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Are You Married to a Passive Aggressive Person?

Passive Aggression in Marriage

Passive aggressive people hide their feelings of anger behind their charm.

Passive aggressive people hide their feelings of anger behind their charm.

About the Passive Aggressive Person

Passive aggressive personality disorder may be one of the hardest personalities to deal with. You are dealing with a person who avoids responsibilities and tries to control other people with their passive actions and natural tendency to withdraw anytime they don’t want to deal with confrontation.

It is a hard skill to learn, to handle discussions delicately and avoid conflicts and arguments. It is a difficult thing to talk straight about your feelings to someone else. The bigger picture is that if you deal with conflict effectively, your self esteem raises and that is a good thing.

A passive aggressive person fears being controlled, they fear confrontation, and they hide their anger and can not deal with people in a direct manner.

Passive aggressive behavior is a complex personality disorder that takes on many forms. Everyone behaves passively when hey don’t want to deal with conflict directly. We all try to find a soft way to get out of committing ourselves to things we would rather not do. But when passive behavior becomes an interference in the normal functioning of relationships, and creates severe issues for the people who are interacting with them, passive aggressive behavior can be problematic and needs to be addressed.

Passive Aggressive Behavior vs Passive Aggressive Personality Disorder

Passive aggressive personality disorder is a dominant part of someone's personality. Passive aggressive behavior is actions done occasionally.

Passive aggressive personality disorder is a dominant part of someone's personality. Passive aggressive behavior is actions done occasionally.

The Typical Passive Aggressive Person

Things your passive aggressive spouse may do:

  • they say one thing, but their actions reflect something entirely different.
  • they get what they want, by not doing what others ask of them.
  • someone who holds back their anger, and then get revenge indirectly.
  • they withdraw as a way to deal with their anger.
  • they say yes, but really mean no, and never do what is asked of them.
  • they don’t follow through on what they promised
  • they don’t assert themselves
  • they look to avoid confrontation, yet somehow push your buttons
  • they don’t fulfill their responsibility
  • they are very charming
  • they act like they will comply, and then don’t
  • they procrastinate, forget, or don’t do it right
  • they put the blame on their spouse
  • they are ultra sensitive to criticism
  • they have little self introspection
  • they make demands of their spouse
  • they want freedom for themselves, but want their partner there for themselves
  • they are underachievers

Passive Aggression in Marriage

Being Passive Aggressive and Anger

If you are married to a passive aggressive person, your life is very difficult. A passive aggressive partner can make you angry at them when they are resistant to requests you may have. The negative energy they discharge on you, makes most relationships unhappy.

Men, more often than women, behave in a passive aggressive manner. Passive aggressive people have not properly dealt with their anger and power issues so they replay them in their marriage.

There are several family dynamics that set a child up for this type of behavior to develop. Sometimes there may be a domineering mother, and an ineffectual father. In some cases the mother is passive and wiggles out of her responsibility with her self helplessness. Children may be afraid to stand up to their parent. In the instances where a son is afraid to compete with his father, it may be because the father is not present emotionally or physically. Sometimes the father may be perceived as being inadequate.

As a child, they don’t learn to let out their feelings in a healthy way or to develop a sense of themselves. The son, when grown up may mirror what the father has done, by escaping the needs of his wife’s demands. Because they never learned to express their feelings, they hide their anger and let it out in covert ways. The anger is suppressed, and dare not be shown to their mother. The anger never really goes away and resentment towards their mother grows, yet they are still dependent on love and affection from their parents. On an unconscious level, the passive aggressive person feels like they don’t want to be told what to do.

They don’t know how to assert themselves, so they displace their anger by not complying and resisting. Their coping skills become charm, resistance, being stubborn, and withdrawing. They will do almost anything to protect themselves from showing that they feel they are in a power struggle.

Relationships and Passive Aggression

Relationships involve compromise.  Passive aggressive people secretly do not want to please their spouses.

Relationships involve compromise. Passive aggressive people secretly do not want to please their spouses.

The Personality of a Passive Aggressive Spouse

Passive aggressive people resent anyone who is an authority figure. They usually view their husband or wife as an authority figure. This puts them in a situation that doesn’t allow themselves the luxury or the ability to stand up to their partner, just like they couldn’t stand up to their domineering parent. They play out their unresolved feelings from their growing up years.

