend “calm, reasoned discussion” as the only acceptable method for repeating a request. If your wife (or anyone, for that matter) comes to you with a well thought-out reason that you should change your mind, and they present it calmly and rationally, you should listen and consider their request. That’s not nagging. It’s just having a discussion.
Any other approach that they might use, like yelling, pleading, hurling insults, acting disappointed, or any other emotional attempt to change your mind should be shut down quickly. You shut it down using the same calm, reasonable approach that you expect them to use. (If you let your wife drag you into anger or some other emotional response, you’ve already lost.) A simple, “I’m willing to talk to you about this, but not until you calm down and can express your reasons clearly.”
That’s how you eliminate nagging: Do what you MUST-DO before you’re asked. Manage your life to keep the MUST-DO list reasonable. Balance your responses to optional requests. Don’t be undermined by emotional reactions.
Do you have a specific scenario you’d like me to address? Leave it in the comments, below, or email me. I’m Max at this domain.
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