30 January 2012

Asking versus nagging

Okay, let me just start this with one, big ole disclaimer: every relationship has its own quirks, its own methods of getting along, relating, and its own versions of repair attempts that can patch up an argument or divide it in a given topic. Each relationship has its own distinct character, made up of two individual people working to hard to meld entirely individual worlds into one world. Each one is unique.

Also, I detest, loathe, hate the word "nag."

I just read an article on the Slate Magazine website that was some female author's attempt to explain the concept of nagging by asserting her belief that in order for nagging to stop, one must understand the politics of it. (You can see it here.)

Ha! As IF... it were that simple.

It sounded a lot more like an attempt to sound intelligent within a wordy ramble of pop psychology than it did just a point of view, and I had an immensely difficult time trying to make myself read through it. Not just because it was sexist--sexist from a woman's point of view!--and rambling in its own way, but because even the structure made it hard to follow.

It was like watching someone take a giant leap back towards my junior high days, watching in horror as someone slid awkwardly into my old, baggy jeans and multi-colored t-shirts covered in bandaids and condoms. Or something.

Seriously, not a good look for a gangly Mexiwegian from Wyoming.

What was some woman doing rummaging through my old garbage? No, I meant my old writings.

I was pretty disappointed that such an inferior piece of crap was allowed on the Slate website AND that it did more harm than good to publish an already confused and horrible subject.

I remember spending my babysitting money on this stuff.

For the epic centuries that have made up my life and the life of other women, the word "nag" has been one of the most negative aspects of any relationship. For me, it is part of my vocabulary of Things To Be Aware Of in an overall stash of emotional intelligence that I carry around with me like Santa and his pack. Except a little dingier and a little crazier, kinda like that crazy aunt that brings you stuff you can't use right away. Or at all.

(I don't know how many of us have an aunt like that. I don't.)

It is a word that signals red. I've known, if by no other form than my dad's comments referencing my mom's behaviors while I was growing up, that it is meant to be supremely negative.

But I have other sources of knowing this, as well. It was part of the reason when, at the tender, dumbass age of 18, living with the father of my oldest daughter exploded in my face within the first year. Not only was I ticking time bomb of emotions and hormones, but based on the sordid and unrealistic belief that I would never nag, it came as a nasty and undeniable shock when he uttered those contemptible words, "quit being such a nag." Well! I never! Spitter, spatter...

Regardless of where it came from (foolish expectations? being unrealistic? not knowing myself well enough or not being a whole person?) it is a trigger word. Nag. It just conjures up evil pictures of hovering, bickering women, pointing their fingers over and over in the dark whilst their eyebrows arch high up in a steep frown and their nostrils flare. *Shudder!*

I don't want to be accused of this:

Or this.
Well, wouldja take-a-look-a-tha'.
And especially not this!

Why? Because even for a woman of the slightest intelligence, it is a written-off, flat-out insult. Even if I'm the only girl in the world that gets hotly ruffled by the mere mention of the word, my intention, like many women I know, is never to be that person to the man I love! Aw!


I have done it. And it's excruciatingly embarrassing because I know better. Sometimes it's like, oh I don't know... like there are hormones that override reasonable behavior or something. But I didn't want to be wrapped up in being that way, I wanted to figure it out.

So I read Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus in the late 90s; Boundaries In Marriage in the last few years, and discussed personalities at length with my psychologist mother-in-law, on top of having my own "interesting" communication through the ages. The best book I have ever read so far is 7 Principles To Making Your Marriage Last, by John Gottman.

This guy actually developed a Love Lab and observed couples and wrote down all of his findings. It's actually got some really interesting stuff about committed relationships that you can really sink your teeth into without putting an alien label on your spouse. He's the guy that can allegedly predict divorce within 3 minutes of a couple's argument, but whatevs. He's a man with the credits and has done some serious empirical research in this field.

He also covers nagging.

It's true.

After all of the psychological and spiritual and knowledgeable advances we as a human race have made, the work he's done has comprised a major step in the right direction, from a scientific point.

It all makes sense in the Law of Divine Love, too.

Or, the law that governs us all whether we choose to accept it or not.

Go figure.

It boils down to being aware of yourself and how you come across, how important that is to you, and the fact that it should be important to you. The entire area of nagging, specifically, has to do with being emotionally intelligent. Ya have to pay attention when you're talking to your partner and you really have to decide if what you're about to bring up is an absolute priority or a let-go-able offense.

And you have to be willing to remember what brought you together in the first place and work to keep that "what's important to him/what's important to her" dynamic going. After all, real love is an action word. The swooning stage wears off, life/parenting gets in the way, and it's a hard hit to the relationship. A person has to shut that off from time to time, but the most important thing is to keep the conversation about it (and other such an evolutions) between any two people on-going.

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