How to Nag Without Being a Nag

Time is a social construct that means different things to different people.

Willie and Elaine Oliver
How to Nag Without Being a Nag

How can I get my husband to do things in a timely manner without nagging him?

Thank you for an excellent question that has a very easy, and at the same time, complicated response. The easy answer is that you cannot get your husband to do things in a timely manner without nagging. The complicated response follows.

As we have stated before in this space, the only person you control is yourself. In most relationships we spend a lot of time and energy trying to change the other person to do things the right way—the way we believe they should be done. But this is a futile pursuit, since a good way to get people to not do what you want them to do is to tell them what you want them to do.

Dale Carnegie, in his famous book How to Win Friends and Influence People, quoted this established maxim: “A man convinced against his will is of the same opionion still.” So while you can present all the facts of a situation as you see them, invariably the other person in the relationship often has a completely different take on the same situation.

Nowhere is this phenomenon more true than in marriage. So, we congratulate you for posing the question in such an altruistic way, by using the phrase “without nagging” Not nagging conveys you want to be as nice as possible in communicating to your husband your need for him to be mindful of time. The truth of it is, though, time is a social construct that means different things to different people. This is why it is important for you to share your need with husband in as non-confrontational a manner as possible, without making him feel his way of doing things is unacceptable and/or inferior to yours.

One way to approach this dilemma successfully is to wait for a moment when you are having a pleasant moment together, then ask him when is a good time for the two of you to talk about a situation that is rather important to you. Because of your timing, you might get lucky and he might say, “We can speak right now.” If this is your husband’s response, begin to share your concern by using “I” messages rather than “you” messages. This technique will focus on sharing your feelings rather than making your husband feel attacked for behaving in a way that is below your expectations.

You may say: “I really love the way you are intentional about taking care of me and showing concern about what is important to me. Because of that, I want you to know that when I ask you to do something around the house by a certain time, I feel hurt or taken for granted when my request is not honored in a time-sensitive manner.” This approach avoids nagging, demonstrates regard and respect for your husband, while sharing honestly and kindly what you need from him.

This approach will help you accomplish the question you posed, strengthen your relationship with your husband, and create an environment of honesty and trust in your relationship. Please try this skill and let us know how things go.

We also encourage you with these words: “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Prov. 15:1). Pray for God to help you to be patient and kind in your relationship with your husband.

Willie Oliver, PhD, CFLE,an ordained minister, pastoral counselor, family sociologist, is director for the Department of Family Ministries at the world headquarters of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

Elaine Oliver, MA, LGPC, CFLE, an educator, counseling psychologist, and clinical mental health counselor, is associate director for the Department of Family Ministries. You may communicate with them at, or

Willie and Elaine Oliver