- Mental Health
Life With A Passive Aggressive Spouse
Living with a passive aggressive
According to Creative Conflict Resolutions, a psychological team in Fort Lauderdale, Florida passive aggressive's have a personality disorder with the following list of symptoms:
- Your partner will procrastinate, leave work undone, or "forget" to fulfill his share of tasks.
- When asked about his problems, this person will make excuses or blame others.
- He is often found to omit information or lie; if confronted, his temper easily flares.
- He may be more prone to cheating in a long-term relationship or marriage.
- He may deny his behavior or claim he has good intentions.
- He denies his emotions and has a lack of commitment.
- He instigates arguments for any reason.
If you think you are in a relationship with a passive aggressive person - there is help! You don't have to suffer the pain, humiliation, and sadness one day longer... as so the helpline tells.
However, most spouses suffer tremendous pain in a relationship with a passive aggressive. There is ususally no itimacy or touching, and verbal communications tend to lead to a leaking out of hostile remarks. Any ackowlegement of his or her passive aggressive behavior will be treated as an attack. The denial blame game begins. Passive aggressives take no responsibility for the conflict and if all else fails surge personal attacks.
The passive aggressive can be violent at times, mostly in manipulative ways that really hurt and humiliate their partner. The hidden goal here is to enrage you. They want YOU to react! This makes the passive aggressive feel clever. The only time they exhibit confidence is when they are manipulating others. If they become violent it will be in a way that draws the most anger out in you. They will do things such as throw themselves around in drama and bump into and break your favorite thing, and then throw it. In a confrontation they will grab a woman's breast with all their might and then throw themselves down as if they themselves were the victim. You are faced with all out rage yet, they will tell you how it was all your fault; thus they did nothing wrong.The passive aggressive will not say, "Hey, I don't want to go to the wedding you were invited to." Instead they will pick a fight and take off with the keys to both cars. This is so you both miss out.
Yes, life with a passive aggressive becomes the endless argument that never ends. They are never responsible and never wrong. A quick excuse will cover the hidden anger they carry all their lives. When they are given full amount for a bill and they promise to pay it, they will not. When you asked," Did you do that task I asked?" they will answer," yes". Later, you will notice the power off. They will respond, "Gee the lights don't work..."
I believe that this personality disorder is caused by the PA's attempt to deal with total rejection from one or both of the parents. A passive aggressive in deeply angry and wants anyone close to them to be a scapegoat. Often his mother is soft and unconcerned. Nothing could get her attention. Even when my son was a newborn infant sufferring from grand mal seizures and taking phenobarbitol, she would say ," Oh babies shake sometimes." I think my husband shook a whole lot in his childhood angry and ignored. Most of the time I feel like he is totally dependent on me. He will talk out side the bathroom door and help with little to no household chores. Not once has he ever done laundry for our son. It always has to be me or it doesn't get done at all. Once he took our son to the doctor. Only once. Our son broke his arm playing sports. His arm was cut up pretty bad. John let the nurse wrap up his arm dirty without cleaning the cuts. When I checked the bandages the next day infection was present. John blamed the nurse when he was right in the room watching her wrap a muddy arm.
One thing John is not responsible for is the system. There are no programs for families dealing with a passive aggressive, no counceling, and no help group, not even a support group. We have been to tens of professionals none who were actually familiar with passive aggression at all. Each were manipulated by the behavior at first. Once they are on to him and they figured out his game, my husband would drop out of the program.
As an adult I have to live with the aftermath of John's childhood trauma. In the home there is never closeness and never real happiness. He has an angry smile. You never know what chaos he will unexpectedly foster next. If you go into a store John may not be there when you come out. When you tell a joke he deliberately has no reaction. When you do him a big favor there is little reaction. They never use the words," Wow, thanks." Sabotage of my success is frequent.
Every day is a new drama. In our 2 family home we lived upstairs when we first moved in. We only have one son so, renting the downstairs made perfect sense. He turned the power off upstairs without telling me yet continued to pay the 1st floor utilities. We had to move downstairs. The hostility never ends. One year I remember getting a beautiful gift bag handed to me on my birthday. He had this pretty bag in the corner of our room all week. When he gave it to me, I ran my hand through the bag of tissue paper only for him to say, " Well I never got a gift...I mean I was gonna." When I became angry I was told I was unreasonable.
I have made a life for myself outside of this drama. I have tons of friends, many I have known since childhood. I made myself become involved with many interests to compensate dealing with the passive aggressive behavior. One thing that kept me a float was to learn as much as I could about this disorder. The passive aggressive has an uncanny ability to make you doubt yourself. They can ruin your reputation. They need to be seen as victims to obtain sympathy at YOUR EXPENSE. Their goal is to blame you and isolate you so you cater to his/her neurotic needs. I am able to have my own life because I understand this disorder. I must add we also broke up for a very long time.
If you are experiencing a similar relationship seek out as much information as you can on this subject. And remember, the passive aggressive does this to everyone. You can make a good life for yourself without him.
