My husband is a nudge. He nudges me, and our kid, until one of us freaks out, and then gets annoyed that one of us, or both, are upset. I have asked him many many times to stop, but he just seems incapable of seeing the line that he keeps skipping across.
When he is nudging our kid, I generally step in so no one ends up yelling or crying. This interception on my part generally ends in him being pissed at me and me “telling him how to talk to” our kid. Basically, it puts me in a no win situation – either he gets mad at me, or someone ends up crying. His general response is “I was joking”. Yeah, well, after 10 years, the joking is just not funny anymore, and makes me want to run him over. How do I get him to stop?
Running him over will certainly get him to stop, but it brings up a lot of other complications, like prison. I’m pretty sure there’s a lot of nudging going on in prison; more, I daresay, than goes on in your home.
Your question reminds me of a Modern Love column that ran in The New York Times many years ago. It was by a genius named Amy Sutherland, and it was called, “What Shamu Taught Me About a Happy Marriage.” I love re-reading this almost as much as I love re-reading Anne of Green Gables. In fact, someone to whom I am related (I won’t give further details for fear of busting her to her husband) called me the other day to tell me that it was necessary, once again, to “Shamu” her husband.
The premise is that, like animal trainers, we must focus not on getting our husbands to stop doing a certain behavior, but to focus their attention on another task when they start a behavior that’s undesirable. In parenting-speak, it’s known as redirecting. “No, don’t DO that!” only spurs him on, fueling his belief that if you don’t want him to do something, it’s probably fun and the right thing to do.
(Please, angry men, don’t get all mad at me for comparing you to children and animals. I don’t mean that at all. Look, over there! A split-screen giant television showing porn and a football game simultaneously! Go! Run along and look!)
As I was saying, instead of butting heads and fighting and trying to get him to stop what is surely good-natured joking that you’re just too uptight and bitchy to understand, you could, once he starts nudging, gently retrain him to do something else. Maybe, the next time he starts in, you could just calmly and sweetly offer to make him a snack. Or you could smile and nod, and while doing so, subtly remove your child from the situation, and bring her to change her sweater, or suddenly remember that you promised you would show her how to change the oil in the car.
You’re not going to change him. He’s not going to stop. You just need to figure out how to get around it. Once his nudging loses its power to get a rise out of you, he’ll probably lose interest in it.