How To Get What You Want In a Relationship Without Nagging - How To Win a Man's Heart

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August 12, 2014

How To Get What You Want In a Relationship Without Nagging

# 1. To get what you want in your relationship you first have to be connected

Dana Vince

If you and your partner are disconnected from each other, reaching for each other for closeness becomes very difficult. We start to put up walls and get argumentative and defensive with one another.

So how to stay connected? It’s by giving before seeking to get. Be willing to hear your partners needs, seek to understand their point of view from a non-defensive stance. Be curious and open to your partners thoughts and feelings. Even if you don’t agree, seek to understand. Be respectful, kind and affectionate. Make it a safe place for your partner to be open with you. Be responsive to your partners needs.

Once you establish that re-connection, it becomes easier to ask for what you need. Be assertive in asking what you need rather than complain about what you are not getting. Complaints don’t work, they just result in pushing your partner away. State your experience (talk about yourself, not your partner), then clearly state what you need and why.

For example: “Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by all there is to do around the house, and when it’s up to me to take care of it, I feel alone, like the burden is all on me. And I really need to feel like I have a partner. I know you do a lot of things outside of our home that contribute to our life, but it would mean a lot to me to have some more help inside the home.” Of course this seems oversimplified to make a point, it can be hard to reach for your partner in this vulnerable way. Sometimes it’s easier for us to just attack or criticize, but that won’t work to bring you closer or to get your needs met.

Dana Vince, M.A., LPC, MHSP –

# 2. He doesn’t want to feel nagged. You want something from him. There has to be a way to work that out!

Dr. Anita Sanz

No one wants to be seen as a nag. That’s too close to being seen as someone’s mother, instead of someone’s partner…not good for relationships!

One of the best ways to get what you want from your partner without being seen as a nag is to be completely upfront and honest about it.

Say first that you don’t want to be seen a nag, but that you also really want or need something in the relationship that you aren’t getting.

Ask, “How can I bring this up without you seeing me as nagging?”

This puts the responsibility on your partner to tell you how they can hear something in a way that doesn’t sound like nagging. He might just tell you there really ISN’T any way you can bring something up without him seeing it as nagging, but at least then it’s out there and you can get that it’s not you doing something wrong, it’s how he is interpreting what you’re doing.

You can follow-up with, “Then how do I bring things up that I still really need from you if you are going to see it as I’m nagging?” Again, put it on him to help come up with the solution to the problem. It’s not “your” problem, it’s “our” problem.

Be open to negotiating and compromising, just as your partner should be. I always say if you are getting 100% of what you want in a relationship, you’re not in a relationship! It’s about compromise, but also maximizing what each partner ideally wants. He doesn’t want to feel nagged. You want something from him. There has to be a way to work that out!

Dr. Anita Sanz –

# 3. Be open, clear, vulnerable and honestly communicate your needs

Kristen Brown

What I have undoubtedly learned through my “man travels” is that a man who is truly in love with his woman and has her best interests and needs at heart, will do whatever he is physically capable of to make her feel she is a priority. The pleasing of his woman becomes one of his highest priorities. In saying all of this, it shouldn’t take “nagging” to get anything. What it will take on the woman’s part is open, clear, vulnerable and honest communication of her needs. If she is assuming that he should already know, she is making a huge mistake. We as individuals are as unique as the DNA that made us who we are. There is no set “rules or guidelines” as to what is pleasing from person to person. We must be willing to vocalize our truths, therefore giving our man the opportunity to show us what he’s got so to speak.

On the other hand, if you are speaking your desires and needs and in turn you are being called a nag for doing so, there is a disconnect happening somewhere. In my experiences, the ONLY time I was called a nag was when I was in relationships where the man was selfish and did not want to consider my experience within the relationship or he was emotionally unavailable (for whatever reason) and refused to take a deeper look at himself and his behaviors. His way of deterring me from discussing the issue(s) (digging deeper) was to point the finger at me. If he made me the villain, he could settle into his story of denial and confirm to himself why not visiting the topic was ok.

Although relationships do indeed take work and compromise, we must be willing to have eyes wide open to what potentially is truly going on there. Keep in mind, when you are a priority to your man, you will know it! Equally, if you are not a priority to your man, you will know that too.

Kristen Brown, Certified Empowerment Coach/Mentor –

# 4. Come from a place of respect and compassion and respect the differences in your partner

Margie Ulbrick

Relationships are often so surprising to us and without realizing it we often contribute to a dynamic that gives us the exact opposite of what we want. So, although it might seem counter-intuitive, the best way to get what we want in a relationship is to focus on ourselves for a bit. By this I mean that if we pay attention to our own needs and interests and invest in our own lives, we do not need so much from the one relationship. A good relationship has a fair degree of independence and inter-dependence. You need to be bringing good energy into the relationship and you cannot do this if you feel depleted. Ironically when we are not needy, that is exactly when a partner is more drawn to us and to providing what we want.

