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The Difference Between Being Clear & Being a Nag

Updated on November 18, 2009

I received this comment

On my Hub "I Want to Get Married But My Boyfriend Doesn't" I received the following comment:

"Macy says:

I'm abit confused with some of the things you said here because they seem to contradict each other. At one point you said "You don’t have to give ultimatums or be a nag, you can be powerful and focused in a healthy way." and then a few paragraphs later you said "But be clear with him that you will not be there after x amount of time.". So how are you going to say "I want to get married by 2 years and if you don't i am leaving" in a healthy way. To me that sounds like an ultimatum."

At first, I was surprised. Differentiating between nagging and being clear seems obvious to me. Then the more I thought about it, the more I realized maybe it isn't clear to some people, and maybe that's been the problem they've encountered in relationships.  And I realized, what a great idea for a hub.

Let’s Start Simply

Imagine you’re in a restaurant. You call the waitress over and you ask if there are any fish specials.

“Yes,” she says. “We have Cajun catfish, with two sides, for $11.99.”

Imagine you order that. She brings it to the table. And she says she hopes you enjoy your meal, with a smile. You eat your dinner. She brings you the check, saying “Whenever you are ready you can bring that to the cashier. I hope you have a great night.” You pay the cashier $11.99 for the meal.

The waitress was clear with the establishment’s expectations. There was no nagging. There were no ultimatums.

Now, imagine the same scenario. You ask the waitress if there are any fish specials.

“Yes,” she says. “We have Cajun catfish for $11.99. And if you order it and don’t pay $11.99, I will call the cops and they will charge you with theft of service.”

You order the fish, and she brings it. She puts it down and says, “You’re going to pay, right? Because if you don’t pay $11.99 when you’re done, you’ll be in trouble.”

You eat your dinner. She brings you the check, saying, “You have to pay or else. You have to go to the cashier and if you don’t pay $11.99 for the catfish we will call the police on you.”

In this scenario, the waitress gave you ultimatums, and she nagged you.

It really is this simple.

Naturally a Nag?

In all aspects of life you have the ability to be healthy, empowered, clear and pleasant. When you shop, when you visit with friends, when you are in your workplace, when you are at school or the gym, or a café, or anywhere.

A normal healthy person doesn’t assume they have to give an ultimatum in most aspects of life. If you go the gym, you expect the equipment to be safe and functioning. You may ask when you agree to the membership about the quality of the machines. But each time you walk in you don’t get on the stairmaster saying, “If this is a faulty machine and breaks while I’m on it, I will sue you. So you’d better have good machines or else!” You don’t give an ultimatum. And you don’t nag the staff over and over.

If a friend asks to borrow your jacket, you might say, “Sure, but I need it back by the time I go on vacation.” There you’ve made your needs clear.

You wouldn’t think to say to your friend, “You can borrow it, but I want it back for my vacation, or else I will come to your house and take it back, or make you buy me a new one.”  You wouldn’t call your friend everyday leading up to your vacation nagging them to return your jacket and giving an “or else” ultimatum.

So why would you think communicating to a boyfriend would be any different?

Or Else!

In Macy’s comment, she said:
"I want to get married by 2 years and if you don't I am leaving.”
She doesn’t even see the possibility of not adding that “or else” statement at the end.
“This is what I want and if you don’t give me what I want, then I will do this.”

You don’t add that temper tantrum sounding demand when you order a coffee, or hand in an assignment at school, or assign a job to an employee, or drop off your dry cleaning. Do you? So why would that be the only way you think you can communicate to your mate?

Adding the “or else” demand shows you don’t know how to listen, or compromise, or express yourself in a reasonable or healthy way. Who would take you seriously if you spoke that way? Who would want to be around you?

Be Empowered. Be Healthy. Be Clear.

When you’re dating the conversation of what you both want in your futures will come up. Express yourself clearly, as you would with anyone else about any other subject.

“I would like to be married in the next 2 years,” is a very clear and healthy statement. He may say he doesn’t want to marry in that time frame.

A clear response to that from you could be, “I’d be willing to talk about pushing that to three years if it was a long engagement,” or “I guess I’m just in a different place in life than you are. I will be getting married in the next couple of years, this is my life plan," or ”I really want to be working toward a marriage, and I'd love it if you were part of that."

Why would it even cross your mind to scare the shit out of the guy by saying, “Well if you don’t marry me in 2 years then I’m going to leave!" ?

