He says: “If only she would shut up, our marriage would be great.”
She says: “If he would stop bringing up the same issues all of the time, we would get along better.”
Complaining amongst couples are common, but what if one day your spouse decides to stop nagging you? If you never do anything to address your spouse’s concerns, and if your spouse has all of sudden become “the quiet spouse” instead of “the nagging spouse,” this may be a cause for concern.
Here are five reasons experts say a quiet spouse may not be the spouse of your dreams:
- A quiet spouse may be shutting down and creating emotional distance between you two. In the article The Six Signals of Divorce, Sam Margulies says that emotional disengagement is a warning sign. Emotional disengagement is generally accompanied by the withdrawal of affection. If your wife has disengaged emotionally from you, she probably doesn’t feel much love for you. Divorcing people commonly say that “they have fallen out of love.” And depending on how sour the relationship has become one or both probably don’t like each other very much.
- A quiet spouse may be putting up a wall to protect their feelings.
- A quiet spouse is having a conversation with him/herself. In other words, only one side is being presented. I guarantee it’s not yours.
- A quiet spouse has stopped trying to work on the problems.
- A quiet spouse is making plans without you, such as planning to leave. Michele Weiner-Davis, M.S.W calls this The Walk-away Wife Syndrome:
“While she’s planning her escape, she no longer tries to improve her relationship or modify her partner’s behavior in any way. She resigns herself to living in silent desperation until “D Day.” Unfortunately, her husband views his wife’s silence as an indication that “everything is fine.” After all, the “nagging” has ceased. That’s why, when she finally breaks the news of the impending divorce, her shell-shocked partner replies, “I had no idea you were unhappy … Then, even when her husband undergoes real and lasting changes, it’s often too late. The same impenetrable wall that for years shielded her from pain, now prevents her from truly recognizing his genuine willingness to change. The relationship is in the danger zone.”
Stop Being Dismissive
Applying a term like “nagging” to your spouse is a bit inconsiderate, it’s dismissive, and it shows a lack of compassion. After you are married, you became one with your spouse. This means you can not sit back and watch your spouse struggle with a problem. It’s always been my philosophy that if my spouse has an issue … then we have an issue. The National Healthy Marriage Institute says that, “Compassion is a tool that can help you extinguish anger, motivate you to help your spouse and understand your spouse’s perspective.”
You Both Have a Part to Play
Instead of wishing your spouse would no longer bring up certain issues, try:
- Looking in the mirror — It’s time to take a real hard look at yourself to see what you are doing to contribute to this situation or to see what you can do to implement positive change in the relationship. Sometimes, it’s not that you have committed an offense, but perhaps it’s how you are choosing to react or not react to your spouse’s concerns that may be causing issues.
- Having more compassion — Instead of feeling angry or hurt with your spouse, try putting yourself in their shoes and think about how you would feel if the tables were turned.
- Meeting your spouse’s needs — In the article Emotional Abandonment: When Your Spouse Shuts You Out, Dr. Dave Currie and Glen Hoos explain:
“Often a person pulls back from the relationship because, in their mind, their needs are not being met. A healthy marriage demands that both partners actively work to discern the needs of their spouse, and work to meet those needs. Seek to understand your spouse’s needs and ask yourself how you can start to better express love by meeting these needs. Make your spouse and sorting things out your new priority.”
If you are the “nagging” spouse, there are some things you can do to address the issues, too:
- Look in the mirror — Take a real hard look at yourself to see what you are doing to contribute to this situation. Are you being a negative person? If so, try changing your mindset by having a positive outlook. Are you nitpicking? If so, try letting some things go and only focusing on major concerns. Are you trying to be controlling or are you trying to change your spouse? If so, realize the only person that you can change is yourself. Try being an example to your spouse, by being the first person to take actions towards positive change in the relationship.
- Ensure you are communicating effectively — Schedule times to discuss your issues with your spouse. Don’t bring up issues when you are angry or at inopportune times. And don’t use any passive aggressive behaviors — like saying you don’t have any issues — but acting like you do with the silent treatment or withholding affection.
- Empower yourself — Check out the book The Single-Married Woman by Dr. Sherry L. Blake. This book will give you (if anyone that feels lonely in their marriage) the tools to thrive in your relationship without losing yourself and your voice. When you’re empowered, you will not settle for being a “nagging spouse” or a “quiet spouse.”
If your spouse is consistently bringing up the same issues over and over again (i.e . nagging you), count your blessings because at least he/she is still trying to communicate with you. And consider this a warning sign that together the two of you need to make some changes in your marriage.