Men want to please women. They generally want to make their women happy. It’s just that they don’t always know how! A woman must refrain from being critical. That is harder than it sounds but it is of the utmost importance. If a woman is critical of her man then she will contribute to making him feel defensive, angry and all the other behaviors that women hate like pulling away, ignoring her, avoidance and withdrawal. Try it for yourself! Focus on the positive in the relationship and refuse to allow negativity into your relationship space. Then ask for what you want in a clear and respectful manner.

Try using language like “I would really appreciate it if…..” Men need to feel appreciated. For that matter so do we all. Some people might think this is all a bit manipulative! It’s not! It’s just using a bit of common sense and feminine wisdom. Focus on being the best partner you can be and when you think about what you want, check to see if you are in integrity within yourself first. Ask yourself are you doing, saying, whatever it is that you expect from your partner? When you come from a place of respect and compassion, when you do the work on yourself, you will feel more empowered to create healthy boundaries and to ask clearly for what you need whilst also respecting the differences in your partner and finding ways to make this a plus for your relationship. Be prepared to let go of what doesn’t matter and be prepared to be honest about what does.

Margie Ulbrick, LLB/BA/GD SOCSCI –

# 5. Come from a place of respect and compassion and respect the differences in your partner

Dr. Kirsten Person-Ramey

In working with couples, I have found that nagging is often the culprit in dealing with “crimes of communication.” Upon further exploration, it becomes apparent that perceived indifference is related to the nagging. There is a positive correlation; the more one person nags, the more the other seems to ignore the request. In appreciating the viewpoint of both partners, it is also (usually) clear that the more indifferent a partner seems to be, the more the other partner nags.

The problem here is that neither of the partners is getting what he or she wants, unless the desired outcome is relationship chaos. Indifference (or noncompliance for lack of better words) encourages more nagging and excessive nagging eventually leads to shut down.

By being the first to exercise mutual respect, the nagging partner models desired behavior. By asking instead of demanding, the former nagging partner is in essence saying “I value you as my equal.” When an individual feels validated, appreciated and respected, he or she is more likely to grant the wishes of a partner.

I remember learning as a child that it was easier to attract bees with honey as opposed to vinegar. Honey is sweet and so should our words be when expressed to those we love the most. Instead, many times we rely on vinegar-nagging and complaining. Respect goes a long way and it can start with simple manners when making a request.

Dr. Kirsten Person-Ramey –

# 6. Follow these 4 guidelines

Karla Downing

Nagging is like a dripping faucet. It doesn’t stop, it gets on your nerves, and you want to get away from it. This isn’t what you want your man to feel about you. It won’t get you what you want; in fact, it will do the opposite—he’ll shut down and push you away. Here are some ways to get your guy to do what you want without being a nag.

1. Ask if it is a good time to talk. If you don’t first get his attention and cooperation, you are doomed to either be ignored or rejected. Men can only do one thing at a time so if he isn’t actively engaged with what you are saying, you will be irritating because you will keep him from being able to do what he was doing before you interrupted him.

2. Keep it simple, short, and direct. Men don’t like to guess about what you want. They will respect you more if you just say it clearly and then shut up.

3. Be willing to ask more than once without contempt. Your guy doesn’t have the same priorities you do and he may forget what you have asked. If you ask again, do it without an attitude. Just simply tell him again what you need.

4. Make a big deal about anything he does for you. Men respond to appreciation and if you brag on him and make it a big deal, like you would with your puppy, he will be likely to do it again.

5. Barter. Offer him things he wants: time alone, sports time, guy time, food, and sex. Men like cause and effect. It makes sense to them because they get paid for their efforts.

If you want something from a man, communicate respectfully in a way he can hear and reward him for doing what you ask. It’s that simple.

Karla Downing, MFT –

# 7. Understand that everything in relationships is repeatedly earned by reciprocal trust and generosity

Dr. Randi Gunther

Nagging may sound like just a gentle version of pushiness. In intimate relationships it actually can take many forms that are not quite as benign. When one partner can’t get what they want by simply expressing desire or offering negotiation, they can resort to much more forceful examples of nagging like bullying, coercing, cajoling, intimidating, threatening, pleading, and demanding. They are all versions of the same behavior one partner uses to force the other partner to do something that is not authentically offered.

