Marriage Missions International

The Passive-Aggressive Spouse

Are 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

We 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.

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Comments

54 Responses to “The Passive-Aggressive Spouse”
  1. Johnny says:

    (USA)  What about dealing with a passive aggressive wife? What about the man who desperately loves his wife and children and is faced everyday with the underlying threat of “I will leave and take the children, if you don’t live this way?”

    Why is every article about passive aggressive spouses ending with the wife as the innocent party?

    In a country where the wife has to practically beat a child into a bloody pulp to be seen as the parent the children shouldn’t live with, there is little hope for men who suffer from this kind of relationship.

    • Cindy Wright says:

      Johnny, you make a great point and I/we agree with you. But we’re having a difficult time finding the info you’re asking about. If you find some, please pass it onto us. In the meantime, don’t let the gender distinction bog you down. Read, glean and use the info you can, whether it pertains to a wife or a husband.

      And you are right that in many ways the courts can be one-sided. (But there also have been times in the past where the situation was flipped –that doesn’t justify it… it is what it is and was what it was.) All I can say is try not to focus on hopelessness –don’t invest your energy in it. Do the best you can with what you are handed and work to try to change the tide of “unfairness” by talking to those you can, who need the info –just be careful about swallowing so much bitterness. That will only poison your future. I hope better for you –that what you do for the good will someday be recognized and redeemed.

    • Bill says:

      (USA) You are so right. Who will listen to the husband? My wife is passive aggressive. She can ignore me for days, and never says what is on her mind. We are very close to divorce right now. I suggested counseling so we have tried that with 2 different counselors as a couple and individuals. At counseling I was told to not talk and the other counselor wanted to talk about what he percieved the problem was. They will not listen to the husband. It is always the poor wife.

      She sits and crys for them, says very little or only to say how I intimidate her. Yet the fact is she has played me for years (we have been married for 25 years) and now she plays the counselors. I never understood how to get her to open up. It has been driving me crazy for years. I am so frustrated and there is no one that will listen. It is always the over bearing husband, the intimidator that forces her to be that way. Anything she does or says is my fault. She has said she has had to do things because of me. I made her do it. Things that she has complete control of but yet it is all my fault. She tells her friends and family only half truths, no one every hears my side. She blames things on my mother who has been dead for years. She can never say “I am sorry” even when she does very hurtful things.

      I ask for help from God or anyone but there is nothing. I am so frustrated and lost. Do I divorce? She will go through the roof. Do I live in a bad relationship? That seems to be the only option. I just lay low and agree with whatever she says. As you well know it is best not to offer an opinion or contradict her. No good will come from it.

      I fully understand your situation and pray for you. You are so right that there is no where for the husband to turn. I have considered suicide for years. I think of ways to do it. My life means nothing. Thankfully I have one friend that I used to talk to a lot. My wife hates that too. I am not to share any information with this person. I am banned from talking to her or even being within eyesight of her or my wife goes off the deep end. Life should not be this hard but how do you deal with a passive aggressive wife? How do you leave her?

      • J (Me Three Johnny from below) says:

        (USA) Bill, I just wanted to say that I understand completely and do sincerely feel your pain, but please do not even consider suicide. Always remember that we have one life on this Earth, and we can make of it whatever we wish. Some things may take years to accomplish, but in the end we may find ourselves in a better place/situation than before.

        I cannot say whether your situation would be improved through divorce because that’s a decision you’ll have to make, but as a man who finds himself in a similar situation I can say that divorce is definitely better than suicide.

        Because I’m considering divorce myself I have to say that it is a tough decision, but many of the complications arise because of how I know how my wife (and her family) will react. I’ll be the most supreme “bad guy” ever and they’ll all be convinced it was going to happen and she’ll be held up as some sort of tragic heroine. I’m beginning to see this scenario as a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy created by my wife (and supported by her family) to take herself along a path that allows her to continue the same behaviors without me. Since I no longer play her game it’s become necessary for her to be rid of me, and her discussions with others over the last few years leads me to believe that she’s been setting the stage for divorce. She’ll also try to keep me from our child.

        What I’m doing now is sort of removing my emotions from the confines of the box she routinely attempts to place me in so I can concentrate on living healthy and being a good father (and husband). It doesn’t matter what she says and does anymore; she can either step up to the plate and be my partner, or she can fall deeper into her own hole, but I’ll not let her decision damage me and I make it clear that this crap is over. I don’t get mad about it or yell as I have in the past. I simply cut it off when it begins and tell her I’m not interested in relating in this way. She has no idea how to respond to this, but perhaps it’s making her think.

        It may seem as though I’ve ditched her (and in some sense that’s true), but what I’m really doing is drawing a line in the sand and attempting to reestablish my own natural being into our life instead of allowing her to dominate the dialogue and behaviors of myself and my daughter.

        It’s sad in a way, but when you find yourself jumping through someone else’s emotional hoops and watching yourself and your life degrade it becomes necessary to protect yourself.

        I am what I am, and I’m proud of myself. I’m an optimistic and loving man, a generous and patient husband, a caring and thoughtful father, and a productive and creative individual. If she has not only failed to accept me as such but has punished me for it instead, I will not blame myself, nor will I allow it to damage my life and the life of my child. Just because she wallows in such behaviors it does not mean I have to conform to them. At some point we’ll likely divorce, but at that point I hope to be as conscious and stable as possible so that whatever decisions are made they’ll be done with the appropriate amount of care and consideration of all parties involved. I’d also like to try something I’ve never tried before electing to get a divorce. Just being myself despite the hammers and arrows she’s pelting me with is a challenge, but it became easier once I realized what I was attempting to do.

        I love being alive, and I hope you can find a way to build a life you can enjoy and be proud of. Whether with your wife or not is up to you, but please don’t sacrifice yourself on her alter. Don’t let the pressures laid upon you change who you are. If you don’t allow her to pull you down she’ll either try harder to do so, or she’ll join you on a healthier plateau.

        • Bill says:

          (USA) WOW! – I felt like I was reading my story. The pain the way you are treated and blamed. I never knew what to do years ago, how to deal with my wife. Our kids are in their 20′s now so at least I do not have that issue to deal with. What I found is the marriage was so draining that it made life difficult for me with my kids. I was never very happy. It was so hard to be upbeat with them. We did have a lot of great times as they grew up but as time went on and the relationship deterioated it got harder and harder around the kids.

          It sounds like you are younger and still do love your wife. If you truly want to try to make it work that is great. You have an idea what you are up against. I hope your wife would agree to couseling if you haven’t already tried. We did for 2 years but I never knew what passive aggressive was and the counselors never mentioned it. My wife was able to hide it all and just blame me. I believe the counselors bought this. So even in counseling it was basically my fault.

          The realtionships you have with your family and friends will be what you make it. She will spread her stories that blame you. But if you want those relationships to continue it is up to you to make it work. They may believe her or they may believe you. It will be what you make it. But that you cannot change it so no need to worry about it. Do what is best for you and your daughter. The rest will work in the end and you will be a much happier person. Good luck.

          • Amy from United States says:

            The fact that there are so many reports of counselors being “played” proves that they are stupid and useless. There is pathology here – as with many relationships, but “counselors” have so little training in it. They start from a premise that all clients are “normal” and free of personality disorders and pathology, which is untrue and unrealistic. The counselor just thinks talk therapy, “good listening skills” and new problem-solving approaches are needed. Not so. This is why counseling fails for so many.

