How do you resist the urge to nag your partner? Or do you?
May 12, 2011 2:45 PM   Subscribe

How do you resist the urge to nag your partner? Or do you?

Perhaps nagging isn’t exactly the correct term—more like persistent reminding. Ad nauseum. Sometimes even I want to tell myself to just stop asking. But there are certain things that are either his previously agreed-upon responsibility (certain household stuff, wedding planning tasks) or are entirely in his wheelhouse (his medical stuff, etc.) that I have a hard time letting rest.

The complicating factor is that sometimes I’ll remind him of something that he’s legitimately forgotten, he’ll be happy, and the thing will get done. But there are certain things that he just has a different schedule for, and those are the problematic ones. I’m the sort of person who decides to do something, writes it down, and stresses about it until it’s done or at least in motion. He’s… just not. So with these joint things, or his things—which affect me too, given that we’re a unit—I start to develop a lot of anxiety, which I attempt to deal with by nagging, which annoys both of us and just isn’t productive at all. On the one hand, I want to know the situation and the answer. On the other hand, he is a fully functional adult and I realize that he just prioritizes certain things differently.

How do you deal with this in your relationship, as the nagger or the nagee? Are there hacks? Please let there be hacks.
posted by charmcityblues to Human Relations (50 answers total) 51 users marked this as a favorite
What is his response to the nagging?

I think every couple just has their own way of dealing with it. My male married friend said: "We have an agreement. I do what she tells me, and she doesn't kill me."
posted by Melismata at 2:51 PM on May 12, 2011 [10 favorites]

Are there hacks? Please let there be hacks.

The only hack to communication is silent resentment, which is no hack at all.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:51 PM on May 12, 2011 [3 favorites]

I bring it up with the partner, who tends to be slothful. "Partner," I say, "How can we handle this?"

Sometimes it's things where realistically I have to nag - partner needs to call the doctor, take meds, finish a project that I can't do - and we establish that it's okay for me to remind as needed.

Sometimes we agree on a schedule even if it's not one I like, with the understanding that if it's both undiscussed and uncompleted by the scheduled time, I will bring it up again. The deadline helps me turn off the worrying part of my brain.

Also, we try to structure our tasks to minimize conflict - I do things I'm more likely to get done on time, partner does things they're more likely to finish. We have joint chore time every week, which really helps since we're both working; we have established that I am the dictator of chore time, assigning tasks and checking on them. We do dishes on a rota, so everyone knows whose responsibility they are.
posted by Frowner at 2:53 PM on May 12, 2011 [8 favorites]

Really really pair it down to the most important things, and then keep reminders brief and move on quickly. If there are time sensitive things, when they are being set up ask if he would like a reminder or not. If he forgets, or doesn't follow trough that is a separate issue and one that need not be exacerbated by prior nagging. Part of being in a relationship is letting the other person make occasional mistakes without flipping out over it.
posted by edgeways at 2:53 PM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

Try giving everything more time. My boyfriend is the more uptight one, and a big moment for us was when I was able to convince him that just because [task] doesn't get done right this second, doesn't mean that [task] won't get done ever.

He likes to hop up right after he's done eating and clear away the dishes, which frustrates the heck out of me because we're usually playing backgammon or something and I'm not even done eating yet. So I'll say, "wait 10 minutes and I'll help you with them." Or if there's something he's wants me to take care of (a pile of papers or whatever), I'll give him a defined time period in which I plan to get it done. Only if I don't meet (my own, predetermined) deadline can he get antsy about it.

So my advice to you would be to ask your partner to give you an idea of when he'll be able to do [task] and then ask him to stick to it. Maybe if you know that [task] will get done by [time], seeing [task] undone in the meantime will be less anxiety producing.
posted by phunniemee at 2:54 PM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

Not everything that affects him affects you, even though you are a unit. Just let him deal with his own medical stuff. I also think that if you aren't happy with the way partner is doing something, you can either do it yourself or just let go of it.

Here's a hack: Train your huband.
posted by jeoc at 2:56 PM on May 12, 2011 [7 favorites]

For me, it's an issue of accepting that if I don't want to do it, then it's going to be done on his schedule. If I want it done on my schedule, then I have to do it.

It helps if we give each other deadlines, like I'll say, "I'll empty the dishwasher after dinner," (I hate chores and procrastinate like whoah) or he'll say, "I'll call the doctor by noon on Monday" (he hates talking on the phone). And then on Monday, I can ask, "So what did the doctor say?" and I'm not nagging, I'm just confirming something that was supposed to happen.
posted by muddgirl at 2:57 PM on May 12, 2011 [6 favorites]

Best answer: I'm the nagger. Well, reformed nagger, and for the same reasons as you. I should say that my husband and I have been together for 13 years, and it took us a loooong time to figure out what works for us. We both got together young, so the first few years we both probably handled things wrong.

When I got tired of our dynamic, I sat him down and explained to him why I end up nagging him. If he promises to do something, then a long time goes by with no word from him, I assume he forgot because he's not telling me what his timeline is. So I worked on my simply asking him how long it would take him to get to something and abiding by it (within reason), and he agreed to be honest with his answer -- because if he tells me it will take him 2 days when in reality it will probably be a week, then he isn't communicating with me clearly in the first place, which is unfair.

