Why using a defensive skill in a personal relationship?
I now think passive aggression behavior is selected to be used as a defensive skill to protect against a controlling parent or person from the past. The child, unable to leave, or to confront, takes this third way: to simulate compliance while rebelling internally….and facilitating acts of “innocent rebellion” that cover up the sabotaging of the parent’s mandate.
This is a very successful strategy to survive in the battle with a demanding, controlling parent who is obtuse to the child’s needs. It avoids getting punished for not going along with the request, presents a facade of innocence, and develops a germ of freedom inside the child that makes he think he is somehow doing a counter attack, sabotaging either the intentions or the results of the parent’s will.
Passive aggressive behavior is a learned coping skill as a result of this interaction between the self-determination of the child and the pressure imposed by the parent’s will. And perhaps we can slightly understand better why is this the male best defensive tool to avoid control, humiliation and external demands? Because instead of having to choose between fight (impossible for being little) or flight (impossible because where can a child escape to?) this skill preserves self-esteem: “I’m not giving in to those oppressive demands, I’m doing what I want or need.” Girls have a bit more accommodating nature and prefer to go along and obey for now, and dream of getting their own freedom later.
NOW, look at your spouse. If his/her parents are alive, watch the interaction of your spouse with them. Probably parents need something, and child doesn’t contradict them.
It’s never: “Oh, what you ask for is impossible because I don’t want to do it…”
It is, “wonderful, we are doing what you ask for when…” and here comes the impossible condition: when we have time, when we have money, when the weather is better…”
Creates the illusion of both sides on the same page? you bet! Will it ever happen? No way!
If you do this exercise, it will be easier for you to see the whole scenario: a controlling parent, a child that having no other way but to submit, decides to avoid submission and makes believe he will deliver, but reserving for himself the last decision about when, how and if it will be delivered. In short, the will of the controlling parent is thwarted, without punishment for the child…victory for the child!
Now, can you see why this “legitimate defense” of a child against overbearing parents can survive in adulthood and be used against you? Even if you don’t perceive yourself as controlling? It’s because it was a successful strategy, that got incorporated in the male mindset! Is his easy way of managing the world, when it becomes overbearing…and sometimes marriage can fit into this category, because its many challenges offered in order to push us to grow up.
If you get this point, at least, you will accept that this passive aggressive response is not caused by your behavior: it has been there from childhood, deeply engraved in his mindset and deploys automatically when your husband feels the pressure to deliver something still not accepted by him.
And you are asking me again what can you do to change this behavior? Let me repeat myself: First, this is the way he manages the world; he is the only one who can change it. Does he want to change something that is his “normal reaction” (proven successful for ever) ? Probably not by himself, but motivated to stay in a marriage he values, yes! … But, of course, that is the message for another story!