How to Deal with a Nagging Wife

Three Parts:Dealing in the MomentWorking TogetherAddressing the Bigger Picture

Nagging is a frequent complaint of married couples. It is a cycle of behavior that usually starts if one party feels nagging is the only way to get what he or she wants. If your wife's nagging is getting to you, there are various ways to cope. In the moment, stay calm and respectful and, if necessary, disengage. In the future, however, work on addressing big picture issues and making small changes with the goal of cultivating a happier, more harmonious household.

Part 1
Dealing in the Moment

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    Pick your battles. If you feel your wife nags too much, consider how much a given situation bothers you. Sometimes, it's better to let certain things go.
    • You wife may sometimes nag about small, seemingly insignificant tasks. You may leave dishes in the living room or not hang up your wet towel after showering. Are these tasks really a huge hassle for you? If not, it may be easiest just to agree with your wife's criticisms and try to remember in the future.
    • If you don't feel that an issue is worth an argument, simply say something like, "Sorry I forgot to pick up my towel off the floor. I'll try to remember tomorrow. Thanks for reminding me." Nagging is rarely done with the intent to be annoying or demeaning. Your wife simply might not feel like you hear her in the relationship, so acknowledging that you're listening will be helpful. Recognize your wife is a different person than you with different priorities. If it doesn't bother you to give in to certain requests, it might be easier just to do so.[1]
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    Disengage emotionally. If you get frustrated by your wife's nagging, you may end up saying something you don't mean. In anger, you might point out her flaws or nag her back. These are not effective means of addressing the issue and will only serve to escalate the situation. Therefore, if you feel yourself getting frustrated it may be best to temporarily disengage. Remind yourself you have a choice of whether or not to argue. Then remain silent and take a moment to think before you speak. If you feel you can't remain calm, ask that your wife allow you to revisit the issue later.[2]
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    Walk away from the situation. Sometimes, it's difficult to emotionally disengage when you and your wife are in the same room. Some space may allow both of you to cool down and reevaluate the situation. Go run some errands, walk the dog, go for a bike ride, or anything really to get some space between yourself and your wife. This may give you both time to calm down, allowing you to better address the situation later.
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    Be willing to look at your own behavior. People often have a tendency to see nagging as solely the problem of the nagger. However, rarely are conflicts solely one person's problem. If your wife has legitimate concerns or frustrations, acknowledge them in the moment.
    • Apologize. If you forgot to take the garbage out, your wife is entitled to be frustrated that you put off a task that would have made her life easier. Listen to what your wife is saying and try to give a genuine apology.
    • Is there something you're doing consistently that bothers your wife? Even if it's small, it might not seem small to her. Maybe when you put off taking out the recyclables, she feels like you're not listening to her. Small changes to your behavior could mean a lot to your wife. In the moment, try to see where you could have hurt your wife's feelings and see if you could do better in the future.[3]
    • Say something like, "I'm sorry. I honestly didn't realize that me being forgetful comes off that way to you. I'll try to work on remembering better in the future."