If true intimacy is what any partner wants, nagging doesn’t work. The partner who resorts to pushy behavior has most likely tried a number of other ways to get what he or she wants before resorting to an often counter-productive option, and his or her partner is already setting up barriers. As time passes, those barriers may come down because it just isn’t worth the time and energy for the besieged partner to continue holding the line. When that happens, the nagging partners may either owe more than they get, or only receive a small part of what they originally wanted. That hollow victory leads to stronger desires and increased nagging.

So the real question is, how does anyone get what they want in an intimate relationship without resorting to behaviors that so easily backfire?

Foremost, no one can, or has the right, to feel automatically entitled to any specific fulfillment by a partner. Everything in relationships is repeatedly earned by reciprocal trust and generosity. Expectations should always be in line with probabilities and resources. If one partner expects something the other cannot, or doesn’t want to, give, he or she is likely to be disappointed. Knowing the availability and level of appreciation of the other helps a partner to know what is forthcoming and what must be negotiated. If one partner continues to be the caretaker of the other’s dreams and wishes, and never gets his or her needs equally met, there is something wrong with the initial contract of that relationship. Nagging never renegotiates the underlying faulty contract.

Research has shown that the happiest couples express generosity, appreciation, and gratitude routinely to their partners. In that atmosphere, desires are far more likely to be granted without the need to push the other into behaviors not natural or desired. The cumulative joy of maintained reciprocal desire to grant the other’s fulfillment makes nagging obsolete.

Dr. Randi Gunther –

# 8. A good question to ask yourself is: How can I ask this in a way that conveys the expectation that he cares about me enough to want to make me happy

Margot McClellan

It is important to honestly examine the expectations we have of our partner and of our relationship. In any partnership, there are spoken and unspoken expectations that are based on several factors including what our parents’ relationship was like, our past relationships, and our beliefs about what we do and do not deserve. The unspoken expectations have the most influence because they are hidden and remain unaddressed yet create an underlying current that shapes the relationship’s interactional pattern. For instance, if we witnessed our mother nagging our father or doing the bulk of the household duties, we may have the expectation that we too must “go it alone” or that we cannot trust our partner to support us. If we are starting out with this unconscious expectation, any requests we have of our partner will be colored with a tone of resentment or negativity. He will then react by meeting the expectation that he is not helpful or supportive. Ironically, he is responding to us, at the nonverbal level of communication. Our interaction will be compounded by any experiences of criticism or feelings of inadequacy our partner may be carrying. His unspoken expectations may be that nothing he does is ever good enough or appreciated so why bother. And so it goes…

There is an antidote to this pattern. It is to take an honest inventory of what the true expectations we have been holding onto are. For instance, do we expect that he will ignore, minimize or disappoint us and if so, what is the primary source of this expectation? If we take a closer look, we will most likely find that it does not originate with our partner. If we can be mindful of any non-beneficial expectations embedded in our communication with him, we will gain an awareness that will give us the ability to positively influence our interactions so that we get what we want rather than what we don’t want. A good question to ask ourselves is: How can I ask this in a way that conveys the expectation that he cares about me enough to want to make me happy. Try it and see what happens.

Margot McClellan, LCSW –

# 9. When a man feels rewarded by your genuine compliments, rather than diminished by your tired complaints, he will be more apt to do what you want in the future

Dr. Amy Wood

Women nag because they think that by repeating over and over again what they want, it will happen. But all nagging really does is convince your guy that you don’t trust him to act on his own – not exactly an aphrodisiac. The secret to getting what you want from your partner is to stop nagging right now, cold turkey, and back off. Give your guy some space and he will probably step up to the plate on his terms. He may not do whatever it is that you want your way, but that’s the inevitable compromise of all partnerships.

If you long for a more collaborative relationship, try to divvy up responsibilities according to individual strengths, not gender stereotypes; for example, don’t expect that a guy will jump to do home improvement tasks unless that’s really his thing. If you allow him to contribute to the relationship in ways that feel comfortable for him, he will take more initiative. And most importantly, make sure to compliment your guy whenever he does something you’re happy about – even if he doesn’t do it as perfectly as you would have done it. When a man feels rewarded by your genuine compliments, rather than diminished by your tired complaints, he will be more apt to do what you want in the future. The bottom line is this: men love the sensation of making women happy, and they become more giving and proactive in response to being appreciated.

Dr. Amy Wood –

# 10. If there’s something you’re looking for in your relationship that you feel is lacking, first ask yourself if you are providing that for the other

Sandra DiWilliams

Relationships are about give & take. If there’s something you’re looking for in your relationship that you feel is lacking, first ask yourself if you are providing that for the other. Not only will this enable you to model for your partner what you’re looking for, but it will encourage them to want to do things for you, because you do the same for them. Additionally, it focuses on the reinforcement of positive behaviors, rather than shifting to complaining or fighting about negative or lacking behaviors. If you want your partner to write you beautiful cards for holidays and birthdays, make sure you do the same. If you want them to be considerate and let you know if they’ll be late, don’t forget to check in when you’re running behind schedule.

