Signals of Passive Aggression

How do you identify the passive aggression signals?

Here we are exactly at that dire situation where you begin to look around, trying to find an explanation for the huge difference between the life you are having and the life you dreamed of….and the response is pointing directly at your partners’ behavior.

Dealing with passive-aggressive behavior is extremely challenging because really good, effective passive-aggressive behavior is very slippery. Often you may not be sure if you have been the victim of passive-aggressive behavior or not. You may be feeling angry and upset, feeling as if being hit by the metaphorical bus, but not sure of where from the blow came or who is responsible.

Can it only be a series of casual events, with no bad intentions from anyone, only “bad luck”?  Or there is something else? And how can you tell the difference?

 One way to identify it is to look for patterns in someone’s behavior – not just isolated incidents.

 This is a couple, Robert and Tina, who for different reasons need to share the family car. They take turns using it for different appointments and errands. For instance, if Robert generally is dependable and is home on time for Tina to attend her meetings, the one “miss” may not be motivated by passive-aggression and can be only heavy traffic on his way home…


However, if he often only manages to get home so late that it sabotages Tina’s attendance to a particular event (her therapy sessions or her female friends’ group monthly dinner) while denying he is intending to do so, a behavioral pattern is emerging. Even when he describes his responses as subject to outside forces, you know in your gut that he is evading taking responsibility for giving the car to her in due time.


Patterns are ways of making the hidden obvious….if one person is always sick when a heavy task is due, then we have consistency in the fact that such a person is escaping one of his duties!

Another way is to check your own feelings: even when this person protests that he/she is invested and happy to be with you, and wants to help you, something is wrong, because you don’t feel any emotional connection or the feelings promised in his words. If he says that he wants to help you, probably you should feel cared for, etc.

In reality, you don’t experience the feeling of being secure in his promise or trusting his words and actions, or the glow of a reciprocally supportive relationship.

Patterns and feelings are two indicators. Perhaps you already know, and don’t need more information about how to identify a passive-aggressive husband…you have him in your own house. This is the “direct experience” indicator.

 When you put two and two together and get to the inevitable conclusion that this is not an equal partnership, you are astonished at you thinking: “after all this time, why do I have to tell him what needs to be done?  Isn’t this his marriage too?”

 Your reaction is produced by your frustration, your tiredness at repeating the same arguments over and over again, and your realization that you keep doing 90% of the total share of work.

Finally, you are looking around asking: what is he doing here? Does he belong here? If I do carry all the weight here, what is his role, and why is he tagging along and piggybacking on my efforts?

STOP! You are processing all your reactions alone, inside yourself, and generating a toxic feeling of overwhelm and extreme isolation. Perhaps because you tried to explain to him before, and it never worked? Or he seems to not understand the core of your complaint, that you feel alone in a marriage?

Living with a partner who exhibits this behavior is very difficult, and probably now your question, after observing patterns and feelings and looking at your direct experience is:  How do other people deal with this difficult behavior? Are there other resources? Tools? Tactics to prevent this behavior?

We are researching a set of tactics to manage this frustrating situation better. Next time we will share one of them with you. Keep reading!

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