click here to jump to start of article
  • Torah Reading: Naso
Join Our Newsletter

Get latest articles and videos with Jewish inspiration and insights​

Alternative to Nagging
Mom with a View

Alternative to Nagging

How to get your husband to do what you want.


If you’re like me, you have a long list of things that need to get taken care of around the house (it usually starts with “Clean the garage”). If you’re like me, then you probably also have a second list with the more urgent tasks on it – the burnt-out light bulb that makes it impossible for your daughter to read at night, the drawer in the kitchen that always sticks which finally fell apart when you yanked it out in frustration, the few items you need from the grocery store to make that new chicken recipe you just read about.

And like me, you’re probably hoping/expecting that your husband will attend to many of these tasks.

And, if you’re like me, you’re probably going to go about it all wrong. My favorite (and least effective) strategy is to verbally assault my husband as soon as he walks in the door. “You’ve been promising to clean the garage for months and you still haven’t done it. Why do you only have time to do the things you want to do and not the things I want?!”

This disastrous technique is frequently followed by the equally ineffective and ill-advised silent treatment. Now I am left with a messy garage and an unhappy husband.

The better and wiser approach would be not to frame the issues as an attack or even as a demand but rather as a need.

“Even when I stand on a ladder, I can’t reach to change that light bulb. I would be grateful if you would do it for me.”

“I’m making your favorite chicken for dinner tomorrow night. It would be really helpful to me if you could stop at the store on your way home.”

“I like the way you organized the garage for me last time (don’t mention that it was 10 years ago!). It would take a huge burden off my plate if you could do it again.”

All of these requests have many advantages – for us and our husbands.

We can be proud of our behavior and our character. We are not shrieking. We are not reacting out of frustration. We are calm, polite, even loving.

We are not criticizing our spouse (never a great motivation for change) and they will therefore feel no need to be defensive or to attack in response.

And we are not expressing our request in terms of their lack but rather in terns of our need. Our husbands want to be needed. They want to give to us. They want to be helpful. But they also want to be appreciated for it.

We all get frustrated. There are so many things we want done. And we want them done yesterday. But none of them are worth harming our relationship over. All of these household chores pale in comparison to our marriage itself.

Learning patience, learning softer, gentler ways of speaking and asking will enhance all of our relationships. But most of all, we will be building up our husbands instead of knocking them down. We can tolerate that messy garage for a little longer…

March 18, 2012

Give Tzedakah! Help create inspiring
articles, videos and blogs featuring timeless Jewish wisdom.
The opinions expressed in the comment section are the personal views of the commenters. Comments are moderated, so please keep it civil.

Visitor Comments: 15

(10) Camandres, January 31, 2014 5:55 PM

I'm a husband...

This article reminds me of a joke I read a few months ago: "If your man says he's going to do something, he will. There's no need of reminding him every six months". Of all the strategies I think nagging is the one that makes me most recent fall because it makes me feel as if I was a little child again and I was being scolded by my mom. Sometimes we (husbands), really want to help but either we are tired or we just consciously procrastinate. It's no secret that those chores we have to do are not the most difficult at home but they are not the most pleasant either. What I'd suggest is give us a little push. For instance, my wife gets the garbage bags from all around the house while I'm walking our dog and places then at the door I'm expected to come in so, when I arrive, before me taking off my gloves, she takes hold if our dog and says: let's take advantage of the situation and now that you're fully dressed you won't feel cold when taking the out the rubbish. Leave the new lightbulb on our desk, or ask us to help finding something in that room or corner that needs the light to be fixed... Just saying. ;-)

(9) leta Cooper, March 29, 2012 3:35 AM

Been trying for 5 years

Men, you can only expect so much from them, When he walks in the door give him a hug and a kiss, ask him if you can get him something and then walk out of the room and don't talk to him unlkess he speaks first. It really is quit simple. By the time I was done with my husband he thought I was so perfect, he wanted me to go buy Dr. Laura's book on the care and feeding of husbands. I think that's what it was called but, he wanted me to get it to see what she left out because , agin, I was perfect. Love him unconditionally, do your own chores, without grumbling to your self. Just do them, it is a lot better than complaining to your self that he has failed you . Expect nothing, spoil him rotten don't complain better yet just go buy Dr. Laura's book. She explains it better than I do. My husband listened to her as he was driving on his job with the county. So he learned a lot of life from her. There was some simple thing that she had some one do for her husband and was to get back with her the next week to see how it went and I got to hear the results. It worked it blew her away how easy it was. I was a already doing what she was saying to do . You just sit back and observe your husband figure out what he needs and then provide it. My life was a complete blessing. He was eating out of my hands and when he passed away the last thing he told me was that he loved me more than I would ever know. I can take it to the bank knowing how I was loved.

(8) Ben, March 26, 2012 3:10 PM

Bombarded with criticism when HE arrives

Agree with you Rachel. We as husbands need to be sensitive to our wives' long, hard, days as well, and shouldn't take jabs or even criticize as soon as we walk thru the door. The first words out of our mouths(as husbands), with a big smile, should be, 'hi beautiful.' A great thanks to all mothers out there, who have a difficult job 24/7. Thanks for ALL you do!. May we as husbands be more in tune to you. And may we strive to live Torah in every way, everyday.

(7) SusanE, March 24, 2012 7:24 PM

Nagging Women Create Uncomfortable Homes.

Why not just say 'This lightbulb burned out" If he says no, he won't replace it, then there is a bigger problem than the lightbulb. - - - - - - - - Please let me say I'm totally not the best person to comment when it comes to relationships..... but I'm going to anyway. If my husband asked me to stop at the auto parts store on my way home from work for a gaget he wanted for the car, I'd gladly have stopped if he couldn't get to the store. If running his errands, became a weekly habit I probably would say no. If he'd have asked me to please organize the kitchen the way I did it 10 years ago, because I had done it so nicely....... well, actually he would have never asked something like that. I'm not that naive, and it is very manipulating and cunning. - - - - - - - - When it came to jobs around the house that needed done, (insulating the attic, planting a garden, painting the house, washing the autos) if the cars needed washed, I'd put on flip flops, and get some sun, exercise and have clean cars. Likewise, he would do the same. ~~~~~~~~~~ Giving my spouse compliments to get what I want is just wrong. I agree with the other commenters. Saying to my husband, 'Our garage is a junk heap' is truthful and to the point. If it is that bad, then he realizes it needs straightened, if he says no he won't do it, maybe he just doesn't care about it. I would gently ask him why.

(6) Ben, March 21, 2012 5:15 PM

Honey.... tastes better than vinegar

Completely agree with the writer and Elliot. There is nothing worse than having a long , busy, tiring day at work, and then being bombarded with criticism as soon as we walk through the door. A gentler, loving approach, works much better. The Psalms speak about this gentler approach. Living an intentional life as husbands and fathers also enhances our marriages. Knowing how much those little things [garage and shopping, and other things] are important to her, and then intentionally doing them, is a sign of an in-tune hubby. No marriage is perfect, but when we all walk in Torah, as husband and wife, these nagging sessions become less and less. Our wives are not under our authority, but under our protection; that changes EVERYTHING. Just as Israel is under Hashem's protection as HIS bride.

See All Comments

Submit Your Comment:

  • Display my name?

  • Your email address is kept private. Our editor needs it in case we have a question about your comment.

  • * required field 2000
Submit Comment