What's the Difference Between Reminding and Nagging?

When is it nagging and when is it reminding?  For non-ADHD partners, it can be hard to figure out whether - or how - to remind a partner of something that needs to get done.  Here are some ideas about where to draw the line.

Don't Call Me a Nag!

Non-ADHD partners sometimes get peeved at me when I label their repetitive reminding of a partner as nagging.  "What else am I supposed to do?  If I don't keep after my partner, nothing much will happen," is the common feeling.  My posture is that if they DO keep after their partner something will happen.  Their partner will not only never learn independence and organizational skills, but will also come to resent them.  So it's an important question, this one about differentiating nagging from reminding.

Nagging vs. Reminding

In short, nagging is when you take on someone else's responsibility - continuously or repeatedly reminding about an upcoming deadline or chore, for example.  That sort of 'keeping at it' is a form of actually taking over the responsibility for the partner meeting that deadline.  If you can switch places and insert the words "I don't have to remember or plan out how I will do X because my wife/husband will remind me" that's not 'reminding,' that's nagging.  Nagging also usually breeds resentment.  The person doing the nagging doesn't want to be repeating this stuff but feels he/she must.  The person being nagged usually resents the implied insult of the constant 'reminders.'

Real reminding is more benign than that.  You are NOT taking on the responsibility for the deadline being met, but have noticed that a partner who has a system in place for getting that thing done has happened to forget something.  Reminders are intermittent, with no specific repetitive pattern.  They are typically given in good humor or with a smile.  The non-ADHD partner doesn't really mind giving the reminder, and feels far fewer negative feelings.  The ADHD partner views a reminder as supportive.

Thanks, I Needed That!

Which brings up one last point.  Upon later reflection, if either of you resents the 'reminder' behavior then it's time to question whether it's crossed over the line to nagging.  I say "upon later reflection' because sometimes you can have a knee-jerk response to a reminder that has more to do with your own embarrassment that you forgot than with the reminder itself.  If, on reflection, you think it was good your partner reminded you, then you're probably okay.  Generally speaking, if the person being reminded can say "thanks for reminding me!" then you're okay.