Signals of Passive Aggression

Here we are exactly at that 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 a 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, 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, can be only heavy traffic in 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.


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 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 do 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 thinking: “after all this time, why 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? 

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:  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 will you.

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