Nagging Wives. Do Husbands Create This? Sort Of…
I have news for you, and you might not like it. If you are a man who sees his wife nagging, criticizing, or not letting something go, then this post is for you.
Last week I wrote about women not being able to see their contribution to relationship issues. And this week, I’m focusing on the dudes, or anyone who feels like their partner doesn’t give them a break. There are different types of nagging, but I’m talking about anything that ends up possibly turning into a fight. Sometimes, fights look like both of you arguing with each other, and sometimes you feel more like you are not saying anything while she does all the talking/nagging/yelling. Then, there’s the mixture of the two.
Some men have a shut-sown mode that kicks into gear when they are managing conflict. You’ve probably heard of the fight-flight-freeze response to a threat, and this is no different. It’s called being flooded, and it happens when you are kind of numbing out when things get too intense. You might go blank, feel numb, confused, or just so damn angry that you don’t want to say anything because you worry that you’ll just make things worse. Inside, you’re just trying to ride this out and stay calm.
But, on the outside, you are like a stone wall. No interaction, no showing any feelings. You’re gone. This is called stonewalling. And it probably drives your wife nuts. She might accuse you of being a robot, not caring, etc. She’s likely to explode and/or totally shut down and give up.
This turns into a vicious cycle where you guys have a conflict, and pretty quickly you’re stonewalling and she’s nagging, and the more she nags, the more you stonewall. The more you stonewall, the harder she tries to get somewhere with you. It’s important to see nagging/demands/criticism and stonewalling as things that feed off of each other. It’s rare that one person is always the instigator. Rather, you both fall back on that tactic and it sets the snowball rolling downhill. Couples soon find themselves unable to talk about anything without ending up like this.
Even though there are reasons that you end up stonewalling, the consequence is that it teaches your partner that they have to try harder and harder to get you to show up in the relationship. They have to get louder, harsher, and more upset just to feel heard.
This probably really sucks for you. And it’s dangerous for the relationship – these patterns predict divorce.
Throw a Monkey Wrench Into This Vicious Cycle
If you see that your partner is just getting more and more angry no matter how hard you try to let it go, numb out, etc, then your partner is feeling like you don’t get it or don’t care.
I’m going to give you a two step tip for helping to smooth this out a little.
- To help the anger and nagging, you have to let her know that you do understand and care. Anger is the emotion that comes out when we feel like we have to fight to be understood. Try just saying that you get it, you get how she’s feeling. Notice how I’m not telling you to agree with your partner’s perspective. You are simply giving your partner a lifeline that there is someone home who cares about what’s going on, even if they are frustrated and have no idea what else to say.
- You have to help her understand that you are just overloaded and can’t talk right now. If you let her know what’s happening with you and that you aren’t just shutting down to punish, abandon, or anger her, then she’s more likely to hear you and back off.
You aren’t saying it sarcastically, and you might not even use those words. The main thing is that you are trying to break up the cycle by letting your partner know that you get that they are upset, but that you are too overloaded to respond. This itself is validating, and it communicates that you care. Because believe it or not, if your partner is convinced that you are shutting down on purpose, she will see that you are really going the distance by trying to help her understand what’s happening for you. And throwing the small bone of telling her that you understand that she’s really upset will at least make her feel like you see her and her feelings. You may not have a solution for them. You may not understand everything that’s behind them. But you see them and you care. This goes a million miles toward softening the nagging.
Partners who get what they need don’t persist and nag. If you are having a hard time with this and feeling like nothing that you do is enough to meet those needs, it would be a great idea to have a consultation with one of our experienced Denver Couples Therapists to discuss what we could do to help you both feel saner and more effective in your relationship.