Tips to Manage difficult passive aggressive husband’s behaviors

Amy Sutherland, an exotic animal trainer is offering her suggestions training wild  animals in captivity,  as transferable to manage your passive aggressive husband behavior.

Whale Done

What a whale trainer knows about passive aggressive behavior

Even when this suggestion can appear as preposterous, there is much wisdom in this approach. If you are really at your wit’s end, why not to try this?

The first step is to detach:

You need to teach yourself to be detached,  able to see any behavior from your husband in an impersonal way, and to stop taking his faults personally,  (like avoid seeing his  dirty clothes on the floor as a personal affront, or a symbol of how he doesn’t care enough about you, or this image having an impact on your self-esteem, as a good wife.)

The second is you should reward behavior you like and completely ignore behavior you don’t:

This means not only stop nagging, but learn to block from your perception the behavior you don’t want.  You become more and more “blind” to that behavior…..and only see what you can appreciate.

If he is doing his usual passive aggressive routine, being silent and leaving you in a vacuum, don’t escalate into a full-blown discussion. Don’t ask for a solution, don’t repeat your question, and don’t issue a deadline. Just go about your life, undisturbed.

In Amy’s words, “When a dolphin does something wrong, the trainer doesn’t respond in any way. He stands still for a few beats, careful not to look at the dolphin, and then returns to work. The idea is that any response, positive or negative, fuels a behavior. If a behavior provokes no response, it typically dies away.”

In the next opportunity your husband is raising his voice, trashing things around and looking upset, you can try to say nothing, avoid eye contact, and keep doing what you are doing.

It can take a lot of discipline to maintain your calm, but it helps to think that his mood is probably not related to you. There are several sources of his discomfort, and usually you are not his problem….and if he insists on telling you that you are the problem, is because he is nervous. If you don’t escalate the fight, and try to stay out of his way, he will calm down.

This strategy is paired with constant recognition. Whatever positive action, even if it is bringing the groceries from the car to the kitchen, needs thanks from you.  If he is doing more, like doing grocery shopping alone, you can even give him a kiss.

All this strategy applies also the concept that whatever you focus on, it tends to take center stage: if you focus on a negative trait of your partner, like his tendency to be late for appointments and dates, then this trait will become prevalent and it will negate the perception of other positive traits that attracted you to him before.

Of course, it’s difficult to find aspects to praise when you are upset and disappointed with your partner, but this can be a new way to frame the relationship and take you out of a disappointing rut.

Here are some extra ideas that you can consider:

  1. Every time you need to ask him about some changes needed, begin recollecting the good things done;
  2. Try to find a positive thing to comment on daily;
  3. Don’t you dare to mention his negative aspects without talking about how good the positive ones are, first.
  4. If the results are awful, you can always praise his good intention;
  5. Be very creative and find unexpected aspects to praise: a busy person that accomplishes everything could be praised for her constant smile, or his good disposition even along the busiest day;
  6. Don’t be mean, don’t link praise with immediate critique: “you did well, but forgot this part.” In this case, the “but” will cancel the praise.

Apply this techniques for a while and you will see a change in the quality of your relationship, having more trust, and pleasure in the mutual company.

Surviving a Passive Aggressive Marriage!
Surviving a passive aggressive marriage book image

PassiveAggressiveHusband.com
photo by: Minette Layne
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!

  • http://www.marte-cliff.com Marte

    This is very interesting – for humans and for animals.

    I think I’ll try it on my dog and see if it will cause him to stop barking when he wants attention.

    (I also have a person or two in mind.)

  • Elizabeth Gustafson

    I am currently involved in a 2 1/2 year divorce with a PA husband. He is clearly on the seek and destroy mission as he is financially ruining me and his children. Any advice on how to end this catastrophe? Any approach I have taken ends up in the same PA way.

  • http://padontstandforpaloalto.wordpress.com/ Ladybeams

    I too find that detaching is a huge first step if one can do it. It’s the best way to protect one’s self.