Then I had to decide what I was going to let go of. I don't nag him about dr's appointments, or getting back to so-and-so....essentially, anything that really just comes down to him handling his own life. He's the one who has to deal with the consequences.

Also, this: For me, it's an issue of accepting that if I don't want to do it, then it's going to be done on his schedule. If I want it done on my schedule, then I have to do it.
posted by DrGirlfriend at 3:01 PM on May 12, 2011 [6 favorites]

This is still something I'm learning to do. One thing I do with certain tasks is ask my husband when he thinks he'll get to something. Then I put it on my list to check back with him about it at that time.

For daily household things, I've stopped nagging. I either do the task myself or let it go (whichever I feel more inclined towards at the time). Those things can slip a bit without much consequence (in most cases), so I'd rather let dirty dishes sit in the sink than be the nagging wife.
posted by Terriniski at 3:07 PM on May 12, 2011

Best answer: Division of labor; men are better with one-time very difficult or unpleasant tasks, women are better with ongoing upkeep and operational work. I realize that this reinforces a longheld stereotype, but it is the way it works for us.
posted by 2bucksplus at 3:13 PM on May 12, 2011 [5 favorites]

(by "us" I mean my household, not all of humanity)
posted by 2bucksplus at 3:13 PM on May 12, 2011 [3 favorites]

Determine the best form for your nags. For us, it is email that he can copy and paste to an alarm on his phone. And then 'hey, remember how I asked you to please break down those boxes?' There is proof.
posted by k8t at 3:20 PM on May 12, 2011

I want you to take a piece of paper and draw a line down the middle. Realistically write down the advantages of nagging on one side and not nagging on the other. Include info on whether or not it gets him to do it, how it makes you feel and how it makes him feel.

Your answer is there.
posted by Ironmouth at 3:23 PM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

I was the nagger in my last relationship. We dealt with it in several ways.

By trying to arrange to split shared chores into things that we were each good at/didn't mind doing.For example I'm not the neatest person so he was in charge of a lot of the cleaning, while I paid the bills and did the cooking and shopping.

I tried to pick my battles and not snip at him because this would just lead to resentment and I didn't like the way I ended up talking to someone I loved. I also tried to count in my head how many requests i had made that day and if it got to be too many think about if it wasn't because I was in a shitty mood or there was some other issue with me.

Letting go of things I really didn't care about and trusting him. If he was due for a checkup at the Dr. realizing that it would be better not to nag him and see him not go or put it off than make our relationship worse by nagging.

The big one though was that I also tried to make sure the nagging wasn't just spill over from some greater issue but in the end it was. In relationships before that I wasn't a nag at all and it turned out I didn't trust him. There were some major things he wouldn't do, but would say he would, that were deal breakers for me. Not being able to trust him with the big things meant I was taking it out on the small things. This probably isn't going on with you but I'll just put it on the table.
posted by SpaceWarp13 at 3:33 PM on May 12, 2011

Best answer: We have a deal where we don't set ourselves or each other up to fail. So we try to set reasonable agreed-upon deadlines for things that need doing, together, realistically. We usually check in once a day to sort of go over what our to do lists are [personal and joint, work and home] and then we go off and do whatever. If there are persistent things that aren't getting handled, that gets brought up as its own issue, not in a "You NEVER did the important task" sort of way. I am the nagging anxious person and he is the forgetful put-things-off person. However I am also often the grouch and he is the sweetheart, we're a team in a lot of ways but this doesn't mean we're equal in all things. I'm better at maintaining the to do list and he is better at just DOING things, but needs motivation/nudging. We try to set up a situation where it's clear what each of our responsibilities are, why they're important, and why they're on the schedule they are. I try not to make arbitrary deadlines because I'm nervous. He tries not to put things off that he's said he's going to do.

We both have little lists of shit we hate doing and often we'll make little promises to the other that we'll do them [for me: my stupid shoulder exercises, for him: moving some of his paperwork away from his ex] because that's our way of saying "I really am going to do this" instead of "I am just saying this to be agreeable" At some point I had to decide that I valued not-nagging and he had to decide that he valued not saying he was going to do something if he really wasn't going to do something. It mostly works. We also do not live together, so this may be no real answer at all.
posted by jessamyn at 3:40 PM on May 12, 2011 [6 favorites]

Are there hacks? Please let there be hacks.


You want to hack your marriage?

If you don't trust him to do what you think he aught to then talk to him. Communication about expectations and responsibilities is the only way to solve something like this.
posted by TheBones at 3:42 PM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: At a basic level, I resist the urge by remembering that my mother was a terrible nag and it always drove me nuts the way she treated my father. When I get the urge, I think, "Don't sound like mom!"

It's a little hard to give you advice, because I don't know your husband's personality. My husband has attention problems around the house, and a programmer's brain. He likes to be reminded about stuff because he forgets a lot, but of course, he doesn't want me to be nasty about it. In order to avoid feeling like I'm nagging I try to be as neutral as possible about the reminders. No judging or anger - just "Have you sent that card yet? No? Okay, it's in your bag, can you do it today?" The next day might be a repeat, and then on the third day I might suggest I could mail it for him. He likes to feel competent so my suggesting I could step in often motivates him to finally take care of it.

