Stuck in a Passive Aggressive Marriage?

After doing a lot of online research, and having strong arguments with yourself, you had arrived to some unwanted conclusion, and it’s not pretty. Is it true? do you have to accept that you have a passive aggressive husband? Oh my!

And then, as you become more and more aware of being in a passive aggressive marriage, fast questions pop up in your mind: what can I do now? what is the first thing I need to do? It really can be daunting at first!

Your first job now is to look for and find places where the boundaries are fuzzy and you feel as if you don’t have a clear idea of who you are….Did you keep some diaries from before marriage? Perhaps reading them you’d be surprised to see how many goals and purposes you had for your own life! Look around now and see how many of those goals are part of your life…..it can be pretty discouraging to observe that your present life does not resemble anything you’ve planned for….and instead you are engaged in a daily battle for control.

If the point is that you see that there are some plans to do things with him but almost little accomplished, look back into your previous self, and ask: who is the person I wanted to be before? and: how can I claim some of these goals for me now? Keep those goals at hand, write them in a paper that you can see frequently so you can remind yourself of the person you really are.

If you now are captive trying to make him deliver something that is a necessary step for both of you, be aware of his behavior and don’t allow him to cause you a lot of inconvenience with procrastinating.

When he is causing delays in a situation that requires some action, detach from the feeling of urgency, learn to play dead and use a tranquil tone of voice to ask him upfront: “what would you like to do about this?”

Don’t take over and take responsibility for his lack of action; do your part and be clear that is not your role in marriage to cover for his lack of participation….

As a corollary of disengaging and putting him in control, don’t allow him to make you feel guilty for his inaction!

I’m not sure just how excited you can get about this way of thinking, in my opinion you can interact with him and have some good times, as long as you set some boundaries for yourself and know when to save your emotional energy from engaging in his passive resistance.

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 Neil Warner

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.

Comments

  1. Dave Bennett says:

    Why is it that ALL articles about verbally abusive or passive-aggressive partners are about men? I live with a woman who exhibits this behavior. Long silent treatments or cold shoulders without telling me what’s wrong. She speaks with a forked tongue and a tone that could melt paint. Yet she tells me it’s all my fault. Help!!

  2. Because most of the cases are men…I have lots of women friends and we share and compare our husband´s behaviors and there is only a couple of them who have normal men who know (and want) to communicate with wives. Men in this culture are rewarded and protected by this silence, this withdrawing is legitimate and they don´t see anything bad in restraining their conversation when at home….nobody is going to tell their buddy: why don´t you talk a bit more with your wife? …the strong, silent man is someone they are confy with; there is no way they can change…sudenly, if you leave the silent buddy he recovers his tongue and shares everything negative about wife with everybody! this is a no win situation.

  3. Hi Dave,
    thanks for your question….in our culture, the group that is socialized to “shut up and be strong” is the male group; females are socialized to share and process….of course, there is always the occasional individual that behaves as in the other group´s culture, but they are the minority. Sorry if this leaves you without responses; probably most of the strategies proposed for women counteracting cold shoulders from husbands can be used by you. Have you tried any of the ideas proposed in this blog? If so, we would love to hear from you!

  4. HELP me survive PLEASE!

  5. I have found volumes of information on recognizing and coping with passive aggression. For the most part, we are advised to treat our husbands as if they are rebellious teenagers and monitor their behavior. What kind of a marriage is that? I want a REAL partner for my life.

    Even if I can get some compliance and break some of the control cycles, I am still stuck in a lonely marriage. We all complain about the lack of intimacy, but no one seems to have a solution for that. No real sharing, no sense of connection – i bet most of us have not had sexual desire for our men for years.

    My husband of 20 years was inspired to get counseling for co-dependency as a result of my moving out and discussing divorce. He is making some progress and is desperate to save the marriage. I am finding it extremely difficult to trust him. He has said so many times that thing are going to change, even though he did not really agree that there was a problem. It is me who is always dissatisfied.

    I can’t find any testimony from husbands or wives who have overcome this PA thing. I keep reading that the behavior is extremely resistant. Anyone have any success stories to share?

  6. More about the sex thing. i read that PA men often withhold sex as punishment, but I don’t hear other women addressing the other side of that coin. What about the PA man who behaves as if sex is all about him getting his physical needs met. He simply “can’t remember” that his partner has needs and that they are different than his.

    I can totally spill my guts about how used I feel and how humiliating it is to have to keep reminding him that there is an emotional side to sex. His extreme fear of any real intimacy keeps him focused only on the physical as it related to him.

    I fear that this is something that is never going to change. It seems that he simply does not want to make love or be a good lover. He says he does, but according to his actions, It doesn’t even register. He was very satisfied with the relationship in the early days, when I was bent on being the perfect wife. He got all he wanted and never thought of giving anything back. Still likes to reminisce about that era and pretend that we were both happy.

    I understand that I played into it and set myself up for a world of disappointment. Always thinking if I was just good enough and modeled the kind of love that I wanted – he would actually notice me. Believing that he just needed some time to grow and he would eventually SEE me as an individual and want to have a meaningful, reciprocal relationship.

    I have come to realize that if a person does not have that kind of desire in the core of their being – you can’t make it happen. Why doesn’t anyone else talk about this part of the drama? Am I the only one, or is it just too painful to own this emptiness?

