Passive Aggression: Stop Welcoming It Home!

So you are wondering how you ended up getting involved with a man that you now discover to be passive aggressive... Why, if you loved and love yourself, if you had a strong self-esteem, did you wind up with a man who might claim that he loves you, but whose actions (or lack thereof!) state the contrary?

Just so that we understand each other better, let’s quickly review exactly what passive-aggression is: a behavior between couples involving resistance to do any shared projects, or one person doing exactly what he had in mind even if both might have decided that you were going to do something together. The end result when nothing happens because he "forgot" is utter frustration and loneliness for you.

So how come the men in your life seem to all have followed this pattern of behavior, where they constantly keep you wondering about their true intentions, and if they are going to keep their promises or not, and end up frustrating you in the end?

In most cases, it is actually safe to assume that a good part of the reason why women unconsciously end up dating men who are passive aggressive… is because they like it. Now, don’t scoff at this yet and keep reading. As humans, we tend to be drawn to things that are familiar, and therefore make us feel “safe” whether we realize it or not. Same as with things, we unconsciously look for behaviors that we “know” and towards which we already have the mechanics to react to; so we –although it might drive us crazy- are attracted towards those who exhibit them.

So, how come women like this “safe” and “familiar” behavior to the point that they end up actually looking for partners who exhibit it? Well, if this is your case, chances are that you come from a family where one or both parents controlled the relationship via passive aggression, and this got you used to interacting with the behavior since childhood. You probably felt helpless being caught up in this family dynamic because much like in your present, back then, one person was getting their own way by silently maneuvering around the other person whilst the recipient was no doubt pissed off and frustrated at their behavior and the results of it. You probably tried to help but were likely powerless, so in adulthood, it’s almost like righting the wrongs of your past by trying to be successful in surpassing this behavior. So you are possibly looking for a passive aggressive person to tame into a good husband.

Trouble is that by repeating the same interaction from your past, you are sure to be frustrated like your mother/father was because getting the same results, year after year, and once again, the more you push, the more the other person resists the pushing and withdraws into cold shoulder and other PA behaviors.

How did you entered into this cycle? Probably because you wanted to help him because by him looking helpless or feigning helplessness about his problems, he invited the “helper” in you to appear and intervene in his behalf.

It’s not clear that he has invited you to "reform" him; probably not, and his game consists on inviting people to help him only to withdraw and frustrate the helper’s intentions. You can consider this avoidance response and refusal to change as an attack on you… But because you’re so used to this type of interaction, you need his PA behavior to define your personal identity as being useful, thus you’ll get caught up in trying to manage him and manage yourself around his behaviors.

Now, his apparent ‘neediness’ will draw you into these situations, and then, as has become the norm, your own needs won’t be met, you will feel frustrated and follow one of two possible courses of action: either you’ll silently simmer and hope for things to change, or you will try to verbalize your anger in a way that will scare him and force him to promise to take action so that you get what you want… he will agree to it, only to have the opportunity to disappoint you again!

So what can you do?

It is difficult to change a situation that has remained the same through all of your life, yet it is not impossible. Before you can come to terms with the relationship you currently have, it would be ideal for you to come to terms with the reason for it: the type of interaction you had (or still have with) your parent (who is the likeliest source of passive aggressive behavior in your life).

You might feel the need to talk to a coach, a good friend, or a spiritual adviser to admit the reality of the situation and gather the strength to confront it. Only once you have solved the issues stemming from your past and to which you are unconsciously holding on to, will you be able to successfully take on your present challenges.

 

NoraNora Femenia is a well known coach, conflict solver and trainer, and CEO of Creative Conflict Resolutions, Inc. Visit her blog and signup free to be connected to her innovative conflict solutions, positive suggestions and life-changing coaching sessions, along with blog updates, news, and more! Get your conflict coach session now!
  1. Bobby jo Taylor, 29 March, 2011

    Very good insight in this post!

    That desire to help and “fix” another person is very alluring and is a hard addiction to break, but I think you are right, it is possible. It first requires taking our eyes off of the other party, and shifting our attention to ourselves and owning that the compulsion originates in our own being and it is only there that it can be healed.

    I really am enjoying your blog!!