For a while, my husband and I had to work on the fact that I was a suggester - "would you like to do this?" "maybe someone could take care of that thing." I thought we had agreed he would do something but he only heard vague suggestions.

I had to learn to be much more direct and explicit with him - "The sink is dripping and you said you'd fix it. Will you fix it this afternoon? Okay, are you going to do it before or after dinner?"

We had problems for years with the dishes, which we were supposed to share. That also now has explicit rules - what exactly "doing the dishes" means, how we handle it if someone skips their day.
posted by Squeak Attack at 3:44 PM on May 12, 2011

Honestly, my approach to this is to decide I don't want to be in a relationship where I have to nag. I decided to accept that I don't like being in a relationship with someone who is irresponsible, unreliable, immature, can't hold up their end of a bargain, and needs tons of hands-holding to do normal adult tasks. I don't want my partner to be a child who needs constant coaching if they're going to clean up after themselves, pay their bills, eat reasonably healthy meals, remember their family members' birthdays, and follow through on their commitments.

I want to be with someone who I can trust and respect as an equal partner, who has the qualities of responsibility, ambition, reliability and trustworthiness that I value. The good news is I found that person. I trust that he is an adult who can take care of himself, and me, when I need it. Now when ever I feel the urge to nag about anything, I remind myself about that. I know I can trust him. So I do.

I realize some people are more laid back than I am... it takes all kinds. But at some point you really have to decide if you want to spend the rest of your life managing someone who's not your kid.
posted by crackingdes at 3:44 PM on May 12, 2011 [21 favorites]

Best answer: On the wedding-planning tasks front, just know that for better or for worse, it's not uncommon for guys of all stripes tend to agree to certain wedding-planning tasks that they ultimately don't fully follow through on, for various reasons. Not that that's fair, or that you shouldn't be able to hold your significant other to his promises, but there are a lot of conversations out there on the wedding forums about this sort of thing. You might look on Weddingbee, specifically, for more thoughts on this.
posted by limeonaire at 3:51 PM on May 12, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Clearly, you have hit a nerve with many of us. In our marriage, I tend to be the nagger, but also the procrastinator. If I don't write something down, it doesn't get done. Simple as that.

For the most part, we have handled these things by agreement. We have agreed to discuss, over coffee in the morning, what's on each of our to-do lists for the day. We have agreed that I will list out household maintenance chores that he will do when he feels motivated to do them. We have agreed that, for really important things that he might be inclined to put off, I will check in with him after the agreed-upon deadline to be sure he has done it. It really helps that we have acknowledged who is best at (or most likes) different types of tasks, so we are deliberate about tapping each other's strengths. We are also very careful, once a task or project has been identified, to be sure one of us steps forward to take primary responsibility for it.
posted by DrGail at 4:02 PM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

Some specific wedding-related advice - this is how we approached it (my husband was an ace wedding planner, but I am lazzzzzy):

(1) If I wanted it (a pretty dress, a pretty cake), I planned it.
(2) If he wanted it (Indian food, a pretty venue), he planned it.
(3) If we both wanted it, we both planned it, together. Yes, this means scheduling time to surf the internet, make phone calls, visit vendors, all together.
(4) If neither of us wanted it, either we didn't do it, or we delegated it to someone who did.

If something I wanted didn't get done, then I wasn't disappointing anyone, and same for him. The stuff we both wanted was highest priority, and it was sure to get done because we were scheduling time to do it. Also, we didn't have to waste time dragging our feet, promising to do something we didn't care about at all, causing resentments by pretending to care because we know the other person wants it.

This worked out pretty well because we had a similar number of desires. If you are the only one with a very specific set of wants, and he doesn't give two hoots about the wedding, then I don't think you can expect him to put in the kind of quality time that you would. Since, you know, you care and he doesn't.
posted by muddgirl at 4:03 PM on May 12, 2011 [9 favorites]

I'm very driven myself, but I don't nag. If something doesn't get done, that's his thing, and he will reap the rewards or suffer the consequences. If it's something I need, I just do it myself. I understand you're a unit, and something like him not taking his medicine is upsetting to you, but you simply can't control him.

People balance each other out functionally. If you're compensating for his lack of motivation or what not, what reason does he have to be motivated? You do it for him. If you back off, he may make more of an effort to keep track of what he needs to do. This will be freeing for both of you.
posted by amodelcitizen at 4:10 PM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

Wedding-related stuff is a different animal than everyday tasks. Wedding tasks might be tied up with emotional issues (e.g., anxiety about family relationships, shyness about talking to vendors etc), so don't conflate the two.

For everyday stuff, I recommend the "hack" of utter straightforwardness. Witness a marital scene:

[Wife opens an overdue water bill. It was on the husband's to do list to pay.]

Wife: Babe, did you want me to remind you to pay the water bill? Or... did you pay it online and not file the paper bill? Because according to this, we're overdue.

Husband*: [Answers truthfully, either yes, paid. Or no, and I'd love for you to remind me. Or no and thanks for reminding me, gee this stuff really gets away from me sometimes knowwhatImean?]