Part 2
Working Together

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    Calm down. Before having a discussion about your relationship, calm down. Nagging is a pattern of behavior that neither party likes. Just as you do not like feeling that your behavior is under constant scrutiny, your wife probably does not like feeling that she has to constantly remind you about small tasks and issues. If you want to address the pattern, you need to do so when you are both calm to avoid having it escalate into an argument.[4]
    • Set aside a time to talk when you are both free. Avoid times where there are external limits on the conversation. For example, do not agree to start talking at 4 o'clock if your wife has a PTA meeting at 5:30. Instead, agree to talk after the PTA meeting.
    • Do something relaxing before the conversation. Ride your bike, watch a movie, do a crossword puzzle. Any hobby you enjoy can help you go into the situation relaxed.
    • It might help to write some of your feelings down in a letter prior to the conversation. This way, you'll have your thoughts out of your head and will be able to express them better.
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    Assign chores based on importance. If your wife is always mad at you for not making the bed, maybe making the bed is not that important to you. Conversely, if it drives you crazy that your wife doesn't do her dishes after using them, maybe a clean kitchen is not a priority for her. You'll both be more likely to do chores on time if those chores are of personal importance to you.
    • Agree to assign chores for one another based on personal priorities. For example, your wife could agree it's her job to make the bed. You could decide that doing dishes is up to you. This will reduce nagging as it will lead to fewer disagreements over household chores.[5]
    • Be polite, not dismissive, when phrasing things. For example, say something like, "I don't mean to be disrespectful when I don't make the bed. It's just not something I think to do. Maybe we could agree that you'll make the bed and I'll handle a chore that it's important to me, like doing the dishes for example. I think we'll both be more likely to remember our chores if they're of personal importance to us."
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    Negotiate new roles. Nagging is a pattern of behaviors that places people into roles they dislike. Just as you dislike feeling victimized, your wife probably dislikes having to constantly remind you of small tasks and chores. Be willing to negotiate new roles and work mutually on fulfilling those roles. This will help you break the cycle of nagging.
    • Oftentimes, nagging can actually trigger resistance. You may feel you get around to chores eventually, even if it's not on the exact time table your wife wants. Therefore, you may be confused and irritated when she reminds you constantly. This can result in you resisting doing simple tasks just out of spite, anger, or resentment. This will only further frustrate your wife, leading to an increase in nagging.[6]
    • You should both agree to try and check your behavior. Your wife should be willing to see when she's nagging you. You, in turn, should be willing to see when you're resisting and work on addressing that. It's hard to break out of a pattern of behavior and takes a lot of active investment from both parties.[7]
    • For example, say your wife always nags you about taking the garbage out. While this is frustrating, you may also always forget or resist doing this task. You should both work on a way to avoid these kind of disagreements. Try saying something like, "I know it bothers you when I forget to take the garbage out, but sometimes you remind me at night when I'm falling asleep. I won't remember that in the morning. Could you please remind me to grab the garbage as I'm going out the door?" This way, your wife's reminders won't feel like nagging, as you requested them. You'll also be less likely to procrastinate, as you'll be reminded of the task in the moment.[8]
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    Give your wife a time table for when you'll complete tasks. Sometimes, your wife might nag you because she's unsure when and if you'll complete a task. Sometimes, simply sticking to a schedule can greatly reduce nagging in a relationship.
    • A specific schedule may feel arbitrary to you. For example, if your wife wants you to clean the toilet once a week, does it really matter if you do the cleaning on a Tuesday or a Friday? Therefore, try to avoid timelines that follow fairly arbitrary schedules. This can lead to you feeling controlled and your wife getting stuck in the pattern of feeling she has to remind you.[9]
    • Instead, try to set timelines when there's a specific reason a task needs to be done by a certain day or time. Instead of agreeing to clean the toilet this week on a Tuesday, let your wife know you'll be sure to get it clean before her friends come over for cocktails on Saturday night.[10]
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    Request fun reminders. If you consistently forget a particular task, you can't blame your wife for getting frustrated. However, maybe the way she reminds you is ineffective and likely to cause resentment on your part. Request that she remind you about certain tasks in a way that's fun and gentle so you won't interpret the request as nagging.
    • Instead of constantly asking you about a task, especially in moments when you're busy and likely to forget, try asking your wife to write down reminders. A post-it on the front door, for example, could remind you take the garbage out in the morning.[11]
    • Language matters, too. Ask your wife to leave reminders with a friendly tone. For example, returning to the post-it note, request that she not write something like, "Take the garbage out." Instead, something like, "Could you please grab your garbage on the way to work? Thanks! Love you!"[12]
    • Pleasant reminders are more likely to be read as loving concern rather than nagging. If you need the occasional push to complete a task, how your wife makes that request can make a difference in your overall marital happiness. Try to request that your wife remind you in a way that is gentle, friendly, and loving rather than a manner that comes off as nagging.[13]
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    Seek simple solutions. A good way to cut down on nagging in a relationship is to look for simple solutions. While you should still address big picture problems, sometimes an easy fix can provide tremendous relief and make it easier for you and your wife to cope day-to-day. If there are particular tasks you fight about frequently, consider ways you can get the chores done easily. This eliminates the issue and, therefore, the need for nagging.
    • Consider hiring someone to do particular chores. If you neither one of you like mowing the lawn, and fight over whose turn it is, would it really break you financially to hire a neighborhood teen to mow the lawn each week? If you hate repairing minor wear and tear around the house, maybe splurging on a professional to fix the leak in the window is worth sparing yourself an argument.[14]
    • You can also both agree to do certain tasks on your own. For example, if your wife is an animal lover and you're largely apathetic, maybe it's not a big deal that she takes Sparky to the dog park alone on weekends. Maybe your wife doesn't mind re-wearing a pair of pants or a shirt a few times without washing it but you wince at the idea. Maybe you can just do your laundry separately.[15]

