Nagging—the interaction in which one person repeatedly makes a request, the other person repeatedly ignores it and both become increasingly annoyed—is an issue every couple will grapple with at some point. While the word itself can provoke chuckles and eye-rolling, the dynamic can potentially be as dangerous to a marriage as adultery or bad finances....There are three successive steps that one can take to reduce nagging in a relationship. They are not conclusive nor will they work in every relationship, but at least it's a process that can be applied and reduce the oppressive feeling of helplessness that being constantly nagged tends to produce.
Personality contributes to the dynamic, Dr. Wetzler says. An extremely organized, obsessive or anxious person may not be able to refrain from giving reminders, especially if the partner is laid back and often does things at the last minute. Other people are naturally resistant—some might say lazy—and could bring out the nagger in anyone.
It is possible for husbands to nag, and wives to resent them for nagging. But women are more likely to nag, experts say, largely because they are conditioned to feel more responsible for managing home and family life. And they tend to be more sensitive to early signs of problems in a relationship. When women ask for something and don't get a response, they are quicker to realize something is wrong. The problem is that by asking repeatedly, they make things worse.
The first is to reflect upon the problems, attempt to anticipate the requests and/or demands, and do your best to promptly fulfill them when they aren't successfully anticipated. But note that this is NOT a BETA attempt to please the other individual, it is actually a means of testing them. A friend of mine once tracked his wife's requests, demands, and complaints for an entire month, recording all of them. The next month, he made sure to do every single thing she had requested or considered to be a problem, and he even succeeded in doing many of them before she even asked for them, much less complained about them. He also kept track of any new requests, demands, and complaints.
He was surprised, and a little disappointed, to learn that his proactive efforts didn't reduce the volume of her nagging at all, it merely changed the details concerning what she was nagging him about. But it was a very useful experiment because he learned that he was not the problem, the real problem was her need for control. So, he promptly went back to doing as little as he had before except he was now able to tune her out with a clear conscience. Carte blanche, baby!
On the other hand, if actually doing the things that were causing the other person to nag reduces the amount of their nagging, then is is obviously your failure to get things done that is the problem. In this case, apply the second step and put yourself on some sort of schedule. For example, I used to be very unreliable about getting the car washed on a regular basis, but now I simply do it on Saturdays whether it appears to really need it or not. If the weather is bad, I do it on the first day after Saturday that the roads are dry. Program your habits correctly and the amount of justifiable nagging will tend to naturally decline.
But does this mean that one has to suffer constant nagging just because the other individual is a control freak? Of course not, hence the third step. It is based on the observation that most control freaks place far more pressure on others to do things for them than they are willing to do for others. So, again keep track of the various requests, demands, and complaints, but instead of doing anything about them right away, start responding with requests, demands, and complaints of your own on a one for one basis. Every time she nags about X, you nag about Y.
This will likely trigger a good deal of initial resentment - the control freak REALLY does not like doing things upon request because she wrongly believes it amounts to subservience - especially because it is perfectly reasonable. If you are expected to do X for them, why would they not do Y for you? And yet, you can expect all sorts of spurious and stupid excuses as to why you should be at their beck and call but they shouldn't have to do anything for you. Just ignore the rationalizations, tick to your guns, and eventually the aversion therapy will begin to take effect. Even if the nagger doesn't consciously realize what you're doing, the idea that nagging you inevitably means she'll get stuck doing something herself will soon begin to reduce the amount she is willing to do.
And, of course, every time she refuses to do something, you must do precisely the same. If she won't pick up something at the store, then you don't pick up something on the way home from work. I suspect it's best not to make it a direct confrontation, since any argument is only going to lead to an impasse at best, so just produce the same sort of ridiculous excuses that she uses.
However, the single most important thing that everyone should keep in mind is that if you care a great deal about something a) getting done, b) getting done in a particular way, and c) getting done to a specific standard, then you should do it yourself!