*Caveat: Must be a reasonable person. Some defensiveness is ok if being called on something that fell through the cracks, but lashing out or over defensiveness is not ok.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 4:12 PM on May 12, 2011

Best answer: We have different approaches to how tasks should be handled. Tau_ceti stays at home but runs errands and does all the household stuff right now. I work, but I'm the one who's most likely to remember a task, break it down into chunks, or think of other things we haven't discussed but might need to do soon. Current solution is a shared Google Doc. I think of something that needs doing? It goes in the shared document - with a designation for whether it's his, my, or either of our responsibilities. Then I can occasionally (like, once a day or less) ask "hey, what'd you do today?" or "checked anything off the list lately that I can scratch?" instead of bugging him every time something occurs to me. We find this helpful.

I also take pains not to flood the list with every single thing we might possibly do, if we had the time. And in a nod to the Getting Things Done approach, I try to stick to the next action in a workflow vs. larger problems... so the list will say "Take a picture of where the dog chewed the banister and show it to the guys at the hardware store so they can advise us on what to do about it," instead of "FIX BANNISTER, OMG STUPID DOG."
posted by deludingmyself at 4:14 PM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

I absolutely hate being nagged and I hate nagging others because I think it sounds as if I'm treating the other person/being treated like a child.

Reminders are good every now and then but more than anything being straightforward and direct is helpful.

For joint stuff, there needs to be a clear communication of 'why this affects the both of us' and 'therefore why it needs to get done'. If you can take the lion's share of the joint responsibilities, that might make you feel better because you know it's going to get done when you want it done.
posted by mleigh at 4:23 PM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oh, I should also note that the approach above was after some significant conversation about how each of us preferred to communicate about tasks and to actually get them done. Talking about it is the first step to the hack; unilateral implementation is not.
posted by deludingmyself at 4:25 PM on May 12, 2011 [2 favorites]

Any time I start to feel like a parent and not a wife, I get mad/resentful/withdrawn. Lather, rinse, repeat. Is that how you end up feeling? If it is, and you figure it out, let me know.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 4:27 PM on May 12, 2011

Honestly, my approach to this is to decide I don't want to be in a relationship where I have to nag.

This, as much as possible. Really.

When there was a life-threatening situation, I was surprised to learn that stating the emergency and what actions I'd taken to save our lives and what we needed to do next - led directly to bitterly hurt feelings at the perceived personal attack, and immediate reinstating of the danger by undoing the actions I'd taken. So, from then on, every time I encountered the danger I had to consider whether and how to mention it and weigh the immediate danger against the risk of provoking my nearest and dearest into retaliating by killing or maiming everyone in the household. All of my subsequent views on nagging are in that framework. Fix things so that I don't have to nag, and I don't have to live in fear that my alleged loved ones might kill or maim me to drive home the point that they don't like being told what to do.

So here's how I do it: I associate with people who actually give a shit about whether they kill me or not, and, by extension, who actually give a shit whether or not their actions produce misery in their lives and mine. And if something's not that bad, I work around it so that the consequences only affect the actor and not me; otherwise, I accept it.
posted by tel3path at 4:34 PM on May 12, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I'm surprised people are saying things like "it's his business if he doesn't take his medicine or go to the doctor". No it's not, unless buying and administering his medicine, feeding him all his meals, changing his clothes, changing his diapers, walking him wherever he goes, sponging him down twice a day, and sleeping night after night in a chair in his hospital room are also going to be his business if (god forbid) he should ever become seriously ill. It's good that you're taking steps to reduce friction in your relationship. I'm sure you can work something out about this nagging. But some things are just too important to throw your hands up about. And as someone who watched my mother care for my bedridden father for years and years until he died, doing every bit of the work that his body stopped being able to do for itself, I just can't think of anything that has the potential to affect you more than your husband's health. Or any greater responsibility for anyone than the responsibility to care of their health as best they can so their spouse might not have to. It's something you both should take very seriously.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 4:48 PM on May 12, 2011 [7 favorites]

Best answer: Google Calendar with tasks he needs to do, with reminders set as necessary. I think having the calendar remind him to clean the litterboxes (I'm pregnant) is EXACTLY THE SAME as me reminding him, but for him, my reminders make him feel guilty while the calendar's reminders just make him go, "Oh, right, I need to do that." Even though I am not attempting to impart guilt, just saying, "Don't forget the litterboxes."

My husband is somewhat like yours in that sometimes he's forgotten and is thrilled I reminded him, sometimes he hasn't forgotten and is annoyed I'm asking about it, and I have no way of telling which is which. So after communicating about it, we agreed that I'd ask in a neutral way ("Did you have a chance to do X?" works well for us) and he would not treat it as nagging. If he gets defensive, I remind him that I cannot read his mind and do not know if he forgot or just hasn't gotten to it yet unless I ask. Works pretty well.

