What We Talk About When We Talk About Nagging

I’ve seen this article posted by 3 different people i really respect (all women) today. It’s clearly striking a chord and it’s clearly meaningful and important to those who posted it.

I’ve read it through a couple times and while i am not saying i fully get all the nuances, here’s what i’d offer up as a response.

A) Try reading this again as though you were her partner. Would you not feel completely humiliated if this article were about you? Who would do that to their partner? Perhaps it’s because i’m a guy, but i can’t help feeling sorry for the partner here because there are clearly unspoken expectations that he’s being held to and measured against, expectations that he may not even care about or feel are important but become important because his partner cares about them. The gist is: Why can’t my partner care as *much* about the same things that i care about with the same intensity that i care about them

B) i think she picked a familiar, but gender-loaded example to make her point (housework) and i don’t think that example helps her make her case very well because there’s so much personal preference built into that one. (sidenote: when someone asks for a gift, but then puts some specific boundaries and expectations around it, is it still a gift?  Or,  does it become a task or a job at that point. )

C) As a former academic, i understand the desire to give something more meaning by giving it a new name (by calling it “emotional labor”), but i think the term “emotional labor” is a red herring. Worse, it’s an abstraction where the family should be talking about something real and critical: emotions, desires, hopes, expectations. Being an adult human in a relationship is hard (labor) and it’s emotional because of all the emotions, but i find the term confusing and not useful. Talking about “emotional labor” is good when you’re writing a paper, it’s annoying when you’re trying to get your loved one to understand what you really want

D) The point about the kids seeing a balanced relationship is really important.

E) I wonder if she’s unknowingly sustaining the engendered expectations she’s upset about: “When I brush my daughter’s hair and elaborately braid it round the side of her scalp, I am doing the thing that is expected of me. ” By whom? Who’s setting that expectation? Is it real? Or, is it what the author imagines is expected to be a good parent?

I’m going to read it again. But i think this boils down to something really simple: Please have empathy for what i care about and why i care about. Please respect my feelings. Please be appreciative of what i’m doing for you, for us. In other words, please be a good, loving grateful partner.

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