This shows the person how it feels to be treated this way, and teaches them to do the same for you. This is not the same as dropping hints, however; complaining about a friend’s husband who “never helps around the house” or a story you heard about a messy relationship aren’t going to reinforce positive aspects of relationships. Although these tips can help to increase getting what you want in a relationship, there is only one surefire way to ensure that your partner knows what you want and how important it is to you: verbal communication.

Just tell them how you feel, what you want, and why, and make it about you and your needs, not them and their shortcomings. Use “I statements” to explain why this is important to you. Think about what would be more effective to you: someone saying “You NEVER bring me flowers!” or saying “I feel special when you bring me flowers because it makes me feel that you thought about me during the day.” Focus on the positive, be honest and open about how you’re feeling, and don’t play games. Your partner is not a mindreader, and most likely wants to do what will make you happy; just tell them what that is, and see the changes that take place!

Sandra DiWilliams, MS, LPC –

# 11. Communicate your desire in an adult/assertive manner and not in a parental/aggressive style

Daniel Beaver

The first step in getting what you want in an intimate relationship is to effectively communicate your desire in an adult/assertive manner. Usually people express their desires or wants in a parental/aggressive style. Most adults don’t respond well when they are talked to as if they were a children. The typical response is anger and resistance directed at the requesting partner. They perceive that their partner is trying to control them so they push back from the attempted control. Many times this push back is in the form of rebellion, just like a teenager.

A more effective communication style is to express yourself with an adult/assertive delivery style. This means using the communicative phrases: “I want” or “I don’t want”. Many people in our culture view this type of communication as being selfish or demanding. However, it’s only selfish if you always expect that you are going to get what you want. Merely expressing a desire is not selfish. When an adult says, “I want” that person is expressing this desire with the hope that she will get everything or a part of what she wants, but with the knowledge that she can’t demand it. She realizes that they are in an adult partnership where being demanding and aggressive is unacceptable behavior. This is especially true if they want to remain lovers.

Nagging shouldn’t exist between adults. I wouldn’t want my wife nagging me because it would feel as if I am living with my mother again which wouldn’t be too attractive. I wouldn’t want to nag her because then I would feel as if I parenting my girls again, which wouldn’t be too much of a turn on.

So, the antidote to nagging and the way to increase the odds of getting what you want is to make agreements. I don’t nag, as adults I make agreements as to whether or not they are going to fulfill my desire. If they don’t follow through with what they agreed to do then I don’t nag; rather, I hold them accountable for breaking the agreement and then that becomes the issue. Without agreements there is no commitment for change or follow through.

If I made an agreement to put the toilet seat down after I use it then my wife doesn’t have to nag me to do it, I have committed to do it. I made a choice to change my behavior. If I blow off my agreement then we have a much bigger problem than a toilet seat problem, we have a problem of trust and credibility.

Daniel Beaver, M.S. –

# 12. Make the relationship not only safe, but also encourage self-expression

Sally Leboy

Everybody hates nagging. Although the stereotype is the nagging wife, men nag, too. We are most likely to nag if our needs aren’t getting met. The less confident we feel, the more likely we are to nag. The less powerful we feel we are, the more we will resort to nagging to get what we want. Nagging belongs to the category of passive/aggressive behaviors, the fallback position of people without power.

Have you ever noticed that your boss seldom nags? She might be mean, cold, indifferent, and inflexible, but she probably doesn’t nag. Why? Because she doesn’t have to. As the boss, she’s in a position of power. Because of her power, she’s most likely confident that people will do her bidding. Power and confidence eliminate nagging.

In relationships where open communication is punished, people will find less assertive tactics to get what they want. That’s where nagging comes in. Sometimes passive/aggression begins in the family of origin where speaking up was either discouraged or even punished. Partners can easily take these dysfunctional patterns into adult relationships.

When I notice nagging or any sort of passive/aggressive behavior I look for the undercurrent of fear. To eliminate nagging as well as all forms of avoidant behaviors the relationship must become not only safe, but encouraging of self-expression. You won’t always get your way, but you can always be validated for your thoughts and feelings.

It is easy to blame the passive/aggressive person. Who likes a nag? But the dynamics in a passive/aggressive relationship are co-created. Both partners contribute to an atmosphere in which open communication is feared. Are there threats of abandonment or withholding? Is there criticism or cut-off? In some really troubled relationships the fears are of emotional, verbal or physical abuse.

Good relationships work to create an atmosphere of trust and safety. That is the foundation for open and honest communication. When partners operate out of a spirit of cooperation and accommodation, there is no reason to resort to any passive/aggressive tactics.