      • Paul says:

        (USA) Are you sure you aren’t married to my wife? Everything you just said sounds exactly what I have endured for about 12 years or so. Ask for God’s help and he just doesn’t seem to hear me. I have thought about suicide a number of times but I look at my children and say I will not let her deny me the joy of seeing them grow up. She grew up in an abusive household and we have gone to 3 or 4 counselors but she throws a smoke screen about her problems between her and her mom or sister so the sessions are not about us. She refuses to have a 9-5 job I guess because of the “authority.” I am in law enforcement and I work long hours in a very dangerous environment because she said that my previous job was s****. Now she complains that now I am not home enough and I am not spending enough time with the kids. I reply “this is what you wanted me to do!” She will not own anything or admit fault or apologize for anything. I have been in the military and she says I have PTSD which I have been found “not” to have by a professional. She says our 2 older girls are “lazy” because they don’t clean the house she should be doing. I love her but she needs help, I need help, I have no one to help me.

        • Jennifer says:

          (USA) There are people who understand it is hard to love someone like this. It’s painful; we have to be strong and make the decision that is the best for us.

    • Leah says:

      (UNITED STATES) Hello Johnny, My heart breaks for you! I can only imagine the added frustration of this not seeming to apply to p.a. wives. I would like to encourage you and other husbands. I sat in your seat exactly time and time again with counselors. I’m the wife and I will tell you every single time I have gotten the blame because of his tears etc… I recently reached out to a talk show doc. Oh my goodness, I told them what happens and couldn’t believe he fooled them too. I was so sick on that stage and leaving. He acted like nothing was wrong, asked me what’s wrong. He totally lied about me on national tv, played the victum and cried and everything. The host jumped all over me. It can be such a hopeless situation.

      I have read you have to get counselors who specialize with PA behaviors or else most counselors get duped themselves. My opinion, it only ADDS to the pain and misery. I have considered suicide to get out. If it wasn’t for my children that could have been it. But I have made a decision to LIVE. I have given him way too much power in my life. Divorce is definitely looming. I have counted the cost to stay married and it is too high! He has known his problem but doesn’t pursue any counseling unless I get angry and I go. He lives like nothing is wrong.

      I encourage you and everyone else who reads this to consider the cost. I do not abdicate divorce at all, as a matter of fact I hate it. With that said, at the end of the day we are responsible for our lives and it’s us alone who will give an account, not our spouses, not for our lives, only for theirs. My heart and prayers go out to you and everyone else in this situation. There is a God who loves us, He does not expect us to stay bound with chains of bondage.

    • Concerned also from United States says:

      I think you need to change your search options. I searched for passive aggressive husband and found this article. I know plenty of passive aggressive women! Trust me! I have only come across a few Passive aggressive men and my husband is one of them. I needed this article -if nothing else but to understand why passive aggressive people do what they do and how. And how I NEED TO COPE OR CHANGE MY BEHAVIOR, because whatever I am doing now, is not helping ME!

      Honestly the behavior is still the same with either gender, so deal with it as if they are talking about a woman too. It’s difficult dealing with passive aggressive people, because they always seem so nice on the outside! It’s very confusing.

      His mother is passive aggressive too. Whenever she watches our kids (which isn’t often) she gives them foods the kids don’t eat (they are vegetarian, she feeds them meat). She also, makes them do things alone, like walk to a restaurant without her to get lunch (which I won’t allow either). My girls are small and beautiful and until they are old enough to problem solve and physically protect themselves I go most places with them.

      She goes against all of our rules on purpose. But it seems so innocent. She will say I didn’t know pepperoni was meat or I can’t find soymilk at the grocery store (LIAR). She blows things off like they are no big deal and says I am over protective. I don’t really deal with his parents anymore, I just stopped calling them. Problem solved. But I do live with and love their son, so I need help.

      Oh and my husband is very, very good at not talking for DAAAAYYYS It drives me crazy!!!!!!! Best of luck.

  2. Me too Johnny.. says:

    (USA)  I 100% agree with what you are saying Johnny. I am at fault for being the one who yells too much and being baited into being loud and argumentative. But HOW do you reach someone with this behavior? And, being the man in the relationship, I am of course looked upon as the bad influence when in actuality I have been fighting with every breath I have to save our family, and coming up against a wall of course – which in turn leads to the yelling out of frustration and trying to get through so the relationship doesn’t fail.

    It would be nice if my wife said anything about living any certain way or she is leaving if i don’t change something. I would prefer if she said she hated me and punched me in the face rather than the non-reaction I get to EVERYTHING. This article is one of the few I have read that isn’t openly blaming a male and is supportive without condemning the other party. Most articles I have found while searching for help are largely based on telling the woman she doesn’t need to put up with it and sounds like an episode of Dr. Phil. I agree with Cindy in that the only thing to do is stay positive and do the best you can and hope that someone comes out with a site with real professional help and advice minus all the bias and Dr Phil-isms.

  3. Ro says:

    (USA) Great article. Thank You

  4. Nicole says:

    (USA) I think everyone is capable of passive-aggressive behavior from time to time. Living with a spouse who consistently behaves passive-aggressively is very frustrating. My husband is emotionally absent, and deals with pretty much everything in this manner.

    It can be confusing because he does not fit the entire bill: he doesn’t procrastinate (I do); he doesn’t seem to try to sabotage anything except intimacy between us. He actually seems to want the best for me, for us, in many ways. Yet he is emotionally very passive-aggressive. For example, he has ED, and has promised for 7 years to do something about it -quit smoking, see a doctor. Yet he does nothing. We haven’t been intimate for over a year. He claims he needs touch and affection too. Yet nothing. He told me that I would be more attractive to him if I paid more of the bills.

    • Rita says:

      (USA) My husband and I have been married for 17 years. Many of those years I spent frustrated & confused because I didn’t know he was being passive agressive till recent years. I thought I was going crazy… everything I complained about, somehow became my fault, trying to resolve an issue was like trying to hold on to a slippery fish, nothing ever really got resolved because he always danced around the issues and pointed the finger at me… my life feels very chaotic and unstable and my health is suffering. I constantly feel like I need to get away from him just for my sanity, but we have children and I keep trying to cope with this for their sake.

      The most recent event happened days ago. I had an appointment to see a therapist that my Dr. recomended, because I am having trouble with depression and anxiety. My husband said he would be home to watch the kids so I could make my appointment at 4:00, but when I got home at 2:30 he was getting ready to leave, I asked where he was going and his response was that he was going for a massage. I was a little infuriated because I knew he wouldn’t be back before I had to leave. I told him I had to leave at 3:30 and we had been discusing how important this appt. was for me and how could he be so inconsiderate. His response was “I never do anything for myself” and then left!!

      I’m having a real hard time getting over this because when I question him, he simply says he forgot, and how can I dispute that… I can’t. So once again I have to stuff it down. This behavior has gone on for 17 years and I’m about to explode like a volcano… I am at my witts end… help!!

      • Divya says:

        (USA) Rita, I can really understand what you are going through. You must feel trapped in this relationship. I am married from 7 years to a passive aggressive man. I know how depressing it can be and how badly it affects your health. Until I knew there could be something like this wrong with him, every time I used to think I am crazy or I have some problem. I kept solving things within myself. If I even try to talk or resove things, he would just walk away or ignore me as much as he can. I know things will never change but I am stuck because we have a son. Only thing you can do to help yourself is try to take control of your own life and happiness. Be independent as much as you can. Anyway, he is going to blame the other for everything.

      • Amy from United States says:

        A massage? Wants to do more for “himself?” this was out & out sabotage. Interesting how he remembered his own massage appointment. Is he a narcissist? I’d make him get an MMPI to see what you are really dealing with. In any case, your appointment was made first and is more important than a massage. I’d tell him (like my teenage son) so sorry you forgot – you’ll have to reschedule your massage and follow through in the commitment you made to watch the kids while I go to my appointment. I’m going to get ready now. Thank you, dear.