  2. Linda, 29 March, 2011

    Thanks for that comment, Bobby jo, It is nice to hear from someone who is not playing victim. We have to own our part in the relationships that we have chosenf we are to learn and grow.

  3. Debbie, 01 June, 2011

    Hi Nora, your statement re: women unconciously end up w/a PA man because they like it really got me thinking.  I’m currently divorcing my husband of 33 yrs., but realized that statement was true for me in the early yrs.  I didn’t know it was called “PA”, but frankly, I was pretty independent in the early yrs. & the fact that my PA husband didn’t seem to care how I decorated our house or what I did outside of our marriage like bike riding by myself (he wasn’t interested)  taking golf lessons etc. gave me the false impression that he cared.  I know couples who would fight for yrs over picking a paint color for their master bdrm so for me I was pretty happy to not have to argue over such trivial issues.    It took me sometime to realize we had nothing in common intellectually or otherwise.  His only interest was coming home from work & getting into his recliner watching TV the entire evening.  I did all the cooking, cleaning, bill paying, investing for retirement etc. etc. all while working 40-50 hrs. per week.     I now realize he really wanted a “mother”;  he got w/me.  His mom died at age 10 & my family & I were very close.  He was eating at my home on a regular basis w/in a few mo., courtesy of my mom should he call just as he was getting off of work.  If I wasn’t there, she invited him over not knowing if we were fighting or not.  My mom felt sorry for him & basically adopted him; forgetting he was suppose to be my boyfriend.  After a few yrs. of marriage, I realized how lonely I felt in this marriage because whenever there were plans or serious decisions to be made, his SOP was to say “you do it, you know what your doing”.  So Nora, I got that statement right away when I read it.  Keep up all of your good work & Dr. Warner’s, too!
    It’s such enlighting information; sometimes hard to admit how we played into this horrible behavior

  4. sylvia, 06 September, 2011

    i just wanted to say that i have never been around this pa behavior in my family
    i was very close to my dad and worked with him for twenty years. i thought
    when i married my husband he was like my dad. he was and is not. i considered
    him a fruitcake. we have been married 22 years. i believe my husband married
    me to buy property and build a house he needed my income and my dad’s
    signature. he was a doctor. after marriage all this was slowly sprung on me
    he manipulated and conned me to get it–he decided he wanted to be a
    farmer but it is only a hobbie. basically he could not afford to buy what he
    did and it has blown up in his face. i was trying to go to school to become a
    nurse but he would not help me to complete it. i had female problems for
    years and was told i was running out of time when my so called husband
    told me he did not want more kids–he had 2 from another marriage.  i was
    about to walk, he was using it to manipulate me so he could get what he
    wanted. he has been a terrible husband and father and i understand now
    why the first wife left him.  he is now working in alaska and wants me to
    move there. so of course he is very mean ,abusive and manipulative. but
    it does not work any more.  i see him as an idiot.  he would never listen to
    me and always does his own thing.  it is amazing how he has never been
    there for me or my daughter but he is pissed because i will not move to
    alaska. it was important to move and not let me finish school so he could
    just go and play.  when he was home last–i told him my needs that was
    mistake he wanted sex with not foreplay or kissing–he was trying to manipulate
    me. when he went back he complained about not getting enough sex . i
    remained calm and said i wanted sex but he would not kiss me so i thought
    he did not want sex and his knee hurt.  i was proud of myself. he did not
    know what to say.
    a little while ago  he called to give me the silent treatment  lol  weird huh?
    i did not fall for it so i ended the conservation and said i had to go.
    next night i did not answer the phone. he called in the morning wanting to
    know why i would not talk to him lol funny huh 

  5. Goldy55, 06 September, 2011

    Hi Sylvia: Congrats for figuring it out.  In a good man/women relationship, a man will always want to “support” his wife.  In a PA relationship, it’s the PA spouse who wants to control the spouse and/or manipulate them into  what “they want to do”.  When you ask for support from him, as in finishing school, all you got was anger, manipulation and anything he can do to stop you from doing well for yourself………because it takes the “spotlight” away from him.  It also is tough when your doing it from Alaska!  You do need to make some decisions about your life……………………….Good Luck!

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