  • Pingback: Training a Passive Aggressive Like An Animal « P.A. Don't Stand For Palo Alto

  • Carol Reingold

    Yes, detachment is a great first step, but treating your husband as though he is a child or animal to be trained is a rather sad state of affairs and reminds me of some of the worst advice by John Grey in Mars/Venus- in order to “get” your husband to help you around the house etc., praise him to the ends of the earth when he does the littlest things and just accept it if he says no. Marriage should be a negotiation between equals, if we “train” our husbands/wifes we are being as manipulative as they. We should keep asking nicely for what we want, decide what we can’t and can live with and set our limits. The spouse can either grow up or not.

  • Nora Femenia

    Many thanks for your comments, I see that this suggestion has touched a nerve…We all have strong images of what a good, healthy marriage should be, and here the conversation deals with a very dysfunctional image of marriage. It’s not my words, but most of the comments are by one side of the couple looking at the lack of mature companionship coming from the other….
    So, we deal with an extreme situation. And this solution has been offered as an extreme suggestion that offers you, the victim, a way to behave. Not only “suffer in silence,” but recover part of your own power in marriage!
    I find this proposition exciting, looking at the dearth of other solutions which can affect behavior.
    We don’t have a lot, it’s only: “Leave now, or be unhappy forever”!
    Well, let’s talk a bit more about this proposal. I remind all of you that it has two parts:
    a) ignore obnoxious behavior and don’t dignify it with being upset, nagging or commenting how inappropriate it is;
    b) praise, and more praise….This is the part I don’t hear comments talk about: what are the results if you commit to an strategy of honestly praising what can be praised?
    Look backwards and see the history of your relationship, and find at least five areas where you feel that he did a good job….
    Now, look at the present and see whatever he is still doing that benefits or helps you: is he still supporting the household? taking care of mowing the grass?
    Perhaps the next person commenting can tell us about the two sides of this strategy, and the results.
    We all, regardless of how heartless we can become, need some appreciation. Praise whatever is there to be praised, and see if there is any changes in his behavior….
    Thanks for reading!

  • http://ManagedifficultHusband'sbehaviors Debbie

    Well, this pretty much describes the way I managed my last 12 yrs. of marriage out of 32 yrs. “Extremely Sad” is the only word I can conjure up to describe the advice. If you are in one of these PA marriages, eventually you will get to this point if you are still trying to save your marriage. Unfortunately when you have to ignore bad behavior it eventually breeds resentment. Why?! because “bad behavior” is What It Is…….aggravating, immature, etc. etc. …..destructive. For me this “step” of detachment a/k/a separation helped me to realize the next step.

  • jrnuerge

    When my PA husband starts skulking around and gives me the cold shoulder I take it as a present because I then have a whole day (or two) without interruptions and can get so many things accomplished!
    JR Nuerge

  • debinak

    When I have done this tension builds and he seems to create a situation or take an offense and blow it up in order to rattle me. That's how it feels.

  • jrnuerge

    His goal is to rattle you and therefore have control. It is hard to do but you must, in your mind, pretend that you are not rattled and that everything is fine. Do not play into the game.

  • Wanda

    I have lived with a PA husband for almost 60 years and I think I have coped well with having my own interests etc and bringing up our children alone. Now in my later years, I am having a harder time coping and it seems to be too much stress. He needs me for physical help more now so I can't busy myself with my hobbies. What does an elderly woman do ? Can one be too understanding ? That is what works for me, but have been told that I spoil him etc. Still learning …

  • Nora Femenia

    Dear Wanda,
    at this time in life, perhaps you are looking at certain areas of your life full of “unfinished business.” What are the dreams you need yet to fulfill?
    Even when situations are pressing, if you are clear about putting yourself first, you can accomplish more than you thought. What kind of help can you gather around you, so there is time/energy resources for you? Even the freedom of taking a walk to enjoy the weather can be a relief. Make a list of activities you can do; even indoors (like reading of using your computer) and print a copy, so you can paste that copy to the wall and each day you think: what of that list can be done today?
    Don;t be “too understanding” of others if you can't be “too self-supporting” in your needs and wishes, will you?

