Nagging A Man (and a marriage) to Death

Posted on January 29, 2012 by


Nagging can be as toxic to the marriage relationship as adultery or bad finances. This really isn’t breaking news as King Solomon warned us thousands of years ago:

It is better to live in a desert land than with a quarrelsome and fretful woman.~Proverbs 21:19

The Wall Street Journal recently took the opportunity to hammer home the message as well. From “Meet the Marriage Killer” :

Ken Mac Dougall bit into the sandwich his wife had packed him for lunch and noticed something odd—a Post-it note tucked between the ham and the cheese. He pulled it out of his mouth, smoothed the crinkles and read what his wife had written: “Be in aisle 10 of Home Depot tonight at 6 p.m.”

Mr. Mac Dougall was renovating the couple’s Oak Ridge, N.J., kitchen, and his wife had been urging him to pick out the floor tiles. He felt he had plenty of time to do this task. She felt unheard.

“I thought the note was an ingenious and hysterical way to get his attention,” says his wife, Janet Pfeiffer (whose occupation, interestingly enough, is a motivational speaker), recalling the incident which occurred several years ago. Her husband, a technician at a company that modifies vehicles for handicapped drivers, didn’t really see it that way. “I don’t need a reminder in the middle of my sandwich,” he says.

Nagging—the interaction in which one person repeatedly makes a request, the other person repeatedly ignores it and both become increasingly annoyed—is an issue every couple will grapple with at some point. While the word itself can provoke chuckles and eye-rolling, the dynamic can potentially be as dangerous to a marriage as adultery or bad finances. Experts say it is exactly the type of toxic communication that can eventually sink a relationship.

Why this wife thought her husband would be amused with biting into a post-it note is beyond anything I can comprehend, but I think we’d do well to note how damaging nagging is to a marriage.

My husband recently shared with me a conversation he had with a gentleman at work. This husband said that his Bose headphones are his best friend. That there is  no way he could live with his wife without them. She nags him all the time. He puts them on after dinner in his office and cranks them up even though he knows it’s bad for his auditory health. They are his refuge from her nagging.

Several other men joined in to share the sentiment. Since my husband works in a male-dominated field, the men often feel free to say what most every man is thinking but would never say in mixed company. Out of the 9 men present, only my husband and one other married man testified that they could not relate to having a nagging wife. They were both greatly envied for their good fortune. It goes without saying that this talk did nothing to make the 2 single guys look forward to married life. More from the husband in the story above:

Mr. Mac Dougall, 58, says the nagging made his muscles tense, he would become silent and his eyes would glaze over in a “thousand-yard stare.” “Her requests conveyed some sort of urgency that I didn’t think was needed,” he says. “If I said I was going to get to it, I would definitely get to it.”

That doesn’t sound very healthy does it? For all the headlines about finances and sexual problems as the major culprits in marriage failure, how is it that we rarely hear about how damaging nagging can be unless it’s in the form of a joke?

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