  5. Me Three Johnny says:

    (USA) Good article, and a special thanks to Johnny for mentioning the (apparently) unmentionable. I’ve been reading about passive-aggressive behavior for several hours because I’m at my wits end. It’s unfortunate that so many articles out there single out the male as the one doling out this punishment, but perhaps it’s more common that men act in passive-aggressive ways. I’d bet that women are more willing to discuss it publicly, which might also account the lack of male perspectives.

    It happens to men too (and it’s just as heart-wrenching, confusing, irritating, and it sucks the life out of us just as it does to the women who suffer through it…)

    What is most frustrating to me is that I witness my wife criticize my daughter and play these little mind games with her in much the same way I see her mother do them to her. It’s my understanding that this persistent and unreasonable criticism and underhanded pot-shots can breed passive aggressive tendencies and I’m trying to nip it in the bud (without encouraging more passive-aggressive and critical behaviors from my wife). I’m not at all hiding from the issue, but I do feel the need to tread these waters sensibly and effectively to avoid any negative impacts on my child. My wife and I do occasionally have “discussions” while my daughter is present, which is always seen as a no-no, but it’s important for me to address certain things that I see as demeaning or threatening in my daughters presence and at the time such behaviors occur. She’s being victimized by these behaviors, so she should know that what’s occurring isn’t fair to her. My wife says I should wait for our daughter to be elsewhere to voice my opinion, but that communicates support of the behavior which I will not do.

    The truth is that I’m thinking of leaving my wife specifically because I want to provide my child with a living environment without this type of emotional chaos, and because I’m tired of dealing with the abuse.

    Two words I’ve read constantly during my research on this topic are “frustrating” and “exhausting” and I certainly agree that that’s what being on the receiving end feels like. Life is simply too short for…

    I’ve tried every approach I can think of to communicate with her but we seem to always be steered back into her rut. Her skill at avoiding core issues is astonishing to me and I often feel foolish for being led astray despite a conscious effort to state calmly, clearly, and succinctly what I see as an issue that requires attention.

    I feel as though I’m getting played on a daily basis, and when she succeeds in her strategic diversions she gets a smug little grin on her face which seriously pisses me off. I’m a naturally calm person and these behaviors are foreign to me, but it’s nice to know that there are others out there dealing with similar issues and discussing solutions. Reading about it has helped and I appreciate articles like this.

    I’ve never been a believer in divorce and have leaned heavily on the “we-can-work-it-out” attitude over the years, but now that this behavior is impacting my child I’m weighing all the options. I haven’t yet mentioned divorce to her as it’s a new concept for me. She’s mentioned it several times though -usually when she hits The Wall in one of our discussions; the point at which I’ve managed to weave through all her distractions, accusations, petty jabs, and incitements to anger, and to clearly present undeniable proof that this is what is being done, that if I was doing these things to her she would feel exactly as I feel, and that she has no reason to fault me for being upset. When arriving at this point she cannot seem to actually accept it so she “shuts down,” mentions divorce, or storms off and calls her “friends” to tell them each tailored versions of what occurred to suit each personality and ensure that each one will have the most negative view of me possible without her actually doing any actual LYING. I guess admitting a simple truth and trying to move beyond it is just so hard she’d rather get divorced. So… I know where I stand.

    It’s not just her behavior that affects my child, but also how I respond to it. This realization has actually improved my response but, because I’m not falling into her traps as often, it makes my wife even more angry/bitter. She seems to take out her frustrations by turning on our daughter, which I see as either a need to vent her anger on the next closest target, or as a way to punish me by hurting a child I dearly love. It’s probably a mixture of both.

    What’s so odd about this is that she treats the two closest people to her like crap, but she’ll eagerly drop everything at any time to help mere acquaintances. I realize this is part of the facade she’s cultivating, but it just seems so backward to me.

    Its been suggested that we seek counseling, but the small attempts we’ve made to seek help in the past were disgusting to me. She’s like a chameleon. Her behaviors also become more menacing after any attempts at counseling and she has a whole list of reasons why it’s actually me who’s behaving badly.

    I told her once that if she bangs a rock with a hammer over and over again she can’t blame the rock for chipping. I come back to that in my mind quite often as it seems that one of her primary techniques is to incite behaviors that allow her to justify her initial antagonism. After so many discussions and going around in so many circles, side avenues, and dead ends I know not to assume repeating my little mantra will affect how she perceives the situation, but it gives me comfort and helps me sidestep the negative reactions she’s trying to lure out of me.

    I don’t know what I’ll do, but I’ve made it clear to her that I can’t look forward into the future and see myself living this way for the rest of my life, and I certainly don’t think my daughter deserves to suffer through it and be damaged by it…

    • Paul says:

      (USA) My wife is the exact same way, We have 2 daughters and a son and they are why I stay and work at the relationship. When you say she would do anything to help a new friend or a family member but she has drove off and left me standing in the street because I don’t do as she commands or agree with her demands. She cried that I hadn’t asked her to marry me, then when I did she threw the ring in the dirt after a fight that was so trivial I can’t even remember what it was about. I found the ring after digging in the dirt and held on to it for a year. Then on mothers day at church I gave it back saying ” I give this back on one condition, that you never throw it back at me in anger”. About six months later she threw it at me in about the same place in the backyard and I never found it again (800 dollars worth). She has no job, no health insurance and no income but wants the house in her name, a nice car and complains that I work too much. We moved away from home because she was angry at her mother, I took a good paying federal job out of state to make her happy. Now she’s mad because we have no support system in a far away state and its my fault she said “this is your dream job” I support you and you never support me.

  6. K says:

    (USA) I really really really love him. But he keeps me at arm’s length. He leaves me at home with the kids and claims we have no money, yet I’ve found $100 bill he’d lost and didn’t even realize it. I gave it back. I work at a high school, so in the summer I stay at home with our 4 kids total (our 9 yr old twins and his two teenagers from a previous marriage). We have one bedroom that they all must share, therefore the oldest uses the living room. These older kids live far away and so their stays with us are long, few, and far between.

    My husband has his own carpentry business. We have a rotting room addition in pieces waiting on re-construction, and he has had the last 6 years to do it. The house is so small. Our family is so big. And in the summers I am cramped, and I’m sure the kids are, too. His refusal to deal with even the slightest request of mine, complaints, questions, inquiries, or any conversation related to work and/or responsibilities, if they’re important to me, is more than frustrating. He makes it clear that my expectations are too high and that nothing he could do would be enough for me. I try hard to simply exist in the relationship, to not ask for his help, to not feel hurt when he’s at his most emotionally distant. But certain things make me react, such as when he’s intentionally withholding what he knows I want (affection, time, help with chores, someone who’ll listen when I’m feeling anxious about something).

    When he gets home he goes right to the computer, occaisionally complaining about the government, the economy, lying commercials, gas prices, etc, and I see the back of his head for the next 2 hours until he moves to the couch for a movie or goes to bed. I know he hates it when I say something to try to get him out of that computer chair so I keep quiet for days, weeks, months sometimes. About a month is my normal limit before I say something if I had to guess at a norm. I’m hurt and frustrated and so alone in a house full of people. He’s inadvertently taught the big kids to resent my wishes for a reasonably tidy house. They call it “being uptight” and, seemingly intentionally, they leave dirty dishes all over the house, clothes piles anywhere and everywhere, books and movies off the shelves, kleenexes, wrappers, lids, and other bits of trash they leave right beside their spots on the couch, and they think I should be okay with that and not say anything or ask anything of them. When I’m quiet and I clean it all up myself, I still feel doomed, while secretly hoping he’ll notice my efforts and make me feel appreciated once in a while. Who am I kidding? I want to always feel appreciated. But his words beat me down into feeling that even once in a while is too high of an expectation and that I wouldn’t notice if it hit me in the face.

