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Relationships - Passive Aggressive Behavior and People Pleasing Patterns

Figuring Out Relationships

Relationships are complicated, and delicate.

Relationships are complicated, and delicate.

Relationships Are Complicated

If you have ever wondered why your relationship went wrong, or why it may be so many difficult to be with this other person, it may have a lot to do with behavior patterns and what attracted you to each other. It takes two to make a relationship. Relationships are complicated, as are the way people interact with each other. In a series of articles, this being the first, we will explore different behavior patterns and how they help or hurt relationships. This series is about passive aggressive personality disorder and people pleasing behavior.

People who are passive aggressive, often are people pleasers also. People pleasers can become passive aggressive, but can also vent their feelings when they have taken on too much. Characteristics both these behaviors share, is that they both want to avoid confrontation.

The passive aggressive person wants to please the other person because they fear rejection, criticism, and judgmental opinions from their mate. They also fear their disapproval. A people pleaser wants to please for the same reasons. Both are doing it on an unconscious level, so they are not aware of their own behavior.

A people pleaser may not set boundaries, and eventually when they feel their efforts are not reciprocated, may give into outbursts toward another person.

Relationships and Our Behavior

Passive Aggressive People

People Pleasers and Passive Aggression

A people pleaser without passive aggressive behavior may eventually openly show their anger.

A passive aggressive person who has people pleasing traits will not outwardly show their hostile feelings or resentment.

The passive aggressive person also has another side. They have a defiant part of them that they are afraid to reveal. This part of their personality doesn’t want to comply with the requests of their mate, mainly because the requests feel like they are demands and infringements on their autonomy.

They view it as though they are being pushed around, and told what to do and within them they feel resentful, and angry. But these angry feelings have no place to go because they were taught while growing up that anger was not allowed in the house.

A passive aggressive person has a tug of war internally. They want to please to be accepted and loved. They also resent authority and having any demands put on them. They are afraid to show their angry feelings and so they let it out on the other person without it looking like they are really angry.

The passive aggressive person is very dependent but doesn’t want to the other person to know how dependent they really are. This makes them feel like the other person has authority over them. They resent authority figures because in their childhood they were not allowed to assert themselves. So they strike back in surreptitious ways.

Unconsciously they are striking back at their parents who wouldn’t let them express themselves as a child. In adulthood, they have never felt safe or learned to freely express their emotions of anger.This causes a lot of conflicts in a relationship with the other person. The other person, all the while is not knowing that all this is going on within their partner, friend or co-worker and is basically confused by how they are being treated.

The passive aggressive person is trying to let out their anger in an indirect way, which ends up confusing the other person. Your needs will only be met when you let the passive aggressive person know what your needs are and by making sure they understand them.

The Need to be Loved and Accepted

The Need to Be Accepted and Loved

If you are a people pleaser, you may not be good at setting boundaries and limits with other people. You let yourself be abused.

A people pleaser is afraid of losing someone else’s love, and will deny their own feelings. A passive aggressive person is doing the same thing. In childhood, the parents may have had little regard for someone else’s feelings, and cause their own feelings to be undermined for self respect. If you don’t respect yourself, others will not respect you.

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Understanding Passive Aggression in Relationships

Passive aggressive people have learned to hide their anger because it was unacceptable while growing up to express these feelings of resentment and hostility. They most likely grew up with a tyrannical parent who didn’t hear their needs and grew up in an environment where there needs didn’t count. A passive aggressive person has learned patterns of being unassertive as a coping strategy for not being able to express their own feelings.

When a child grows up in an environment with they would face punishment, being put down, rejection, or ridicule for expressing their feelings, they learn not to stand up to authorities. With no ability to speak up or out, their open and honest feelings are not tolerated, and so they develop a consistent pattern of displacing their anger without openly expressing it and instead become skilled at rebelling in a passive manner.

A passive aggressive person is protecting themselves from fear, rejection, mistrust, insecurity, and a poor self esteem.

The Relationship Between a People Pleaser and a Passive Aggressive Personality

Passive aggressive people don’t give themselves an opportunity to let themselves feel what they really feel.

If you are a person who is dealing with a passive aggressive person, you may be feeling confused, offended, upset, guilt, shame, embarrassment, and frustration. A passive aggressive person may feel a sense of responsibility for the situation, or as though they have done something wrong, and end up apologizing even though they don’t really have a clear idea about what they did. In reality, what happened is that they were bamboozled or manipulated by the other person.

If you are a people pleaser who is dealing with a passive aggressive person, you most likely are letting the passive aggressive person mistreat you. You probably are compensating for the things they are not doing.When a passive aggressive person says yes to doing something and then doesn’t do it, or doesn’t do it right, you probably step up and do it without holding them responsible.

Your compliant behavior give the passive aggressive person the ability to continue their behavior. It is important to realize what you are doing, that you are enabling them. You are not stopping their angry feelings because their anger in reality has nothing to do with you. Their anger comes from the unresolved conflicts they never had with their domineering and controlling parent.

Patterns of behavior will only be relinquished if the person realizes they serve no other purpose. Both of these are dysfunctional ways of being.


A Passive Aggressive Person Needs a Certain Type of Person

A passive aggressive person needs to be in a relationship with someone who they can take their hostility out on. They need someone who has low demands of them, little expectations, and who is easy to resist. Passive aggressive people are often attracted to people who are co-dependent, have a low self esteem, and willingly make excuses for the bad behaviors that are associated with passive aggressive personality disorder.

