"Steve, speak up. You always sit there and let everyone else do the talking." "Jan, did you mail the mortgage payment? We'll pay a huge penalty if it's even one day past due. Turn off your Walkman, Jan. I'm trying to talk to you."
Sound familiar? We're all tempted to nag now and then. I've been known to follow my wife around the house demanding that she remember the amount of a missing check or a recent cash withdrawal. I figure if I just repeat the question enough she'll remember. (I've also been known to discover that I wrote the missing check.)
There are two big nagging myths to debunk. First, that nagging is a feminine fault. Both men and women engage in this annoying practice.
The second myth? That nagging is the exclusive fault of the nagger. The truth is that while one spouse may be more prone to find fault with the other, both partners share responsibility. Nagging is a lot like that spiteful teeter-totter game gradeschool kids play at recess. When I was that age, if there was underlying hostility between you and your seesawing partner, one of you would push off the ground with all your might. When done correctly, it propelled the person at the other end of the plank as hard as possible straight into the pavement. And it almost always resulted in your partner returning the favor.
In marriage, the seesaw duel looks more like this: Mary asks Ted to do something he doesn't want to do—at least not right now. So he responds by pretending not to hear Mary's request, or by offering an unsatisfactory answer like "Yeah, I'll get to it later . …"1