    I feel like I’m always following him, always looking at the back of his head, always feeling so alone and out-of-touch with what it feels like to be loved and wanted. I just want him to turn around. How can I be happy? Even when I’m happy, truly, because I generally love life and try to get out and live it and do good in the world, I don’t have him. He doesn’t notice. He doesn’t reach for me. Will he ever?

    I’ve quietly considered leaving for a couple years now. I haven’t because of its totality. If I leave, I leave. I won’t be playing games and hoping he’ll finally reach for me, because i know he won’t. I have to be able to come to terms with completely uprooting my entire life and everything I’ve worked so hard for before I do something like that. I feel selfish thinking that. I feel like I should grin and bear it and be okay with never feeling like the man I love really loves me. Who am I to take his kids away when his previous wife already did that with his older ones? But its been 9 years now and its only served to make me even more jittery and reactive, and depressed to the point of throwing up. I will not take medication. I want him. That’s all I need. The reason behind this madness. I don’t know how much longer I can stay in this place where everything I want is held up just out of my reach.

    • Kim says:

      (USA) I’m completely surprised to see so many people dealing with this type of abuse/neglect. My heart is heavy and I feel like I have to accept the fact that he’ll never love me like I do him. I know that if I ask him to do something, it won’t get done, but if it does, it’s when he wants to do it versus when it needs to be done. I try not to ask much of him, but one request in a week is too much for him. He’s nice to others, but treats me like I’ve caused everything in his life that is negative. I’ve done all I can to show him that we’re on the same team and that he can trust me.

      I’m lonely, hurt, and hopeless. I’ve been in denial, but I need to go ahead and accept/admit that he is the cause of my migraines. I thought I could handle this roller coaster ride, but I know I can’t do it alone. This battle is not mine, but the Lord’s.

  7. Stance says:

    (USA) So glad I found this info. 75 percent of it is the nightmare I’m living.

  8. Kay says:

    (USA) Incredible description of my life–after so many years of asking why, never receiving answers, wondering what I was missing, staying silent until I couldn’t stand it anymore, his lack of developing close relationships with anyone; not family or friends–This finally makes sense!! I am anxious to read more of the articles relating to this topic.

  9. Kay says:

    (USA) A question for Steve & Cindy –My husband exhibits all of the classic behaviors and he did have a traumatic childhood that he has not dealt with so there definitely is environmental influences. I have also been reviewing E. Eggeriches “Love & Respect” materials which have helped me find some answers in seeing the ‘crazy cycle’ played out in our relationship.

    The question is: Has anyone found that the Love & Respect treatment doesn’t work for passive-agressives due to the unpredictability, the unreliability, the manipulation, the stalling, etc.?

    • Cindy Wright says:

      Kay, Even if your husband is being a jerk and you have to somehow apply tough love, you can still do it respectfully “as unto the Lord.” My husband exhibited passive-aggressive behavior for a good deal of our marriage. It wasn’t until I read some things on it and eventually got him to read some things and acknowledge that he was acting out in that manner at times (actually, it was because of the Lord convicting him afterward) that he started working on his behavior. He can still fall into that type of behavior because it was so ingrained in him, but now he recognizes it and changes his approach to whatever issue we are facing and it becomes more of a non-issue. But it went on for a long time before this break-through. Somehow God was able to show me the gold beneath the dirt and so I was able to hang in there like I did (not that I’m without sin, however).

      But even so, the Lord showed me a number of years ago, and much of it through Emerson’s presentations of biblical truth, that I came to see that no matter how badly I felt my husband was acting, it didn’t justify my treating him disrespectfully. God didn’t put a conditional clause into the “respecting your husband” mandate saying, “if he acts in a disrespectful and unloving manner, you can act disrespectfully.” I can still be frank and strong in tough love, and be respectful at the same time, and so can you. I hope you will. Please don’t allow his poor behavior to cause you to lower your standards and do what God tells you not to do. Someone has to be the hero here and get off the “crazy cycle” before it destroys every part of your relationship and usher in contempt. Hopefully, he will eventually be inspired to be a hero in your marriage, deal with his past traumatic childhood and jump off the “crazy cycle” sometimes, as well. I pray so.

  10. Kay says:

    (USA) Thanks for sharing Cindy, (& Steve) your personal experience with this tough topic. I am thankful that you stated that GOD convicted and changed Steve’s heart. Truly only He has the power to do so!

    Deep down I know his behavior does not justify my sin, and for a season I have been able to be respectful, but then I start making excuses, and sinning, and the ‘crazy cycle’ begins again.

    That said, It really does help me I believe to have a ‘name’ to some of his behaviors, as I have seen myself over the years resorting to some of the same bad choices, keeping the peace at all costs! Not wise. I do believe that educating myself will help us both, and I will pray about approaching him with info in God’s timing. This article and many of the links have been very helpful to me today. God bless your ministry!

  11. Kristen says:

    (USA) Aha! Wonderful information! Thank you! I’m excited to read the extra article links you provided. We are in marriage counseling right now, and this will be very helpful!

  12. Z says:

    (USA) Does anyone know if there is any type of support group for people married to passive aggressive spouses? I have been living this tortured lifestyle for the past 5 years and I just found this and other articles that describe it and put a name to it. At least I know I am not alone in suffering like this. It is the most difficult thing I’ve ever dealt with and unimaginable. I would love to have support from others.

    I often feel like my husband does not like me, does not care, totally withdrawn emotionally, never compliments me, no intimacy at all for over a year, blames me for everything as though I’m the source of all of the negativity he conjures up in his mind, never apologizes or takes responsibility for any of his wrong actions, never sees himself as wrong, never wants to improve himself or the relationship. Every single issue is swept under the rug and never dealt with. I am left with no support, love, understanding, comfort, acknowledgement, nothing at all. We have no connection, no substantive communication about anything. I am left to handle and take care of just about everything. …I could go on and on and on.

    • Neil says:

      (USA) The longer you stay in this interaction, with no improvement, you begin to doubt your own thinking and your perceptions… probably even blaming yourself. In some books, this result is called: “gas lighting.” Your request for finding places where people can share helps a lot to confirm what your perception is telling you.

      Be aware that perhaps is best to keep when possible a balanced view of the marital dynamics, and not to demonize the passive aggressive person. We have some questions and answers here: Passive aggressive husband Just look for the tab: Ask Nora.

  13. Ahmed says:

    (USA) Wow, I’m very surprised at reading this. I am just married a couple of years ago and my wife is highly passive aggressive. I read many articles, and see so much of that. I’m frustrated as everyone is describing, but I love my wife. I don’t want things to get worse, and am praying things will improve.

    I’m reading like a maniac to see what I can do myself to slowly get things to improve. It may mean that I first tell her that I am not abandoning her, but also will not be trodden. She needs to realize that I’m not leaving, and will reinforce that. I feel like that may be the first place to start. Any other comments would be helpful. A frustrated husband who loves his wife dearly…

  14. Julie says:

    (USA) I’ve been reading the various marriage articles, watching videos, etc… for over a year now. I’m getting ready to enter into my third year of marriage (a second marriage) with a man I love very much but I’ve come to realize has a variety of issues to include passive agressive behavior. Initially, he withdrew during our engagement claiming he needed to spend more time with his sons. He wanted to coach, and seemed to have time for everything but me. Over time, I realized that our relationship was not growing and broke off the engagement. After several weeks of extreme desparation and seemingly sincere efforts on his part to pursue our marriage and deepen our relationship I resumed seeing him, but waited awhile to reintiate our engagement. It was after I agreed to marry him again, that slowly his behavior resumed, only worse. He became more and more verbally and physically aggressive. Nonetheless, he was attentive for the most part and very much pursuing a fast wedding, so we married a few months later.

    After our wedding he became very physically, mentally, and verbally abusive. I knew I had made a big mistake. I asked him to go to counseling. He claimed he had no time. I tried talking to him on many occasions; I told him I felt invisible and neglected, that I couldn’t speak to him, that he was no longer my best friend. He didn’t seem to care at all.

