Married-How to Understand Her
How To Avoid the N(ag) Word
It’s the dreaded repetition of endless duties, tasks and errands. It’s the incessant reminders of what you should be doing instead of what you’re doing now. It’s the endless suggestion that you are not doing, saying or being what someone else thinks you should be. No wonder you want to avoid it like the plague….I don’t blame you.
Contrary to popular belief, for the most part, women really don’t like to nag. We become uncomfortable with the anxiety that builds inside of us when the things that need attention aren’t being addressed. Instead of directly talking about what the wet towels on the bed or your poor eating habits really about, we pick the tangible things and sink our teeth into them. Then the dreaded power struggle ensues where no one wins and both parties wind up on polar opposite sides of the room. Let me help you understand why this happens and what you can do to avoid this wrath.
So, if she isn’t really talking about the socks or the toilet seat, what is it? She is likely attempting to tell you that she wants you to extend your love to her in the form of tasks, duties and help (see my article, “How Women Receive Love” for more in depth information on this). The skinny of it is that she is most receptive to love when it is in the form of the things you do for her. This can come in the form of assistance with the kids, picking up the dry cleaning or doing things without being asked. When these things are taken care of, she can relax and know that you are tending to her needs. In turn, she will be less likely to question your schedule, monitor your habits and look for holes in your consistency.
Bottom Line: Be proactive and ask her what kinds of things she would like you to handle on a regular basis and what she should do if she has special requests of you. You will wind up looking like Husband of the Year for your efforts.
For those of you who may have read my suggestions to allow her to do things on her own, these instructions may appear confusing to you. Let me explain: modern women have been taught to do most things on their own and have become overburdened and stressed as a result. Though we may have the knowledge and the capacity to handle things independently, life is simply easier when we have help. In order to prevent us from becoming completely dependent on you, on occasion, we want to prove to ourselves that we still have the wherewithal to manage life on our own. With the divorce rate rocketing to 58%, we have watched many single mothers struggle with managing their lives alone. Many of us have made a vow not to put ourselves in a predicament that leaves us without the knowledge to be self-sufficient. Therefore, we really do want your help regularly and consistently, we just want to demonstrate that we can still do this for ourselves on occasion as well.
Women are givers by nature. We tend to the needs of others, pick the bugs out of your hair, make sure that you are nourished and loved. We thrive on providing this for others; our brain chemistry is most balanced and we are happiest when we have this in our lives. If you are one of the only outlets she has to give this care and concern to, she may extend more than is healthy for her in an attempt to meet this inner need. In this case, resentment can build if she is caring too much for you and not enough for herself or others in her life.
Though annoying to you, this tendency (when in check and balanced) has played a role in guaranteeing the survival of our species. Think about it; paying attention to details like the meaning of a child’s cry or the subtle dangers around the house (like germs) that could hurt little ones, she’s doing her part to protect her young. If they survive, we continue to survive as a whole. I know that when you’re listening to her screechy voice complaining for the 17th time about the disastrous garage, that this is the last thing on your mind. However, knowing where this comes from may take some of the nails-on-a-chalkboard bite out of her seemingly endless comments.
We also take it upon ourselves to improve the people in our lives…most of the time without solicitation. Because we are wired to interpret and help meet the needs of others and make meaningful connections (it literally bathes our brain in feel-good chemicals), we look for opportunities to offer our “help” all the time. You may think that she gets her kicks out of giving endless comments about how you should pay attention to what you eat. What’s really happening is that she feels good (in a brain chemical way) when she’s offering assistance to the people she loves. When you eat better, you’re going to be healthier. When you’re healthier, you’ll be around longer. If you’re around longer, you’ll be able to share your lives together longer, which brings me right back to the desire to create connection. More than a choice, it’s our nature. This can get out of hand at times, especially when she is anxious and doesn’t trust that you can handle things for yourself. But when it’s balanced, it can be an expression of genuine concern.
Bottom line: Come to see this as her way of expressing care and it may take some of the irritation out of her words. Support her efforts to pay attention to her own needs first, then to others so that she doesn’t over-give and deplete herself.
Another possibility is that she is responding to unfulfilled promises (spoken and unspoken) on your part. This takes the form of things like agreeing to take out the trash and then forgetting to do it. We hate this! She keeps reminding you to do it because she doesn’t trust you’re going to remember. (Unfortunately for you, you’ll wind up paying the price over and over again for a few indiscretions, we have wicked memories and won’t let you forget it either). You assume that because it’s not high on your priority list that it’s shouldn’t be important to her either. Again, it’s not about the trash, she interprets your follow through as an extension of your care for her. Without understanding this, you’re bound to be totally confused when she wants to make this out like you’re Enemy Number One in the Great Battle of the Trash.
It may also take the form of falling short on an agreement you may have made early on in your relationship like being a financial contributor or an active parent. Reminding you of what you should be doing is another way of saying that you’re not holding up to your end of the contract. What she doesn’t understand (yet) is that if she were to offer encouragement instead of highlighting your shortcomings, she would get results much faster. (Don’t worry, we’ll be offering this kind of suggestion on our women’s site very soon.) Allow me to say that there are women that are impossible to please. You may very well be a man of your word and living according to your agreements…and she still may be dissatisfied. This is an indicator of a wider scale problem that deserves attention. I see many men who bend over backward in an effort to please the women in their lives, yet their partners are continually displeased and miserable. If this is the case, I encourage you not to personalize this. There is a time where your responsibility ends and hers begins. If you know that you’ve done the things that are in your power to improve, you’ve given your sustained effort and she remains focused on what’s still wrong, it may be time for some additional support. See my article entitled When To Ask For Help.
Bottom Line: Take a look at your behavior and note whether you are living up to the promises that you’ve made. Take some steps to honor those agreements and consent only to the things that you have the intention of fulfilling. Live with integrity and character; doing so will ensure that you’re doing your part and will highlight if she’s not doing the same.
Anxiety and worry is not sexy. Nagging is where sexiness goes to die and if it continues, can really put a damper on your desire and openness to her. You can do your part by understanding the nature of this tendency and not to personalize it. You are not alone…all you have to do is ask any of your guy friends about their women. This isn’t an excuse for poor behavior; it’s an explanation of a female trait. Knowledge is power only if it’s put in the form of action. One of my favorite authors, Leo Buscaglia said, “To know and not to use is the same as not to know.” Though you aren’t in control of how she manages her need to care for others, you can do your part to be aware of these tendencies and see them for what they really are.