Dear Watson: How to Stop Nagging
This is a relatively small problem, but it’s really bothering me. The last time I was in a relationship I got into a bad pattern of criticizing every little thing my boyfriend did, saying everything that bothered me (and so did he, for that matter) and this time I’m trying really hard not to nag so much. But the other day when I couldn’t stand to watch him text at the table yet again, I finally said something about it, and he was upset that I hadn’t said anything about it before since it’s “obviously been bothering me for a long time and it would of been easy to fix.” This is a small example but it obvious applies to bigger stuff too — sometimes I purposefully don’t make an issue out of something because I don’t want to fight, but when it comes up later, during a fight, he accuses me of “hoarding” complaints and then “blindsighting him” with all these criticisms he didn’t anticipate. But I’m just trying not to be a pain in the ass!! Is it better to be totally open and honest, even when you have something not-especially-nice to say, or is it better just not to bring this stuff up at all, even when we’re fighting? I don’t even know if I can do that realistically. I guess my problem is that I really REALLY don’t want to be naggy or passive-aggressive, but I also don’t want to become a doormat. Are those my options? Do you have any advice?
Fulfilling a Bad Stereotype Over Here
Unfortunately, I think you’re somewhat stuck with your problem. Even though in theory you should be able to just not-care about his texting or chewing or whatever, the truth is that everyone gets crabby and oversensitive, especially after spending so much time with the same person. And it’s not doormat behavior to quell your complaints if you recognize that they’re not actually very legitimate. On the other hand, if all the texting is related to, say, a feeling that he doesn’t enjoy your company, that’s something you should probably mention.
What you need to learn to do is distinguish between complaints that are really products of moodiness, issues that will disappear once you’ve gotten some sleep or eaten a hearty meal, and ones that are recurring or touch on deeper themes. Unfortunately, this is the kind of thing you probably need to learn through experience. But it might help to make the criticism in your head first — figure out how you’d phrase it and everything — and see if it sounds reasonable to you before saying it out loud. Maybe wait five minutes and then see if you still think it’s worth mentioning. In general I think it’s worth the effort to err on the side of not-nagging, but it’s really a matter of preference.
Another quick-fix might be to work on your delivery. Small criticisms are hurtful because of the connotations they carry more than anything else; “Please don’t text right now” can sound like “I don’t like your friends,” “You have a zit” reads as “I find you repulsive,” etc. So saying something to mitigate the immediate fear and keep the criticism in perspective may be effective, e.g. “I don’t mean to make you self-conscious, but your beard smells a bit like lunch,” or “You always look sexy, babycheeks, but that patchouli shirt might not be the best thing with that blazer.”
Lastly, if you find you have more critical things to say about this guy than positive ones, you may simply not be right for each other. I don’t know you, so I can’t help you much with that, but I’ve noticed that advice columnists generally tend to give advice geared towards working things out, and I wanted to remind you that not working things out is always an option.
Good luck, and let us know how it goes!
Dear Watson is The Faster Times’ weekly advice column. To reach Watson anonymously, write to email@example.com.
Follow us on twitter@thefastertimes
- 1 First Openly Straight Figure Skater Comes Forward
- 2 Brooklyn Man Now Living Entirely Off Own Beard Garden
- 3 “Cra Cra” Now Official Diagnosis in New DSM (DSM-5)
- 4 OfficeMax Marketing Director Struggling to Make Staplers ‘Sexy’ and ‘Conversational’
- 5 Homeless Guy Woos Silicon Valley VCs with Low-Tech Crowdfunding Startup
- 6 Area Man Tailors Life To Be More Relevant To His Hulu Advertisements
- 7 Fan Banging Furiously on Glass Could Be the Difference in Hockey Playoffs
- 8 Survey: 88% of Eagles Fans Too Drunk To Spell Nnamdi Asomugha Last Season
- 9 Local Mom Won’t Stop Being First Person to Like Every Goddamn Thing Son Posts to Facebook
- 10 Shaq Confident He Will Eventually Make Funny Quip on TNT