    The physcial abuse became so bad, that eventually one of our neighbors heard him, he was arrested, and charged with abuse. I helped him to get out of the serious consequences of these charges, eventually, because he seemed sincere and agreed to go to counseling. He was very loving and attentive at that time.

    It’s been almost a year and a half since that time. He was in counseling for a year; however, over time, he shifted the blame back to me and no longer will take any responsiblity for the hurt he has caused. The physical abuse resumed, although not as bad at all. He seemed to find a new place for his anger, now passive aggressive he often does things to sabatoge our time together, he treats me like I’m a possession, lacks empathy, with holds affection, and finds every opportunity to evade his commitments and finds ways to shift his negatvity onto me.

    I’ve been searching for a way to cope with this and found your article. It is very helpful; however, I’m not sure that I can stay. I’ve tried with all my heart. But living wiht him is such torture that I just don’t think it’s even a Godly decision. Perhaps I won’t pursue divorce, but regardless, I know I have to have a shred of dignity and love for myself left, and I’m really struggling with that when I’m so beat down by him. If you have further advice please let me know.

    I’ve done my very best and prayed, gone to church, and read the Word extensively. I think the scriptures warn me to separate myself from the violent. Whether its covert or overt, perhaps protecting my sanity is something to be considered.

  15. Grtchen says:

    (USA) The comments in this article and the PDF link contain much truth. It reminds me of the reality of my relationship with a p/a male. There is a strong suggestion that if the wife will just ‘do it right’ the male will straighten up and fly right. Having been married for 60 years you can guess I have approached this from every angle. I am still obliged to obey God’s commands to love and obey. I accept that. What remains is for me to find that peace that passes understanding even while I am so overwhelmed with frustration. However, I am newly resolved to pray more, not only for him, but for my response to his insistent passivity.

    I seem to have lost touch with the symptoms of this behavior and was just silently simmering with resentment over his helplessness. I was helped here to be more objective and reminded myself that my hope is in God and my strength to endure with joy comes entirely from Him. The truth dawned on me today; I realized that I was really more angry at myself for my response to his weakness, and to my fostering the behavior by grudgingly taking over rather than letting the chips fall. By God’s grace, even in my 8th decade, I am still learning how to be a godly wife -and it takes courage!

  16. Jeannette says:

    (USA) Wow…this article and all of the comments are so accurate in what I’ve been dealing with, with my husband. I love him and I know he loves me– these are the only reasons I stick with it and keep trying. It’s so hard not to respond negatively to his backhanded compliments, selective hearing and “forgetfulness”, and temper tantrums when he doesn’t get his way. Due to this whole situation tearing me to shreds, I’m in counseling for depression, high level of anxiety and panic attacks. His coping mechanism is spending money and using the ATM as his endless cash flow, while avoiding responsibility of paying bills. I’ve “fired” him of any control because he’s put us in the red on a continual basis, yet claims it’s my fault for not paying attention to the bank account and has the nerve to get angry with me for paying bills. We’ve already had our gas turned off once since I moved in a year ago; we’ve gotten close to getting the electric turned off as well. We had to dish out $600+ to get the gas turned back on; $400+ for the electric to stay on. For a year (prior to me moving in), he’s eluded IPass toll violations and was throwing out the collection notices. Had he paid the actual missed tolls, it was about $400, which is sad enough. Because he buried his head in the sand about it, the fines were just phenomenal. If any of you have this same issue with your spouse, the following will make you feel pretty good about some of your own problems (lol). The total he racked up, missed tolls plus fines, was OVER $28,000.00. That is not a typo. As of now, he’s arguing with me about paying the gas bill. His reasoning is that “they can’t shut off the gas during the winter, so we don’t need to pay it for a few months.”

    I wish this was the only stuff I was dealing with, with him, but the list is endless and more and more painful. While I realize I have to learn to handle the situation more calmly, there’s times I end up yelling at him out of major frustration. I’m so exhausted mentally and emotionally from having to watch my back on a continual basis and deciphering his lies from truth. There’s times I’ve been ready to pack it up and just leave. I’m so sick of putting out his fires, dealing with his arrogant attitude, his complete lack of responsibility, blaming me for everything– there’s just too many to list. And believe me, I have my own faults and nowhere close to being perfect, but at least I cop to my errors and apologize when I’m wrong.

    I’m in the process of doing more research on this subject, but I’m so at the end of my rope. I’m so disgusted right now, I can’t even look at him. I’d love to tell him my now weekly counseling appointments are because of him, but that’s my anger getting the best of me. Seriously, there’s not enough Xanax to deal with this calmly. It’s awful to say, but it’s so true. Trying to reason with him is as effective as banging your head against the wall. I just can’t take it anymore….

    Thanks for “listening”

  17. Sarah says:

    (UK) Hi, I’m hoping your chaos can help me out…I display some of the passive aggressive behaviours listed above, but didn’t do until the last couple of years. Up until then, I’d always been optimistic and aware of how important it was to pull my weight, mind my words and speak without assuming my partner of 21 years was a mind reader. I started to withdraw emotionally when taking my needs/issues/problems to my partner resulted in him telling me to get out, sometimes that day, with our children or he diagnosed me with a mental illness and laughed at me.

    I found myself keeping my head down and unable to share my normal needs and wants with him, or what I was thinking and feeling, as he’d just evict me, or diagnose me, or I’d trigger his paranoia and I’d be blamed for his poor treatment of me. The past four years, I’ve seen 3 psychiatrists and countless cpns who have all said that I am normal, but still he persists. The latest diagnosis is Passive Aggressive. If I try to explain, he gets angry and he picks fault in my every action.

    Am I naturally passive aggressive, or can these behaviours be brought about by fear and repression? Many thanks x

  18. Cari says:

    (USA) I am a 43 year old wife and mother of 3 teenage daughters. I am married to a PA I think? I have been married to him for 14 years. Over the past 3 years it has been a living (you know what). I feel like I am going crazy and I actually admitted myself into a mental hospital for a couple days. The diagnosis they gave me was severe depression, with some type II bipolar?

    I have given up and can’t do this anymore unless something changes very soon. It just makes me anxious typing because I am so unbelievably angry right now. He has be questioning my own sanity. I have been clinically diagnosed with depression for 17 years now. Getting to my husband and our family relationship. He is very quiet, likes to sit on the couch and watch TV for hours, even days at a time. Procrastinates or “forgets” to do things I ask him to do. He drinks daily and hates his job.

    He owned his owned business but about 7 years ago “when the economy took a poop” he was unable to find work. With myself as being a partner, told him several times, “you can’t keep working for the same subcontractor” he may not have much work for you in the near future and you can’t put all your eggs in one basket. Well we lost the business and everything. Vehicles, equipment, boats, etc… I have been blamed for that for mismanaging money. It was my fault that the business went under.

    He has not motivation to do things as a family. My only thing keeping me going in my life was my family. WE had family dinners, and that would sometimes end up being a quick and uncomfortable dinner. It got to the point where I had to beg him to sit at the dinner table with us, and when he did, he only got up in his own time. Not when I asked him. I have been blamed for having to have things my way, meaning dinner as a family. Who says we have to have dinner as a family was the type of response I would get? There is no consistency with the kids. I will say one thing and he will say another, so of course me supposed to be the good wife, will agree with what he says. Even more confusing to the children.

    I have almost gone to do things on purpose just to get a reaction out of him. I have seen him “extremely mad” maybe a handful of times. Of course I am the type that has a very short fuse, and says what’s on my mind. I have also been blamed for demeaning him in front of the kids, even though I think back now and he probably wanted it that way. I feel extremely responsible for my childrens emotional well being and he knows that. My children dont really care to be around us. My 19 year old moved out about a week after she graduated, my 16 year old is never here, and my 13 year old will do whatever it takes to get out of the house on the weekends.