When I was dating my now-husband 14 years ago, I remember the first few conversations about marriage. We were basically on the same page. We talked a lot about marriage and the future, and it seemed we really wanted the same things, in about the same time frame. But things got a little tricky after he moved in.

I was very clear that I didn’t want to be an eternal girlfriend, that living together was a big commitment for me and that I wanted to be engaged within the year. I never said, “Marry me this year or else.” I didn’t nag and bring this up over and over. I pleasantly let him know what I wanted, and that he was part of that plan.

Well, the year came and went and he hadn’t proposed. We were driving one afternoon and he made a comment about having to have his taxes done, and how much nicer it will be to file jointly next year. And I said, smiling, that we won’t be filing jointly in the future. He said “Well someday when we get married.”

I was very pleasant, and smiled, and said, “No, I told you my time frame, and that has passed.” Then I dropped the subject and said we should stop and get ice cream.

He was quiet and stunned. He brought it up again that night, and just asked me if I was breaking up with him. I said “Not today.” And I smiled about it. But I added, “Look, I was clear about what I need, and I really hoped you would be part of that plan. And it didn’t happen. It's ok. I guess we're in different place. It is what it is. So, I will be moving on.” There were no ultimatums. There were no "buts" and "or elses". There were no nags or bullshit, or idle threats that never materialize. I was never a bitch, I was never mad or angry or insane.

I was always a pleasant independent person, someone he enjoyed being around. I was never judging. I was never demanding. I never made it so that my happiness and future were completely dependent on him.

4 days later, he was down on one knee in a Bed & Breakfast, proposing… one year and one month after moving in.

I’ve heard my husband relay our story several times over the years, usually to a friend who’s upset because his girlfriend is nagging or giving or an ultimatum about their relationship.

People like to be around positive, healthy, clear people. People don't like to be around people that nag or give ultimatums. It's important to understand the difference.

This article

was written by Veronica for Hubpages. If you are reading it any place else, it has been stolen.

All text is original content by Veronica.

All photos are used with permission.

All videos are courtesy of Youtube.

Email me if you have a relationship question! Thanks!

That's What She Said


Submit a Comment
  • profile image


    7 years ago

    Hi Veronica

    My name is also Veronica and I'm in quite a dilemma. I am at present 20 years old and I've been together with my boyfriend who's 3 months younger than me for a little more than 3 years now. I absolutely adore this guy and I know even being so young that this is the guy that I want to stay with. I myself dont have any thoughts of marrying until I'm at least 24 or 25 or even later than that as I'm not sure how my life will plan out. I don't want any children until I'm married. As me and my boyfriend are so young we have so far just taken everything as it comes, and were both saving up to move out together. We have vaguely spoken about marriage in the future for just a couple of weeks ago and he didnt seem to have any problems with one day tying the knot, we both just didnt know when. But just yesterday he decided to have a 'talk' with me and told me hes not sure if he ever wants to get married. I got upset as I thought well why give me these ideas in the first place. And also it baffles me to think that he can just map out his whole life in less than a week. He told me that the guys had been talking about marriage at work and I wonder what ideas hes gotten from their conversation!I dont know if I should take this seriously and consider whether we are right for each other, or if I should be patient and see what time brings. I just dont know.

  • profile image


    7 years ago

    Hi Veronica,

    I have a a situation at my end, similar to the above. May I email you?



  • profile image


    8 years ago

    Wow!! Its funny how hearing something so simple shakes me into the right direction. I suppose I have been obsessing over making my dreams come true and bringing him into it as well. I am happy with the moves we are making and I should slow down. I have been a nag! I am ready to be the girlfriend I was before.

    Thank you for getting back to me! Thank you for all of your advice. I am very happy that I ran into your hubpage by accident. Its been enlightening.

  • Veronica profile imageAUTHOR


    8 years ago from NY

    Hey there NaturalBeauty,

    No you haven't nagged me, actually I am using your comments in a new HUB I'm working on.

    I have a rather large body of work on Hubpages, and alot of the articles have sprinkles of things I think would help you. But right now I just want to point one thing out: YOU are in charge of your life. You and only you.

    You said above you did get a clear answer, and I agree that's true. It is your choice to wait or not to wait to see if he is going to change or be ready or whatever.

    You can't nag someone into doing what you want them to do. Really no matter what you do, you can't make someone be ready for marriage that isn't, and you can't make someone want to marry you.

    In many Hubs I have shared many insights and tips on how to help get your partner to step up, or focus, or move a little quicker or clearer. But I promise you, there is nothing I can advise that can get you to trick someone into something they didn't want, or force someone into something they aren't ready for. And more importantly, why would you ever want that? Why do you want to spend your life - the next 40, 50 plus years - with someone that you had to push and push and push into being with you?

