How Can A Passive Aggressive Person Change?

We hear this question all the time, here and there. Well intentioned wives ask this question out of their loving hearts, still assuming that this kind of change is possible. They need any bit of hope they can get so much! Let’s try an answer here:

First, he needs to want to change, but really, he doesn’t want to drop this behavior at all. It’s his favorite defense against the world and demanding intruders like women in their lives…

If there is some behavior we really know, because is too frequent, is that functioning using passive aggression is not a choice; some people have learned from very early that is safer to play dead and be noncommittal in any personal relationship. Probably, they have been hurt before, so now they don’t risk opening up.

For them this behavior is functional behavior, allowing them to imagine that in this way they are protected from probable harm coming from other people.

Besides, going down to the dynamics of any couple, a passive aggressive husband is very cozy with you functioning as his complement and covering up the difference between what he promises and what he delivers…

So, is there no hope? What can you do? Well, you can change your own responses, and thus force him to adapt to the new situation created by your new behavior….And then, voila! You have change!

Do you want an example?

Usually, you go around him tiptoeing and walking on eggshells up until he gives a superficial consent to some project. Even then, you are not sure he will deliver…if you use your own old behavior, then you will be there waiting for him to deliver.

The new behavior is telling him that you expect him to deliver, but just in case he can’t, for some reason, you have plan B lined up.

When he produces finally his answer, (as you have moved on pursuing this project without being stuck waiting for his delayed response) you can either adopt his solution so discarding your Plan B, or if your own solution is still better, use your own solution and move ahead. No regrets, no guilt, no procrastination!

This behavior takes away his power of controlling you through postponement and confusion, thus inviting him to come up with some new behavior to answer your actions. Here you have moved him to change, right?

What if you still feel that you have no power whatsoever to implement this approach? Or you feel that you can’t do anything that could frustrate him? Well, you need more than this article; you need to read “Passive Aggressive Husband,” and get all the support you can muster in order to push yourself to grow!

BECAUSE if you don’t reach out and get some strong help, your marital situation will only get worst, you will lose your time and your energy doing the same thing that doesn’t help you now (“bear and grin,” perhaps?) and your promised change is not coming by itself.

IN SHORT:

No, he will not spontaneously change; you need to change your behavior towards him; if you can’t do it alone, please, get help reading our postings, our ebooks and posting here your questions to get some realistic, easy to apply suggestions to recover yourself. Good luck!

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.

 

About Nora Femenia

Nora Femenia, Ph.D, is the CEO of Creative Conflict Resolutions and the author of the book: "The Art of Living with a Passive Aggressive Husband," a field guide for women that have to deal with passive aggression in their partners. Nora also posts regularly on her blog Creative Conflicts. Visit her blog and join the community to discuss issues related to Conflicts, Relationships and receive also Free her book “Breaking Free From The Silent Treatment.” You are warmly welcomed here, because we care for your happiness!

Comments

  1. TryingToHeal says:

    I tried a “Plan B” and I got yelled at. I tried to plan something with a PA guy, he wouldn’t commit, so I made a Plan B. Then he yelled at me for planning something else after making plans with him (that he never actually said YES to….). I tried to explain that he hadn’t said yes, so I made a Plan B, and he still made it MY fault. I’m no longer dating this guy.

  2. Adrianaveliz says:

    Lol, I dated one like that, moved in with him and all his love,pasion and promesses flied away before three months, I stayed, he got all the control, no sex, sleeping on the couch, endless hrs in front of TV and PC ,distant, cold, etc, etc…and all I could think about was “I got to fix it” “I am not this or that, something I never felt before, horrible!! . I finish and moved to my own place, 2 years now, he is in “love” with a girl he have not meet fisicaly only thrue FB and phone calls but he won’t let go of me, he calls me and says: come over, asks to see the kids, wants me to stay at his place etc…all because he knows I no longer care and I want to run far from him…he is like a kid, got a new toy but don’t want to let go of the one he almost destroyed.

