Marriage Missions International

The Passive-Aggressive Spouse

Unknown-2Are you dealing with a Passive Aggressive spouse? If you are, you’re probably pretty desperate to find help in dealing with this issue, because it’s one that is certainly perplexing, to say the very least! It’s difficult to deal with someone who seems to have such a slippery way of doing things. He or she can appear to be passive, but then does things that contradict that stance.

“The passive aggressive will say one thing, do another, and then deny ever saying the first thing. They don’t communicate their needs and wishes in a clear manner, expecting their spouse to read their mind and meet their needs. After all, if their spouse truly loved them he/she would just naturally know what they needed or wanted. The passive aggressive withholds information about how he/she feels; their ego is fragile and can’t take the slightest criticism. So why would they let you know what they are thinking or feeling?” (Cathy Meyer, from article “Passive Aggressive Behavior, a Form of Covert Abuse“)

Does this sound familiar? Most likely, if you’ve dealt with someone who is passive aggressive… and it’s frustrating. How exactly is the term, passive aggressive defined?

“Passive-aggressive: Pertaining to behavior in which feelings of aggression are expressed in passive ways as, for example, by stubbornness, sullenness, procrastination, or intentional inefficiency” (from Medicine.net)

Medline Plus gives this insight:

“Some common symptoms of passive-aggressive personality disorder include:

  • Acting sullen
  • Avoiding responsibility by claiming forgetfulness
  • Being inefficient on purpose
  • Blaming others
  • Complaining
  • Feeling resentment
  • Having a fear of authority
  • Having unexpressed anger or hostility
  • Procrastinating
  • Resisting other people’s suggestions.

“A person with this disorder may appear to comply with another’s wishes and may even demonstrate enthusiasm for those wishes. However, they:

  • Perform the requested action too late to be helpful
  • Perform it in a way that is useless
  • Sabotage the action to show anger that they cannot express in words.”

Cathy Meyer gives even further insight:

“Passive aggressive behavior stems from an inability to express anger in a healthy way. A person’s feelings may be so repressed that they don’t even realize they are angry or feeling resentment. A passive aggressive can drive people around him/her crazy and seem sincerely dismayed when confronted with their behavior. Due to their own lack of insight into their feelings the passive aggressive often feels that others misunderstand them or, are holding them to unreasonable standards if they are confronted about their behavior.” “…If you confront the passive aggressive he/she will most likely sulk, give you the silent treatment or completely walk away leaving you standing there to deal with the problem alone. There are two reasons for confronting the passive aggressive. One, if done correctly you may be able to help him/her gain insight into the negative consequences of their behaviors. Two, even if that doesn’t happen, it will at least give you the opportunity to talk to him/her in a frank way about how his/her behavior affects you. If nothing else you can get a few things ‘off your chest.’” (from article “Passive Aggressive Behavior, a Form of Covert Abuse“).

In the above mentioned article, Cathy Meyer then goes on to give “some ways you might approach your passive aggressive.” You may find it helpful to read the entire article, including ways to approach your spouse, but I want to give you a “heads up” because for some reason, the About.com web site, for some reason, put it in the “Divorce Support” section —which is not something we’re trying to encourage —supporting divorcing your passive-agreesive, but rather dealing with it in the best way possible with the Lord’s help. Still, the article is a good one, so we encourage you to read it by clicking onto:

• “PASSIVE AGGRESSIVE BEHAVIOR, a Form of Covert Abuse

Here are a few other things you might find helpful to read, concerning this type of behavior (and click onto the links after the quotes to learn more):

“Passive-Aggressive people don’t usually like the aggressive posture over any issue; they’ll rather say ‘Yes’ when they already know what they are going to do. The yes is to get their aggressive spouse out of their face. Rather than speak up their concern on an issue they keep quite but their displeasure is displayed in their behavior, he/she might walk around the house banging the door after them, react to their spouse with short sentences, or act to sabotage their spouse to get even or get back at them. You never really know what’s on their mind, when they say yes, as a spouse you watch if that yes is really yes or yes —get out of my face or yes —I already know what I want to do.” (from the Christiancouples.org” article, “Home Improvement Series XXXVIII – Wired Uniquely?”)

