- Mental Health
Part II Help for passive aggression: Living with a passive aggressive spouse
Each day thousands of Americans are searching the internet trying to find answers and understand passive aggressive behavior. These families are going through hell on their own with little to no help for those living with a family member with this condition.They may be living with a passive aggressive parent or a passive aggressive spouse. Unfortunately there is almost no one out there to help them to find solutions. The condition has been classified and reclassified. Meanwhile many families are suffering through this trauma all alone. That is what inspired me to write these articles on passive aggression. I have one goal in mind and that is to offer some help to those families in need who are desperately searching for answers.
Sharing publicly a great deal of personal information is not easy for me but I believe in the long run I will help many people. The condition of passive aggression has been known of since the age of World War II yet, there is still little support out there for anyone dealing with a family member who is passive aggressive. If you have not read my first article, please go back and read, "Living with a passive aggressive spouse".
I have found that there are four very distinctive stages that the passive aggressive I have lived with goes through. These four stages can run every few months. In my husbands case I see a pattern of deep depression as the cause for his behavior that is so extremely difficult to live with. While reading, ask yourself if this sounds like what you or a family member are experiencing.
Stage 1.) My husband will be void of anger and overly passive. At this point he will be extremely agreeable. In public he is charming, helpful, and caring. People on the outside like him and see him in a positive light. So do I. He is the guy who buys me flowers and tells me how much he loves me. At a charity he is more than willing to help in any way. He will act in a loving way as if he is the completely devoted husband. And I must add...I think down deep inside he wants to be this person all the time. He will be a good father, a good listener, and a good husband. Those who do not know my history look at me and wonder if I have the problem. I appear tense and angry at times. However, quietly I know this stage of my husband's helpfulness will not last and the next phases of this condition will soon surface their ugly head. I also know that my husband does not want to be on the angry ugly side ever but he will soon see things in extremes and it is so hard for him to control his feelings when this happens.
2.) Stage Two of his passive aggressive cycle goes like this. He continues to be outwardly agreeable but things change. If he is asked to go to the store he will gladly go but get the wrong thing. He will agree to pay a bill and forget. He smiles and agrees at each and every request and then quietly refuses to follow through. He will claim he is going to do something on his own and then never do it. In conversation he will dismiss your every statement about every subject. If asked why he is becoming slowly argumentative and devaluing my every word he will say, " Oh I didn't mean it. You miss understood me. I wasn't saying that." This part escalates. He starts playing devils advocate in ever conversation no matter how insignificant it may be. Quietly with a smile and a soft voice he disagrees with absolutely everything. I will find that in this stage he sabotages any work I am trying to complete on my own. He will throw out items I am saving for crafts. Often he throws out all the mail, I mean every last piece of mail in my name he can find. When confronted his calm answer is always, " No reason. I was just cleaning up."
3.) At stage three life can become unbearable! At this stage he become argumentative and angry. He will reject any suggestion I make. He will defy every wish. This is when he has tantrums and extreme outbursts. His remarks become cruel and intimidating. When confronted he will deny he ever said he had a problem and insist all is my fault. He will deny ever agreeing to get help. His insults and personal attacks become extreme. If it is the holidays I am in trouble. In this stage the passive aggressive will ruin Christmas. If it is your birthday your gift will be as hurtful as it can be and so will the remarks that go with it. Passive aggressives do not call names. Their comments run in a fashion to cause deep emotional pain. Once my husband screamed at me in a fit of rage, " For God's sake your own mother doesn't even love you. She can't stand you. She never could!"
The incident happened many years ago. We had started a home improvement project and all was going well. Suddenly things changed and he refused for no reason to help in any way finish that job. His refusal went on for days. We had taken out a a small our side staircase to the cellar and our home was left with a wide opening. Any animal or flowing rain water could run right in. My insistence that the job be finished only made him resist more. He became angry and that lead to some of the most hurtful words I have ever heard. That is when I really started to understand that this behavior was not cruel it was crazy. I was dealing with some sort of mental illness.
In this stage every request is a absolute no. He can not be helpful in any way. The personal attacks will fly. He becomes like this completely out of control teenage brat that no one on earth can deal with. In this stage he tantrums and walks back and forth very fast bullying me desperately seeking "MY" expression of anger. I hate the way this makes me feel. At this point I feel completely over whelmed and powerless. If I have the flu he will refuse me any help or assistance what-so-ever. He has in the past become a sudden lousy father refusing to pick up our son or buy groceries. I watch him become a monster with each passing remark and left feeling completely baffled. Many times during this stage he would take off and disappear. He would sleep in his car and with money in the bank in the past he even went so far as to check himself into a homeless shelter for a night. Through out this process he kept telling me it was all me and all my fault. He takes no responsibility for his behavior.
4.) Stage four he will begin to sulk. For many hours and sometimes days he will sit in silence after the huge upset. This is part of his need to punish, punish, punish. Left with a life of no intimacy, no help and cruel hurtful personal attacks I got fed up and threw him out. John had many years to think about his actions.
In my long research on this subject I have found that it is common for spouses of a passive aggressive to have severe panic attacks and that most couples divorce. Women tend to stay longer while men more often say screw this and jump out of the marriage much sooner. It is also very hard to find financial support in any community for these families. That needs to change.
So here is my advice. Do not accept this behavior. It will hurt you and your children. Use your cell phone and document extreme behaviors and record all tantrums and promises. I did not have this option years ago so it was harder to say to him, " yes you did do these things" when he tried to minimize them. Do not erase what you recorded. Show these recordings only to a counselor who is dedicated in helping you find solutions that are best for you and your children. Do not stay in the house during the silent treatment abuse. Leave immediately and do not return until he behaves as an adult. Take young children with you. If you have young children seek help in a family court to protect the kids. Last understand that mental illness is not your fault no matter how hard the passive aggressive tries to minimize or underplay their own actions. Know that you are not to blame for any of it and you have right to a decent life and a caring relationship. It might even be helpful for you to copy this article and save it.
You are not alone in these experiences. Many people are going through this very trauma. We need to advocate for better mental health reform and make sure that all families dealing with this can find needed services to help them cope. So become an advocate for yourself and others experiencing these same difficulties and keep reaching for a better life.
By Joanne Kathleen Farrell