Dealing with Passive-Aggressive People in Love Relationships


Somewhere in the street or a fitness club, you can hear something like, “You know, I’m not lucky, my partner turned out to be a passive aggressor.” This expression is often used without having an exact idea of what is behind it. The term itself was offered during the Second World War by an American military psychiatrist, Colonel William Menninger. He noted that some soldiers refused to obey orders: not rebelling against them openly, they procrastinated, grumbled, acted ineffectively, that is, they were engaged in passive sabotage.

Subsequently, passive-aggressive personality disorder was added to the famous DSM, compiled by the influential Psychiatric Association. However, it was removed from it in 1994, while the publication of the fourth edition the clinical description seemed to the compilers not clear. Although the term was deleted from the psychiatric classification, it did not disappear but has gradually penetrated everyday speech and private relationships.

passive aggressive behavior in a relationship

What Is Passive-Aggressive Behavior?

Passive-aggressive behavior is a demeanor that involves suppressing of open demonstrations of anger. People with passive aggressive traits and a style of communication will not openly oppose what they do not like. This behavior is aggressive because “no” is expressed in a passive manner and may even look like consent.

Outwardly, a person may seem good enough, sweet and pleasant, but their intentions, attitude, and behavior are fueled by hostility. People who practice passive-aggressive behavior in relationships can constantly force their partners to do something for them with the help of manipulative behavior. Their passive-aggressive behavior is just emotional manipulation to achieve the desired. Here is a short list of the signs of such behavior.

  • Sarcasm
  • Procrastination
  • Cunning or hidden sabotage
  • Pretending not to be up-to-date with the others
  • Prevarication
  • Chronic lateness
  • Irresponsibility
  • Obsession with oneself
  • Insincere compliments
  • Inability to be a team player
  • Inability to work together
  • Inability to make eye contact
  • Constant offenses and resentment

Perhaps the most annoying aspect of passive aggressive behavior in a relationship is that a person shows their anger in a non-constructive manner, provoking negative emotions in others.

In general, a relationship is one of the areas where passive-aggressive people have problems. They will aggravate conflicts and act ineffectively to demonstrate their dissatisfaction. They don’t like any kind of responsibility and will try to avoid any obligations by all means. Nobody knows for sure the reasons for this behavior, but experts believe that this is due to a combination of genetic and psychological factors. Child abuse, neglect, and severe punishment also contribute to this. Many people who show such behavior are addicted to alcohol and drugs, and besides, they have low self-esteem.

Passive-Aggressive Behavior Examples

Passive-aggressive personalities are always unhappy because they cannot define their desires. Due to the lack of adequate protection, it is difficult for them to understand their true needs. The chronic sabotage of their own lives is reminiscent of the reaction of an offended child who refuses to talk, or self-punishment. Here are several examples of passive-aggressive behavior in relationships.

1. "I am not angry."

Denying one’s anger is a classical pattern of passive-aggressive conduct. Instead of being honest with you (and with themselves, first of all) about negative emotions, your partner will deny everything.

passive aggressive relationship2. "I don’t care."

How will behave a person who has nothing to say or when there are no arguments at all? A person who shows passive-aggressive conduct will pretend that they don’t really care, or they can say something like, “As you wish.” Of course, you cannot count on a frank and friendly conversation with such a person.

3. “Wait for a second.”

Passive-aggressive people behave as if they are ready to run an errand or help another one. But in fact, they did not make any decision and just want to delay the execution of the task. If every time when you ask your partner for help, you hear, “Okay, just wait for a second.” And they do nothing, then there is a chance that you have faced a passive-aggressive pattern of behavior.

4. “I didn't know that you were talking about this Wednesday.”

Such people are gurus of procrastination, which is a direct consequence of the previous item. While one person will do unpleasant things from time to time, a passive-aggressive person will use all known methods to postpone the task or shift it to another one.

5. "I'm kidding."

How many insults and attacks you can hide behind this phrase! Yes, sometimes people accidentally joke poorly, but if this story is still played out thousands of times, then this is a direct pointer to a passive-aggressive relationship.

How to Deal with Passive-Aggressive People?

Passive-aggressive men in relationships can pull the rug out from under their partners, even if the latter ones are used to thinking rationally. They are not able to evaluate their own actions, so they believe that they are just unfairly treated and misunderstood. However, whenever you try to express your opinion on what is happening, they begin to actively resist and believe that you have unreasonable expectations. So, if you are dealing with passive aggressive people, then you should know the following tips.

1. Pay attention to early red flags

The sooner you discover the potential signs of passive aggression, the better. Such behavior shouldn’t be indulged and justified, especially if it is a person with whom you have to constantly communicate. Pay attention when they start their actions toward you to correct your further communication if you, of course, need such communication at all.