  3. Frustrated says:

    I have been dating a PA guy for 31/2 yrs.  I didnt know what his problem was until today 5/15/11, after running across this site.  It is a very difficult situation, I love him very much and want things to get better but every time I try to confront him about our relationship and how he’s treating me he just explodes and the conversation ends.  Then we start all over again never getting pass an agument.  He is very secrative and always the victim of a situation.  Should i just leave or try to work things out?

  4. Dear frustrated,
    welcome to this site!
    as the situation is today, the more you confront him, the less you get. Along the research I’m developing, you need to consider that he is a person stuck in a level of development below adult status, and he doesn’t know how to behave differently…
    To your options: leave him,
    work things out, 
    I would add the third:
    perhaps you could raise him?
    You could think of the relationship as not yet ready for marriage; because he needs to grow and learn to trust you. Don’t get confused because he looks like a grown up boy; he is a child inside and needs to leave his protective cave and make efforts to grow up…We are preparing a new ebook with the program for the PA to deal with his situation and grow up.
    Up until then, don’t expect a lot from him, and keep repeating what you need as a grown up woman, so he knows, but don’t make any demands on him to solve your needs….Perhaps then you will hear yourself, and take care of your needs in a different way?   

  5. S-kruss says:

    I ended up with a PA woman in the past year who I am no longer with. The abuse in only the short 6 month relationship was gregarious, made me feel like a little person, was all about what she wanted and what she needed when she wanted it and needed it and was in essence just very demeaning. Time and time again she would say she would do something and then not follow through with it to only get angry at me when I would communicate how that made me feel. She would then belittle me by calling me “dramatic” or something to that effect and turn the blame around on me. Totally non-committal as well. I should’ve even noticed this when we first became intimate and she went from two hours earlier being exhuberant about our new found relationship, to telling me that she didn’t want a boyfriend and that I wasn’t her boyfriend but she wanted to see me again soon. As it was long distance, but with a move from myself planned for the future to where she lives (previous to me meeting her), we made plans for Christmas to see eachother again and agreed that we both wanted a monogamous relationship and that we didn’t want to sleep with anyone else. She did cheat on me and upon telling me and asking if I had, was elated that I hadn’t but had no regard to how that made me feel and only made excuses of “It was only for fun, I thought of you the whole time, if you were here it would’ve been you, we never said anything about having a relationship together, and the kicker.. I didn’t even know if I would ever see you again”… the constant excuses and shift of blame was aggrivating and eventually when I became angry she had her back up that I was then stalking her. In the last meeting we had she had been calling me her boyfriend but when I reffered to her as my girlfriend she became angry and told me that she took that as a threat. A threat to what? It made no sense. She was jealous of me having female friends but it was ok for her to be friends with all her ex-boyfriends. She told me she wanted to build a monogamous relationship with me when I moved there, which we had already agreed to having anyways, but wanted to be single until then an hour after referring to me as her boyfriend… WTF? Then blamed me for becoming frustrated and having my emotions hurt by her. When I accused her of playing a head game with me and to please stop it, she turned the blame right around on me and insisted that i was playing a head game with her and that I had been lying to her the whole time we had known eachother. Classic symptom, alcoholic and drug addicted family members, a history of abuse and a huge over inflated ego (which she turned around on me, stating that she didn’t want to be with me anymore at one point cause it was just bolstering my ego which she didn’t want to do anymore). Would talk about her ex relationships and get angry when I would respond with stories from mine. Told me that she loved me but then dumped me a week later. So I finally had the nerve to go to the police under recommendation of a friend. I contacted her a couple weeks after apologizing, but saying that I had no choice as to her behaviour. To which the police ended up charging me with stalking her?!  When talking to the most recent girl I dated about all this, without mentioning the charge.. she told me that it sounds like PA disorder (she is in a psych field), and that possibly the girl is actually stalking me?! Example of this is that on FB she would watch to see what I would post, but had me blocked from posting on her wall after I posted a song that she liked and claimed, “if the people from my work saw that, I could get fired”.. for a song? That makes no sense… always excuses and nothing more. It was ok for her to call me names, but when I would ask what type of person she was in a relationship (ie, if she had a backup plan, or if she was using me at all.. valid concerns given the situation and things that she sais), she became irate and accuse me of accusing her of heinous acts. Yet, once again it was ok to belittle me by calling me names or the such, and turning it around on me and accusing me of what she was doing. I am so frustrated and angry and hurt by this still and hafta deal with a courtcase because of it. If you are in a PA relationship, please for your sake.. get out. The trouble isn’t worth it and often times (like in my situation), it’s to late because we aren’t all educated on this very real and very severe mental disorder. 