Sally Leboy,

# 13. Asking for what you want is often about two separate components: communication and self-confidence

Lisa Resnick

We have to believe we deserve whatever we are asking for, and feel self-confident in making our requests. Many of us tend to deny ourselves the opportunity to ask for what we want because we don’t want to impose, be inconsiderate, be selfish etc. But it is important to encourage ourselves to speak up with confidence in our voices, and feel empowered to treat ourselves to what we deserve. Respect yourself as much as you respect your partner and make sure to consider yourself and your feelings by asking for what you want. Your partner always has the ability to say no (and this is the most important detail to remember)! You cannot remove anyone’s power (nor they yours) without their (or your) allowance.

Another part of asking for what you want is finding comfortable ways to communicate with your partner. Once you believe you deserve to get what you want, you can start working to find your comfortable language to be assertive. Often I make a request while sharing how I feel, so I try to avoid you statements while speaking of how I feel or what I would like and why. I also ask my partner how they would feel if… to find out where they stand about the things I desire. I make sure to listen to their response, and consider what I am willing to fight for, and what I can let go of. I make sure to ask my questions or express my thoughts, and then wait for my partner to discuss their reaction to my request in their own time.

Know you deserve whatever it is you desire and find a comfortable way to ask for it that shares why it is meaningful to you. Sometimes it can be very hard to speak up for ourselves and feel entitled to what we want, but often our partners are happy to take care of us if they understand how to!

Lisa Resnick, MA, EdM, LPC –

# 14. Understand men and women communicate differently

Marla Martenson

Men and women communicate differently, that is for sure. A woman can effortlessly speak an average of 6,000-8000 words per day, in contrast to a man; he utters a mere 2,000-4,000 words. A woman will talk about her problems out loud; she will express options, possibilities, concerns etc. Women perceive thinking aloud as being social and friendly, but men see it differently, he will think that the woman is giving him a list of problems that she expects him to fix, so he will become anxious or stressed out. That is where men get the idea that we are nagging.

A man’s sentences are shorter than a woman’s, they are more structured and they get right to the point. If a woman multitracks a conversation with a man, he will get lost.

So, if you want to be persuasive with your man, present one idea at a time. Remember, when talking to a man, keep it simple and to the point. After work when you want to “talk about your day,” your man, your “hunter” who has been chasing lunch all day just wants to sit and stare into the fire. If you go on and on when all he wants is a bit of peace and quiet, he will feel like he is being nagged to death.

Marla Martenson, Matchmaker –

# 15. Follow these 4 tips

Stephanie Newberg

As a relationship progresses , and each person feels more comfortable and safe with one another, it is very natural that requests are made by each other, in order to get ones’ needs met. When a woman asks for her needs to be met, she can get frustrated and inpatient if she feels that her partner is not responding and fulfilling her wishes. This can come off as “nagging”.

In order to get what you want in a relationship without nagging, here are some tips to consider:

1. Make sure you have your partner’s full attention and that there are not other distractions that could prevent them from hearing what you are asking for.

2. After, you have ascertained that they have heard you, ask if they are willing to do what you have requested, and if so, how and when do they plan to do it.

3. Ensure that they are comfortable with your request and that they are not just doing it to appease you.

4. Ask them how they would like you to check back in with them to make sure that the request has been done. Their input about this should help them see that you are not “nagging” them and that you are just working together to have your needs fulfilled.

It is important that these tips are done in a reciprocal manner for men as well as women.

Stephanie Newberg, MSW, LCSW –

# 16. Avoid the hot buttons

Haley Gage

When you look up “nag” in a thesaurus, synonyms include pester, irritate, badger, harass, and that’s only the beginning of a lengthy list of words you don’t want to be described as. And for some reason it’s women who get the reputation for nagging. You can almost see the switch in your partner’s head go off. You’ve hit, what I refer to as his “hot button”. It doesn’t really matter what you’re trying to get across, he’s annoyed and you’ve been shut out. How do you avoid that and still get him to do what you want him to do?

When are you asking? You want your husband to take the trash out; is it right when he sits down after work? Or during the middle of a baseball game? Probably steer clear of these and similar times when he’s focused on relaxing. He’s not thinking about anything else and he’s especially not thinking about what you want him to do.

How are you asking him? “Do this, do this, DO THIS!!!” You’re not going to respond to someone asking you to do something if they have that tone with you, so why would your boyfriend? Try asking once politely and if that’s not working, leaving a little note (that’s not passive aggressive) asking again. It’s just a little reminder that doesn’t get either of you worked up.