    Over the past 2 years I have been gambling almost 4-5 times a week. This has caused some problems in our marriage as well. It’s almost like my way of getting back at him for all the emotional, and mental abuse he has caused me and the children. He told me the other night he wanted a divorce, I didn’t really have any emotion at all. NUMB! He told me that I am psycho and that I have an evil twin. I have had breast cancer about 6 years ago, and he is blaming that on my mental problems. He had me file for Social Security Disability benefits and I was approved for them for depression, anxiety, short term memory loss.

    Im just wondering if this all being cause from PTSD unconsciously. I AM NOT going to divorce him. That is exactly what he thinks I want. But, I can’t put our two remaining children through this pain anymore. I need help. We have been to counseling, and it always gets turned around on me. Im the crazy one. But am I? I don’t know anymore. I was the best mother, and I could multi task, I was a black belt in karate, I could do anything. Now I don’t have any desire to do anything. I am becoming compliant with him I guess because I don’t want anymore turmoil. I’m not playing his game anymore. I have given up! He wins. But I will not leave

  19. Judy says:

    (USA) My husband is passive aggressive, so is his father. My husband says there is nothing wrong with him. His father and him, belittles me, hurts my feeling, when I tell my husband, he says I am too sensitive.
    I filed for divorce, I have tried everything. I am catholic and take my vows serious, but when it comes right down to having nervous breakdowns, and depression due to his passive aggresive, I cannot sit by and be a doormat.
    He got worse when he retired. He now threatens me and verbally abuses me and plays mind games.
    I am done, I know the good Lord will understand and forgive me.

  20. Elba says:

    (USA) I could not imagine women could be that way. I am a soñando and I live with a passive aggressive. I also have kids so I am on the other side of the story. My husband started to refuse to have sex with me since day 1 of marriage. Always I am tired, I am… excuses, excuses. He would let me spend lots of money, say nothing, ignore me completely. Sex once a month. When I confront him he would say and swears he loves me. We went to therapy once and he said he loved me as I ask him what do you want with me? He is rude with me, he has never called me by my name and when confronted, he will apologize but do it all again.

    I started meditating and then in my prayers I found out he was passive aggressive. I did not know the term. I have been thinking and if you have to divorce and your kids have to live that way, then it must be their spiritual path, not my fault. I can’t help someone that does not want to get helped. Or else I could live with him just out of fear and convenience? 8 years, very difficult years that have only been justified by money and an apparently sulleness at a very expensive price.

  21. Kate says:

    (UK) I don’t think I could ever understand my husband and his lies. I am emotionally out of control and scream at him now-a-days and when I was pregnant and chose to endure his behaviour. Now I feel just lost. In a way I wish as some men are here complaining about their wives, just as us wives are complaining about husbands, that my husband could make the effort to come unto the Lord and want to help our family… it’s just not right.

  22. Where is his molly says:

    (UNITED STATES) I am a woman who has been passive aggressive til now realizing that I don’t want him to be in fear of what he says, thinks, or his actions. I love him dearly and yet he walks on egg shells, afraid upset me. We were separated for over a year. He almost lost it all together, if it weren’t for his friend Shellie, which he calls her his angel because she saved him from doom (death). In his devistation of him and I being separated he got emotionally attatched to her.

    Then I came back in the picture and I watched how he looked at her, talked to her, and followed her around. He said they didn’t have intercourse because she told him no… Shellie knows me; we were friends also in the past. I wasn’t very nice to him and he loves me to pieces. Personally I didn’t think he would go there. I blame myself on the outside but on the inside it’s my fault he got attatched to her.

    He still has her as a friend and I see her but I also know they will cover for one another. He has told me they kissed romantically, and he has petted with her but that was it. I ask her she denies it. Bitterness and hurt but didn’t I do that to him as his wife? Help me to be able to get passed that. We’ve been back together now over a yeat now and my mind still wonders.

  23. Neil says:

    (USA) Reading the postings, the perception of general frustration with passive aggressive behaviors is clear. The question that appears is about why it’s happening. At the beginning, I would accept that people would react to this defensive behavior out of a desire to hide, and avoid engagement… lately I’ve been more prone to see it as the only behavior they know to relate to others. Kind of psychic crippled, if you accept this sad word, crippled by interactions with their parents when children. Accepting that this is their learned behavior; that they don’t know better is more compassionate than blaming.

    There are lots of the frustration responses, because women specially feel hurt by the lack of non-disclosure of their husbands. Would it be too much for men to say: “Sorry, this is the only way I know to react when I feel threatened. By the way, did you threaten me or were you doing something else? Help me understand your behavior so I can control myself and accept that when you’re frustrated with me, it’s because you want us to connect better. I can only see that as an attack, because that’s what I learned being a small child. Please, be patient while I grow up…”

    Of course, it would be so much humane and caring… and would give women some clear ground to understand better where they’re positioned in the marriage. Once this passive aggressive behavior is installed, it becomes permanent and is defended as the only response, beginning an escalation between husband and wife that destroys trust and the marriage itself.

    We need to start a conversation about childhood attachments and how they shape our adult bonds. Some of this conversation is being developed at some postings here: Passive aggressive husband

  24. Jenny says:

    (USA) I scanned a few of the recent comments on this subject, including Neil’s. Interesting that you mention childhood attachments, Neil. I’m reading a book on this very subject, How We Love by Milan and Kay Yerkovich. There are five love styles, all based on experiences from our childhood. Some seem to encompass passive-aggressive behavior. The Yerkoviches talk about how these styles impact us in our love relationships, but best of all, they give hope for changing our own behavior once we know our style. They also include tips for better relating to others, based on their style. So even if the other party won’t change or won’t read the book or seek counseling, there are still things we can do to help ourselves and to help influence the situation positively.

    For Cari, Julie, Jeanette and some other relatively recent posters –I’d recommend getting a copy of Dr. James Dobson’s Love Must Be Tough and working through it. Abuse is NEVER right. NEVER.

  25. Kim says:

    (CANADA) Over the past six months I have come to recognize that my soon to be ex husband is a classic passive aggressive with the exception that when he is under extreme stress and has been drinking, he explodes and becomes violently verbally and mentally abusive and then retreats back to passive-aggressive behaviour. A few times in seven years he has become physically abusive, knocking my glasses off my face, kicking me in the butt.

    The cycles appear to be cyclical like a biopolar might have, although his psychiatrist and psychologist both say he only has anxiety and depression, not passive aggression and not bipolar. He lies to them and has never involved me in understanding his illness. He only explodes when no one else is around and then denies after that anything had happened. He even goes to a psychologist and is on medication to make sure that he looks favorable. Five months ago he was arrested for the second time in four years and then he filed for divorce. I feel like I have been going crazy. I was seeing a psychologist and while I now understand what was really going on all those years, it didn’t make it any easier during my transition to getting back to a clear mind and heart.

    For the first three months I literally thought I was the crazy one, going rapidly from a few days of peace and being okay, to being very angry and hurt and lashing out at him, to even feeling insecure and apologizing to him for whatever my part might have been. I have moved past this now, but I just wanted to say that my husband is now using this “crazy” time period I went through as an excuse at his trial to say that I was the abusive one and unstable and not the other way around.

    These men are master manipulators and when the relationship comes to an end, all they are interested in, is seeking revenge and will use every method, covert and otherwise to “get you” because in their eyes, “You are the abuser, not them.” I am through it now, but it was almost worse the past few months, then the entire time we were married.