    Wouldn't you rather marry someone that was ready, and wanted to marry you?

    Good luck to you,


  • profile image


    8 years ago

    Why didn't I read this one the first go around!!! I have been nagging. I knew it while I was doing it. I just began to believe it was my right for not getting the happiness I wanted in my time frame. I felt really pushed away.After 7years of dating and 1 year of living together I felt that I had become ignored. My heart has been heavy and resentment had been brewing for months.

    I did follow the "Being Clear" format in the beginning of our talks. I saw the pleasant results. I however didn't receive a "Clear Decision". Well, I suppose a decision was made but it wasn't satisfactory to me. He decided that 1year to 1 1/2 years was the best route. I am going to have to find peace now in what he has chosen. Its not what makes me the happiest since I now have to continue waiting for the engagement and a distant wedding.

    I will however stop nagging him. Please give me any advice you might have. If you look at my previous posts on your hubpages then you will see the entire story. I hope I haven't "nagged" you too Veronica! I have been under pressure because we live together to hide my emotions and I am no good at that! I am looking for a good opinion. Thanks for your time.

  • Veronica profile imageAUTHOR


    9 years ago from NY


    The whole issue doesn't hinge on semantics, it hinges on power.

    Think of it this way: there are two people in the relationship, that each want something different. One is stating what he wants, period. the other is not stating what she wants, she is putting the power for her having what she wants with someone else instead of herself. She is pushing and nagging for him to change what he wants, and give her what she wants. It's not the other way around.

    He doesn't want to get married. He isn't bringing it up all the time, feeling anger and resentment toward her for not giving him what he wants. He isn't saying to her every day, "Are you going to give up the idea of marriage? Are you just going to live with me like I want? I'm outa here unless you change what you want. What's it going to be? Why is this so hard for you? I just want to be with you without marriage, and if you can't give me what I want then I'm going to leave. Why can't you just be happy with what you have? Why can't you forget about getting married? Aren't you happy now like we are? If you haven't changed your mind and done something about this I'm going to nag you every day until you tell me you will give up this stupid dream of marriage!"

    He doesn't do that. He isn't nagging or giving an ultimatum. He has just stated what he wants clearly.

    She has the power to do the same thing. She can be happy with her self, and her choices, and with what she wants, and she could be as clear as he was, without the ultimatums and nagging.

    The person that gives an ultimatum is a person that has no power. They have given all their power including the most basic power to be happy, to someone else. They are depending on someone else to complete their life and make them happy, instead of keeping that power and being willing to do it for themselves.

    Without an ultimatum, she could as clearly as he did, just state what she wants. "I want to be married. I'd like to be on my way to marriage in the next year."

    When it doesn't happen, she should be on her way. She should have what she wants in life. She should hear and understand manspeak. When he says he doesn't want to get married, she shouldn't think that means if she threatens and nags and gives ultimatums that he will change.

  • profile image


    9 years ago

    This whole issue seems like it hinges on pure semantics.

    My question is: do you think the gentlemen in question could be faulted in the event that they perceive that they are being issued an ultimatum? I don't think it is a stretch to imagine that many if not all men would feel like they were being delivered a matter-of-fact IF NOT THIS, THEN THIS statement, ie an ultimatum.

  • Veronica profile imageAUTHOR


    9 years ago from NY


    I didn't give him an ultimatum. I made what I wanted clear and I just continued on my path, he was welcomed to join me or not. That's not an ultimatum. Even after writing this article, I'm still amazed that there are women that really don't understand the difference between being yourself with clear intentions, and giving ultimatums.

  • profile image


    9 years ago

    i believe you very much gave your husband an ultimatum...your approach was subtle and sweetly manipulative, rather than demanding, but the tactic was certainly still present, to my mind. i am thumbing through your hubs...any on women's wiles? i think this one would fit in quite nicely.

  • Veronica profile imageAUTHOR


    9 years ago from NY

    Thanks NJC, I really appreciate that comment.

  • profile image


    9 years ago

    great post! I have been a nagger with my bf for a while and was looking for ways to change it it seemed so difficult tho...but woww this sounds so simple! hopefully it would be like that when I put it into practice! Thank you Veronica :)

  • Veronica profile imageAUTHOR


    9 years ago from NY

    I hope you weren't confused by the end!

  • men are dorks profile image

    men are dorks 

    9 years ago from Namibia

    wow!!! You also had me confused in the beginning...


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