“Pick up your laundry,” “unload the dishwasher,” “get up off the couch:” the nagging all relationships are inevitably doomed to—or so they tell us. Once passionate love and Cosmo-worthy sex seems to fall victim to the infamous war over dirty dishes and who forgot to take out the trash. And it appeared to be my ex-boyfriend and I were no exception to the nagging rule.
After living together for a few short weeks, nights of making out on the couch turned into nights of me picking up his dirty laundry off the floor. I found myself rolling my eyes, washing out a sink full of hair and wiping his toothpaste off the bathroom mirror. Then, before I knew it, there I was, resenting the man I loved, just like all the movies and books about marriage had planned for me. And as one might expect, I “bitched” at him. I told him to stop leaving his dirty dishes in the bedroom. I tossed the overflowing trash bag at him and told him to “take it out for once.” And most often, I told him he was lazy and “driving me insane.” And sure, you may be thinking, “if he’s messy, and not doing his fair share, you have every right to be nagging him.” But I am here to disagree.
Though I was once a raging advocate for all things aggression and arguments, after delving into the pages of the infamous self-help book, “The 5 Love Languages,” my stance quickly shifted. In the beginning chapters, marriage counselor Dr. Gary Chapman mentions that, “love makes requests not demands,” and while at first, the raging feminist in me scoffed and rolled her eyes, I put my ego and feminist agenda aside long enough to realize that he was right.
Now, to clarify, I am not condoning my ex boyfriend’s laziness, just as I am not supporting the misogynistic men of the world who believe house work is a women’s job. All I am suggesting is that our way of going about conflicts in a relationship may be more detrimental than we could ever imagine. When girlfriends and boyfriends alike nag at their significant others, and demand from them what should be asked for, what really are they doing to their relationship?
By spouting off demands of “clean the kitchen” and “put your shoes away,” a union of equality and mutual respect can quickly turn into a parent-child relationship. And in my humble opinion, you probably shouldn’t be talking to the person you’re sleeping with like they’re a child (but don’t worry, sometimes a good spanking might be in order).
However, jokes aside, we absolutely must recognize that a serious relationship is not a rite of passage to discipline your boyfriend or girlfriend. A long-term commitment and falling in love does not give way to unlimited access to degrading comments and patronizing commentary. And if we truly love these people, why do we feel so comfortable telling them to “get off the couch,” and “stop being lazy?”
And oddly enough, I have a sneaky suspicion we would never dare to nag our friends the way we nag our significant others. With that I must ask why we feel so justified in lecturing the ones we’re in love with, but would never dare to tell our friends to “take out the trash, already?” Perhaps our confidence to slap our “better halves” on the wrist stems from the concept that two people in a relationship become one being, that with love comes a sacrifice in an identity, but a gain of control over another person’s life. But simply put—just because someone is your other half, doesn’t mean you own any part of them.
As a solution, I do not suggest that we let our significant others harm us physically or emotionally simply because they are autonomous individuals. I understand fully that a relationship is a union, and that a romantic partner has great power to negatively (and positively) influence our lives. All I am suggesting, is that instead of making a list of demands, that we opt for open communication and kind words. As they all say, “love is patient” and “love is kind.” But unfortunately, love is not, nor will ever be, bossy and demanding—not matter how much we wish it was.