How does stress make us regress? I have a confession to make…I have once again started nagging my husband and my kids. Now I know from a professional standpoint that nagging is an off-putting behavior. Nobody enjoys it, and it comes across as criticism. I also know, as do many of you who have done relationship work with us, that nagging is a common tendency for those who have taken on the role of critical pursuer in their relationship.
This is a behavior I had years ago, and I was able to outgrow it. I stopped nagging my husband, and that transformed my marriage. I stopped nagging my children. My daughter turned 18 last year, and she was granted an enormous amount of new freedom. Her curfew went away, and the old boundaries dissolved because now she is an adult. Even though I wanted to know where she was going and when would she be home, I didn’t nag her about it.
And then coronavirus arrived…and I have regressed. I find myself saying things to my husband and my teenagers like “Don’t forget your mask when you leave the house” even though they don’t forget their masks when they leave the house. Nagging is always a behavior that lets us know that there is some underlying anxiety and insecurity occurring in a relationship.
I started nagging my husband years ago when he was emotionally checked out in our marriage. His emotional availability was unreliable and inconsistent which would stir up a lot of anxiety in me. Critical pursuers tend to end up in relationships with folks who are emotionally distant. I’ve outgrown this behavior before, and I’d like to outgrow it again. For now, when I notice myself having the urge to nag, I’m just going to hold those words in, take a deep breath, and tell my anxiety that “It’s going to be OK. My husband and kids will take precautions to be safe when they leave the house.”
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