Today my husband is without a doubt working hard to better himself. He no longer refuses to seek help. He has accepted that his behavior has not always been rational and at many times in our relationship it was very hurtful. One thing we both agree upon is the fact that his passive aggressive behavior stemmed from depression. My contribution to the incidents of fighting were also wrong. My issues stemmed from anger. It is hard not to be angry when you live with someone who has making you angry as a goal. With little help out there for families dealing with this issue we would like you to know that the herb used in treating depression worked for him. It is called St. John's Wort has helped our marriage by treating John's depression issues. He has been taking the herb three times a day and the episodes of conflict and the tantrums have ceased. This has worked for us. I also have done a great deal of soul searching myself. I had to face that If I really felt confident and good about myself I would have never allowed someone to manipulate me like this. Together we are working on living a better new life.
Will that work for you? I do not know. Your partner has to do a few things in order for your marriage to ever work. The passive aggressive partner has to own up to the damage his or her behavior has caused and force himself to take action even when that person's mind is saying the opposite. If that person continues to refuse help you need to think about what is best for you and your children. Each day can be a new day. Take one day at a time with an eye forward and be determined not to allow anyone to dish out mental abuse your way.
Getting the passive aggressive to look at themselves is not going to be easy. Blaming others and avoiding all truths are part of their coping mechanisms. If you say to a passive aggressive,’ I cannot keep living this way!” They will not respond in an adult fashion. Most adults with sufficient communication skills will respond in a manner of improving the outcome. A partner dedicated to making the relationship work might answer, “ We need to make changes. I don’t want to lose you and I want to make sure that your needs are met.” That will not happen with a passive aggressive so you cannot expect this out come. If you state, “I cannot live this way any more.” They will coldly respond, “ You shouldn’t have to.” That infuriating shallow sarcasm will only hurt you more. It is hard to make them understand the loneliness and feelings of abandonment they are bringing to your life. I have found better outcomes when I take the time to think of how I should word things. My statement now is, “ You seem to be avoiding intimacy again.” Or “You seem angry this morning.” I have found that this usually that puts the passive aggressive in a place where you cannot be manipulated into a situation where you are left blaming yourself for their actions and non-actions. It takes the focus off your faults and requires them to respond to their own behavior. At first they will try to deny being angry or avoiding intimacy however, the lack of touch speaks for itself. This is the line that cannot be crossed and is where they themselves have to decide if they are going to own up to it or end up alone. The person worth your time will break here and begin to open up. My husband responded, “You are right. I have a problem. And I need to do something about it.”
I had a friend years ago who was a passive aggressive. I saw her with her husband one evening. I could see his face was full of anger and pain. He sat there quiet while she rambled on in a series of overly passive remarks about baking and the weather tomorrow never asking him what was wrong. She had confided with me a bit that they were not intimate and said to me, “ Is sex all I’m worth to him?” Within two months she was in shock and dismay when he left her high and dry and found another woman. She gained much sympathy over the fact that they had two kids and he left the relationship. Those who did not know her well shamed him for leaving her. She told me, “ I never thought he would actually leave me.” Prior to the event she had shared with me that it had been a year and ½ where they had no sexual relations. She talked about HIS anger and how she would just not talk to punish him. Her claim was that he hated it when she did that. He did hate it and this kind of treatment is why she is still alone today. She would never own up to the emotional abuse she dumped on her partner. Eventually her children became victims of her cold and calculated hurtful remarks and faced alone the long hours of silent treatment their mother dished out.
So I would like to share a few things that worked for me so I can help couples dealing with all of this. First remember the line. At some point they have to accept they have a problem and deal with it or it is over. If you cannot get them to a counselor set aside a time frame once a week where they have to talk about the issues you face as a couple. Make it clear how important intimacy and touching is in a relationship. If they make a conscious effort to initiate touch over time much healing will take place. Our rule #1 was I will not live without touch or a spouse who leaves me in the morning without saying good by, case closed. Now every morning we have a ritual of laying close snuggling. We start the day with touch. If your partner is not going to do that in my opinion it is time to leave. Second we set a time each week for talking things out. This has been hard but is now working. Passive aggressive people will resist schedules most of the time. You have to be persistent. This will take patience. We also set aside a time for spirituality and intimate conversation. I also had to face that I needed to take care of myself. When you are in an environment that made you feel worthless you end up taking care of everyone else but yourself. I set aside time each week where I can play beauty parlor and do my nails and dress my hair. Try having a spa night where you plan a bath together followed by a facial, a foot massage anything that will increase intimacy between you. If your partner is not initiating these things hand him the schedule and say, “What’s on for tonight?” This will open the door for conversation. Last keep in mind that both partners have to work at this. It cannot be all one sided and never forget that you have a right to happiness and a partner that is willing to be a partner in your life.
Look for Part Two Help for passive aggression: living with a passive aggressive spouse.
By Joanne Kathleen Farrell
author of The Angels That Passed
and Liberty For The Lion Shield