It also helps him if I explain why certain things are priorities for me. "I really need you to move those boxes in the dining room that are not actually in our way because I need the space in there so I can finish renovating that thing in the office area, and I have to move some stuff out." That moves it from "small task to get around to eventually" (which non-interfering boxes would be) to "part of a chain of events that need to occur." I also just tell him if I'm upset about a particular thing, in the same way: "I'd really appreciate if you could mop the kitchen floor (which is on his list) on Saturday because the dirtiness in there is really upsetting me and stressing me out." This is a fair reason to make a request, as long as you don't request everything all the time that way. (Like right now, there's a giant mark on the wall he made a month ago that really needs to be dealt with ... at some point. And the stairs really need vacuuming ... at some point. But the kitchen floor needs to be mopped like NOW for my peace of mind.) He can't read my mind either and unless I tell him, he doesn't know how important particular tasks are to me. Similarly, I do all the laundry and I have my own rhythm and schedule and he just works around it ... but if he is aggravated by something or needs something in particular, laundry-wise, he just tells me and I adjust. It's fair to ask your partner for what you just WANT. (Again, as long as you're reasonable and it's not everything all the time.)

I do urge caution about wedding planning, though, since EVERYTHING has the potential to make you emotional. It's a stressful time.

(Also, it sounds like my husband and I do more delegating-of-mandatory-tasks to each other than a lot of couples. Any system is okay as long as it works. Ours is more extreme because right now I'm at home while he's working full time, and I'm 8 months pregnant, so there is definitely stuff that NEEDS to happen that I am not CAPABLE of doing ... and since I run the house, I know what those things are and he's not used to paying attention to them. As long as everyone's okay with it, that's a fine system. So is "Do your own stuff or it doesn't get done, and don't delegate things important to you." Whatever works for you.)

Finally, there are some things my husband needs to be "nagged" about and I simply nag. He won't go to the doctor without a great deal of nagging. (Including, as I mentioned in another recent thread, when it took me OVER AN HOUR to convince him that with a BROKEN BONE from being the bicycle in a car-bicycle accident, he really needed to GO SEE A DOCTOR FOR THAT.) I'm upfront about it, though. I remind him every day he needs to make his appointment and, after a few days, start reminding him why it's important in the first place. When he gets annoyed about it, I tell him, "Look, you can either just call the doctor and make the appointment, or I can bug you about it every day until you do. We'll both be a lot happier if you just call and get it over with." His health is too important to me for his "deal with it later ... 10 years later" attitude to fly.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 4:53 PM on May 12, 2011 [5 favorites]

(1) Buy a large calendar, together
(2) Hang it in a prominent place, together
(3) Write things that need to happen on the calendar, together with names next to each one
(4) Get in the habit of asking out loud - "what's on the calendar today?" and crossing off things at the end of the day.
(5) If something that's on the calendar doesn't get done, you say something along the lines of "there are things on the calendar that aren't done - do you want to move them to tomorrow or are they not needed any more"

This system works for me because the calendar is neutral, visible, and jointly owned. Effectively, the calendar does the nagging so you don't have to.
posted by girlgenius at 4:57 PM on May 12, 2011 [2 favorites]

I struggle with this myself, but we are working on me not nagging/reminding my husband of things that need to get done. Basically, I have to trust that he'll do it and he knows that if he forgets I'll be upset/disappointed. He is learning what systems he needs to put in place so he doesn't forget important things, I'm learning to let go and stop parenting. It's going well - ymmv.
posted by lvanshima at 4:59 PM on May 12, 2011

Best answer: Regarding your specific question on how to resist the urge to nag, the only real solution I can offer is building trust. You and your partner have to be able to trust that the other will get the task done. With that in mind, the variable becomes task priority: how important is this to whoever needs to get it done?

If you and you partner had to set a due date, and estimate how long a task would actually take to get done, would they match up? Most times they wouldn't, and that's a common disconnect that needs bridging. If you want your partner to do something by X date, you should be able to tell them why: if there's no hard due date, you could explain that you need this thing done before you can do this other thing, or it's really stressing you out but you can't do it yourself, so please, do it asap.

If you've done your best at explaining why the task is important (to you), and your partner still doesn't do it, then it might be a different problem entirely.
posted by krippledkonscious at 5:01 PM on May 12, 2011

For recurrent, unavoidable duties that are my partner's agreed-upon responsibility, we've decided that either
1. it gets done "by itself" on an agreed-upon schedule, so I don't have to nag
2. or it gets done as soon as I mention it once, so I don't have to nag
In return, I try really hard not to nag about stuff that isn't necessary.

Also, I prefer not to think of it as "nagging", but as reminders. It's only nagging if the responsibilities are not assigned clearly and if there's a power struggle behind it (as with parents of teenage kids). Completely separate the process of assigning responsibilities (who generally does what?) from the process of "reminding" (can you do that now?), otherwise, it will always come across as naggy and make everyone feel bad.
posted by The Toad at 5:04 PM on May 12, 2011

Best answer: Obviously, there are degrees of seriousness. If he is going to have a heart attack from not taking a pill, then it's worth it to exert pressure. If he builds a shitty roof and it's going to collapse on you, then yes, get involved. If we're talking about vitamins or a bird feeder, then no, you don't need to nag him. It IS his thing.

Women have a tendency to over function for men. Once you stop, you'll be happier and so will he. You might actually get the result you want, which is that he will do shit without you telling him to. Just remind yourself it's his life and he is an adult, and you're more likely to get what you want if you let him have a little bit more competence.