Part 3
Addressing the Bigger Picture

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    Reframe your thinking. The term "nagging" is fairly loaded and comes with a lot of negative associations. What one spouse perceives as nagging is usually the result of consistent bad communication, forcing people to fall into roles they dislike.[16] While you might see your wife as "the nagger" in the situation try to understand the real problem is deeper than that. Something is not being communicated well between the two of you, leading to a cycle of nagging and resisting. Think of the issue as a mutual failure of communication as you begin to address the big picture.
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    Listen actively. When talking out an issue like nagging, it's important you hear what your wife is saying. Don't only half-listen as you plan your response to what she's saying. Be willing to listen actively when discussing bigger picture issues involved in nagging.
    • When your wife is talking, listen to what she has to say. Give non-verbal cues that you are paying attention. Maintain eye contact and nod when appropriate.[17]
    • Briefly summarize what your wife has said when finishes talking. This assures her that you were listening. It is also a good way to make sure you fully understand what she is saying. For example, "I'm hearing that you feel disrespected when I leave dirty dishes in the sink overnight" or "So, when I walk in the kitchen with muddy shoes on you feel like I don't appreciate how hard you work to keep the house clean."[18]
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    Use "I" statements. "I" statements allow you to accept responsibility for your own feelings. When you use "I" statements during a discussion, you avoid placing objective truths on the situation. Instead, you're communicating your own feelings. This can result in both parties feeling less judged during a conversation.
    • "I" statements have three parts. They begin with "I feel" and state your emotion. Then the behavior that causes this emotion. Last, explain why you feel that way. The point is make your wife understand how her behavior makes you feel. You are not saying the behavior is inherently bad but rather communicating your own personal feelings about the behavior.[19]
    • For example, say you get frustrated when your wife reminds of something you intend to do because it makes you feel scolded like a child. Do not say something like, "When you remind me five times to do the dishes, it's annoying because I'm not a child. I'm going to do them eventually just maybe not exactly when you wanted." This comes off as judgmental and blaming, like your wife is solely responsible for how you feel.
    • Instead, rephrase that statement as an "I" statement. State your emotion, the behavior that causes it, and why you feel that way. Say something like, "I feel frustrated when you remind me over and over again to do the dishes because I will always do them eventually, even if it's not on your exact time table."[20]
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    Address why the nagging bothers you. Remember, in a disagreement it is rarely one party's fault. Your wife needs to understand your perspective, just as you need to understand her point of view. Be honest with her about why the nagging bothers you and how it makes you feel.
    • If you feel your wife is being overly critical, your natural reaction may be to avoid or ignore her. However, this may result in her not understanding how her nagging makes you feel. When you avoid or resist her criticisms, it might come off as simple disrespect. Try to be upfront about why the nagging is an issue and how it makes you feel about yourself.[21]
    • Tell your wife, as specifically as possible, how her nagging makes you feel. Do you feel hurt when she nags you? Do you feel unfairly pressured? Let her know. She needs to understand her role in fixing the cycle of nagging.[22]
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    Listen to your wife's perspective. If you want to address nagging, you need to understand your wife's perspective as well. Just as you stated how you felt using "I" statements, allow your wife to do the same. Try your best to understand her side of the story.
    • Encourage your wife to share her feelings with you. This will allow you to get inside her head and see what's driving the nagging. Be receptive to her point of view. Many times, people feel they need to nag to be heard. If you're sometimes distant or forgetful, it may not seem like a big deal to you. However, your wife may feel you're being disrespectful or dismissive of her needs.[23]
    • Try to understand what kind of background your wife comes from. What was the relationship like between her parents? Many people have rarely seen anger or frustration expressed in an appropriate manner. This can lead to nagging or other passive aggressive behaviors. If this is the case with your wife, make it clear that it's all right for her to express to you when she's angry or frustrated by your behavior. Work together to communicate minor frustrations or irritations better.[24]
    • Be willing to compromise. Relationships take work. If your wife's nagging bothers you, there are probably things you are doing to make her feel it's necessary. Try to be more proactive about household chores and more open about your feelings and emotions. This can go a long way in making your wife feel appreciated, which can greatly cut down on nagging.


  • If the issue of nagging keeps causing problems, consider seeing a couples counselor. A qualified therapist can help you find effective ways to deal with your communication issues.

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Categories: Marriage Issues