From the Couples Institute, Peter Pearson, Ph.D writes:

“Passive-aggressive people are typically hypersensitive to actual or perceived criticism. Especially when they don’t follow through with promises. Here’s the kicker. They have great gobs of good reasons for not following through with crucial agreements.” (Does Your Partner Drive You Nuts? …The Passive Aggressive Personality)

As a spouse, you are “doomed” if you get angry and “doomed” if you say nothing. “Welcome to the crazy world of the passive aggressive partner” says Dr Peter Pearson, who claims to battle with this disorder himself. He writes:

“The passive aggressive person generally feels they are under assault and no matter what they do, they cannot please their partner. …The other partner believes they cannot depend on the passive aggressive mate to reliably follow through. Even if I am 80% reliable, as I would sometimes point out to [wife] Ellyn, she has no idea what the 80% will be or when it will be completed. This screws up the logistical part of being an effective team which supports being an effective couple.” “So what causes this aggravating problem that painfully affects both partners in different ways? Most passive aggressive folks have two things in common:

1. “A highly critical parent or parents, resulting in a highsensitivity to being judged on performance.

2. “A lot of painful disappointments in life. This results in a reflexive coping mechanism that severely restricts their hopes and desires in life. Minimizing desires is a subconscious attempt to avoid getting hopes up and then dashed which triggers a warehouse of painful disappointments stored in the emotional brain.”(Does Your Partner Drive You Nuts? …The Passive Aggressive Personality, by Peter Pearson, Ph.D, Sep 15, 2005)

Deborah Ward offers this insight as well:

“Certain situations will tend to activate passive-aggressive behaviour, including circumstances in which the person’s performance will be judged, or he thinks it will, says therapist Jay Earley, Ph.D., such as in the workplace. Similarly, any situation where the passive-aggressor has to deal with authority figures, such as bosses, parents, teachers, community leaders and even spouses, will often trigger an indirectly angry approach. “…Passive-Aggressive personality disorder develops as a result of a combination of genetics and environment, says Earley. Essentially, this person feels that aggression is not allowed and to survive, he has to express his anger indirectly and defeat others in the only way he feels he can.” (from the article, “Causes of Passive Aggression“)

There are other reasons, you can be sure. But whatever the reason, or excuse, how can you deal with it: If you are a passive-aggressive spouse, therapist Jay Earley, Ph.D., offers these further suggestions for creating a healthier attitude:

  • “Become aware of the underlying anger and resentment that is causing your behaviour.
  • Become aware of your desire to defeat others, get back at them or annoy them.
  • Become aware of your need to fail in order to get back at others.
  • Work on allowing yourself to be just who you are, or feeling that you are okay as you are, that your sense of worth doesn’t depend on other people’s opinions
  • Work on expressing your anger and standing up for yourself.” (from the article, “Healing and Dealing with Passive-Aggression“)

If you’re dealing with a husband who inflicts this behavior upon you and your marriage:

“How are you going to stay clear, calm and connected with a passive-aggressive man? It will not be easy, but it can be done. You must master a few strategies. “First, understand passive-aggression. You cannot remain clear and calm if you don’t understand what is happening. If you remain reactive, you’ll be dancing from one encounter to another. Notice what is happening. When and where do you get hooked? What does he say that provokes you into snapping back aggressively? Notice these patterns and determine to remain clear about what is happening. “Second, determine to be active, not reactive…”

And the list and explanations go on. To learn more on this behavior and some strategies” to help you live with your passive-aggressive spouse, please click onto the Crosswalk.com article, written by Dr. David B Hawkins, to read:

• LIVING WITH A PASSIVE-AGGRESSIVE MAN

And then concerning passive-aggressive wives, Paul Coughlin writes about:

CHRISTIAN “NICE” WIVES

“How do women love passive-aggressive husbands?”