Why are you asking him? I’m not saying women are responsible for taking care of all the household chores, but if it’s something you can do and it’s going to be easier than both of you getting upset with one another, just do it. Simple. Lots of stress saved on both ends.

Men are forgetful, gentle nudges are helpful harassing is not. Remember, at the end of the day he’s not doing it to spite you, he’s doing it because he’s a man and they’re hardwired a whole lot different than we are.

Haley Gage, M.A., LAPC –

# 17. Learn to be assertive and ask

Jacqueline V. Cohen

The term “nagging” is generally not considered positive and for good reason. When someone “nags” their partner, their approach is often a passive-aggressive one and, as a result, neither partner is getting their needs met. When you are passive-aggressive, you aren’t advocating for yourself or your partner. The consequence is usually bitterness and resentment by both and the relationship can break down.

The goal is to have your needs met. But how do you do that? You learn how to be assertive, and ask. It is important to understand the meaning of being assertive. Yes, it means to advocate for yourself. It also means to advocate for and being considerate of the other person at the same time. This includes taking the other persons thoughts and feelings into consideration when you are asking for what you want. I do not mean take responsibility for their thoughts and feelings, just consideration. That being said, it is also important to understand your assertive human rights. You have the right to ask for what you want. You have the right to say yes AND no. The other person also has these rights.

If you want or need something, be honest and clear. Nagging is vague and can also give off the unintended perception of trying to control. Most people don’t respond well to being controlled or told what to do. However, if your approach is clear and kind, you may find that you will be more effective as well as respected. If the other person says no, ask why. There might be a good reason and now may not be a good time. If you are asking for what you want and your needs are just not getting met, you may want to move on to someone who is more willing and able to have the discussion that leads to a happy and healthy relationship.

Jacqueline V. Cohen, LPC –

# 18. Focus on using communication to come together toward collaboration


Nagging prevents communication from being effective and can get in the way of emotional closeness and intimacy. Nagging behaviors tend to push partners away instead of bringing them closer and are therefore not the best way to maintain a healthy relationship and have your needs met. Nagging generally arises from your frustration about feeling unheard and commonly sets up defensiveness from your partner.

You are allowed to ask for what you want or need and to address your concerns honestly in a relationship. Healthy, fulfilling relationships consist of mutual respect and understanding and a comfortable balance of give and take.

In getting what you want, a positive delivery and communication skills are vital. The way you convey your message has a lot to do with your partner’s receptiveness and willingness to listen. Focus on using communication to come together toward collaboration while letting go of nagging tendencies in an unpleasant moment.

Also create opportunities for open dialogue and active listening to discuss your relationship instead of avoiding the topic or getting heated. Instead of sounding like a broken record, whining and saying the same thing over and over again, directly communicate your needs to your partner. Take on a proactive approach and resist the urge to criticize him, name call or insult his character.

It can also be helpful to model what you would like from your partner. For example, if cleanliness and organization are issues and you would like your partner to put greater effort into cleaning, show him what you would like. This strategy is another way to come together to make the relationship better for you both. Also be sure to say thank you and express gratitude for what he does.

Rachel Dack, LCPC, MS –

# 19. Follow the BED concept

Leslyn Kantner

Nagging happens for a lot of different reasons but I find that it is commonly due to unmet expectations. A simple solution is to lay out all the details when you are asking for something from your partner – down to the nitty-gritty. I recommend the BED concept…

1. Be clear about your expectations. Make sure you communicate exactly what you are thinking and don’t make the mistake that your partner ‘knows’ what you are talking about.

2. Establish the timing. When you ask for something, communicate when you expect it to happen or better yet, ask when your partner thinks they can accomplish it.

3. Define! When you use the word “help”, make sure your partner understands what you mean by that… is it ‘side-by-side’ or your tasks and his?

Using BED, there shouldn’t be any surprises on the part of either partner. It boils down to strong communication skills that eliminate misunderstandings and repetitive asking!

Leslyn Kantner, MSMHC, NCC –

# 20. Be clear with yourself, be specific in what you ask for, start with “I” statements, Compromise, and give as well as receive

Rima Danielle Jomaa

We hear men complain about women “nagging” all the time and as much as we try not to do it, it would be so much easier if men just listened to what we said and did what we asked of them! That’s unlikely to happen any time soon. So how do you get what you want in your relationship without coming across as a nag?

Below are some simple tips to not seem like a nag.

1. Know yourself and what you want. If you don’t know what you want and you are constantly flip flopping or unhappy with decisions you or others make, then you can’t expect another person to understand what it is that you want. First and foremost, you must get clear with yourself in order to have harmony with another when in a relationship. Once you’re clear, you will have a better understanding of what is important to ask for and what is petty. You will think about how to ask for it, and you won’t disparage your partner for not meeting that need in a moment of weakness.

