No one goes into marriage hoping to turn into a nag. I know when I first got married, I envisioned myself as the most patient wife ever, and I was sure my husband would be different than the lazy, oblivious husband stereotype I’d heard about. He would be observant and helpful and would pick up on my gentle wifely hints and our marriage would be free of conflict and definitely free from nagging. Not from me. I was a cool girl.
But here we are 15 years later, and I am the naggiest nagger who ever nagged—and both my husband and I are totally okay with this. It’s a consensual and intentional agreement between us.
When we first got married, I would tidy up the house daily and then just hope my husband would keep it that way. I would actually pick up his things and put them away for him. I know, I know, rookie mistake. For some reason, I thought he would be so grateful and inspired by my dedication that he would want to maintain my tidiness.
LOL forever and ever.
So fast forward a couple of years, and I started to get just a wee bit displeased. How could my husband not maintain my effort at keeping the house tidy? How could he not pick up after himself? Actually, how could any human not pick up after themself? I began to resent my husband. I began to see him as less than. I began to wonder how I could be in love with such a pig.
We fought about this topic almost exclusively. I would mutter passive aggressive things under my breath and he would growl at me to get off his neck. We exchanged some pretty hateful words about the tidiness (or lack thereof) in our home. And somewhere along the way, around year five when our son was still a toddler, we had a real knock-down-drag-out row in which we really drilled into the issue of keeping the house picked up.
In other words: I lost my fucking shit.
After a lot of back and forth, we realized something: My husband and I? Our brains are wired very differently. That’s it. We are just different. I notice messes and he doesn’t. Clutter drives me absolutely bonkers, and I can’t be a happy, functional human being if he’s leaving his shit all over the place. It scrambles my brain. And yet I don’t think it’s fair that I be expected to clean messes he made. My husband told me he wanted to pick up his shit, he wanted to be helpful—he just literally did not see the mess. He said he would be more than happy to pick it up if I would remind him.
So that’s how we came to our agreement: I would be allowed to “nag” my husband to clean up, and he would comply without getting annoyed. We maintain this agreement to this day, and it works for us.
I still get aggravated sometimes when he leaves a mess behind in the morning. I work from home, so I have to look at it all day. But I refuse to pick up anyone else’s mess but my own anymore. I’m nobody’s maid. So when my husband gets home in the evening, after we’ve had dinner and a cup of coffee, I “nag.”
With 10 or so years of this agreement under our belt though, “nagging” looks less like grumbling and eye-rolling and more like me pointing at an object while cocking an eyebrow and my husband nodding knowingly and picking it up. He’s a good guy—he doesn’t want to drive me nuts with his clutter. And he knows, logically, that people should be responsible for picking up their own shit. So this is our compromise.
I’ve read articles about how women should not be responsible for telling men what to do around the house. That men should simply adapt and look around and notice when something needs to be done, and do it. And I get that, I really do. I agree, even. But I see the good in my husband and all the countless other things he does for our family without me asking, and I understand the value of compromise in marriage. So I don’t mind doing the teeny bit of extra work of reminding him. And it’s a far better solution than wishing him a prolonged and painful death every day that I notice that same coffee mug on the side table.