Our Happiness Project // Tip #2: How to Stop Nagging

If you're a regular reader, you know now that Zach and I have been working through The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. Chapter One was great for us as we worked on adding more routine into our lives and began tackling things that were weighing on us. Chapter Two is all about relationships and focuses on topics like fighting right, showing proofs of love, and, the one I felt I most needed to work on, quitting nagging.

Zach is a really wonderful partner. He's masculine but also very sensitive and romantic, a combination I know not to take for granted. He never judges me or asks me to change. He never sets expectations for me to live up to or thinks I should look or behave a certain way. This list is what matters most to me and why I know he's my perfect match. On the other hand there is another list of things he does that are a lot less perfect, such as not noticing messes around him and not doing any housework unless prompted, often many times. That list is obviously less important, but it can make managing a household with him incredibly frustrating, hence my transformation into the nag I never thought I would become. When he was sweeping me off my feet in the first few years, I never imagined having a full-on crying fight about the still unclean bathroom, but it has happened more than I'm proud to admit.

So what's one to do? Well, according to the book, on some degree, I should let it go. I should stop nagging, stop making demands, stop being let down when my expectations aren't met. After all, Zach doesn't do that to me, and that's one of my favorite things about him. To stop nagging is much easier said than done, though, isn't it? It's something I am most definitely not going to win at every single day, but I can try. If this is a topic that's been on your mind, too, I'm sharing a few tips from the book to help to ease up in the name of love.

 

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  • Find ways to suggest tasks without talking. When you think of nagging, you picture a shrill, annoying voice, am I right? And let's be honest, no one wants to deal with that. If you can find ways to communicate that involve less talking, or even no talking at all, the prompt is often better received. Rubin gives an example that she leaves mail that needs to be dropped off on the ground by the front door. Since her husband knows the system, he just picks it up and goes. No nagging, no problem. Zach usually takes out the trash for us, but he often lets it pile up for longer than I would like. By simply saying, "Trash!" as he's on his way out the door, it gets taken out and everyone is left unscathed.
  • Realize that tasks don't need to be done on your agenda. Just because I think the kitchen needs cleaned now doesn't mean Zach feels like sharing in the work right now. If he's agreeing to split the responsibilities, sometimes I need to accept that in whatever time frame it's going to happen. The same goes for how exactly a task gets done. For instance, I think cleaning the toilet involves making the entire thing sparkle, but Zach thinks it means cleaning the bowl and calling it a day. It's like this on a lot of tasks because he (and, frankly a lot of people) are not as obsessed with details as I am. If he's going to clean the toilet bowl, I need to take that as it is and not gripe to him that there's still dust on the tank lid.
  • Take responsibility for your own expectations. This one can be more simply summed up as, if you want something done, do it yourself. I knew about Zach's aversion to cleaning before we even started dating, so is it really fair to expect him to get up on Saturday morning and immediately start scrubbing? No, not really. He needs to help because we are a partnership, but as long as he's helping, anything more than that is my own responsibility. When we moved in, I hung his shirts in order by color and sleeve length. I then explained the system to him so he could maintain it himself and he literally laughed out loud. "You can't really expect me to keep my shirts color-coded," he said. And you know what? I can't. It makes me happy for the closet to be like that but he could care less. So I take it upon myself to hang up his shirts. I don't mind it, the closet stays neat, and at the end of the day we are all fine.

And because all of this talk about cleaning makes it sound like Zach doesn't carry his weight, I feel like I should take a moment to explain that he deals with a lot of the more horrifying aspects of our life, like the time there was a dead mouse in our kitchen and I hid until it was over. He also pumps our gas because I don't like to do it and he cooks at least half of the time. My point in all of this is not to point out his flaws but to give examples on picking your battles.

After all, I've started being more aware of nagging and trying to do it less of it, and I've had some interesting realizations. First of all, absolutely nothing is worse. Our household hasn't crumbled without me being on top of his every undone chore. A lot of it is the same. He is, after all, not going to become a completely different person, and I wouldn't even want that. And, most importantly, some things have really improved. We've both been overall much happier. He's even gotten up early and cleaned on a few occasions without prompting.

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What's your take on this topic? Is "stop nagging" a pipe dream or the path to romantic bliss?

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