I would say something like, "Hey, I'm not holding your hand anymore with this kind of stuff." And then follow through, letting stuff go. It's worth a try, at any rate.
posted by amodelcitizen at 5:18 PM on May 12, 2011 [3 favorites]

I'm surprised people are saying things like "it's his business if he doesn't take his medicine or go to the doctor".

As one of the people who said that, I guess I assumed that we were talking about low-level doctor/meds/etc, and not a "you will die or be seriosuly harmed if you don't do this" situation. In that situation, I would call that caretaking, not nagging. It's not the same thing.

But as a reformed nagger, I know I have a tendency to ask him repeatedly if he called the dentist for his cleaning, when that's not really something I need to be managing for him. Or, if he didn't take his antihistamine for his allergies, again, that's his deal.
posted by DrGirlfriend at 6:05 PM on May 12, 2011

My partner and I were actually having a semi-related convo last night. I was saying, there are some things I'm great at doing, and some of them are things he hates (specifically in this instance, it's remembering birthdays and sending cards for both of our families). But there are other things that I hate doing and procrastinate on, or just plain forget about.

So I've asked him to take up my slack in those areas -- not by doing them for me, but by reminding me about them when it's needed. Basically, I have requested that he nag me, but only for very specific situations and at specific times. (I also let him know areas that I don't need reminding about, and that means him letting me do them at my own pace without hurrying me along.)

Maybe breaking down your responsibilities together and figuring out which ones actually require reminders vs. which ones are on his radar but not on your particular schedule could help in your situation?
posted by lhall at 7:47 PM on May 12, 2011

I've found with my husband it is actually better to email reminders or place things on a google calendar we both share. For some reason, electronic reminders don't seem as much like nagging. Ymmv.
posted by bananafish at 7:55 PM on May 12, 2011

Perhaps nagging isn’t exactly the correct term—more like persistent reminding. Ad nauseum.

No, nagging is precisely the correct term.

Here's the hack: if it's previously agreed to have been his responsibility, it's his problem. It's not your problem. You don't need to nag him, you don't need to remind him, you don't need to care about it anymore because it's not your problem. It's his problem. If he fails to do it, he can deal with the consequences, not you. Because he was the one supposed to take care of it.
posted by ook at 8:02 PM on May 12, 2011

Best answer: Assume good faith. And act in good faith.

If you're the nagger, before you "remind" the naggee, make sure you're actually reminding, and not setting the other person up for a fall. Don't have your follow-up nag to "Have you done this yet?" at the ready.

If you're the naggee, when the nagger asks, consider the question and answer it. Don't assume that the asker has the follow-up nag at the ready.

The instant that either person shifts the discussion from "Has this been done yet and if not, when will it be?", then it becomes an argument about the relationship, and you both lose.
posted by Etrigan at 8:09 PM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I feel that a lot these answers are utterly missing the point. My fiance does not act like a child or require "managing," and I'm not asking for a referendum on the effectiveness of nagging. Obviously it doesn't work; we just haven't arrived at a satisfactory solution quite yet. For those who suggested "communication," well, yeah. I'm asking for tips on how to communicate effectively while meeting both of our needs. We're not talking about IDLHs here. It's returning the DVDs rented on our joint account to Blockbuster on time, and the like.

It's not your problem. It's his problem. If he fails to do it, he can deal with the consequences, not you.

Really? Because part of being in a serious relationship is accepting that even "his" things matter greatly to me.
posted by charmcityblues at 8:18 PM on May 12, 2011

I never think of anything that I need done as anyone's responsibility but my own. The dishes aren't clean, but I want them to be clean? Then I better wash them. It doesn't matter how much I might have done today, or how little my wife has done today. If it's important to me, I'll prioritize it and get it done.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 8:30 PM on May 12, 2011 [2 favorites]

I also think that if you aren't happy with the way partner is doing something, you can either do it yourself or just let go of it.

This. Before Mr. Murrey lived together, we had very different living styles and I was terrified about how we would cope when we lived together. We have both taken the above approach and living together has been a relatively easy adjustment without nagging. Here are a few things that have helped me (since I am the more particular one):

--When I want Mr. Murrey to do something , I ask if he will do it and if he says yes, I ask him for a deadline. If I am not happy with his time frame, I take care of it. Otherwise, I trust he will honor his agreement and get it done in that time. He rarely misses a deadline and when he does, he apologizes. If he chronically missed deadlines that he set, I would be pretty upset by that. You will have to see for yourself.

--Stated above, but try to split chores out doing the thing your partner hates doing. I hate emptying the dishwasher. Don't know why since loading it is not a big deal, but I digress. 9 times out of 10, Mr. Murrey empties the dishwasher. Similarly, he hates vacuuming and has only done it once in the past year. I don't care or resent this fact at all because he does all of the things I hate doing.

--Let go of things that are not that important. Don't nag about stupid crap that you can do yourself or let go of entirely. If I leave a glass out on the coffee table, Mr. Murrey has 3 choices: nag me about it, put it away himself or let it sit there until I get to it. For small things like this (or leaving the toothpaste cap off, etc) you are just going to have to make
a choice as to how to handle it. Nagging is not the right choice.

