Do you Ignore, Suffer, or Confront Passive Aggressive Behavior?


divorcing a passive aggressive husband

confront passive aggression

What is Best: Ignore, Suffer or Confront Passive Aggressive Behavior?

Here is really the obnoxious situation that spouses complain about: the moment when you realize that your partner is avoiding going along with you using some passive aggressive response. It takes some minutes for you to realize that you are not getting any response, not even a “no,” because he is evading the issue in a very sophisticated way… you are left holding the bag! And you need to stop yourself reacting with anger and frustration, and to be able to think…and do what is best for your peace of mind.

If you find yourself frequently in this nowhere land, confused and frustrated remember the basic ideas:

Part of the work of being in a marriage, is to be able to accept the  aggravation of doing honest emotional confrontation. When people are unhappy with some aspect of the marriage, be it communication or household chores, it behooves to each one to confront the other about the difference and negotiate a better result.

A person in this situation needs to invest some emotional capital, time, patience and other resources to be able to negotiate and get to a shared decision…Implicit here is that you acknowledge that having consensus with your partner is important for both partners’ individual satisfaction.

Well, scratch all that. We are back into childhood territory, where using the passive aggressive shortcut allows him to express some negative feelings doing smart obstruction of your planning.  Throw into the pot the satisfaction that revenge provides, and you can see why passive aggression is his winning choice!

Here we can answer with the first choice: ignore as many of the passive aggressive games as you can. Don’t even mention that you have discovered the name of his game, to start with. As soon as you call him “you are acting in a passive aggressive way,” he will begin harassing you with this term, challenging you to prove it, and making fun of you.

Remind yourself that your passive aggressive partner is doing this for a lot of personal reasons: attention, keeping a sense of being your victim,  revenge (from a real or imagined hurt from you or other person from his past) or just to show that they don’t have to do what you are asking them to do, as to keep alive the little rebel against the world they have inside.

If you don’t react, they don’t get the reward they were seeking and eventually, they will stop the behavior. Remember one of the principles of Whale Done: reward good behavior, ignore bad behavior. So many times it gets easier to slam the door, go to the movies by yourself, go shopping, visit a friend, and leave the battle ground instead of engaging in a lost battle. Besides, you have the opportunity to remember how much fun you can get from normal activities otherwise forgotten in your daily life!

What if the situation is such that you need to confront? If so, you need to control yourself: avoid raising your voice, yelling or crying..Strong emotions are something they can’t manage and in the best case scenario, they will quit the room or worst, they will confront you.

And say little, but whatever you say, it has to be something you can follow through later. Don’t bluff: if you say I will not cook, don’t enter the kitchen! I have too many calls of women in their 50s, telling all the complains about him, but they accept that they continue doing their part of household chores as if they were satisfied with their marriages. Stop sending this contradictory message!

State how the behavior is causing harm, declare that you can’t tolerate the offending behavior and say the consequences that will follow if they don’t quit.

What this post intents is to remind you that you have choices, that some choices are better than others, and that using your choices you can recover your personal power. And, whatever you do, please, tell us below in your comments…I really appreciate your comments here!


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!


  1. beaurosie says:

    All very good advice again from Nora. Sadly I don’t think that these men ever change though. I left mine after 26 years… I feel wasted years… waiting for real show of love and affection that never came. I am now with a lovely man who cuddles and kisses me everyday , cares about me and tells me he cares and shows me he cares and tells me how important I am in his life…. These were all the things that I did not have in my last marriage as I was made to feel useless and a burden even though I gave everything to that man!!

  2. Connie Wetzler says:

    I am happy for you now beaurosie! I spent 20 years not getting what i felt was just common courtesy, respect, encouragement…. a real partner and friend. He was very charming so what I thought was intimacy, was not. Then there’s the flip-side/polarity to the “charm”… not charming.
    I recently divorced. When I think about a wonderful and loving relationship with someone who is accountable for himself I get a gut feeling or a twinge of fear that I may be deceived again. I know all the red flags, very well in fact. It just means it’s going to take some time to heal and let go so I don’t end up attracting that which I am vibrating. I am getting used to being single. I was never single for long in the past so this is new. I had to empower myself to get free from this marriage and now I will not settle for anything less than I deserve. I know what I want and I know what I don’t want. I have no regrets. I am wiser now. I will wait and meanwhile I will enjoy life!
    Stories with happy endings like yours encourage me! Thank you for sharing ;)

  3. Full of Life says:

    After looking back on my marriage of 24 years I blamed our troubles on his drinking. I see clearly he was passive aggressive man all along. I would get so angry and upset like I was raising another child instead of a full grown man. I’m not sad I divorced him but I see saddened in his eyes when I bump into him. He is now remarried an I see why they are going to a marriage counselor. I’m sure he is doing the same to her. It drove me flat crazy the mixed messages an excuses.

  4. Connie Wetzler says:

    Yeah, my ex had been covert/passive-aggressive all along, too. The gaming addiction was just an added conundrum ;) I HOPE he doesn’t marry again! Good grief. How many times can he keep messing with people? None of my business. Not my work…anymore, or rather, never was my work to begin with. My work was seeing who he chose to be and who I chose/choose to be.

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