  26. A.E. says:

    (U.S.) People sometimes use the term “abuse” when talking about this subject and it really isn’t a stretch. It’s the classic, “When it’s good, it’s great. When it’s not, it’s horrible.” You hear abused spouses use that description all the time. Married twelve years, together much longer, I find myself saying the same thing. As long as life is exactly as my husband wants it, he’s great. Always has a job. Doesn’t drink. Doesn’t prowl. But like I said, everything has to be his way.

    I’ve gotten the “three day silent treatment” as I call it for everything from asking a harmless question to telling him to have a nice trip with a friend. He claimed I was giving him “permission” to go and he didn’t need my permission! If I agree with him about something, that’s the response I usually get. A hateful, “I don’t need your approval! I’ll do what I want!” or “You sound surprised that I’m right! Oh yeah, according to you I’m NEVER right!” As you can imagine, having that coming at you when you’re being 100% supportive makes you feel like you were just involved in a hit and run accident. You look around dumbly and ask, “What just happened here?” That anger is always right under the surface. Waiting.

    My own childhood was a nightmare, so I’ve got a very thick skin. So, I’m like an elephant being taunted by a little monkey. He can’t hurt me at all, but he’s so annoying! He just makes my life a little more difficult, having to side step him constantly. I’m 100% independent. No kids, no ties, no debts and a huge nest egg. Capable of taking care of everything on the farm. I don’t need him at all, so it’s just a matter of time until we come to a point where I want something, he stands in my way one second too long and I’m gonna squish that little monkey. And he had the perfect childhood. Pampered only son. Loving parents. Why did he turn out like this? I should be the passive-aggressive one! I’ve earned it!

    As you can tell, my sense of humor and not taking anything in life too seriously, is what got me through a lousy childhood and a marriage that isn’t much better. He calls me names and I remind him that he has yet to come up with anything my mother hadn’t already said about me. “Heard that one already, you need new material.”

  27. David from United States says:

    My wife has been accusing me of being passive aggressive for years. I have read every article she sends me and I do agree with some of the traits. I print out messages and tell my therapist and she says that I am not passive aggressive. Can you tell me where I can find someone to help me with this problem? I don’t know where to go.

  28. Beth from United States says:

    Two words I read: frustrating and exhausting. Well, I’ve learned somewhat to deal with it. As I type this, I have spent 90% of this day in the house with my husband sitting on the couch, not speaking, because I didn’t wake him up this morning to go to a performance our daughter had. He knew about it, I got ready in our bedroom, his cell phone went off about 5 times with texts and notifications. Yet when if kissed him good bye, he said “why didn’t you wake me up?” Really? I know a plethora of things he’d have gotten up for if he really wanted to. I don’t take blame for his lack of caring about our family.

    My heart breaks for our kids because he yells at them to be quiet. He “forgets” important things. His life sucks because he “is a failure” (his words not mine but somehow he puts those words in my mouth), I am disrespectful, I demean his authority yet he will not take responsibility in our finances, child rearing, or anything that he could ultimately mess up so everything is my fault. Silently of course. He consistently quotes the Bible – Ephesians 5 and claims that his goal in life is to love me like Christ loved the church and that means to make me happy at all expense. This is always said in the presence of others.

    I feel like a horrible wife sometimes because I’ll begin to think all the things he says are true. After all, he works hard, provides for our family and maybe I am all those things, how in the world does he put up with me?! Then he will complain about working so hard and everybody else reaps the benefits of his hard labor. I swear, one day I couldn’t take it and said “I’m sorry, you do not single handedly support all the people in the country who are on welfare!” In fact, I’ve tried to explain to him we don’t really support any of them since we get all of the tax we pay back! Frustrating, mainly when I don’t catch myself from reacting, which I am better at.

    But sometimes I feel like I do the same behavior because I am simply worn out from being talkative and try to maintain “normal” conversation and activity. It’s like we (the kids and I) ignore him and I feel bad, but if we try to engage, we’re met with silence or if we ask him “do you want tongi to ____ with is?” The response is “honestly? No, I don’t but if you really want me to go, I guess I will.” How do you respond to that? No, we really don’t want you to go if you’re going to be sullen and if we say yes we want home to go, we are all miserable. Crazy Makers, that’s what PA people are!

    I just a bit ago read a scenario about a wife wanting pictures hung and how the whole thing played out. Could’ve been me in any given circumstance but I had to laugh. We moved into a new house and three months later, I finally hung pictures because I was tired of waiting. It’s been three weeks and he has not once said a word about what I did. Sometimes ya just gotta laugh and go get a Starbucks with the kids or a friend!

    • Ina from Australia says:

      (Australia) Living with a passive aggressive is not living at all, because inside you are dying in pain and in confusion. I have been married to one with this behavior. Before and during our wedding day, his mother has been slandering me (I felt like running but being a Christian, kept my word). She told me that her son (my husband) promised her that there will never be another woman in his life. When I told my husband, he denied saying it and even said that was crazy, but never said anything to his mum.

      One time, his mother humiliated me in public (believe me, until now I don’t know why). I told my husband and he just dismissed it as “she’s just joking. Then another time, my husband’s parents went to our house and the mother was so angry at me because I was keeping a distance (she was telling the church people so many lies, like giving us a house and lot when in fact, we did not even get anything from them, not a cent). I told them I didn’t want to say anything. Mother-in-law raised her hand to slap me. I grabbed my sewing scissors and told her. “Go ahead and you are dead”. I meant it. My husband and his father were just standing there watching while this woman was attacking me.

      She died last December. Betraying my husband, she took money from him and gave it to her other son who left his wife of 35 years marriage and hooked up with a young married woman with 2 children. All these people are supposed to be fundamentalist Christians. In fact the father was a minister and the other son, a deacon.

      Together with the classic PA behaviors, I have lost my trust, respect and hope that things will change. A few years ago, after being depressed for so long, probably since my wedding day, I had a breast cancer. I had prayed for God to take my life. It was such a lonely, empty life even though I believed in God because I don’t like divorce. I don’t like to cause pain to my sons. I was committed to my marriage but the blaming, the roller coaster emotions, the lack of honest communication, the lack of intimacy, tenderness took a toll on my body.

      I survived and trying very hard to be positive. But my husband’s negative behaviors are pulling me to depression. The last straw was when he called me greedy because he instructed me to deposit the proceeds of the sale of a house in my name, because he does not want to pay more tax. I was just following his instructions and was accused of being greedy. Can anybody tell me how to deal with this? And then he had the nerve to threaten to punch me with his clenched fist. He only stopped when I told him to go ahead and I would have him in jail. Can this marriage be saved and how? He does not admit he is passive aggressive.

  29. Sparky from Canada says:

    You know, one thing I am getting a little weary of is the imbalance in how Christians treat serious marriage issues. I believe part of this imbalance is due to following scripture selectively, often in a way that creates the appearance of having obeyed God, on the part of leaders but without actually dealing with the issues. A kind of King Saul brand of obedience. The church preaches from a safe distance and usually loads the whole burden of responsibility onto the one coming for help, who is often the one suffering from sin the other won’t give up.

    Churches do not often get directly involved in far too many cases or if they do, give weak ineffectual counsel that merely treats the surface while leaving deep heart issues free to fester and poison. The wife of a sinning spouse is often told to submit but is not told she may call the elders if her spouse becomes violent and will have a place to stay with the children while the men of the church wade into the fray. Scripture is abundantly clear that sin is NOT to be tolerated within the body. It is NOT grace or mercy to tolerate sin or allow it to go on in a Christian home indefinitely. Paul does not say “Now if one among you is sinning and won’t repent, he is probably in denial and not yet ready to face his inner pain or his past wounds or his personal demons. I counsel those around him to pray and lovingly entreat him and then wait patiently to see if he will change or not”. You don’t find this wimpy milquetoast version of grace in the Bible for sinning believers. Paul says go in private, go with a witness, go before the whole church, and then if the person is unwilling to see their sin and begin demonstrating real repentance, they are to be put out of the church until such a time as they DO repent.

