Using appreciation to confront a passive aggressive husband?

It’s not easy to have a confrontation with your husband…first because not being ready to accept responsibility makes him more prone to denial and angry responses, and second because you don’t feel so confident in your own skills.

What is the task? You ask me?

I’d say to open a conversation about what is hurting your couple’s communication; what is building up frustration and loneliness….and how to improve the relationship by stopping his passive aggression.

You are always thinking how to confront with grace; perhaps dreaming of the method that could make him pay attention, understand the challenge and accept his share of ownership of the silence between you both.

Here and now, you need to know that upright confrontation will fail. Are you ready to use some other suggestions? Perhaps you could be so brave as to start the broken conversation and say something to him. I know, you two are not talking, but it would do miracles to soften the situation if you say a simple “thanks” for anything he does around.

Here is this alternative view of your situation: Instead of being the sullen, negative guy you perceive, please try to see him as a terrified and scared person. He knows already that he is losing you…

Because he doesn’t know how to manage you and your expectations about the relationship, (and of course can’t ask), his only resource is anger! Remember that he has a nasty and resentful inner child inside… always yearning for some crumbs of attention. If you can muster your courage and say something positive to him, not related to any issue in dispute now, simply “thanks,”  (because he brings in the groceries, opens a door, or turns off a light, etc) it will de-escalate the tension and soften a bit your fear and dread of being in the house with him.

Remember, do it only if you feel that it will give you the power to regulate the animosity between you two…as an experiment to learn different and unexpected ways of reaching to his inner child scared of loss. After a time of this treatment, you will find the way to talk with him about his unwanted behavior…and the impact of that behavior on you.

Meanwhile, you are doing this without expectations, in a detached mood, as to see if there are any changes in the interaction…Think of building your own reserves of self-esteem. The rest of the time, plan nice activities for yourself: go to the park, to church, to watch a good movie, take some time to do something that is only fun. You need a break.

All the time, remember to breathe! You will find a way out of this situation, eventually, and the way has to be transforming it by being compassionate, not aggressive, because children are watching, and learning from your actions.

About Nora Femenia, Ph. D.

Neil Warner is the CTO of Creative Conflict Resolutions. He offers strategies to heal difficult issues in a relationship, such as anger and passive aggression. His latest program, Stop Your Passive Aggression, offer a plan for action to change your life by eliminating passive aggressive behaviors from your interactions with your loved one.

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