Passive aggressive people are very frustrating to deal with and the often don’t follow through on their promises. Because people pleasers don’t set boundaries, they take up the slack for what the passive aggressive person doesn’t complete or do correctly.

Because a people pleaser has such low demands and wants to please the other person, they often don’t see that the passive aggressive person is not really pulling their own weight.

If they do, they tend to write it off mentally and continue in their oblivious way, feeding off the idea that they are getting their mate’s approval, which is all the people pleaser is looking for. In reality, people with passive aggressive personality disorder have a hard time making intimate connections with other people, even if they would really like to.

What is Your Behavior Like?

People Pleasers Require Little from the Relationship

A passive aggressive person makes their partner believe that they are loved and adored. So the people pleaser is under the illusion that they are getting emotionally what they need from the other person.

The people pleaser asks for so little that the little they get from the passive aggressive person is enough.

Because the passive aggressive person does not take responsibility for their actions, they always look to blame the other person. People pleasers are perfect targets for the hidden agenda of the passive aggressive person. Problems in the relationship are ignored by both because both want to avoid conflict. Both may withdraw from the issues at hand.

A people pleaser will take on the responsibility to please. A passive aggressive person will deny they did anything wrong and distort reality in order to fit their own needs. They will create their own version, lie, minimize and exclude parts of actual events so that their story seems more logical to those they talk to. It is all designed to fit their own agenda.

What is Really Going on in a Relationship

The more you understand your own role in the relationship the more you will be able to manage what is happening.

The more you understand your own role in the relationship the more you will be able to manage what is happening.

Understanding Dynamics and Behavior

A passive aggressive person will talk about their partner behind their back. They will say one thing and do another. A people pleaser becomes a perfect patsy for their behavior, because the people pleaser will never challenge or confront them. Neither person is good at communicating their needs.

The passive aggressive person withholds information about how they really feel, their self esteem is low, their ego is fragile and they take even the slightest criticism as deep attacks against them. This makes it very difficult to deal with a passive aggressive person.

A passive aggressive person is very fearful of disclosing their real selves for fear of being criticized. For this same reason, a passive aggressive person will not take responsibility for the pain and destruction they caused in a relationship, and they look to blame the other person.

A passive aggressive person looks at others as objects. This other person is there purely to feed their own needs emotionally. They don’t look at their partner as a person with feelings. When the passive aggressive mate stops getting what they need from their partner, there is no use for them.

Passive aggressive people are takers. People pleasers are givers. But the relationship can not really work in the long run, because eventually the people pleaser realizes that their needs are not being met and will start to ask for something in return from the passive aggressive person.

If the people pleaser accepts the very little bit the passive aggressive person gives, the cycle will begin again. But if the people pleaser wants more than what the passive aggressive person really wants to give, the people pleaser may begin to realize their needs are being ignored.

People pleasers have trouble meeting their own needs. If you are a people pleaser, it is important to learn to communicate your needs clearly. It is important to summon up the courage to speak up, If that doesn’t work, you may want to think about counseling so that you can get what you want from the relationship.

Your feelings do count. You have the right to have your needs met. Do what you need, get what you want. Live a satisfying and gratifying existence so that you feel good and can spread that to the world


Differ on September 03, 2019:

It is as if the author is a mouse observing the interactions in our house. I am both a people pleaser, and passive aggressive, while my husband is a people pleaser with guilt issues, resentment, and anger caused by manipulative parents. His resentment and anger appear and are directed at me when there are issues relating to the house. I am darned if I do and darned if I don't...from not starting with the "right project" to doing it differently . 2nd marriages for both.

So glad to have found this hub and very informative articles! Much appreciated.

donkeybrew on March 09, 2017:

i am a person with both passive aggressive, and a people pleaser. I am trying to understand how i became this way with the hopes of being a better person. In return i do believe the things i want from life will come naturally. great tool for me and helping me understand a problem i never new i had my entire adult hood. Male 38 on 2 marriage and not planni. g a 2nd divorce but is a possibility. Thanks for time, and your help

toknowinfo (author) on April 05, 2014:

Hi Olog,

I am very glad this info was helpful to you. I have other articles about passive aggressive behavior and perhaps they will help you understand other people better also. I found your hub about narcology very interesting. It might be good if we link our articles.

ologsinquito from USA on March 30, 2014:

This is absolutely excellent and I just learned a lot reading this. I still have one tie to the narcissist in my life, through a third party, whom I have also distanced myself from. At the moment I am trying to discern if more distance is required, because things are confusing, and this article was very helpful.

toknowinfo (author) on May 08, 2013:

Hi Ebonny,

Thank you for stopping by. I appreciate your comments and am glad you got something from this article.

Ebonny from UK on May 08, 2013:

I was particularly interested in what you said about the passive aggressive person being dependent and not wanting anyone to realise this. How very true. Thank you for sharing.

Voted up etc.

toknowinfo (author) on May 08, 2013:

Hi Eddy, Thanks for stopping by. I am so pleased you found this article interesting and thanks for the up votes.

Eiddwen from Wales on May 08, 2013:

Oh so interesting.

Voting up for sure.


Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on May 08, 2013:

As complicated as we all are, it's amazing any relationship lasts for long. Great points made here. Well done my friend.

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