Passive Aggressive Partner - Why do they act that way and what are your Options?
COPYRIGHT 2014 - Ebonny
PART 4 OF 5
If you are the partner of a Passive Aggressive husband, wife, girlfriend or boyfriend, are you routinely feeling overwhelmed and downcast - finding it impossible to deal with your partner's Passive Aggressive (PA) behaviour?
Are you at a loss to understand why you are being treated this way and weary at the lack of emotional support?
This article provides insight as to why people may develop PA behaviours, looks at options available to the partners of PA people and highlights how to bring more joy into your life if you elect to continue in such a relationship.
Passive Aggressive Behaviour - Where does it come from?
Passive Aggressive behaviour can be defined as conduct which is conflict avoidant. Anger is not openly expressed but manifests itself by way of covert resistance, procrastination, withdrawal, sarcasm and more.
It is said that this personality disorder/behaviour is often developed and learned from childhood experiences when, for one reason or another, a child feels they cannot express dissent without being overly punished or reprimanded by an authority figure such as a parent or teacher.
Therefore their anger leeks out in indirect ways which serve to protect them from being viewed as a wrongdoer. In this way, a child may derive some degree of one-upmanship or revenge on a powerful person.
Question for Partners of Passive Aggressives
Despite the difficulties, why do you remain with your partner?
Assertiveness can help!
Ambiguity, procrastination ...
... broken agreements, withholding emotional support and/or sex, sabotage, sulking and silent treatment are all common features of passive aggressive behaviour.
For example a passive aggressive child might hide their mother’s wedding ring or some other prized possession to get back at their mother. Or perhaps they might stall/procrastinate and feign misunderstanding and covertly be uncooperative in order to cause inconvenience and delay to a teacher.
Thus begins a likely unconscious decision to act in a PA manner. Years later, some people deliberately act in this fashion as they realise it can get them what they want and allows them to influence and control others without the other person necessarily knowing that they are being manipulated. Eventually such behaviour is standard and engrained and they treat most everyone this way, not just those who have done something to offend them or who have authority over them.
Many PA people simply refuse to contemplate that they might be doing anything wrong and simply do not believe their conduct to be anything untoward.
As the spouse of a PA partner, you don’t necessarily have to have done anything wrong for them to act out. They can just land on something you have or haven’t done, or even something not directly associated with you, and in their mind you are in the wrong. They get upset or angry and have a need to punish you through some covert means because it is their lifelong belief that the full extent of their anger must stay hidden.
Although they may become very efficient at hiding this fact, more often than not, PA people lack self esteem in that they fear they will not be accepted if they present their real selves. Thus some PA people habitually tells others what they believe the other person wants to hear, rather than speak their truth.
Bearing in mind all of the above it is extremely testing to deal with passive aggressive behaviour.
Three Options for the partners of passive aggressive people?
- Meekly allow your spouse’s behaviour to overwhelm you and keep you miserable, angry and/or constantly frustrated.
- Rise above the provocation and challenging conduct and refuse to allow it to steal your joy in life and not expect your partner to fulfil your every emotional need. Don’t wait for them to make you happy - make your own happiness. No one other person should be the be all and end all of your existence. Resolve to work positively at being happy, knowing that you can indeed be as happy as you choose to be.
- Weigh up the good against the bad and if the bad is too bad, just not worth it, or you believe you have tried everything you feel capable of doing (e.g. improving communication between yourself and your spouse, positivity, assertiveness, and/or counselling) then you may choose to detach, terminate the relationship and move on.
If at the start of a relationship you realise your partner is Passive Aggressive, you might seriously consider moving on forthwith to avoid future difficulties. However, more often than not people do not recognise PA behaviour for what it is until after commitments and responsibilities are in place – e.g. marriage, parenthood, debt.
Some people are of a mind that no relationship is ever perfect all of the time. They may ultimately decide that although things are not ideal they are willing to live with the problems which exist and make the best of things by adopting the principles described in option 2. above. Others may choose to terminate their relationship with the PA person - option 3. above.
It is the writer’s hope that those currently enmeshed in option 1. will not remain so for the duration.
Help if you are leaving/thinking of leaving the relationship.
Passive Aggression - Further Reading
Checklist for Rising Above Passive Aggression
- Use positive thinking and self talk so that your partner's behaviour no longer overwhelms you
- Become more assertive, calm and proactive in addressing your partner's bad conduct directly
- Take full responsibility for your own emotional state of mind – developing pastimes and relationships with family/friends and do not rely solely on your partner for all your joy in life.
- Know that happiness is a choice – actively choose to be happy and don’t let anyone drag you down with their drama. By all means, listen and ensure your partner feels heard and acknowledged; be sensitive and empathic to your partner's feelings and reasonable wants and needs and help your partner all you can. You will also need to be be self aware. However, ultimately he or she is responsible for their own happiness. If your partner chooses to be sullen, passive aggressive, miserable or mean, know that you are not responsible for their choice to be that way (even if they claim you are totally to blame for their plight).
Again, you do not have to let their unjust, negative, pathetic behaviour devastate you. Rise above it whether you choose to stay or not.
NEXT - PART 5
See the link above if you have been wondering if your partner's passive aggressive conduct is bringing out tit for tat passive aggression in you, the difficulty of living with a partner with these traits and the some of the negative consequences of having to continuously walk on eggshells.