2. Try not to be a trigger

Many passive-aggressive people choose a partner with whom they can “fight” and often do that unconsciously. Do not give in to it and control your reactions: do you unconsciously concede, encourage or support the passive-aggressive conduct of your partner? Involving such a person in an argument or discussion, you only provoke such behavior.

3. Set boundaries and be aware of the consequences

Passive-aggressive people hide their thoughts and causes of behavior. When you notice passive aggressiveness and voice your observations to the person, you will surely hear denial, excuses, and non-recognition of guilt. But this does not mean that you must endure it. The ability to identify and understand the consequences is one of the most powerful skills that you can use to "deter" a passive-aggressive person. Just set clear boundaries.

4. Give a person the opportunity to solve the problem

Being passive-aggressive in a relationship, some people believe that they are not heard and actively ignored. If possible, try to discuss any problems and solutions with such a person. It is possible that this is just what they need. If the dialogue is quite benevolent and leads to constructive changes, you have probably just found the perfect “cure.” On the other hand, if a person refuses to talk and continues to stand pat, do not accept their behavior personally but simply politely distance yourself.

5. Act calmly

As it has already been mentioned, passive-aggressive people (mistakenly) perceive themselves as a victim. As a result, the person will show anger, dissatisfaction or disappointment, considering themselves hurt and insulted. The best thing you can do is to act calmly. Restraining your own emotions is the best solution. Turn on the mode "cold blood" and stop responding to the attacks of such a person, especially if you see passive-aggressive manipulation in a relationship.

Am I Passive-Aggressive?

Passive-aggressive conduct is quite a common thing, but sometimes it is very difficult to recognize it, especially when it comes to your own personality. What does passive-aggressive mean in a relationship? And how can you behave this way even without noticing it?

1. You never reject

If you behave passive-aggressively, you will agree with others. You may look like a martyr. You do not take responsibility for what is happening. You don't reject anyone. Even if you are too exhausted to take on some extra tasks. Even if you do not trust the woman or man who asks you about something.

examples of passive aggressive behavior in relationships2. You constantly complain

You don’t say, “no,” but you show passive-aggressive behavior and resort to complaints. Of course, complaints are ordinary human behavior, but if they have become chronic, and you do not seek to change the circumstances that have caused them, this is a sign of passive-aggressive behavior.

3. Your compliments resemble insults

Suppressed indignation can manifest itself in ambiguous and dubious compliments, for example, you may say, “What a cute romper! You look almost as beautiful as your friend!” The negativity may be more hidden if you are in a long-term relationship, but your partner is well aware of what you mean.

4. You try to avoid an unpleasant moment

In a situation that requires hard talk, passive-aggressive behavior is aimed at avoiding contact. For example, you can break up with your partner with whom you have a serious relationship via a text message or email sent instead of meeting in person.

5. You take offense

One of the frequent signs of passive-aggressive conduct is constant suffering from resentment. How often do you think that other people do not appreciate or humiliate you? Of course, in some cases, you may suffer from real ill-treatment. And if you try to meet the challenge, this is a healthy approach. But if you cling to your grievances and resist any changes, it can be passive-aggressive conduct. You are forcing someone else to be responsible for the suffering you experience even if it is your own choice.

How to Not Be Passive-Aggressive in a Relationship?

Such behavior may be the result of growing up in an environment where the expression of personal feelings was blocked. People who feel they cannot openly express their real emotions will find ways to passively direct anger or disappointment. Some will also show hidden aggression if they cannot cope with the conflict. How to stop being passive-aggressive?

Admit that you are passive-aggressive. Nobody wants to be called passive and aggressive. This is not the best personality trait. But even if you are passive-aggressive, it does not make you cruel, it makes you human. So just accept the fact that you are in this state, and then move forward. Once you accept this behavior, you can change it.

Begin to become self-aware. You might not have even noticed that you are passive-aggressive or maybe you know that, but you cannot help yourself. It's time to become more self-aware. This is the only way to understand why you are acting this or that way and what causes this reaction.

Listen to the words you tell. Are you listening to what is coming out of your mouth? Well, honestly, not many of us do it. But it’s high time to listen to yourself and the phrases that are passive-aggressive. Usually, most of us use such passive-aggressive phrases like “everything is okay,” “I was just joking,” “I thought you knew.” Ending a passive aggressive relationship, forget about such phrases.

Passive aggressiveness comes from the inside. This is not about someone else. This is not because your partner doesn’t do what you want from them. It is an internal issue.

Passive-aggressive behavior is not necessary to solve problems with any other people. Direct conversation can easily solve a problem without any negative effect. Your passive aggression is that you do not value yourself as you should.

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