2. Be specific when asking for things. If you want something, ask for it by name. Don’t assume your partner can read your mind or your “cues” that are only cues in your mind. If what you are asking for doesn’t make sense or isn’t a logical thing (more of an idea of what you want, like more “freedom” or “love”), then it will sound like you are nagging to your partner. They won’t know what that means exactly. Be specific and clear! “I want to go out with my girl friends Friday night without feeling like I’m upsetting you or ditching you” versus “I need more freedom!” The first is understandable, manageable, and realistic whereas the latter is unclear, scary, and ominous-sounding.

3. If the conversations end up combative (“I never do XYZ for you being you never do XYZ for me!”) then both partners will feel bitter or rejected and nothing constructive will get accomplished. No one wins. Consciously do things that make your partner feel good and change the atmosphere completely. Then, when you ask for what you need, make it about yourself. Start with, “I enjoy…”, “I love it when…”, “It makes me feel so appreciated when…”, etc. It’s difficult for your partner to genuinely hear you if you start with a complaint such as, “You never pay enough attention to me! I need more attention!” That will likely put your partner off and make you seem like… well… a nag. Instead, try, “I love it when you play with my hair while we are watching TV on the sofa.” That’s easy to understand and do, and makes you both feel successful.

4. Which brings me to my next point. You’re not always going to get your way, and it’s not always about you. Getting what you want means giving your partner what they want as well. They must feel satisfied in ways that are meaningful for them (everyone is different with different needs) in order to be available to meet your needs, and vice versa. We can then see it as a cyclical process in which we must meet each others needs to have our own needs met.

To summarize: Be clear with yourself, Be specific in what you ask for, Start with “I” statements, Compromise, and Give as well as receive.

Rima Danielle Jomaa, MFT –

# 21. Learn to complain without criticism

Lyndsey Fraser

Do you have a defensive partner? Is he ignoring what you are saying? Does he report you nag all the time? You might just be being critical. John Gottman,Ph.D., a leading relationship expert, reports that frequent criticism in a relationship is a precursor to a relationship ending. Instead of being critical learn how to give the complaint.

Do you know what the difference is between being critical and giving a compliant?

A criticism is when you judge the character of your partner based on a behavior he has done. Here is an example of a criticism, “You can never let me know when you are going to be out late, I feel like you are always thinking about yourself and what you want”. Ultimately in this criticism you are telling your partner he is selfish. If you partner feels you are telling him he is selfish the automatic response is to be defensive. Which results in neither one of you feeling heard. Instead I want to encourage you to give a complaint. A compliant is when you focus on the behavior that made you upset. Here is an example of a complaint in reference to the same concern above, “I get disappointed when you stay out late and don’t let me know. When this occurs in our relationship I am not sure how much you value me and it causes me to feel sad. When you call I know you are thinking about me and I don’t worry so much about what you are doing.” In the complaint the focus is on the behavior (staying out Late without calling) versus your partner’s character (being selfish). When your partner can understand how the behavior has affected you they are less likely to become defensive.

Now I also want to let you know if you have had a frequent pattern of criticisms in your relationship it is likely that your partner will continue to view your compliant as a criticism and still become defensive. This is when I would recommend that you seek additional assistance from a couple’s therapist to change this cycle.

Lyndsey Fraser, MA, LMFT –

# 22. Clearly and respectfully express your needs

Dr. Wendy Bailey

What letter grade (from “A” to “F”) do you deserve for your level of assertiveness in expressing your needs to your partner? Are you aware of the impact that your communication approach has on your partner? If you have received feedback that you are a “nag” then seek details regarding which of your behaviors are befitting of this label. Decide what you are willing to change. If you express your needs through indirect hints or with an expectation that your partner should READ YOUR MIND, then a likely result is frustration and disappointment for both, you and your partner! Time and understanding are lost when communication is not clear, respectful, and direct.

Stop beating around the bush and respectfully clarify your needs and expectations. I recommend concise statements of needs, communication regarding to what extent they can be met (e.g., are they realistic?), and clarity regarding whether your partner is willing to meet them. If you find that your needs are routinely unmet, then you may benefit from visits with a licensed therapist to address the problem.

Dr. Wendy Bailey –

# 23. Be self reflective

Kristy Labardee

Getting your needs met in your relationship is the key to a happy and healthy relationship. You feel fulfilled independently and you feel fulfilled by the relationship. One of the most important factors in getting your needs met is knowing what your needs are. Being self-reflective is so important for personal growth in general, but it is equally important in being able to relate to others. If you know and understand how you operate and what you need from the relationship, then you can effectively communicate your needs and desires. What this allows you to do is not tolerate or beg for certain things within the relationship.