--Refuse to be his mother. Fortunately, Mr. Murrey takes care of his own basic hygiene/medical/dental needs like an adult. But if he didn't, I would not jump in and take care of these for him by nagging/reminders. If your husband doesn't get his teeth cleaned regularly, you have every right to complain about his hallitosis, but don't infantilze him by nagging about how he needs to get it done. That is not to say that you can't step in and make appointment for him if it would be appreciated by him and you don't mind doing it. Some people would prefer to have someone handle things like booking appointments where all they need to do is show up. You will have to discuss if (1) you are willing and (2) he would appreciate it.

On preview, you said that you don't need to manage your husband and that he acts like a responsible adult. Great! Therefore, it really just comes down to how YOU manage things not being done in the way you would do them (a lot easier to change yourself than him, right?).

Talk with him about the chores you each hate and assign them accordingly, ask for his timeline for getting his chores done and sit back and trust that things will be handled on time since he is a responsible adult. Let everything else go or do it yourself.
posted by murrey at 8:31 PM on May 12, 2011

Best answer: As with most cases where the obvious (but not helpful) answer is "communication," what's often needed is better understanding of how the other person feels. It may seem obvious that you know how you feel and you just need to figure out how your partner feels, but in my own experience that's not always true. I've found it helps to write down how I feel and why I feel that way before trying to talk about it. Just writing things down makes me really sort through my thoughts (it's sort of like teaching - the first time you teach something, you think you know it, but when you start saying it out loud in a way that others are supposed to understand, you realize maybe you didn't know it as well as you thought).

That being said, I may be able to offer some insight as a (mostly) former person-who-needs-to-be-nagged. If I felt I was being "nagged" it meant that I felt my time and my prioritizing wasn't being respected. If it's my responsibility to take out the garbage, then I'll put it on my list of things to do that evening, but I might do some other things first. Sometimes this would be a project I'd been looking forward to, but sometimes it was even frivolous things, like stare at the TV for an hour, which is how I unwind sometimes.

Sometimes being "nagged" felt like the person nagging didn't respect the fact that I had prioritized things my way. If I didn't prioritize things their way, then it was the wrong way. When people in threads like these say the person-being-nagged is childish/immature/etc. it just makes that feeling worse. I'm immature because I prioritize things differently? phunnimee's example was very nice - phunnimee isn't "irresponsible, unreliable, immature" (as one poster described nagees) simply because she doesn't do the dishes 10 seconds after dinner.

I think realizing that I felt that way (like my way of prioritizing wasn't being respected) and communicating that to my spouse made a big difference. She didn't know I felt that way, and it helped us both understand why nagging would sometimes upset me and sometimes not.

There are, of course, complications. Sometimes I really would forget. If your partner sometimes gets annoyed with nagging and sometimes doesn't, maybe he's like me. If I really had forgotten, the reminder didn't bother me. If I hadn't forgotten and felt like the "reminder" was really a suggestion I should change my priorities, I was more likely to be annoyed. The problem, as you're already aware, is that you have no way of knowing. So our solutions at least partly involve us both realizing that the other isn't a mind reader.

All that being said, there is good news at the end - we worked through it and we're both much happier now. So what did we do? It took some work on both sides.

What I do:
-Remind myself that I am forgetful and these suggestions aren't judgments (which is how they often felt), but the reminders that I often need.

-Do more without being asked even once. What helped with this was giving me more tasks that are regularly scheduled. I'm much more likely to remember things that happen regularly, and more likely to forget one-time events. So I take out the garbage every Monday, recycling ever Friday, mow the lawn every weekend, etc. Those tasks are just part of my schedule now so I won't forget.

-Remember that my spouse also has a way of prioritizing and if I don't respect that, then I'm doing exactly the thing I was complaining about.

I don't know exactly what, if any, mental changes my spouse made, but I can tell you a few things I've noticed that have worked:

-Instead of asking questions that sound judgmental (or passive-aggressive), my spouse just gives me reminders. I know I need reminders, but I don't need orders. Instead of "Have you taken the trash out yet?" or "Do you want to take the trash out?" she just says "Don't forget the trash."

-My spouse doesn't get annoyed if I ask questions about how important this task is. Better yet, she often tells me in advance how critical the task is e.g. "It doesn't need to be done right now, but could you hang that picture before you go to bed?" That gives me a deadline, but I still get to decide if I'm going to do it right now or in an hour when I've had a chance to unwind. By the same token, if she asks me to do something right now, I know it's important to her and I'll do it right now

-If something doesn't need to be done right away, but you want it done right away (and your spouse does that for you), remember that there are probably things your spouse wants but doesn't need too.

There's probably lots I'm forgetting, but this has gone too long, so I'll stop there. The key though is really understanding how nagging makes both of you feel and more importantly why it makes you feel that way. That takes some real introspection, and like I said I've always found it helpful to write my thoughts down before trying to speak them outloud.

One last note: Some of the biggest changes occurred when I was diagnosed with adult ADD. The medication helps some, because I'm less likely to forget tasks, but I think just understanding why it's harder for me to get them done in the first place, helped both of us a lot. This is another reason why cries of "immature!" are so frustrating. For some people, it really is harder for them to keep up with some of these tasks or get them done at an exact time, and having a recognized disorder doesn't make someone a "child."
posted by chndrcks at 9:52 PM on May 12, 2011 [12 favorites]

It's not your problem. It's his problem. If he fails to do it, he can deal with the consequences, not you.

