When I become more independent, he tends to control me more…
There is a complementary dynamics between the two parts of a passive aggressive marriage. This posting in a popular forum expresses it very clearly:
“I went back to live with him, canceling my divorce, because I’m scared of what he will throw at me if I push it………..and because after 18 years, I can’t bear to see his pain. I want out, but don’t have the strength to do it.
I won’t spend more time trying to ‘fix’ him. I no longer have the emotional capacity to allow myself to put that kind of trust into our marriage, and evidence shows that he won’t change anyway.
I no longer wish to have a future with this man. The more independent I become, the more threatening and controlling he gets. It’s become intolerable, yet it’s so subtle, that he can make everything sound so reasonable from his point of view. I end up doubting my perceptions all the time.
He has never hit me, although sometimes I wish he would. I’d have something to pin on him then, and would be able to justify my leaving.”
It has to do with the escalating quality of his subtle and not so subtle responses to the growing wife’s independence. As long as she stays beside him, sharing his stunted view of the world and their lives in it, it can be called “abuse as usual.” It gets really scary, and reveals the depth of his need of her, when she decides to separate mentally of his world. She begins to act as if she is so depressed or apathetic as not to fear, wait or dream anything, so her emotional reaction goes down to zero. If there is no way his behavior can manipulate her, then he fears the loss of his leverage on her. And after that, if she is not responsive to his abuse, and fearful of him, then how can he control her? The only response left is, sadly, to put more fear and pressure on her, becoming more subtly controlling and domineering.
Is this kind of relationship, so full of pain, worthwhile? Perhaps this is not the right answer; it is the only relationship possible for the person who is hiding behind a passive aggressive defense. He wants to be in company and be loved, while not showing any emotional side of his. This is the beginning of this deal, where a person needing love and support can find herself in an emotional desert for many years.
There is always this defining moment, for the woman ready to leave, where she is forced to face even more fear and resistance, only to be able to be free of him. Only if she gathers her courage and is ready for the backlash, and prepared to face it, can she change her life for good.