While on vacation last year, I saw a nightshirt at one of those cute little gift boutiques found in so many resort towns. It was hot pink and on the front was a caricature of an old horse. Underneath the horse were three words: "Nag. Nag. Nag." (No, I didn't buy it.)
In my last blog post, I wrote about women who are leaving their marriages because they feel unappreciated by their husbands. The post garnered quite a few comments, many of which focused on the fact that I wrote the piece from a woman's perspective. I did that for two reasons: One, I am a woman, and two, the people whom I had spoken with who raised the appreciation issue were women. In the piece, I clearly acknowledged that appreciation has to be a two-way street. Women must appreciate their husbands just as much as they expect to be appreciated. But I'm going to amend that just a bit.
Sigmund Freud once said, "The great question that has never been answered, and which I have not yet been able to answer, despite my thirty years of research into the feminine soul, is 'What does a woman want?'" Well, Freud, here's my take: as I sifted through the comments, I realized that yes, women do want appreciation, and so do men.
And here is my "aha" moment -- based on the comments I read on the blog post, I observed that men, like women, want more appreciation and less nagging.
This makes total sense to me. In fact, the same women who were asking for more appreciation also said to me, "I am so sick of having to nag to get things done. I hate hearing myself nag. I hate who I am becoming."
So if men want the nagging to stop and women want to stop nagging, fixing the problem should be easy, right? Aren't we talking the basics of communication?
In the comments section of my last post, one woman wrote: "Men and women view appreciation quite differently. Men feel appreciated when we thank them, tell them that we are grateful for everything they do for us, be it small or big. But I think, for me, the best way we can show them that they are being truly appreciated is when we don't give them a hard time when things are going bad. It's such a ball-buster to men when we nag and blame and complain."
And one man wrote, "It is the woman that chooses to do everything because she feels her husband couldn't do it right or to meet her expectations. So, after being nagged, harassed and left feeling unappreciated, the husband left it all up to her. Now many years later, the wife is tired of doing it all. It has always been this audacity of not doing it exactly her way that has left her feeling alone."
As I look back on all of this dialogue, one thing is clear to me: A big part of a successful relationship is ensuring that you are meeting the communicated needs, or at least the communicated expectations, of your partner. If women's needs aren't being met because they aren't feeling appreciated, issues will surface. If men's needs aren't being met because they feel they are constantly being nagged, issues will surface.
And the cycle of bad communication (and nagging) can go from bad to worse. Though the spouses may not be communicating positively, at least they are communicating in some fashion. Is it when communication stops altogether that things take a turn for the worse, from salvageable to beyond repair, from marriage to divorce?
Do I think that simply showing more appreciation and doing less nagging will save marriages? I think it takes more than that, but I do think it's a good start.