Sometimes people will get in touch with Birmingham Counselling Services because they feel as if their partner is constantly nagging, and they just don’t know how to deal with it. All sorts of questions come up: “Doesn’t s/he trust me?” “What have I done (or what haven’t I done) to deserve this?” “How can I bear this unreasonable behaviour?” “Do I have to put up with it?” It can be helpful to try to understand where your partner is coming from, and this is very difficult if you are feeling persecuted. At times like this a counsellor can be of great help, holding on to the essentials and staying calm while you work through what is worrying you, either alone or with your partner.
1. Your partner believes that s/he is being helpful by reminding you of things, especially if either of you has a poor memory or if you have asked for a reminder in the past. You could try thanking your partner for jogging your memory, even if you have not forgotten, and then working out some other system for reminding both of you, like a calendar on the wall. (Not only on mobile phones as one of you might not keep that calendar up to date.)
2. Your partner thinks something should be done sooner than you do. If his/her family’s approach has always been to wash up immediately after a meal and yours has been to sit down and relax for half an hour first, a very small difference in behaviour can develop into a problem: your partner thinks that although you offered to wash up you didn’t really mean it, and you feel that you are not being trusted to do what you said you would. Issues like this can be particularly difficult early in a relationship, before you are really familiar with each other’s habits and assumptions. We always believe that our own way of doing something is the normal way, we are not always aware that there might be another way. This is a very simple problem to sort out by talking about it – don’t let it become a destructive force.
3. Perhaps your partner sounds like they are nagging because they are not saying quite what they mean and are therefore not asking for what they really want. The classic simple example of this is the couple driving along a motorway, passing a sign advertising Services a mile or two ahead. The passenger asks, “Would you like to stop for coffee?” The driver responds, “No thank you. I’m not thirsty.” As they approach the slip road the passenger asks again, “Are you sure you don’t want to stop for a coffee?” The driver replies, a bit irritated, “No. I told you I’m not thirsty.” They drive on and the driver becomes aware that the passenger is becoming increasingly angry or upset. “What’s the matter?” “I wanted to stop for a coffee” “Then why didn’t you say so?” “I did!” It’s easy to laugh at this, and easy to see where and how the misunderstanding has arisen. It is less easy to prevent yourself from falling into a trap, either by not saying clearly what you want: “I’d really like to stop for a coffee at the next Services” or by not thinking beyond the immediate literal meaning of the question: “I’m not thirsty, but would you like to stop?” Serious disruption to a relationship can build up from something as insignificant as whether or not to stop for a coffee. Try not to let it happen to you, by learning to say what you mean and by keeping your mind and your heart open as well as your ears.
4. Your partner is nagging as s/he is feeling dependent on you to get something done. Ask yourself why this is. Is it something you have always done which in fact could be done by either of you? Could you be keeping some power to yourself by holding on to this task or project? This might indicate a more serious and deep-seated problem between you, needing a committed approach to working through it, possibly with the support of a relationship counsellor. It might even relate to something that happened in a previous relationship (See our article “Don’t Let the Past Sabotage the Present”) – do try to make sure that you are relating to your partner as s/he really is, and not anticipating behaviour you have experienced in the past.
5. Your partner is genuinely upset/angry/frustrated because you offered or agreed to do something by a particular time and you haven’t done it. If you simply forgot it should be relatively easy to own up, apologise and get on with it, whatever it is. But perhaps there is something more going on, again something about holding on to some power, or about putting you own stuff first. If this rings a bell and you do want to keep your relationship going on and moving forward in a positive way, you need to ask yourself some very serious questions about what is driving your behaviour. Again, you might well find this easier with some help. At Birmingham Counselling Services there are qualified and experienced counsellors who can give you the support you need while you work through your issues, either alone or as a couple.
You can get in touch with us via our website: www.BirminghamCounsellingServices.co.uk or by calling us on 0121 314 9903.