That’s the question that’s addressed in this next article. Here’s what the author wrote:

1.   “First, understand passive-aggression. You cannot remain clear and calm if you don’t understand what is happening. If you remain reactive, you’ll be dancing from one encounter to another. Notice what is happening. What does he say that provokes you into snapping back aggressively? Notice these patterns and determine to remain clear about what is happening.”

And then the list goes on to make 11 additional points to help wives who are living with a passive aggressive husband. Many of these points can be applied to husbands living with a passive aggressive wife, as well.

For more, please click onto the following link to read:

HOW TO LOVE A PASSIVE-AGGRESSIVE HUSBAND

From the Meier Clinics:

PASSIVE-AGGRESSIVE BEHAVIORS: Symptoms, Cures and Causes

I realize this article is not exhaustive in the information it gives, but hopefully, it gives you some insights. If you are dealing with a passive aggressive spouse, keep asking the Holy Spirit to guide you to healthy information that will work for you in dealing with this marital issue. And then keep on the look-out, for what He brings your way.

May the Lord help you, as you put your hand into His for guidance.

This article was written by Cindy Wright of Marriage Missions International.

If you have additional tips you can share to help others in this area of marriage, or you want to share requests for prayer and/or ask others for advice, please “Join the Discussion” by adding your comments below.

Share

Join the Discussion!

But please observe the following guidelines:

  • Try to be as positive as possible when you make a comment.
  • If there is name-calling, or profane language, it will be deleted.
  • The same goes with hurtful comments targeted at belittling others; we won't post them.
  • Recommendations for people to divorce will be edited out–that's a decision between them and God, not us.
  • If you have a criticism, please make it constructive.
  • Be mindful that this is an international ministry where cultural differences need to be considered.
  • Please honor the fact this is a Christ-centered web site.
We review all comments before posting them to reduce spam and offensive content.

Comments

63 Responses to “The Passive-Aggressive Spouse”
  1. Paul from United Kingdom says:

    Hi. It asks that comments should be positive. I’m sorry, I think they should be based in reality and sometimes that is not positive. My wife is a passive-aggressive who has taken that behaviour to such extremes that it is a miracle I am alive. She refuses to talk about anything unless it is to say how she wants something to happen -my views are irrelevant to her. When I was so physically ill that I could not work, she refused to work herself and made claims that I was mentally ill and needed to be sectioned. She always refused counselling but eventually went for a few sessions to use those sessions as a form of character assassination against me (because I was unable to work) and when a counsellor told her that only violent people get sectioned shes made claims that I had tried to strangle her.

    I have suffered ill-health for almost 30 years because of her behaviour but I stayed due to my two daughters who, perhaps wrongly, I loved more than my own life. I am sick to death of reading about what women should do if they have an abusive husband but when men are faced with being married to a passive aggressive woman (a far deeper form of abuse than physical – I ASSURE YOU!) that we should deal with it by understanding and patience and, and, and… etc.

    This has made me a prisoner, it has destroyed the “best” years of my life and the law even allows her to claim maintenance from me if I divorce her, no matter that my daughters now have their own lives as adults. It is about time that men were treated as equals. Women have made a big enough fuss about it and arguing the Biblical interpretations of a society which was male dominated doesn’t cut it today. Surely, if the Bible means ANYTHING, it is that we are all culpable of our own behavior, men or women, and it is NOT the proviso of being a man that should protect abuse from a woman like this!

  2. Kay from United States says:

    I feel so hopeless; I’ve prayed my knees off!!! If God is speaking to me I can’t even begin to believe I would hear. The frustration and confusion in my life is so deafening. I have been married for 15 years. I’m not only in a dysfunctional union I’m damaged goods myself. I sit now on my porch alone feeling like I’m dying. I have no place left to turn and either God’s choice is not to help me or I as said, can’t hear him anymore. I just don’t want to feel the pain anymore.

    I came into this marriage believing I had found the man of my dreams, only to find myself around a few months in emotionally gutted, crying my heart out in the shower. The words I said out loud are still, as clear as yesterday. This is really what I’ve got, Oh my God I’ve done it again! I said that because I’ve had self esteem issues from a early age. I’m a victim of childhood trama that includes sexual abuse, parents that loved me but were neglectful and unavailable. I also have ADD/ADHD, PTSD.

