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NAGGING: Radio Times Interview and Podcast

March 4, 2012

Today* on Radio Times, I’ll be a guest of Marty Moss-Coane.  The topic is nagging.  A recent Wall Street Journal article dubbed nagging, “The Marriage Killer.” Nagging starts benignly enough with a request. When the request is ignored, a pattern begins: The request is repeated with increasing annoyance,with harsher tone, eye rolls, deep sighs on the nagger’s side, and over-promises, resistance, stonewalling or aggressive defensiveness on the naggee’s. Nagging creates a toxic cycle,  and a loser/lose all problem.

Everyone in relationships is familiar with nagging. You’ve either nagged or been nagged. Nagging starts in childhood: “How many times do I have to tell you to clean up your room? Have you done your homework? Did you remember to walk the dog? ” In intimate relationships, nagging also has a parent-child feel. One partner scolds, the other makes excuses, or becomes surly and withdrawn. Not a recipe for romance. While women have the reputation for being nags, it’s an equal-opportunity offense.  Clients in my book refer to nagging as their “stupid fights.” These arguments seem petty, but are damaging because they’re repetitive. Ongoing complaints become personalized. “If you loved me you’d do what I’m asking.”

The genders split over topic. Women more often nag about the home burden, aka the “honey do” list.  “Honey, don’t tell me you forgot to call the repairman again? or “You’re such a slob–you expect me to pick up your dirty, smelly socks off the floor. You’re so disrespectful of me.”  Men more routinely nag about money: ” You went shopping again? How much did you “save” today? “and decreased intimacy: “You’re too tired again? Give me a break.”  The nagging cycle often gets worse with the advent of children, because the tasks on the “to do” list sky-rocket exponentially, while romance may plummet.

Characteristics of naggers include: Planners and organizers, and those with a high attention to detail.

Naggee’s are more often “laid back,” spontaneous, and may have undiagnosed A.D.D.  They often mean-well, but are distractable and poor on delivery.

When the cycle turns into “I can’t count on you/ You’re always on my back,” then relationships falter and may fail.


  1. Think of benign explanations: Not lazy, but forgetful; not doesn’t care, but tired.
  2. Resist the urge to ask repetitively–schedule a weekly business meeting instead.
  3. Don’t promise more than you can deliver.
  4. Create a timetable  or DO IT NOW.
  5. Write notes instead of verbal request that convey irritated tone or annoyed facial expressions.

*Tune in and Call in to Radio Times on Monday, March 6th  from 11 noon, and join the discussion!

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