  7. absolutely Linda, for my OH sex is only about him reaching satisfaction. Have you heard the Lily Allen song “it’s not fair”, when I told him that’s how he is, he seemed flabbergasted, he truly believes he is a great lover. I’ve stopped having sex with him now, but he still thinks its OK to force me, if he has the urge!

  8. I was in this lonely, empty relationship for 17 years, always waiting for him to recognize the sensitive, loving person at his side…up to the moment when somebody else really listened to me. I was blown away by the intensity of my yearning for companionship, and then and there realized how lonely I was with my husband…and that was impossible to explain to him.
    When I disclosed my affair to him, and tried to explain why it did happen, all what I got were accusations of infidelity and blame for “destroying the marriage.”
    We went for therapy, and the talk focused on how he could rebuild his trust on me…I was never allowed to include the satisfaction of my deeper needs in the plan! Even if I am faithful to him for the rest of our lives, where is the companionship that I need? where is the emotional support? isn’t it legit that I ask for my own needs, or am I in this world only to help him overcome his passive aggression and learn to be an almost decent husband?
    I refused to continue going to therapy, and knew that the decision was on me: if I decided to numb myself and repress my soul needs, I could stay married into this empty relationship, keep the marriage structure and make him feel in control of the situation. The price of this deal was too high!
    What I most resent is that the counselor never included my own feelings into the plan; I was only seen as the helping partner who re-trains him into marriage talk.
    Without even going to therapy, there is nothing to push for change, so things are business as usual:
    more and more, my loneliness grows and my resentment takes front place.
    Thanks for allowing me to express myself….do you have any way out of this miserable situation?

  9. Beth, I keep hearing from wives that the best way out is to just cut and run. Several counselors have told me that there can be some improvement, if the man is willing to recognize the patterns and work very hard at changing them. These are long established coping methods and that makes it difficult. The problem is their abject fear of intimacy, they never even wanted what we have been striving for.

    My husband is getting help and making progress, but much of the problem now lies in me. There is this cold spot that just won’t open for him anymore. I just don’t trust him. Maybe there comes a point where too much water has passed under the bridge. Why would you go back to your husband when you had the opportunity to move on and be happy?

  10. My heart goes out to everyone of you ladies w/you PA husbands. After 32 yrs. of trying to show the world we had a good marriage……I told him I wanted a divorce. Actually, I had left him the lst yr. we were married, came back; filed for divorce 2 yrs. later went back after 1.5 yrs. after his promises of change. Nothing ever got better. We had a daughter after 10 yrs. of marriage; I decided to stay because I didn’t want her to grow up w/out a father. On the eve of her graduation this spring from the Naval Academy, I told him I was finished w/his selfishness, anger etc. etc. We have been seperated 6 mo. now & he is trying to do everything he can to destroy our life savings. Because we live in a community property state, it’s legal to do! I can’t stand this man & am happy to be getting him out of my life. He has dragged our 23 yr. old daughter into it although she saw the physical abuse. He wasn’t always this way, but got worse & worse. He never got it; wouldn’t talk w/me or go to counseling….always saying “I’ve done nothing wrong”. Apparently, choking your wife, shoving & verbal assaults are part of marriage. Not for me; I’m getting out. I loved being marriage, but I realized this was not a marriage to be happy in. I was the only one who always did everthing; or nothing happened. Sex, forget it. He cut that out as soon as we were married although I was a virgin until a year before we were married; we dated 3 years. I was 22 yrs. old; too naive to know what I was getting into. He spent half of our life not talking to me for what I’ll never know. I now realize he is damaged from childhood; he needs to get fixed…..NOt me

  11. Oh my goodness – I just found this site with all your stories of living with a PA husband. I had no idea what Passive aggressive was until after I left, but hearing your stories and how much they HIT HOME makes me want to share my ending.

    Linda – my experinece with sex was exactly the same as you described. And because it was all about him, my desire dried up and blew away. Just to keep him happy, I finally scheduled sex so I could be ‘prepared’. He believed I was just not interested in sex.

    The most difficult part for me was always feeling like I was a bad person. He never approved of anything I did, said, how I handled situations, my expectations of the children, how I interacted with others. I always seemed to embarrass him.

    The damage to my self esteem and self confidence was HUGE. I actually turned into a pretty lousy mother for a while because he spent 17 yrs telling me how lousy I was.

    Unfortunately the kids all picked up on his lack of approval for me and believed that I was just being a controlling mom (when I wanted them to do stuff or behave, etc). It almost destroyed my relationship with my children.

    Unfortunately my oldest son still believes the things his Dad said, so has cut me out of his life (for now – I’m still hopeful :)).

    Linda and Beth – I totally agree with Debbie. They need fixing and you can’t do it.

    Happy ending: I left (yup 3 kids still at home) and since found the MOST wonderful man that not only loves me deeply, but thinks I am AMAZING! After a couple of years builing my self esteem back to somewhat normal, I was able to start a business to help other women. Before, I did not beleive I was capable of looking after my own family, let alone help other others. Now I LOVE life, have a very supportive partner and the kids like him as well!

    Sex? It’s just like in the novels baby – hot and steamy!

    GET OUT!!! Before you have no self esteem or self confidence left to find someone whom you can have a meaningful relationship with or at least some really good sex!!

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