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Passive Aggressive Partner – Is Their Behaviour Bringing Out the Worst in You?

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Enduring Passive Aggressive (PA) conduct from a partner is "crazy making". At times it can have you wondering if you yourself are the one to blame for the difficulties in the relationship!

Read on for pointers on assessing whether or not you share any responsibility for this dynamic in your relationship, how walking on eggshells can affect your personality generally and whether or not you should have any degree of compassion for your difficult partner.

About the Root of Passive Aggressive Behavior

Children who have an overly strict, quick tempered, imposing, authority figure may feel frustrated when it comes to communicating their opinions, wants, needs and emotions. In particular they feel sure their anger will not be tolerated so they feel bad about themselves when they are angry.

They may even deny to themselves that they are angry, never openly expressing it. However, it is inevitable that the anger will ooze out at some point - often in clandestine ways which can afford the child a sense of secret satisfaction and/or revenge.

Have You Ever Wondered If You Too are Passive Aggressive or Becoming That Way?

Most people are passive aggressive in certain limited circumstances only. However, if you spend enough time around an extremely Passive Aggressive person, some tit for tat passive aggression on your part could well come into play.

To help you determine if you are the main aggressor with regard to PA behavior in your relationship, take a few minutes to focus on one of the commonest, most troublesome traits of such people - i.e. The Dreaded Silent Treatment!

  • how many people have you given the silent treatment to in the last 10 years or so?

  • what is the frequency of this happening - i.e. how many times have you been on "not speaking" terms with someone?

  • on average how long is it before you actually resume speaking normally?

  • Now ask yourself the same questions about your spouse.

Think long and hard about the above and try to be honest and objective. Then you should have your answer as to whether or not it is you or your partner who is mainly responsible for the PA dynamic that exists.

If you determine that you yourself have engaged in passive aggressive conduct, do own this. Moreover, for the future, consciously resolve to be more self aware and take active steps to lessen/stop initiating or reciprocating passive aggression.

Even if signs point towards your partner being the major protagonist as regards to passive aggression, it must always be remembered that the only person we can change is ourselves. Passive Aggressive behavior from a partner is EXTREMELY difficult to deal with but it can only defeat us if we let it. If it's taking a toll on your happiness, it's time to change your response to being on the receiving end of this conduct.

Silent Treatment - When your partner won't answer you!

The Difficulty of Living and Dealing with Passive Aggressive Behavior

Working out how to deal with Passive Aggressive behavior can leave you utterly confused and unable to make decisions about the future.

If you do have your husband, wife, girlfriend or boyfriend listen to your concerns about their conduct and they become worried that you may turn your back on the relationship, they may say and convince you that they will do better in the future.

However, you may find that time after time the same PA behaviors take place. For example, they may agree to do certain things but delay and procrastinate and it never happens. Or they may make a start in the right direction but a start is as far as it goes. They know what it is you want to hear and they will tell you, but as soon as some time passes and you are off your guard they relapse to their old ways.

Retaliatory Passive Aggression

Passive aggressive men and women are adept at giving you the impression that they will do whatever it was you both agreed on, but deep down they have no firm intention or plan to do so. When called on it they will have an excuse. They may claim it is your fault they didn’t carry out what they promised. Again they may claim they cannot remember, misunderstood and that now they understand they will carry out whatever it is. But then the cycle repeats only next time there’s a different slant on their excuse to buy them more time. Sadly, seeing you frustrated, upset, bewildered or angry may constitute a win for them.

PA folk are quite expert at turning the tables and blaming others for their bad conduct. Although they may "graciously" declare that they themselves are not perfect, when you try to pin them down they cannot actually recall or detail any of their own shortcomings. Instead they readily and vehemently reel off an elongated list of your imperfections!

Are You Forever Walking on Eggshells?

When a passive aggressive partner brings out the worst in you, it can exhibit itself in a variety of ways. For example, you may be uncharacteristically lacking in self confidence, feeling more insecure, defensive, pessimistic or secretive. Furthernmore, the constant need to walk on eggshells can affect your physical health in a variety of ways.

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Needing Clarification and "light-bulb" moments ...

