A few years ago I was sitting in a café chatting with a young man who was only a few years older than my adult sons. The topic turned to men and women. He asked me “Do you know the number one reason why women nag?” I quickly responded, “Because we’re not listened to?” Just as quickly he said “No that’s not it. Guess again.” I was both surprised and a bit annoyed by his response because AS a woman I know exactly why I had nagged my sons. I decided to go with my second reason, “So we don’t end up having to do it ourselves?”. “No,” he said, “that’s not it either.”
At this point, I was genuinely perplexed because those were the top two reasons I had. But gamely continued and asked, “So what IS the number one reason why women nag?” He cheerfully replied, “Women nag because they don’t feel cherished” He proudly shared that he had learned it in a book he was reading. A book that had been written by a man.
As a woman, a mother of 2 adult sons, and a woman who’s friends are mostly women (most of whom are also mothers) I can honestly and sincerely tell you that the top two reasons why women nag are because 1) We are not listened to and 2) We don’t want to end up doing it ourselves.
The reason I felt the need to keep asking is that the tasks weren’t getting done, and until they were, they sat on my mental to-do list which was a mile long and growing. I often ended up doing what I had asked my sons or their father to do simply in order to get it off my list to take some of the mounting ‘To Do’ pressure off.
I applaud this young man for making the effort to be a better man, however, the fact is, that when I responded to his question, he automatically told me that I was wrong. This exchange beautifully illustrates one of the biggest challenges between men and women. A challenge I’ve experienced many, many times throughout my life – a complete lack of communication. This young man missed an incredible opportunity to learn about women from a woman.
While he wasn’t trying to be offensive or dismissive, he was. It’s behavior he most likely learned by watching his parents interact. Men learn how to treat women by watching how their fathers treat their mothers as well as how their mothers allow themselves to be treated. It’s the same way for women by the way. Watch the dynamics of both your parents and the parents of your significant other and you’ll get glimpses into the dynamics of your own relationship.
I shared this experience with my oldest son. He offered me a very welcomed alternative perspective which I found fascinating. He told me that it wasn’t that he wasn’t planning on completing the task he had agreed to do, he simply wanted to be able to do it on his own timeline without feeling that he was being forced into doing what he’d been asked to do. Often the task was something he really didn’t want to do but felt he had to.
He went on to share that sometimes he had felt powerless to say no or that he had felt out of control because he had so many other things of his own that needed his attention. He also realized that he would engage in passive-aggressive behavior in a subconscious effort to establish control. He agreed to do the task, but he made darn sure that whoever had asked him knew that he was unhappy about doing it. He also admitted to me that once he got started he often enjoyed the task and felt a sense of pride in his accomplishment.
This dynamic plays out in relationships every day. The person doing the asking is frustrated and the person being asked is frustrated, this turns into a negative feedback loop. The only way out is for one of the people in the relationship to stop engaging in the behavior that isn’t working, in order to disrupt the cycle of frustration.
In this situation, the challenge becomes one of who’s going to become ‘the loser’ for ‘giving in’. At least that’s how the change in behavior can be perceived. The reason my son and I were able to have this conversation was because of the personal worked he had started doing with a counselor. By working with an emotionally neutral person whose sole purpose was to help him better understand himself, he was able to begin to recognize his own behavior patterns and responses to situations. He discovered that by being honest, having boundaries and managing expectations the relationships in his life became much smoother. As a result, he experienced less stress in his life.
He came to understand that by saying yes and then putting things off he was creating unnecessary strife for himself. When he began to communicate clearly with the people closest to him, they felt heard, respected, and supported. In turn, HE felt heard, respected, and supported.
To be honest, what he shared made so much sense. If I knew then what I know now, I like to believe that I would have acted differently.
In the end, the number one reason why women nag is a lack of communication. On both sides. When each person in the relationship feels heard, respected, and supported the nagging goes away as if by magic.
The true magic really happens, when each person in the relationship, feels comfortable being upfront and honest about their needs and expectations. Open communication is the foundation of every successful relationship, both personally and professionally.
I believe that each and every one of us wants to feel cherished and feeling heard is an integral part of that happening.