    Even in the case of a non believer, the church still ought to get involved and if there is abuse, actively seek to get between an abuser and the other spouse and children. Oh, that’s too harsh, you say? So God is “harsh” when he gave these instructions through Paul in order to preserve the purity of the church and protect the innocent, and we have more understanding of grace and are more loving than He? Balderdash and baloney. The label passive aggressive is just another word that covers sins such as vengefulness, bitterness, self pity, dishonesty and idolatry. Where does scripture say “Now, if you have buried your feelings because you have been wounded in the past by a critical parent, others must learn to work around you and work with you because its too hard for you to change?” It doesn’t, obviously.

    The whole point of following scriptural instructions on dealing with sin is to cut to the chase and get quickly to the heart of the matter in order to bring the person to a place of repentance. I think God knows very well how long the flesh can prolong the agony. It’s only at that point someone can really be helped. Up until then, they’re just wasting their own and everyone else’s time with self destruction. It’s the shallow church of today that has watered down the gospel and is more concerned with looking like good guys in the community than with inward truth, that has created the sort of church where an abuser can put on a fake show of repentance and get away with it, and victims of abuse wind up being pressured to forgive one who has merely struck the correct pose for effect. This is about sweeping things under the rug, not being in hard pursuit of Christ and genuine holiness.

    The thing with passive aggressive behaviour is that it’s frustrating because it’s so manipulative and subversive. The person doing it is justifying their sin via self pity, and feels entitled to “get back” and punish others for not dancing to their tune or because they are not getting something they feel entitled to in the marriage. They may even be right in that their spouse is defrauding them in some way but it doesn’t justify sin in response. It’s still a dishonest and cowardly way of life. It’s about revenge and getting what one wants, not honestly trying to be married and solve problems in an upright and even handed way. And those of us who are married to them often wind up being manipulated into playing the devil’s game by the devil’s rules, via our own lack of obedience and undealt with responses to things.

    In my own case, I’d say that passive aggressive types and their spouses are locked into that behaviour with each other because we’re pursuing something more than we are pursuing God. There’s something in it for each of us though we blame the other and engage in all the subtle intricacies and exquisite torments of acting out past pain and projecting it onto others. We have to base our responses on Christ not on the other person. I don’t believe Jesus left us in a position where we are obliged to facilitate someone else’s dishonesty. This is what the whole point of confronting a brother for his sin, church discipline and appealing to the governing authorities is about. We don’t do it gleefully but because we aren’t willing to see someone else, even a real jerk, be ultimately destroyed and we sure don’t want to get dragged down to that level with him. We ought to wage war on evil because God’s kingdom is more important than our temporary happiness or earthly kingdom is.

    • Ina from Australia says:

      Actually abuse in family is breaking all of God’s commandments and really a murder because the abusive partner is literally killing the other partner’s spirit, the person’s very essence. A Christian’s home should be the safest place for the members of the family but the fact that the one person, the husband, who is supposed to be willing to die protecting his family is the one destroying his family. What crime can be worst that this? It is even an affront to God because His name is being blasphemed by claiming to be a Christian and being abusive.

      • Cindy Wright from United States says:

        I agree, Ina. But it also needs to be mentioned that this is true when women abuse their husbands, because sadly (with most being unreported), that happens more often than people realize.

        • Sparky from Canada says:

          I agree, women can and do abuse and are far from sinless. Women feel revenge, anger, contempt and hatred just as much as men do. Additionally, in a passive aggressive marriage situation, it’s not always a black and white, good guy bad guy split. I read somewhere, that it is quite common for instance, for persons with Borderline Personality issues, to marry persons with narcissistic personality issues. Sometimes both partners are acting out childhood scripts with all the anger, blame, hurt, unforgiveness and retaliatory sin such scripts usually contain, hence their response patterns.

          It can change, I am guessing, when at least one partner decides they don’t want to be on the spin cycle in the devil’s washing machine anymore and is more concerned about godliness than about who is right or who is to blame. Sadly, sometimes the other partner still refuses to join in a truth walk and prefers to hide under the rock of all their blame shifting and avoidance patterns and that’s a hard place to be in. I think, in the end, the choice to be passive aggressive is a choice to give way to contempt and vengeance, which Jesus called murder. And the eventual response of hating right back is just as sinful.

          • Ina from Australia says:

            According to an article I have read, the only way to survive in a relationship with a passive aggressive/borderline personality is either to accept that your needs won’t be met (in other words one partner will just have to be the narcissist supply) or leave the relationship (forgive and give herself a chance). Because understanding the modus operandi of a passive aggressive personality who is operating on a false self, who cannot empathize, who needs to fill a big void, and who chooses a partner whom he thinks will love him no matter what, who does not see the partner as a person but as an object, a mere extension of himself, whose development has been arrested and who has so much anger, hostility bubbling inside him and who believes he is entitled to do what he is doing to his family, I really wonder if that person will ever change.

            In my case, a mama’s boy who was not able to build a new relationship/family, who could not emotionally separate from his mother who is a bad narcissist (cruel) instead attached the wife to his totally dysfunctional family. I have just read that in-laws problems creates animosity between spouses, erodes trust, destroys intimacy and if left unresolved can ruin a marriage. This is my world.

  30. James from India says:

    This is a great article. I understand about Passive Aggression better. I see passive aggression is primarily a woman’s trait and most men may not have the psyche of passive aggression. They would surely have frustration, hopelessness and outbursts but passive aggression is an ongoing underlying aggression that a woman would not acknowledge and keep melting out to the husband.

    One way is to come to an agreement of being non-judgmental, which must be a need of a relationship. When husband and wife move away from being judgmental, the potential to clear any misunderstanding increases to near success. If any stays judgmental, there is no escape from everyday fights for lack of trust. When one partner is considered untruthful there is nothing he/she can do to solve it. The judgmental attitude will be nails in a coffin.

    People are scared to walk away from years of marriage. But only intelligent and courageous people can see a weak spouse who is judgmental and passively bent to bring the house down. They will do that with everyone. If you find yourself un-accepted all the time, and you rarely have a problem with your spouse, it’s time to discuss the above or really move along into a better life a more accepted life.

    • Neil Warner from United States says:

      There is a majority of women having been married for a long time. It is not rare to read: “after 43 years of marriage,” that the story of finally discovering the passive aggression by name. It is very painful to think that along so many years, people have put up with isolation and rejection, and it hurts to recognize how much pain people can tolerate. If we think that this karma is part of God’s plan for teaching us patience and forbearance, perhaps there is some consolation there. What I find scary is that, along those years, the children learned to do their own versions of passive aggression. So all our patience is helping promoting and perpetuating this painful behavior!

      Perhaps now that so many people look at the communication style in their marriages, and come to the conclusion that they are isolated and alone, we can begin to see this behavior as really hurtful, and to encourage people doing it to learn the roots of their defenses and new ways of expressing themselves to their loved ones.

  31. Ann from United States says:

    Whenever I try to talk to my husband about something that has hurt me or I’m feeling upset about in our marriage, his response is always very negative. I’ve tried to address things in as positive of a way as I can, but nothing seems to help. He’ll say things like “I guess I’m just a terrible husband” or “you should have married someone else because I can’t make you happy”. He will hang his head and sigh about the simplest things. It’s gotten to the point where I don’t talk about anything with him anymore. Why would I when I always end up apologizing to him and reassuring him he’s a good husband. This however, doesn’t resolve anything for me. I know this is a learned behavior for my husband, as his dad is the same way. This is likely the reason he’s twice divorced and alone again. I don’t want that to happen to us, but how can you have a healthy relationship with a husband you can’t share your feelings with?

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