What’s one of the major factors in divorce in America? Nagging.

That’s right — social scientists have put the nagging problem right on the table. While there are many reasons people may choose to divorce, and all of them are individual, psychologists and couples counselors have cited “nagging,” or repeated requests for and reminders to do certain things, as a major reason relationships end.

For decades, we’ve heard that strong communication skills are the key to good relationships and that poor ones can destroy them. So why is nagging of particular concern?

One reason is that it can spiral out of control. According to research published in the Journal of Family Psychology, negative communication patterns increase sharply once couples become unhappy. Specifically, among couples who said they were unhappy in their marriages at the five-year point experienced, on average, a 20 percent increase in negative communication, along with a simultaneous decrease of 12 percent in positive communication.

Almost every couple experiences nagging at one point or another, but persistent nagging may be veiling serious and painful emotional issues for both the “nagger” and the “nagee.”

People who nag often do so because they feel that requests are being ignored — which easily becomes feeling unheard and unloved. They often falsely perceive that their partners agreed to help, or their partners may not give a clear yes or no.

People who get nagged are often uncomfortable with conflict. They may not want to agree to certain requests, but they don’t want to fight. Persistent nagging makes people feel criticized, and even personally attacked.

The situation can get so bad that the couple won’t talk at all. Unfortunately, unaddressed nagging can remain a problem even after a divorce because couples with kids still have to communicate effectively enough to co-parent.

For both members of the couple, nagging may be shorthand for uncomfortable issues. Both members need to recognize what’s going on and take steps to put an end to it. It may take courage and you may need help, but that hard work can pay off for a lifetime.


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