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Why Does My Wife 'Nag'?

I’d like to open this discussion with some statistics…

  • 60% of marriages in the US are ended by women

  • 2/3 of non-monogamous relationships are opened up by women

  • Senior single women have more time for themselves and their hobbies than married women

  • Senior married men have more time for themselves and their hobbies than single men

I would take this information to mean that women are not happy in their relationship. So when I put it together with this idea that ‘women nag’. My conclusion and also based on experience with clients is that women are saying they are not happy.

However, men are not hearing this and from what I see in my coaching practice it is for 2 reasons:

  1. Women aren’t communicating it in an effective way

  2. Men aren’t listening and are reluctant to be self-responsible and emotionally mature

I’d like to bring to the attention of the men reading this article why their personal self-development is important to them. Men, your self-development which looks like emotional maturity and being self-responsible is what will affect your ability to make relationships work. It’s important to make your current relationship work. It’s important to make any future romantic and/or sexual relationships work. It’s important for creating meaningful friendships. All of which lead to life satisfaction and longevity.

I’d like to introduce some more information in relation to this…

  • Men represent approximately 62% of dating app users, lowering their chances for matches.

  • Single seniors - 71 percent of the women, but only 48 percent of the men, are satisfied with the number of friends they have.

  • A recent study of seniors in the U.S. found that in several important ways, women do better than men when living alone, whereas men do relatively better when they live with other people - typically, a wife.

  • Unmarried men aged 40-75 years had a 2-fold risk of suicide compared to married men of the same age group.

So men do well in relationships, women do well single. Women are bringing the need for things to change to their partner. Men see this desire for change as ‘nagging’. The problem is for men the outlook of being single isn’t great. Less friends, less time and it’s more difficult to find a date. The competition out there for dating is high amongst men. What is clear is that the majority of the women in the dating pool have different expectations of a future partner than what they did in the past. In the past it was about financial security. Now, women are looking for men who have excellent communication skills, have done some self-development work and who are emotionally responsible and not outsourcing the emotional labour onto women. Women don’t need a relationship, they can now choose to be in one.

So now that I’ve got your attention. What are we going to do about it? What are the next steps? How can you save your marriage or your relationship before you end up going your separate ways?

What is often happening here is that couples have fallen into a Mother & Son dynamic. Whereby the woman has taken on the role of ‘mother’ - telling her partner what to do, how to do it and when to do it. The man has taken on the role of ‘son’ - waiting to be told what to do, not using his initiative, dismissing his partner as though she were his mother. I want to be clear that this situation is a dynamic. Both people have patterns and behaviours that are contributing to this. Either one of you can make changes to do differently and come out of this, or you can both do it together. As a side note to this, the dynamic completely erodes intimacy and your sex life.

Speaking to the women here, now…

I would first like to tell you that your frustrations with your partner are very likely valid. You most likely take on the mental load with running the house and childcare if you have children. Your partner likely considers himself your ‘helper’ rather than part of a team to make the house function well and run smoothly. You possibly feel resentment that no matter how many times you have explained to him to do a chore he gets it wrong and you question whether he is doing it on purpose. You are open to talking about problems in your relationship and find your partner doesn’t see them as issues and you feel that your experience is being invalidated. You are possibly saying ‘yes’ to things that you don’t want to in the hopes your partner will see and maybe do the same for you. You’re hoping that some day your partner will suddenly change and recognise how amazing you are and all the beautiful things you do to keep everything together and begin.

With the couples I work with, it is most often the women who contact me looking to get support for their relationship. They have done their own self-development to quite an extent. They want their partner to catch up in their own growth. They want the man to do some self-exploration, take some responsibility for the unhealthy patterns, instead of always being the one who is taking the lead, learning and trying to show up better. All of that is absolutely valid. What I also notice is that oftentimes, their partner is desperate for connection. The man wants physical intimacy - not just sex (although that is desired too), but to hang out on the sofa and cuddle and hold their partner close. They also want to spend time with their partner having fun. Spending quality time, sharing their time doing something that they both enjoy doing - seeing them laugh, relaxed, etc.

And I know what the women are thinking - I’ve thought it too in past relationships - ‘but if he took more initiative around the house then we would have more time together.’ So my question is - can you let some things go to build the fun and connection in your relationship? Just for a short time? Because when you do, you will notice a shift in how your partner responds to you. You are no longer a threatening mother figure looming over him. You are his partner whom he loves and adores.

Another point to bring to women is how you are asking your partner to get more involved around the house? What I often hear and see is passive aggressive comments. Then when men do the chore, they are heavily criticised for getting it wrong. What I tend to suggest to couples is that they write all the chores and mental loads down and decide between them who will take the responsibility. My invitation is that if the men ‘get it wrong’ or ‘make a mistake’, you do not need to tell them. They will be well aware of it themselves.

An example of this was a female client who had given her husband the responsibility of making dinner. She knew that she would struggle to not comment on what he was doing so she took herself far from the kitchen until the food was ready. When he served it the chicken was salty. As per my suggestion she chose to say nothing. It was clear the chicken was too salty. So what happened was, a few days later when she was away for a meeting and wouldn’t be home in time to make dinner, her partner used his initiative and made dinner. Now had she criticised him for the chicken, there’s every chance that he wouldn’t have made it.