Self-reflection also helps you to distinguish between superficial and authentic needs. You get down to the core of your true needs and this knowledge will help you to identify what you cannot sacrifice for the sake of your own happiness and what you may need to sacrifice for the sake of the relationship. When you get to this point, there’s no nagging going on because you feel confident enough to ask for what you truly need and see as a necessity rather than complaining, nagging, or waiting around for change that will never come. You just won’t tolerate less than what you know you need for happiness. You will either identify the relationship and/or individual as not a good fit for you or you will make the necessary sacrifices needed to do your part in keeping the relationship healthy. You can’t get to that point, though, if you don’t know what our needs are in the first place.

Kristy Labardee, MS, LMFT –

# 24. Make your requests a clear call and response

Elizabeth Baum

​Usually we find ourselves nagging when we either 1) aren’t being heard 2) aren’t being responded to, or 3) aren’t being gratified. Have you ever been at a restaurant where you can’t get the waitperson’s attention? Take a moment to be in a memory of that experience. Alternately, have you been in a busy establishment where the waitperson will swing by just to say something like “Thank you for your patience. I’ll be with you in two minutes to bring water and take your order.” Most of us recognize the difference in these two experiences; while in actuality, we are left without service in both instances.

​The first example lands us in a frustrated and ambiguous place, where we are likely watching the waitstaff like a hawk desperately trying to get someone’s attention. This dynamic creates stress for the staff and stress for the customer. The second example is an open acknowledgement, and creates an environment of choice. The waitperson has contacted you, identified the situation, and clarified what to expect. You now may decide if it’s worth your wait. The same is true in relationships.

​If you are not getting what you want and find yourself nagging, first be sure you are asking for something that your partner is ready, willing and able to do. Frequently, it is difficult for some of us to say “no” or admit that we are unable to do something, instead pushing it off until it is forgotten about or someone else does it. Try to communicate clearly with your partner if you have a set expectation around your request, so that everyone is avoided confusion and frustration. Getting what you want is a call and response: -What do you want? -When do you want it? -Is s/he willing and able to do it? -When does s/he expect to get it done?
If all of the above goes well, you will have been heard and responded to. If your partner is unwilling or unable, or holds a different timeframe than yours, the ball is in your court. You are at the mercy of no one, so who will you nag now?

Elizabeth Baum, M.A., MFTi –

# 25. Make your requests a clear call and response

David Lee

Often, the most awkward part of bringing up an issue is starting it off. Haven’t you found yourself thinking: “How do I bring it up out of the blue without it sounding….well…out of the blue?” You can use this article as a conversation starter by saying “I came across this article the other day which was all about how to ask for what you want from your partner without nagging and it made me wonder…can I do a better job of asking for what I want in a better way.”

Share your intention— I find sharing your intention, as well as what your intention is NOT, can prevent the other person from immediately getting defensive—because you are preventing them from jumping to conclusions about why you are bringing up an issue. I’ve experience how helpful this is when I’ve been on the receiving end of this skillful frame-setting, and try to remember to do the same when I bring up a delicate issue. So, you might say something like “So…I was thinking ‘I would love to get your partner’s name’s perspective on whether I ask for what I need in a way that works for him…or if there are ways I could do it better.” Notice how being very explicit about why you are bringing this up prevents the other person from engaging in Mind-Reading, an activity that rarely leads to positive conversations.

Ask Your Partner What Approach Would Work For Him— One of the biggest sources of defensiveness and antagonism when we make requests is the person hearing them as a demand. They feel like they are being told they must do this “or else.” When people feel like they don’t have any say in a situation, when they feel they don’t have any control, it triggers fear, which triggers defensiveness.

When we ask the other person for their recommendations on how we can best ask for what we want, so it doesn’t feel like a demand or nagging, they feel like they have some say in the matter, and therefore are not powerless. It also shows goodwill. It shows that you sincerely care about their part of the interaction and want their needs to be met, too.

Asking for your partner’s recommendation might go like this: “I’d love to get your take on what works best for you if there’s something I want more of in our relationship…so my asking doesn’t feel like a demand or nagging.” If your partner says he has no idea, you could say “Are there times where I did ask for what I needed and you felt like it was a welcome invitation (or whatever words you would use)?”

If he still can’t think of an example, you can throw out some examples you remember. See if you can get some specific details based on the past. You can then ask him for examples that did not work for him. If he gives you examples, let him know what you think you heard (e.g. “So…it really bugs you when I…” or “Me saying _____ is a real drag”). Then, ask him for what he WOULD like from you. If he has trouble articulating what he WOULD like, you might need to offer examples of different approaches for him to respond to rather than depend on him to come up for approaches that would work for him.

David Lee, Consultant –

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