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How My Nag Journal and ‘Black Love’ Are Making Me a Better Wife
by Toni-Ann Craft
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September 1, 2019

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How My Nag Journal and ‘Black Love’ Are Making Me a Better Wife

“I’m not bossy, I just know what you should be doing.” — Anonymous.
BlackLove.com Contributor Toni-Ann Craft talks tone, nagging, language, and “Black Love.”

Courtesy of Toni-Ann Craft
Toni and Jay’s Old Town Alexandria engagement session

We all like things done our way, and that’s ok. As long as we don’t use our will to forcefully make people do things for us exactly when and how we want them done. 

I’m guilty of this. 

I’ve always been independent, strong-willed, and vocal, and I come from a line of women who are the exact same way. So much so that I chuckled to myself as I visited my grandparents a few days ago and saw the legendary sign that has been in my grandmother’s kitchen for as long as I can remember. It reads, “I’m not bossy, I just know what you should be doing.” 

This mentality is so ingrained in me that I might even debate that it’s hereditary. But unlike the lineage of “boss women” that runs in my family, I haven’t quite mastered the skill of knowing when to turn it on and off. And although this mentality has helped me to be successful in other aspects of my life, I’ve discovered that in marriage, it makes me more of a nag. 

As I watched the latest episode of Black Love, I smiled from ear to ear. Not only because I was excited to tune in, but mainly because it was refreshing and reassuring to see other couples experience many of the same things that I do in my own marriage. I saw myself reflected so much as I watched Salli speak about feeling like a nag to her husband Dondre. 

“I’m not bossy, I just know what you should be doing.” 

In speaking of household chores, Salli said, I use to ask him to do something, and he’d be like ‘ok,’ and it’ll be like three hours later, [I’ll say again] ‘Can you do that?’ he says, ‘Yeah, I’m gonna do that for you.’ I’ll come back the next day and say, ‘Listen, all I need you to do is that one thing for me.’

Related: How to Pick Your Battles

David and Tamela

But if I’m honest, in my marriage, my husband and my words have gotten us in quite a few rabbit holes. Like Black Love couple David and Tamela, our disagreements sometimes start about something minuscule, then erupt into a full-on deathmatch that rehashes situations that we resolved ages ago. David and Tamela tell of how a conversation about dinner led to months of conflict:  

Tamala began, “I was working…I got home, and it was late…I thought, I’m not gonna cook, I’m just gonna make tuna. So we had tuna sandwiches with cheese.”  David continued, “I never ate tuna until I married her. I bit into the tuna that I don’t like, that she makes special…that I like a special way. I bit it, and something was missing — relish.”  Tamala took over stating how David asked her if it had relish in it, to which she responded, “Yes, it has relish in it.”

But David shared that her response didn’t stop there. “She said, ‘You ungrateful n-word!’” David laughed. Tamela admitted, “I did! It just blew up over a tuna sandwich.” And, David finished, “It blew into everything we argued about for the last two months.” 

“I just blew up over a tuna sandwich.” “And, it blew into everything we argued about for the last two months.”

I have no problem holding my tongue in other aspects of my life, but in my marriage, it’s a totally different story. If something bothers me even slightly, I feel more inclined to want to talk to my husband about it, perhaps because I’m emotionally invested. 

I understand that conflict is inevitable in even the best of relationships. But the concept of learning when and how to pick my battles is a skill that I’m actively working on. I’ve found that oftentimes picking my battles means that I have to do something that feels unnatural for me — that’s holding my tongue when something is literally bothering me. It leaves me feeling like I’m bottling everything up little by little and praying not to erupt when one more small thing or poor tone is added to the scenario, but actually, all this bottling up causes me to blow like a volcano. 

Nevertheless, I’m a Brooklyn girl who’s married to a Southern man who knows exactly how to push my buttons when he wants to. Dondre’s complaint about his wife Salli hit home and tickled me so much! 

Salli and Dondre

“I’m a Brooklyn dude. I’m from the streets,” Dondre said, “and my wife has a language that can activate me in a way where I have to really go, ‘Hey, this is trying to get you to go to a ten, and you need to stay in control and be at a two.’ Because...if you’re speaking warrior language to a warrior, you’re gonna get a war.”

Related: Communication 101: Learning How to Fight Fair

Like Dondre, this has been a real struggle for me. And if I’m keeping it real, my husband can be a nag as well and he sometimes has the tendency to use the wrong tone, which can be very triggering for me. But, if I’ve learned anything about marriage thus far, it’s that I cannot change who he is, but I can certainly work on who I am and how I choose to react.

If I’ve learned anything about marriage thus far, it’s that I cannot change who he is, but I can certainly work on who I am and how I choose to react. 

Ricky and Amy

My husband and I are both very expressive people. Our naturally passionate nature is actually one of the things that we loved most about one another early on. Yet, ironically now that we’re married, this is one of the things about ourselves that makes our communication challenging at times — especially as it relates to picking our battles and communicating through disagreements. Most times, like Black Love couple Ricky and Amy, when we bicker, it’s normally not about anything remotely serious. It’s usually the little things that are often turned into bigger things like leaving his belongings on my side of our bedroom, not picking something up around the house, or worse — leaving the toilet seat up!  Major pet peeve. 

“There’s a way that you have to learn how to fight, how to argue without disrespect, without even feeling so much offended or like a victim in any way, and we didn’t have any of these skills before counseling or therapy,” stated Ricky. “We had to learn. We fought over anything from ‘You left the cabinet doors open’ to ‘You’re not driving right’…or [if] she makes a meal and I don’t really like it.” Amy added in agreement, “Nothing ever gets worked out when we’re raising our voices at each other. Never! One thing we’ve learned, and I’m not great at it, is, I have to let Ricky calm down first and then talk to him.” 

Related: How to Argue Like a Pro

In an effort to find a technique that works for my husband and I, I’ve created what I call my “nag journal.” It allows me to get my feelings out without directly nagging my husband, and it has been absolutely life-changing for me! 

In an effort to find a technique that works for my husband and I, I’ve created what I call my “nag journal.”

Now, whenever my husband says or does something that pisses me off. I step away from the situation and retreat to a private location with my journal. I write out every single thought that I would typically nag him about as if I were speaking directly to him. Sometimes my entry is one sentence, and sometimes it’s four pages. I’ve noticed that most of my entries start off very angry, but the more I write, the more I find myself discovering resolutions to the problem and calming myself down in the process. It leaves me feeling like I have released and addressed the issue by writing it down and getting it out of my system. Additionally, if I notice that I’m writing in my “nag journal” about a topic that keeps reoccurring, it visually shows me that it is something worth discussing with my husband during a time when we are both calm, rational, and level-headed. This new way of filtering my complaints and nags is literally helping to make me an all around better wife, and I love it! 

They say it takes a village to raise a child. But it also takes a village to become a better spouse. That’s why I am grateful that my village consists not only of the marriages that I get to see through the people around me but of a platform like the Black Love that encourages authentic communication about marriage from people that we would otherwise admire via the media. It’s uplifting to know that, no matter where you are in this journey of love, there’s another couple who is honest and open enough to share their trials and triumphs with the world — tuna salad tsunamis and all… 

Be sure to tune in to Black Love on Saturdays at 9/8c on OWN! Also, binge watch seasons 1 and 2 on Amazon and Urban Movie Channel.

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