    Long story short this is my third marriage to emotionally unavailable men. And yes, completely aware, I’m the poster child for co-dependency and self-sabotage. First mistake, I was too young and clueless. Second disaster lasted almost ten years until I found out he was in fact gay and not in a happy way. All I ever wanted was a loving supportive marriage. I have poured over many different personality disorders for months to no avail until finding passive aggressive personality. Nothing fits like this. Every point I read is spot on word for word as though some one just shined a spot light my life!!!

    All these years I thought their was no good reason for so many unbelievable actions that left me shaking my head and speechless. I’ve always known there is something terribly wrong with my husband. No matter what I try and believe me, I don’t give up easily, with the hope addiction I suffer from. He remains unplugged on an emotional level despite any attempt I make, not to mention that he seems to have a complete void for intimacy. My husband has no problem saying I love you but has no idea how to show it. Example, I just walked into the house moments ago, tears streaming down my face as I said I don’t think I can do this any more. If I thought there were some possibility of hope you would participate with, I could go on but I know there’s not. Not once did he bat an eye from the TV. His response to my pain was do you want to go to the flea market tomorrow. I so need to connect with someone who understands my pain. Any comments welcome.

  3. Stacey from United States says:

    About four months ago I thought God had FINALLY answered long awaited prayers and brought me together with the man of my dreams/prayers. I’m in my late 40′s and have waited and prayed and prayed and waited for God to bring the man He has prepared for me into my life and me into his.

    We fell in love quickly and I thought and still think this man is supposed to be my future husband. Unfortunately, he has taken a huge step back away from me and is now questioning whether we were meant to be together. Thankfully, one of my friends mentioned that he may be passive aggressive. Being the “analyzer” personality type, I took to the internet and discovered that Passive Aggressive Personality Disorder appears to be this man’s issue. Most of what I’ve read on numerous sites describes him, much of what he has told me about his past and his family of origin, and what happened when he broke up with me via an email because he is so unable to do the confrontation thing.

    It was a complete and total shock to me that he was feeling the way he described in the email because we had a “talk” the week before because I was feeling what I now know to be his uneasiness with our relationship. During that “talk” he said we would continue to work on our relationship and that things were ok and he was glad to have me in his life. Then I find out less than a week later that he feels the exact opposite of what he told me. There is so much more to the story, but it appears as though most of you already realize how serious this condition can be and how it can affect and even destroy a relationship. I am not saying I don’t have issues because I do… trust me… I do, but I’m aware of them or the majority of them and am in therapy.

    I’ve informed this man about PAPD even though all the information says not to do that. But if someone who loves him doesn’t tell him, who will? That is a bell that cannot be unrung now anyway and I’ve always believed in being straight forward with people (well that’s not completely true… I used to be VERY passive aggressive but I worked through it on my own when I realized it and began being able to say “no” and express my feelings more effectively mostly in work situations… I still struggle with it sometimes so I KNOW how it can affect a person and how very difficult it is to suffer from this condition).

    I am trying to trust God and pray for both this man who I still love deeply and myself so we will have the strength to get through this difficult time. Unfortunately, I think this man now feels as though we don’t belong together for the long term even though he was quite enamored with me the first two months of the relationship. He communicated with me and initiated discussions on important topics, and he even brought up marriage often early on. Then the last three weeks before he broke up with me, his attitude just changed almost over night and he did a 180 degree turn around on me. It was and still is devastating to me even though I understand how this disorder affects the one who suffers and all those around him/her.

    I’m rather isolated now and would appreciate some serious prayers not only for God to give me strength to endure this disappointing time in my life, but for this man who is obviously struggling inside himself and making himself and everyone around him miserable. He is a VERY good man and I KNOW this is not who he really is or how he wants to handle stress in his life. Life has kicked both he and I around quite a bit the past few years. He deserves to be happy and I want him to be whether it’s with me or someone else. God bless all and I pray that any of you who are either suffering with PAPD or on the recieving end of it for God to be with you and help you navigate through your trials with ease and grace.

Marriage Missions International