Really? Because part of being in a serious relationship is accepting that even "his" things matter greatly to me.

To an extent. You're a team, not a unit. If something is entirely in his wheelhouse, then you just have to let it go.
posted by spaltavian at 5:49 AM on May 13, 2011

Really? Because part of being in a serious relationship is accepting that even "his" things matter greatly to me.

Yeah, really. If we're talking about stuff like remembering to return movies to blockbuster, and you've agreed that he's the one going to do it, there's no reason for that to "matter greatly" to you anymore. It's his problem. Let it go.
posted by ook at 6:35 AM on May 13, 2011

Oof, that came off way more brusque than I meant.

Here's the thing: one of the advantages of being in a long term relationship is that you can start to divvy up tasks according to your natural inclinations. My wife and I have been at this for fourteen years, and have it pretty well sorted out: I hate doing dishes, she hates vacuuming. I do most of the household maintenance, she does most of the financial stuff. She gets the kid up in the morning, I put him down at night. We both dislike X and Y, well, ok, we'll agree that I'll do X, she'll do Y. Etc. We can each focus on what we're suited to, and we can each delegate the tasks we'd rather avoid -- it's not like we've had to make a formal chart of these tasks or anything like that, or that it's totally inflexible; it's just the result of years of communication.

And the result of that is that once the task is on her plate, it's no longer on mine. I don't have to worry about the financials, because I can trust that she's going to take care of it. She doesn't have to worry about the leaky faucet, because she can trust that I'm going to take care of it. And so on. Life is easier for both of us.

If you're delegating tasks but then constantly reminding him about them, it comes across as a lack of trust and as micromanagement. And you don't even get the benefit of having delegated the task, because you're still thinking about it all the time, and you're still building up all the anxiety about the task not being done. At which point you may as well have saved everyone the trouble and just returned the videos to the store yourself.

Now, if he's chronically failing to live up to his end of the bargain, if you really can't trust him to take care of what he's said he's going to take care of most of the time, that's another question entirely. But it doesn't sound like that's the case here.
posted by ook at 7:11 AM on May 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

Hack: Have a time of day that you regularly set out plans and to-dos. This is your planning meeting where you both pay attention to your list.

We sit down together for coffee every morning, browsing on computers in the same room until the brains are awake. After 10 minutes or so, somebody starts talking. I tell him my plan for the day: I'll probably be home from work at 6 or so, do you know what you want for dinner?
He responds with his plan. This evolves into naming the short-term to-do list. "okay, if stir-fry for dinner I'll stop at the grocery and get tofu. what else have we run out of?"
and that evolves into longer-term planning for the week "okay, we need to get passport forms in the mail - if you get that photo today, I'll mail the packet tomorrow. Oh, you're really busy? It needs to be done by Monday or else it won't get done till next weekend because I'm gone."
and followups "you said yesterday you wanted me [blah] and I haven't done that, I was thinking tomorrow - good?"
Mostly this is household stuff, but I do bring up things I know he's doing for his business "What day is it you're with Sam? Oh, if you need to finish that Y for him by Friday then I won't ask you to X on Thursday". (especially if I think he's forgetting something)

Key points:
- if you think of something later, you don't get to mention it until tomorrow morning unless it's particularly urgent. All reminding happens at one time of day, and is not constant nagging.
- this is not a time when you hand him a list and walk out the door, you're both listing things the household needs and dividing the tasks.
- there's discussion: how important each item is, how urgent, setting priorities/deadlines. And you don't get to set deadlines for another person's tasks, they set their own timescale (with your suggestions?) and tell you what it is.
- there's flexibility: it's not imperative that everything you say gets done exactly when you said, unless it was pointed out as urgent. "right, I didn't do laundry yesterday, maybe tonight" is fine. Low-stakes unless explicitly laid out as otherwise for a good reason.
- it's a planning meeting not a nagging meeting: if important but not crucial item X was pointed out yesterday, and "sometime this week" was decided on, you don't have to say it again today. It doesn't get mentioned again until it hits short-term status.
- if there's something that you agreed would be done that isn't getting done, you can bring it up only in a WE form, not a YOU form. "We need laundry, did you make any progress yet or should I try to handle that?" as opposed to "Why haven't you done the laundry yet?
posted by aimedwander at 12:00 PM on May 13, 2011 [2 favorites]

I'm surprised people are saying things like "it's his business if he doesn't take his medicine or go to the doctor".

If he has a chronic health problem, it really does have to be his thing to take care of. One of the ways elderly diabetic men die early is that they let their spouses take care of their diet and medication, and find themselves unable to function when their spouses die or can't care for them any longer. "I wish you would do this medical thing because I want to live to a ripe old age together" is a good thing to say but even so, it does eventually come off as nagging if you have to repeat it often enough. On the other hand, if your spouse won't take care of his diabetes (for instance), you may have problems deeper than nagging about it on your hands.
posted by immlass at 1:50 PM on May 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

Agreeing that email reminders work better for us, even if we're both in the house when I send them.
posted by Ellemeno at 10:58 PM on May 14, 2011

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