Living with a passive aggressive man is very frustrating because he doesn’t follow through on his agreements and promises. He takes on projects but doesn’t finish them, then tends to feel put upon or hostile if someone else tries to finish them. His wife perceives that he ignores his responsibilities and agreements on purpose, and this only augments her frustration.
Does he ever see her mounting frustration? Of course, not. Even when she presents her evidence, he twists and changes it in order to support his own logic. What is the purpose of this warped communication, apparently designed to frustrate his spouse’s needs and expectations?
Human needs, specially the need for love and connection are what motivate people to get together and bond with each other in relationships. When it works, it confirms self esteem and identity, and we are very happy for it. How come he thinks he can get satisfaction to his search for love and connection by engaging in behaviors the other person considers hostile? The reason is this: neither can focus on his/her own needs for love and connection because they are carrying from the past their own relationship patterns, learned while attached to their mothers….He can’t connect with her feelings, because
He needs first to feel in control of the relationship!
In his childhood, he developed a toxic image of what a relationship should be and now he is trying to duplicate that kind of relationship model, this time with another grown up, with himself playing the controlling and domineering role. He then frustrates her a little bit every day, building up in her a pattern of irritation so high that she expresses the anger that he has been repressing all his life. She can’t connect with her own need for love because
She needs first to feel needed!
Perhaps she grew up in a home where she was relegated and not appreciated…always in a little corner. When she wanted to be seen, someone stole the focus off her. She has been dreaming of finding someone who would change under the shower of love she can send him and recognize her for how wonderful she is.
It is a warped relationship with simultaneous attraction and rejection between both partners. The more he feels threatened and insecure and withdraws, the more she pushes or clings to him. When she feels rejected, she pulls away and only then does he show her love and she becomes angry. When she gets angry, then he withdraws even more and the unresolved conflict magnifies. It’s a seesaw of failed search for connection and withdrawal, when one searches for connection, the other withdraws.
Why does she need to be needed by somebody who can frustrate her? She keeps dreaming that with enough love and patience he will change and be loving to her. Even when he sets up experiences to get her to reject or deprive him (so then he can blame her for his dissatisfaction), she prefers to play along. Her choice is to keep waiting on him. The alternative is to be lonely again, and that is something she rejects; she is not able yet to be happy with her own company. To stop her fear of being alone, she needs to accept and love herself. Accepting his behavior and her unwillingness to leave can take her from feeling lonely and depressed in this marriage, to angry at him.
Why Is This Seesaw Between Anger And Depression Functional To Her? For how long does she need him as a frustration provider? How prone is she to repeat the patterns of her childhood, and invite others to reject her? Is permanent frustration of her emotional needs her childhood script, causing her to need someone like her husband to frustrate her here and now?
In repetitive scenes from this script, you can see her self-esteem reduced to zero as her frustration and anger turn to insecurity and rage when she feels again unable to attract a direct commitment from a loving man. However, things can change for her and be different from her childhood experiences. Raising her self-esteem would stop this cycle and make her less needy and more worthy of respect and appreciation by any partner.
Now, how can she give up the old script, recover herself and be happier by finding nurturing of her own needs? Perhaps getting a respite, taking a step back and reevaluating the interaction pattern both are so used to….what else can you say or do differently? In what ways can you talk so as to be listened, really listened to? Perhaps having a conflict coach would help?