Healing a Passive Aggressive Marriage?

Is it possible for you to do something to help your passive aggressive husband? It takes courage to go beyond the frustration and anger to see him as a good person trapped in his own old fears...and ignore the thousand frustrations he makes you go through every day.

If you are not extremely angry with him, and have kept a healthy sense of curiosity ("Why in hell is he doing this to himself"?) perhaps you have discovered the pattern: the moments in which he goes back to being a scared child, hiding from commitment and adult love.

Your own brain is telling you: "when X happens, he does Z"...and this is the pattern you are looking for. Try doing this behavior once more, on purpose, and see if he goes in hiding automatically.

So, now you know something else: his pattern, or the sequence of grown up situations that force him to retreat.

The most difficult part is how to share this information with him in a casual, non accusatory way: can help him see the pattern, which is usually the toughest part.

If you can explain the pattern to him just when it is happening and not be too judgmental, or taking him too seriously, that would help. Something in the vein of: "Have you noticed that situations like (facing my whole family together at the holidays) make you cringe? It also happened last year, can you see that? ...what can we do to improve this situation?

I'm following here Louis Clichot "The whole psychological point of being passive-aggressive is to spare oneself the messy implications of experiencing one's anger. And it's not easy getting a grown-up man to say he's feeling like a child inside. Their feeling of repressed anger is so intense; it has never been dealt with in the family of origin and he could never bring it out, so it feels like a mountain of anger for him."

If you show him that you are not accusing him, and that this behavior is something both of you can watch, evaluate and improve, it gives you a different point of view in this situation. It's empowering for both the idea that passive aggressive behavior could be perceived and demolished with support and humor.

Neil Warner

Neil Warner

I'm the “relationship guru,” and my main focus is to increase the quality of love-based relationship experiences. In this ground-breaking guide I offer useful strategies on healing a difficult angry relationship with love and compassion. You don't have to stay in an unhealthy relationship one more minute. Let us share our tools with you today.
  1. Debbie, 08 December, 2009

    I read w/interest “Healing a PA Marriage”. After 32 yrs. of marriage, I ended it 9 mo. ago. My whole life was at the lowest point I could ever remember. My daughter was graduating from College; I had been talking about my future plans of what I now wanted to do. On the face of it, he was encouraging until I directed my efforts to my own ambitions. I had arranged, financed & generaled the construction of several homes we had. We had agreed we would build another home for our empty nester yrs. w/a nice sewing room & totally energy efficient for the future. As soon as I stated the plans, the comments would start. “I don’t understand why?”; I’m afraid your going to start this home & walk away from it right after the basement is in the ground; leaving me to finish it”, etc. etc. I’d never walked away from a project, any project in my whole life; contrary to a long list of “husband projects started & unfinished” in our basement & home. So once again, I would stop. In my younger days, I ignored him & did what I wanted; ignoring his silly protests, irrational statements, etc. The last 10 yrs. were tough w/the loss of my parents, a severe illness & I realized I simply couldn’t continue w/this for another possible 20 yrs. It takes a really strong person who understands up-front the PA they are in a relationship with, you also need to stomach a lot of hurt realizing it’s not you, but them. If you can do this & still stay sane, I commend those few who can do this. For me, I realized the life was being sucked from me, the damage was too severe & w/age he was getting worse. The book’s all say the PA person is afraid of intimacy & doesn’t want to be alone, but after 32 yrs. you would think you’d have gotten a break at least 20 yrs. ago. The sad realization is for some they cannot get over themselves & their need to destroy!

  2. Bonnie, 09 December, 2009

    Can you tell me what your husbands response was when you said you were going to leave? How long you have been separated and what your relationship is like now?

  3. Debbie, 19 December, 2009

    The look on his face was absolutely “PRICELESS” when I told him I was divorcing him. It was the night before our daughter’s graduation from the Naval Academy. We had rented a house in Annapolis for the week; he was so awful to me the whole week I couldn’t believe how bad he was getting. The night before graduation, my daughter had an arguement w/me & for some reason told her dad about it. He approaches me late that night, after the rest of visiting family had retired for the evening saying “you know this is Sam’s graduation & it’s not all about you”. I was shocked didn’t know “what the Heck he was talking about”, but this is what I said. “Don’t ever talk to me about Sam again; I will never ever discuss her w/you again”. By the way, I’m divorcing you when we get home; I’ve literally been waiting for her to graduate from College so I could leave. I also asked him “how long did you think I would put up w/your physical, verbal & emotional abuse”?. He was really caught off guard. When I mentioned one particularly event in which he tried to choke me saying “you didn’t even apologize”……he said “it never happened”. I said Well guess what “did you forget your daughter was there & should be go & talk to her about it”. He said we would talk to her & I told him “he was F…ing Sick” He turned to walk away, but turned around to say “but I love you”. I laughed in his face & said “no you don’t”. He turned & walked away. The next day he tried to put his arm around me as we walked into the stadium for the graduation; I gave him the evil eye & told him to take his hands off me…..his family was there, but I don’t believe they heard me. I wasn’t trying to make a scene of any kind; I knew he was panicking now.
    He moved out 20 days after we got home; I don’t talk to him on the phone only through email. It has been the best thing I have done in 32 yrs.; I say him for “court” & realized I had no feelings for him whatsoever. Actually this X-mas season has been the best in 30 yrs. I know it sounds strange, but I’m finally free & happy.

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