Why Wives Nag

Q: My wife won't stand up for me, and it's really bothering me. Her mother is at our house all the time. And she treats me like a son, in a bad way. She's always nagging me to pick up my clothes, take my dishes to the dishwasher, and do the yard work. I don't feel like I can sit and watch TV when she's over, so I just go out and mess around in the garage. It's getting to where I want to leave when she comes over, but there's usually dinner involved. She likes to cook for us. My wife says that's just her way, and that maybe if I pitched in more around the house she wouldn't nag me so much. My wife nags me too, but not as much. I told her I don't want her mom around so much and that it's annoying, but she just laughs and walks away. How do I make things change? --Jay, 33

Dr. Susan: Oh, poor nagged fellow, the answer to this one is automatic. Do a little more to help around the house, and stop acting like an ornery teenager around your mother-in-law and wife. Sure, you might be inclined to watch TV BEFORE you tackle the chores, but perhaps the women in your life have seen that this isn't really what's going to happen.

I get that having your wife's mom there all the time is too much. Every couple needs some privacy. Your wife owes you some allegiance. That means she ought to figure out some way to NOT have her mom over to the point where it interferes in your relationship. But what I'm hearing is that it's the nagging that most bothers you. So try changing your own behavior and cleaning up after yourself. That's only fair.

Wives and mothers nag because when they ask politely, nothing seems to happen. Do your fair share or commit to doing some of it (such as yard work) at a specific time, as that will allow the women to relax. Marriage isn't easy. You might prefer doing what you want, when you want to do it. And your wife might have been taught more of a sense of responsibility and feels things need to get done sooner rather than later. Perhaps she'll ease up over time. But if don't pick up after yourself, at the very least, her resentment will increase over time.

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