I recently received an email from a PR account executive asking for the 2nd or 3rd time where my post was, when I would get it posted, and was I sure I could get it done in time. I’d already given my word. This task was on my agenda and in the queue. It was going to get done. It will get done. Only now, there’s a change.
Want to know the difference? Now – I won’t be doing it happily. I’ll be completing the task begrudgingly, with just a twinge of resentment. As she nagged, I felt as though she didn’t trust me. The mistrust and the nagging itself, sucked all of the joy from the job.
I started thinking about the way I often interact with my husband. Here’s a typical (and usually daily) set of interactions:
“Can you call and check on XYZ?”
Then later while he’s at work….
(Text message) “Have you called and checked yet?”
A few hours later…
(Email) “Just checking to see if you’d remembered to call yet. Love you.” (Because somehow I trick myself into thinking the “love you” makes it less patronizing to be checking for the third time..)
Then when he gets home…
“Did you call?”
Nagging signals a lack of trust and a thirst for control. It’s belittling. It’s condescending. It’s a wedge.
When we micromanage our spouse and unrelentingly hound them for “help”, we’re ultimately driving them away. Nagging does not endear us to our spouse. Control and mistrust are not vehicles for love. When I constantly push at my husband to do certain things, I’m slowly (but steadily) building a dam between us. Each time I snip at him about “when is he ever going to….” I throw another log onto the pile, and prevent love and communication from flowing.
As the dam grows larger, the relationship becomes more tenuous – and harder to maintain. When we nag, the things we’ve built up as urgent may get done. The pile of old mail might get sorted. The shed may get cleaned out. But along with the clean closets and washed cars, we so often receive resentment, anger, and a strained relationship.
As I ease up on the nagging, the dam begins to break, and love and communication begin to flow freely. When I’m acting out of respect for my husband, I find that in turn, he tends to respond to my needs in love. I am a more pleasant wife when my communication with my husband is not rooted in “to-do’s.” When everything that comes out of my mouth is a request, I am exhausting and harder to love.
I want to refresh my husband. I want to uplift him. I want to speak grace into our marriage and break down the dam between us. I am daily learning to be the kind of woman I am called to be.
1. Don’t provide an inauthentic timeline
If you want your husband to take out the trash right now, don’t ask him to do it “sometime” today. If you are ambiguous with your time-frame, you are more likely to have problems. Say what you mean, and work from there. If he doesn’t have time to do it when you ask, make a compromise. Just don’t give a pretend time-frame, and then be upset when your REAL time-line has passed, and the task isn’t done.
I am daily learning to say what I mean and mean what I say. I am resolving to not play games with my speech. My husband is not nor will he ever be a mind-reader. If I want him to do or know something, I need to tell him – plainly.
2. Your husband isn’t your employee
I know that I have so often treated my husband like my own personal assistant – handing him to-do lists (calling them “honey do” lists don’t make them cuter), and setting the agenda for all of his time off.
This may seem like a harsh truth, and may be difficult for some in certain marriage relationships to take in. I get that. In our house, we are partners, and each of us contributes to the parenting, discipline, home management, and finances. Do we contribute equally in all areas? No. But, we are both doing what we can, when we can. I am resolving to respect my husband’s down-time, and allow him to have “days off.” In the past, I’ve lived in resentment, muttering about “when do mothers ever get a day off?” and have allowed an unhealthy attitude to grow. I want to bless his time and treat him with respect, as a partner – an equal. I’m not his boss.
3. Love breeds love
Love flows from love. A lovable and agreeable person is easier to love than a naggy and angry person. If you’ve never read, Love and Respect, I highly recommend it. One of the driving principles in the book is this: When I treat him with respect, he responds to me in love. When he responds to me in love, I treat him with respect. When we are allowing love and respect to drive our marriage instead of expectations and resentment, we experience a healthier and happier relationship. Our grace breaks down the dam of resentment and anger that builds through things like nagging and unrealistic expectations.
4. Recognize that you can only change yourself
You cannot change him. You cannot make anyone else respond or act a certain way. I can’t change my behavior and attitudes and expect anyone else to change along with me. The only person I can take responsibility for is myself. And I can change myself. I might not be able to make anyone else show me love, give me more respect, or suddenly care deeply about piles on the counter – BUT, I can work to respond in love, speak grace into my marriage, and let little things go, so that big things can grow.
When you let the little things go, bigger things start to grow. Love and grace trump dirty closets and piles of mail any day.
*Whenever I write about marriage, I get nasty comments. Please know that I do not allow negative comments to be posted. I understand that all marriages are different, and husbands and wives have very different relationships. Marriage is something everyone is constantly working on, and all couples have varying levels of conflict to work through. I don’t know what you’re going through, or what your individual relationship looks like. What I do know, I have learned through experience – through the ups and downs of my own very real marriage – complete with arguments, mistakes, and lots of forgiveness. I don’t claim to be an expert or someone who has this all figured out. I’m just a wife, trying her best to show her husband love and respect. Every time our relationship begins to spin out of whack, it always comes down to love and respect. I am a work in progress – lucky to be married to a man full of grace. Thanks for letting me share with you a piece of what I am learning, and what I have been challenged to do. Love you all.