stepmothers, mothers, stepmom, stepfamily, stepchildren, remarriage, divorce, parenting, gossip, ex, ex-wife, Stepfamily help, Barbara Goldberg

To nag or not to nag, that is the question:

Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer

The slings and arrows of outrageous family members,

Or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles,

And Set a Boundary that no one can Penetrate.

Or, opt to sleep and stay in a state of silence.

And opt to Internalize my Frustration and Resentment.

I wonder if I am a Coward.  I wonder if I will lose Myself forever to the Whims and Guilt of parents and children who are caught in the mires of a Divorce.

Oh, Woe Be to Me.  ~  Barb Goldberg, inspired by Shakespeare.

It is always the best and the worst of times.  How many times do we ask this critical question: “Do I pick this battle and set a boundary?  Or, do I continue asking for the same support over and over again, i.e. nag?  Actually, there is a third alternative: the one we choose the most.  “Silence.”  If we all thought about it, this is probably our most common conundrum. Let’s try to figure it out.

Rule #1:  You can’t pick every battle. 

If you find yourself going crazy over every little thing, stop now.  Time to find that book, “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff”.  Now, if your brain is telling you that everything is big stuff, that’s another issue.  Your brain is tricking you.  This is fear and anxiety overwhelming you.  It says that you fear many things and it is time to get that under control.  (That’s another blog.)  Chances are that you tend towards anxiety and you know this.

Rule #2:  Pick One or Two Core Values

Think about how you want to be treated.  What do you value?  Respect?  Kindness?  Politeness?  Write it down.  Write down the behaviors next to each value and clearly define what that looks like.  Prioritize those behaviors.  For example, your #1 value may look like this:

I value respect.  I expect to be defended by my husband in all cases in front of the children and ex.  My home is my sacred place and I cherish my privacy.  I do not want my husband/partner to talk about our private lives.  I expect the children to listen when I speak.  I expect the children to adhere to the rules of our house (as the rules that my partner and I have established.)

Only pick one or two items and one or two behaviors.  Do not use a broad value as an excuse to pick everything.

Rule #3:  Focus on Your Relationship

With so much going on, it is easy to start blaming the ex and/or the children for your own angst.  Focus on your relationship.  Men can only hear one thing at a time.  Do not talk about an important issue until he can focus.  Do not talk as he is doing other things.  Nagging often is characterized by the repeating of the same thing over and over at times when they cannot focus.  Men cannot physically hear us.  Talk about why you love him as often as you can.  Your partner needs assurance from us more than anything else.

Rule #4:  Know What You Don’t Know

It may feel as if we know everything, but we don’t.  We are not parent experts.  We are not relationship experts.  We do not know the ex well.  Usually, we only know what we are told.  Let it go.  We do not have to tell everyone what to do.  When we do that, it is our effort to control and make us feel safe in our homes.  Tell your partner the exact things that will make you feel safe.  We feel safe when we are defended.  We feel safe when we are consulted before final decisions are made. We feel safe when we are not contradicted in front of children and other family members.  Safety is how we quell the anxiety, which leads to less nagging and less unhappiness.

The ultimate answer is no nagging as defined in this article.  Look upon nagging as a reflection of our fears.  Remember that your partner is frightened as well.  If you show faith in him, he will respond in kind.  Trust him.  The strongest boundary we can build is the one around our relationship and around the fears in our brains.

To be afraid or to be afraid, that is the question.

Is it nobler to give complete trust to our partners and not take on the burdens of all? ~ Barb Goldberg


  1. Great advice! I could have used these ideas ten years ago when I was getting started as a stepmom. I hope new stepmoms everywhere read this and heed your advice. I learned the hard way, through trial and error. Lol

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