End the Power Battle in Your Passive Aggressive Marriage

assertivity

Are you sometimes stuck in your passive aggressive marriage? Feeling lonely and disconnected?

Communicating your ideas in a passive aggressive marriage using a firm but still respectful way is an art that takes years to learn. We have to learn how to squash that frustration and/or hurt that pops up when we think, “They should already know what I need.” In most relationships, each person comes from a different tradition, with different ideas about what people need.

 

In a passive aggressive marriage, this is even more frustrating because the passive aggressive person shirks responsibility out of childlike resistance, not just different family values.

 

So, how do you get across what needs to be done without turning your marriage into the power battle that your passive aggressive husband wants?

 

To start, the way that a request is said can change the tone in a second. Said properly, you can assure yourself that you acted correctly, even if your husband’s response is still passive aggressive. By keeping the tone peaceful (“We need to do this together today”) instead of commanding (“Do this today, and do it right this time!”) you may avoid triggering his sensitive self-defense, the one that makes him crawl into his cave out of anger about you disrespecting/rejecting him.

 

By keeping your cool, you will show that you are firm about making the house run smoothly, but you aren't going to be a whip-wielder. Here are some steps for asserting your needs (and moving on if he doesn't deliver):

 Here are some ideas to get a passive aggressive marriage under control:

Ask for help: “How can WE solve this issue? WE need to get the car to the mechanics this week, before Friday at 6:00 PM”

Confirm: “I will ask you no later than Wednesday night,”

Say what will happen: “Please let me know if there is a problem getting the car there, because I will lose my client if I can’t drive to see them.”

Alert him: “Do you think you can do this for me? If you can’t, let’s decide now what we should do instead.”

Close the deal: “I need to know that I can trust you with this project, very important for me.”

Finally: Keep in mind that you need to have also a Plan B, for if he fails to deliver at the last minute.

If things go well, you can praise him and show your happiness. If there is a non-delivery, then you go to Plan B without any warning or other conversation. Be fast, act in a sure way and don’t leave any possibility for him to imagine that his non-delivery will stop you from doing what you need to do. This will send the message that his “sabotage” doesn't work.

Everything one step at a time!

Some families have had success with these methods in particular, because they allow the husband to feel like his space is being respected, which makes him get more involved instead of sulking over imagined slights.

After several repetitions of this dance, perhaps you can begin again with the requests, this time with more adult messages, such as: “Now that we both know that certain tasks need to be done regardless what we would like to do, and can’t be stopped, I would like to know if I can trust you with this new task.” Gradually, you can try to work in messages about responsibility - but moving too quickly in the wrong direction can scare your husband off the trail to recovery.

 Have you thought of asking for your free coaching session? It is easy! And you can manage your narcissistic husband better fast!

  1. Jmbriere, 17 August, 2012

    In Imago therapy I learned that the idea we think the other can intuit our needs is a sign of a “unconscious” relationship…..it’s really coming from the perspective of a child who is still seeing the spouse as a parent….a conscious relationship learns that you have to develop clear channels of communication in order to understand each other…..one has to take responsibility for communicating their needs and desires to the other….of course I found this is easier to do once you understand your core issues and hence what your needs are and where they came from….in my case however I was the only one who did the work, not my husband who is a “pa”….and now after 3 1/2 years has a lawyer and wants to legally end our marriage…..I have got him to agree to pay the legal fees.

  2. T., 22 August, 2012

    That is exactly the problem, isn’t it? The open and honest communication. I found that this is nearly impossible to do with pa men, because there is the defence mechanism and actually big resistance. It is difficult to be authentic and reveal your needs and wants when you have a past, for example a childhood, where doing just that evoked anger, refusal or blatant rejection from your family members. The other problem here is the lack of awareness, passive aggressives usually don’t know why they are how they are and what is driving them.
    I do have a lot of compassion, since I also come from a family where the male role models (and one female) I had were passive aggressive, emotionally unavailable and most likely also afraid of intimacy – I never saw anyone in my extended family share any kind of affection or love when I was a child, and still now. Nothing whatsoever. It is a sign also of an earlier generation too perhaps, but also of damaging dynamics in my family.
    So consequently this is all I knew, and it has taken me a long time to realise that I was also inauthentic and closed off as a result of my upbringing and perhaps even passive aggressive to a certain extent…all the while convinced that others had the issues and not me.
    The only time I ever saw a change in passive aggressive people is when they are not under pressure, and we speak authentically how we feel about what they are doing without blaming them. When we praise the things they do well and not dwell on what they do that we see as ‘wrong’. But in essence, the onus is one everyone to change themselves, and if they are unable or unwilling to see and deal with their issues, it will always be a losing battle. However, I am convinced people do and will change if they are ready, willing and (en)able(d).
    In any case, I now give everyone the benefit of doubt rather than assume always the negative. I find this has already made a huge difference, and although not married to a pa man, I have a long line of them in my family, where patterns seemed stuck but they are actually not stuck…things are fluid and changeable. One step at a time is true, and not overloading people with expectations.

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