For further insight and to help restore your sanity, you may be interested in the book “Why Does He Do That?” by Lundy Bancroft – e.g. one reader who had a history of silent treatment abuse throughout her relationship said that the book was very enlightening and gave her some relief in that she no longer believes she is crazy/mad. Click here for this and further reviews.

Another highly regarded book is The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide from the Country's Foremost Relationship Expert – John M Gottmann. This book details how Criticism, Defensiveness, Contempt and Stonewalling impacts communication in relationships. (See the link in this paragraph for reader evaluations of this book.)

IMPORTANT - Do seek professional advice rather than rely on internet articles if you are in an unsafe/potentially unsafe relationship.

Should You Have Some Empathy for Your Spouse?

People with Passive Aggressive personality disorder cannot seem to help being the way they are and as such you might be tempted to feel some compassion for them at times.

However, because your PA partner cannot help themselves, you do not simply have to accept their crazy making ways as your lot in life and allow it to drag you down.

Think of it this way - if your partner had a skin disorder which meant they could never go out into the sunshine, it doesn't mean you cannot ever again enjoy a walk down the road on a sunny day.

Some people choose to leave such relationships and who can blame them. However, if you are going to stay in a relationship with a passive aggressive girlfriend, boyfriend, husband or wife, you have a duty to yourself to plan around this issue, refuse to let it engulf you and positively make the most of your life regardless.

Comments - Share your views on the above and has your partner's passive aggression has influenced your behavior?

Ebonny (author) from UK on March 06, 2017:

Hi Moses

Thank you for this feedback and for sharing your experiences. Often we do not realise that we have become purely reactive just to try and keep the peace and restore the atmosphere. The struggle is draining and, as you know, can become unbearable. Unfortunately it often takes what seems like a lifetime to realise that it is impossible to force someone else to change their attitude and so it's up to us to change ourselves to move in a positive direction. I wish you great strength and support in finding the right path for you and your family as you consider your future. Ebonny

Moses on March 06, 2017:

Thank you for this helpful information Ebonny. I have been receiving silent treatment from my wife for small reasons or for no reason at all. I have tried all methods such as (coaxing, pleading, being extra nice and begging )that I can think of for my wife to stop this behavior, but it does not seem to get better at all. The only reason I am staying is because I have two kids that are 11 and 8 year olds. I am at a point where I cannot bear this anymore. I am contemplating separation/ divorce.

Ebonny (author) from UK on November 02, 2015:

Hi Angi

Thank you for your feedback and I am pleased to know it has been of some help to you. Making changes to your responses and pre-conceptions is not easy at all. Should you sometimes falter and not behave or respond as you plan to, remember you are only human and then reflect on your actions or mistakes and learn with them for the future.

Also when a person has not intentionally made a situation worse, rather than concentrate on blaming themselves they would do better to think to the future and what they want to do differently for the long term. Best wishes, Ebonny

Angi on October 30, 2015:

This is my husband and I am un theray right now to change my response and be happy again.

It is exhausting to live with a PA but I am giving myself one year and if nothing changes, I'll leave him.

Your article is wonderful and I am going to print it so that I can reread it to help me change (learning to respond and not react is most difficult).

Knowing that it is not me (but I know I made his behavior worse) and that I am not the only one is a great relief.

Ebonny (author) from UK on June 14, 2015:

Many thanks for the feedback Larry

Larry Rankin from Oklahoma on June 13, 2015:

Very enlightening hub.

Ebonny (author) from UK on July 03, 2014:

Hi midget38 - hopefully once we realise what is happening we can save ourselves from slipping into undesirable behaviours.

Michelle Liew from Singapore on July 02, 2014:

My mum is this way and it is frightening!! Thanks for the alert!

torrilynn on June 22, 2014:

I think that passive aggressive people can influence the way you react or think. Thanks for this article and your perspective. Voted up.

Ebonny (author) from UK on June 16, 2014:

Hi Sherry - Yes, much better to have it out with the person if there's a problem rather than let things fester indefinitely. Thanks for dropping by.

Sherry Hewins from Sierra Foothills, CA on June 15, 2014:

That is a tough behavior to deal with. I myself cannot keep the silent treatment up for more than a few hours. I guess that 's a good thing.

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