Passive aggressive people may be moody, or have behavior problems. They look to preserve themselves and sacrifice others. Their self protectiveness comes from trying to hide their anger, their hostility, their resentment at their spouse. They in reality distance themselves from their spouse because being too close to their partner, they may reveal too much of themselves. Passive aggressive people struggle with wanting independence and wanting to be taken care of. This push pull results in rebellious acts. They relive the distance they felt from their parents.

A passive aggressive person looks for a mate that can be the object of their hidden anger. They look for an “opponent”, whose demands are easy to resist. The spouse unconsciously accepts their passive aggressive mate’s covert hostility.

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The passive aggressive person sets up their mate by being resistant to their requests. They don’t follow through on their promises and things they agreed on. They avoid responsibility, but make it look like they are pulling their own weight. They procrastinate and won’t finish the thing they start. They distort reality to make it fit their version of reality, while making it appear logical. They speak in vague termsEventually the mate gets frustrated and lets out their anger, which brings satisfaction to the passive aggressive person, who can not let out their own anger.

The passive aggressive spouse uses vague language to trap their partner. They are usually inconsistent and ambiguous, expecting their partner to read their mind.

The passive aggressive husband or wife holds back information as part of their hidden agenda. They look to make excuses and avoid being criticized. They sulk, are often moody, and will use silence when confronted about their lack of responsibility. They blame their partner and accuse them of having a problem. It is anything but themselves.

A passive aggressive person puts little effort into meeting the needs of others. They will never give their spouse what the spouse wants. Remember, a passive aggressive person is secretly angry at their spouse because they view that person as an authority figure who they can’t stand up to. They can’t show their anger so why would they want to make this person happy or please their spouse.

This pattern of behavior typically blocks the progress of their spouse so that person can’t get what they want. The passive aggressive person doesn’t know how to compromise. They might be a workaholic, they may have affairs, or be addicted to alcohol or drugs, or be self involved in their own hobbies and interests.

Sometimes they have multiple relationships because that helps themselves keep enough distance from being fully committed and connected to one person.

Intimacy and the Passive Aggressive Person

There is a disconnect between the things they do and the other person’s reaction. They don’t understand why their spouse gets angry at them. They feel their spouse demands too much of themselves. They will find ways to resist their spouse’s demands. If they do have to give in, they feel deprived, or they do things they want to do.

Again it is this conflict within them that makes them simultaneously dependent on attention, and craving independence. They will often put their partner down by neglecting them, but the partner stays around anyway because they can’t quite figure what is going on. A passive aggressive person doesn’t want to be burdened by their spouse’s needs. They have a strong fear of intimacy and they put up barriers that stand in the way of having a deep emotional connection.

They are skilled at derailing intimacy in ways their partner can’t obviously see. In order for the passive aggressive person to feel safe, they withhold part of themselves from their spouse. They withdraw sexually, to avoid feeling vulnerable. Being close and intimate brings up their inner conflict of dependency.

Within themselves they are lonely. They want to be with their partner, but they are scared to fully commit. They are wounded children who have grown into adults, who are not able to trust what is safe with the person they are sharing their life with. They afraid to reveal too much of themselves and they don’t really share their deep feelings. How can they?

A passive aggressive person denies their own feelings of insecurity, of vulnerability, of anger. When you deny feelings and push them away, you make it difficult to fully feel other feelings too. If you can’t feel for yourself, you can’t feel for others either. They don’t know how to explore their own feelings and so they keep their distance so know one really knows them.

For this reason they often use low level hostility to keep their spouse at bay. They passive aggressive person has an ability to make their partner doubt themselves and feel guilty for imposing any demands on themselves. They spend a considerable amount of time by themselves.

They are skilled at getting the other person to apologize. They make people focus on their charm instead of dealing with the issues directly. The passive aggressive husband for example, will make their wife appear as though the problem is the wife’s. The husband keeps the focus on the wife’s anger instead of their own inadequacies.

A passive aggressive person will eventually vent their anger when they feel trapped, but then quickly reverts back to passive behavior.

When their behavior gets exposed, they tell their partner they will change, but they never do. They are typically underachievers, they don’t take constructive feedback well. They don’t see how their behavior plays a part in the couple conflict they are having.

To learn more about passive aggressive personality disorder click here.


Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on March 31, 2013:

A Passive Aggressive Person sounds most difficult to deal with and I am glad I am not married to one, and neither am I.

Eiddwen from Wales on March 23, 2013:

This is so interesting and useful ;I used to be married to an aggressive person but am so delighted to say that I no longer am and my partner now is nowhere near aggressive.

Thank you for sharing and enjoy your weekend.


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