  6. I do not know if I am in a PA relationship or if it’s just me. I happened on this site because my boyfriend says that I am a PA. However, I do not call him names nor do any of the weird things that I have read in some of these posts. I do keep quiet about a lot of things, or hold in my emotions, I like a lot of attention from him (but I give back the attention to him), and I do have a hard time trusting (but I do NOT think that my bf is cheating & nor am I).

    I joke with my bf that he flip flops; says one thing about doing something one minute, and then changes a bit later. He says he wants to move in with me, but he has only brought over a few clothes. He comes over when its convenient to him. If he sees that I am emotionally withdrawing from him (this occurs because of him constantly switching up or “being busy”) he then pours out attention. 

    I have been afraid to just say “You’re never really gonna do what you say are you?” For fear of loosing him. I know that this is not correct behavior, and I am attempting to change.

    So, with that said…. I am confused as to whether I am a PA or what!!

  7. Agteach says:

    I’m amazed that no one seems to hold the PA accountable – no way they will ever change when everyone involved with them is supposed to make all the effort!  

  8. You are right…in a logical sense. If this was a commercial contract, you would be able to put his feet to the fire….In a love relationship the “contract” is different: you expect that love, respect, help and companionship will be interchanged….As this person is incapable of delivering, the battle rages around broken promises and unsatisfied expectations…When you force the PA to recognize his lack of responsibility, and change, there is not a grown up person there able to sustain that compromise…It’s only an scared child who will duck, hide, do empty promises and grow more and more resentful when confronted.
    They have made their life survival strategy from “being there” without connecting with their emotions ( too vulnerable), and scaring them into a relationship is an escalation of the threat which will be answered with more withdrawal and sabotage.

  9. I found this article very, very interesting.  I spent many years trying to figure out what was going on within my marriage and quite by accident I came across an article that described my STBX-husband to a tee: passive-aggressive.  He is a textbook case and has displayed every component of PA behavior at some time.  I did a lot of research and discovered the only work-around to his behavior was for ME to do the changing.  And so I did.  I became very particular about having back-up plans in place and avoided creating situations which he could sabotage by being late or conveniently forgetting about.  I stopped reacting angrily when I found out he had lied about things and acted unconcerned if he withheld information or insisted he had already told me something, etc.  I made his behavior irrelevant.  When the more subtle ways of expressing anger went ignored, he became more overt.  For example, one day both sets of my car keys went missing and later turned up in strange places.  Of course by then I’d wasted time looking for them and been without a car for most of the morning.  When I called him to ask if he knew where they were, I could tell by his response that he did despite his denials.  When I did find them and told him I knew he was responsible he exploded with rage, told me I was losing my mind and must’ve put them in those places myself.  It was sheer lunacy.

    Within months of me changing my behavior to dampen his ability to sabotage, calling him on his behavior and being very firm with boundaries, he upped and left the marriage.  We are now in the process of divorce, dividing up everything we built over 20 years and forcing our three children to split their time between two homes.  My STBX refuses to acknowledge any responsibility for our divorce, claiming I “went crazy and chased him out the house”.  When I stopped being the target for his repressed anger, I was no longer useful and he was gone!

    So, word of warning from someone who has been in the trenches: if you start calling your spouse on their behavior, be prepared for them to walk away without so much as a backward glance.  My STBX is so emotionally shut-down that divorce is nothing more than a great opportunity to play victim.  Though he chose to walk away, signed a lease on another house and moved out, he continues to lament that he has “lost his partner”.   It is a crazy, twisted mode of functioning that I will never understand though I am glad I no longer deal with it.

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