It’s also extremely important to have your own lives outside of your relationship or family. What are your interests? What do you enjoy doing for you? Even if it’s just meeting with a friend for a walk on a regular basis. It is important to take time out for yourself so that you can come back into your relationship in a better headspace. If you are struggling for time because you are doing everything, then have that chat with your partner about chores and mental load. Your partner is likely prioritising time for himself - you do the same for you.

So for women the focus is:

  • Have more fun

  • Redistribute the chores and mental load (freeing up more time for you as a couple to have more fun and also for you as a woman for yourself)

  • Don’t comment when he makes a mistake

  • Make time for yourself

Speaking to the men now…

I understand that when your partner is talking to you about all the things you are doing ‘wrong’ it feels like a personal attack. My invitation to you is to see that in fact what your partner is doing is looking for connection. If she complains about you spending time away from the house - what is the real concern here? It isn’t that she doesn’t want you to enjoy yourself, could it be that she would like to spend more time with you? Could it be that she needs to share more equally the load so she isn’t as tired and is less stressed? When your partner says to you ‘you’re going out with your friends again’ - maybe ask her - ‘how does that make you feel?’ ‘Is there something that you think is missing in our lives right now?’

I know for a lot of men the reaction is to get defensive and to point the finger back or feel that they are not good enough and it can affect their feelings of self-worth. There are men who I speak to who also try to do their very best and find their partner still continues to speak to them in a disrespectful way. You teach people how you do and don’t want to be spoken to by the boundaries you set. So something simple such as ‘I understand you are unhappy that I didn’t do it the way you wanted but please speak to me more kindly.’ You have every right to tell someone how they should or shouldn’t speak to you.

I know that socially it has been assumed that ‘women nag’ - however if you have this attitude towards your partner’s complaints or requests, you are pushing her away. I understand it feels like there’s always something wrong and needs doing and it’s ‘just them going on again’ but for many women it’s more than that. It is an accumulation of lots of different things, often little ones, that are screaming out that it means something more is troubling them, there is a theme there. Underneath the surface they are saying that they aren’t feeling loved, they aren’t feeling valued and they aren’t feeling considered.

I understand that you feel you are being restricted that you aren’t ‘being allowed’ to do what you want. However, through effective communication to understand what the underlying need is for your partner you can then look together to understand how those needs can be met. I’d also like to point out that being in a relationship also does mean actually relating to the person you are in a relationship with. If you are not interested in being with or supporting your partner, it could be that you are just looking for a housekeeper, in which case, yes, maybe single life is more aligned for you.

I know that when I coach men who are on the brink of divorce because they have got into this Mother & Son dynamic and the woman has had enough, the men are confused, ‘I know she was nagging, but I thought that was all it was. I didn’t realise she was going to leave.’ The reality is that what your partner is bringing to you are very real concerns and it’s possible that you are not understanding the underlying needs that are missing for her - feeling loved, valued, considered. It’s possible you have already tried counselling and therapy together and if your therapist or counsellor wasn’t experienced they likely made you out to be the bad guy - which left you feeling even more ‘not good enough’ and shameful. The feeling of not being good enough and shame can stop us from taking action. So it’s important to be aware of that so that you can move forward and begin to take responsibility for your life. I know that many men feel they took their partner for granted once she starts talking about separation - could you maybe see that for yourself before talking about separation becomes a thing?

You may feel comfortable that if you are the breadwinner that she won’t leave, that she needs you in some way. However, the fact that she has taken the responsibility for the house and feels like she is doing everything herself anyway is actually more of a catalyst to her leaving. She knows it will be easier without you than having to carry you too.

I know you also carry resentment too, that you feel you need to ask for permission to do things. Can you see that healthy and respectful communication is letting someone know what your plans are? She may also have plans or things she needs to do so keeping her waiting around or not knowing when you might turn up means she can’t plan her time effectively too - it’s respectful to let her know.

For the men the focus is:

  • Her complaints are not a personal attack

  • Set boundaries in how you are spoken to

  • Understand the underlying need or theme she is trying to express

  • Healthy relationships require communication and checking in

If your partner is asking for you to get support such as counselling, therapy or coaching, if your partner wants to go with you for support as a couple, this isn’t a sign of the relationship failing. It isn’t her telling you what to do. I know there is a fear and discomfort of involving others of sharing your intimate lives with a stranger. The fear of that person taking sides. You likely think that you have the capacity to sort all of this out yourself or between you. This is your partner wanting to be with you and trying every avenue to find a way to be together. She wants that. What is the value of that? What is the value in regards to your time? Financial? Emotional labour? Discomfort? …as you both take ownership of your role in this dynamic?

I know you are feeling scared of what this journey might bring up. Frightened about what you might have to face. The fear of truths being highlighted that you don’t want to admit and feel like you are not a good person (which if you’re reading this is not true - already there is a part of you wanting to change). I know you don’t want to admit that there is something wrong - it’s possibly some ego, pride, worthiness, self-esteem issues that are arising. The fear of it not being ‘manly’ to talk about these things. I invite you though to pause and think. What is the alternative?

If you don’t change, or you don’t go for the individual or joint support you are being asked to do, you might just find that one day your partner is leaving and you will probably think to yourself...

‘I thought she was just nagging’.

Carla Crivaro is a trauma-informed and certified Sex, Love & Relationship Coach, she works with men and women internationally to reach their goals in delicious sex, profound love and authentic relationships. Carla helps men and women understand themselves and each other, sexually and relationally, in and out of the bedroom. You can reach her at

Other resources which are supportive around this topic are:


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