Lately, my husband and I have been communicating poorly. As we see our alone time getting pulled away, we are both more easily frustrated. I’m sure most parents, especially those with young kids and limited incomes, can attest to the toll it takes on your marriage when you cannot find alone time to speak clearly to each other. We often have multiple factors limiting our ability to communicate, including metal stress and fatigue, distractions, and simple exhaustion. This has turned most of our communication into business talk. When is this appointment? The next event or birthday party? When are we doing the budget? What do we have to set aside and how long is the car going to take to get fixed? The list goes on.
Enter: Nagging Wife
As we spend less time on our relationship, encouraging and uplifting each other, and more time on fighting fires and dealing with errands, we begin to nag each other. Our relationship seems far more disconnected than in the past because we cannot seem to find the time to enjoy each other. So nagging begets more nagging. And hurt more hurt. The unfortunate reality is we are communicating a lack of trust and it shows a lack of attention to the needs of the person instead of the things happening all around us.
Proverbs 21:9 states “Better to live on the edge of a roof than with a contentious woman in a large house.”
But it also spends the rest of the chapter warning us about what our sinful actions will bring.
Verse 2 states “Everyone’s path is straight in their own eyes, but the Lord weighs the heart.”
Then it goes on to cover many other sins and their consequences:
4 Prideful eyes, an arrogant heart, and
the lamp of the wicked are all sinful.
5 The plans of the diligent end up in profit,
but those who hurry end up with loss.
6 Those who gain treasure with lies
are like a drifting fog, leading to death.
7 The violence of the wicked will sweep them away,
for they refuse to act with justice.
8 The ways of some people are twisted and strange,
but the behavior of those who do right is pure.
Our spouse is often the first to see the sin and the consequences of that sin. My husband sees the injustices, the violent heart, the manipulation and greed, the pride, and my impatience. I see it all in my husband, too. This leads to a dependent vulnerability of not being loved and accepted unless their grace is heaped upon us. If we want that kind of grace, we must understand what sacrifice it requires. We have to love our spouse like Christ loves us. They must love us like Christ loves us. We, both, must learn to stop nagging and hurting each other while we seek vengeance. Christ is able to communicate perfectly because he is perfect. My husband is not. I am not (even with my degree. I like to pretend it means I know how to communicate better. Lord help me).
We went through a period of relearning how Christ gets us to do things without nagging.
God uses a quiet, gentle voice. He is clear with his emotions and the consequences of our actions, and allows us to disappoint him. To fail and struggle. The root of the problem of nagging, for either spouse, is the desire for control. When we seek control, we dehumanize our spouse and we do not give them grace. They become a working tool to achieve a goal or to solve discomfort. Christ, however, understands all your complexities. He does not view us as a means to an end, but His child whom He loves.
A New Conversation
So how do we learn to lovingly talk to our spouse like Christ speaks to us?
First, we must begin to recognize how we are hurting each other.
- When does the other stop talking? Get angry, sad, or otherwise upset?
- When do you normally feel like you have won or they look defeated?
- When are they sarcastic or biting in response?
For my husband, it was in rejection. If I pinpointed a problem to blame on him, he would instantly put his walls up and become incredibly defensive, making it almost impossible to actually find a solution. Mine was about being “too much” of something. Too naive, too big, too loud, too clumsy. The list of insecurities grew as we began to attack these spots instead of trying to encourage each other. We were not honest, nor were we forgiving.
If we decide to attack our spouse’s weak spots, we are acting like Satan. It leads us down a path of lies and more sin. Justice is quickly replaced with revenge as we plot against the very partner we’ve chosen. When my husband and I were first married, we fought bitterly over injustices. We have had a hard time putting aside the scorecard for grace. Letting go is something I only did through the grace of God in my life. He reminded me, over and over again, of the immense grace He pours out on me. And yet I repay my husband’s sin with my own brand of justice? This is not the work of God, but the hold of Satan on our humanly minds. To tear us apart instead of fighting our own desires with the truth of Christ’s sacrifice. We lost much of our strength as a couple.
We needed a lot of prayer. Constant, heartbroken, and intensely emotional prayers. Relearning how to speak grace and encouragement was difficult. Often times, this is one-sided in the beginning. Sometimes it takes a while to see a response, especially if we are habitually defending ourselves instead of seeking the heart of our spouse. But Christ continues to pursue us, so we must also persevere. It is a hard place to be, but over time and prayer, we both responded. Our change did not come from our own ability.
It is in our own ability we try to find justice through revenge. It is only through God’s selfless love we are inspired to give up our own pride.
We must pray for each other, audibly. It helps us speak encouragement and frustrations out loud, which helps us to hear the truth and the falsehoods we have been thinking about each other. It also encourages us to set aside time to think of where they are and how they are struggling. Audible prayer is something new to me and my husband. I don’t know if it was something culturally different or a hurt from our past, but the vulnerability of speaking out loud to God was hard to push past. Vocal prayer has shifted little perspectives. It helps me know what my husband is concerned about in the situation, and brings a special focus and clarity when we bring something before God as a unit.
Once we have focused on our spouse through God’s eyes, we are able to meet them where they are. If we need to close our mouths (personal experience) and just mourn with them, then we will finally have the perspective to do so. Motivation, encouragement, and helping each other are simple foundations of any good relationship. These actions rebuild trust and induce reciprocity. Then, and only then, can we stop the nagging and other hurtful actions. It truly is all about our heart. How we process things, the habits we form, and the responses we put into action, are all flowing from our heart.
Give More Grace
A fulfilling marriage is not going to be a perfect marriage. We are imperfect people. Mistakes will happen, and there needs to be an open conversation about it to continue to build trust.
While Christ does not fail us, we do experience hurt from other people failing us. If we feel like God has abandoned us, He wants us to be sincere. If it was something nobody else experienced, He wouldn’t have to promise us that, no matter what we feel, He will never leave us nor forsake us. I have made promises to my spouse, some I have not kept. These mistakes cannot be healed unless they are forgiven. They cannot be forgiven unless they are spoken about genuinely and honestly. But if I am not truthful, I don’t have a chance at forgiveness.
As a problem solver and critical thinker, I often hurt my husband by the overexertion of my problem solving skills and motivator qualities. I have to go through this process multiple times before I recognize when these skills are inappropriate, just as my husband is learning when his ability to put his attention in multiple outlets is inappropriate. And there are many areas in which we are growing. It is safe to assume we will all be growing in our relationships throughout our lives, just as we do with Christ. If we give ourselves security in Christ, then we can give grace to our spouse. And nagging is demolished by grace.