How do I live with a nagging wife?

Nagging doesn’t have to be negative and mean. There are constructive ways to help your husband understand without being crtitical.

Who would have thought that being called a nagging wife could become a compliment?

According to a study by Michigan University, husbands with nagging wives are likely to be healthier than those with wives that leave them alone. Apparently a man needs a good nag from his wife to encourage him to wear sunscreen, eat healthily and seek appropriate medical help. This is because men, the researchers say, are taught from a young age to depend on women for help with health issues.

If you’re a man you are probably thinking, “Rubbish! What sort of research is that?”

The study of 3,000 couples over three years found a husband’s health drops by up to 25 percent when his wife neglects nagging because she works more that 40 hours a week. By contrast, women do not have any ill-effects from their husbands working more that a 40-hour week..

But regardless of the health benefits, men generally say they hate being nagged by their wives. Is there a way to be nagged, and reap its benefits, without feeling you’re under the thumb?

Imagine you are sitting comfortably in your easy chair in front of the TV. You reach for another beer, chocolate or cigarette. A gentle hand caresses your arm seductively, distracting you from the destructive choice you were about to make.

Now picture this. You’re in your chair. Your arm reaches out. A voice screeches at you, “Not another one?”

Which nag do you prefer?

I bet if those researchers did another study comparing constructive nagging with negative nagging, they’d find significant differences between these two.

Constructive nagging is a skill that anyone can be taught. The only requirement is a willingness to learn. If your partner refuses to participate, there is still much you can learn to minimise tension. A couple learning together to constructively “nag” delivers the best results.

So how do we nag constructively?

We listen non-judgementally to how each other feels. We say how we’d like to be treated. We respect each other’s needs and negotiate how to meet them. We set up “nagging signals” that we can use with each other. Such signals avoid the notorious, negative nagging that has given the practice a bad name. Nagging signals are simply reminders. They are based on agreements made beforehand between you and your spouse. And they are what they say – signals sending a message. They do not confront in the same way as does traditional nagging.

Nagging signals work best if they are connected with some positive feelings. In the example of Nadia and James featured on this page, Nadia’s gentle touch, smile and eye contact are designed to elicit positive feelings in James.. Unwittingly, James feels good when he is nagged. Over time the nagging signals shorten. Words do not need to be spoken, just the initial touch, look or smile is enough to send the message.

And soon you will be getting healthy, and enjoy being nagged.

Drinking to success.

James and Nadia have been married for 8 years. The relationship worked well for the first five years but then deteriorated. James was in the habit of coming home late after a few too many drinks at the pub. Nadia’s tolerance for these late homecomings was nearly exhausted. She’d be all worked up emotionally before he walked in the door, then meet him with a barrage of complaints.

In counselling, Nadia revealed her fear that James was turning into an alcoholic.

James said he dreaded coming home and stayed longer at the pub than he should to avoid Nadia’s nagging. The more he drank the less he’d care about her outburst at home. He wanted Nadia to be more understanding of his need to have a couple of drinks after work to unwind.

The counsellor taught James and Nadia how to “nag” constructively. They explored each others needs and found ways to meet them.

Now, James agrees to come home straight after work and have no more than two alcoholic drinks. Nadia agrees to greet him with a kiss and sit down and talk about their day as they enjoy the drinks.

James and Nadia have discussed and agreed on their “nagging signals.” If James is tempted to have another drink, Nadia will gently touch him, look into his eyes, smile and say “remember our agreement.” If Nadia is tempted to forgo their time together to complete some task, James will place himself in front of her, gently hold her shoulders, look directly at her and say, “nothing is more important than us having time together.”

Constructive Nagging

  • Listen non-judgementally to your partner’s thoughts and feelings.
  • Say how you feel and what you’d like.
  • Respect your partner’s right to have their needs met.
  • Realise your right to have your needs met.
  • Negotiate to meet the needs of both.
  • Set up “nagging signals” with each other.
  • Agree to be self-disciplined and make use of the “nagging signals.”

Nagging Signals

  • Agree on what behaviour needs nagging.
  • Agree on when the signal will be used.
  • Agree on what signal will be used.
  • Follow precisely what has been agreed.
  • Never use the nagging signal for anything that hasn’t been agreed beforehand.
  • Act on the signal, the sentiment behind it is concern for your welfare.