  • Wanda

    I am dreaming of doing more with my life, this is true. I have done a lot in the past, but I still want to do more. Right now, I have my plate full with cooking,, cleaning, sewing , PC , and many other hobbies. What to do for an outlet is not the problem. I used to ignore my husband with his pouting etc, but now he is ailing and needs me to watch him, I have to hurry when cleaning the garage or the yard as I don't know if he is OK in the house. Oh..I love my life. I create fun. I wish you could see how much I love life. It is just that I can't seem to just ignore him and not care. I feel every pain that he has..,although he has no physical pain. He knows that and magnifies a lot of it, but I can't be sure. I know he is using me, but what can I do.? He can lie about our finances as he has done them . He had a desk job for work and had the time to do it and I figured that with me doing everything else, it would be good for us if he did that. I still think he should, but he now just wants to do nothing but sit around and do what he likes to do. I can't walk as I have health issues that make it very hard to do physical . I am in very hard pain with my body. The drs tell me that I am not taking care of my health, but I just think I will be OK and try to take care. My spirit is good, but I'm frustrated and worried about taking care of us financially and physically. We have no one. We have a son that wanted us here fourteen years ago, After we built the house down the road, they look for reasons to be on the outs with us and not speak. It is off and on and we just let it go however they want it. Now I have to live with taking the blame for letting my husband have the control of the finances. I have a budget made up, but he deceives, lies and withholds info so I just can't manage. I have tried for many years to do this with him, and he just says,” you want to to it, go ahead, but he shows that he won't give me what i need to go on. So I can look on the PC and see, but some things are not there etc. I would not work , sewing and all to save, and not want to know what I have worked for. I could only have what he says I can have. Look at in stores what he is interested in. Now I have told you his PA stuff, but he has a lot of good in him. Wish I did not see that, but I do. I know what caused this PA behavior. I think if I had his upbringing, I would be the same. I want to help our situation in life, and that is what you sense in my writing, I guess. We all need understanding and love. I was lucky to have lived my early years in great stress, and found people that showed me compassion.in my later years, though. I have some good stories to tell about all this. When I talk with people about these experiences, they listen and hate to leave. I want to write a book about all that I have done and learned from doing. No…I do not feel any guilt about how I have lived . Yes ..I want to keep going, but the spirit is willing and the body and mind getting tired. If I could just get the truth out about all this, it would be a blessing. One thing I know is that all this stuff , no matter how awful it seems, is a lesson that we can use to help another. This PA disorder is a bugger and I will use whatever I can to help step on it. Thank you again. Wanda

    .

  • wanda

    I haven't heard anything about dicipline. Someone with more intellect than me might know if that might be what causes problems for people. I think that is why I took courses and worked with showing dogs etc. If you don't get proper upbringing then you have to give it to yourself ? Just keeping busy doiing and enjoying the process of living with whatever is in my hands, makes for pleasure although it isn't without a lot of pain, physical and mental.

  • lostlove

    How can you say you enjoy the time. I am so tired of being alone in a marriage of 25 years. It has taken me this long to fully understand the man I married. How could I have been so Naive? Marriage counseling five times only to have him quit everytime because there was nothing wrong with him.

    I am waiting for my son to graduate and I am on the road out of here, He will not work at this and I need some love and peace in my life. I wish you the best.

  • tina

    I am going through the same thing. They make us feel crazy and that we're the problem. Boy was he shocked when he got the divorce papers. Know he suddenly is doing everything he was supposed to do all these years. To me, it's too late. I feel more empowered now that I don't have to put up with his sulking, forgetfuless, silent treatment etc. I know that you feel naive. I do too. Now I realize that my husband has only taken advantage of my good nature and my positive attitude. He almost stripped that away from me. Hang in there. You can't follow your dreams if you're living in your fear. Wishing you a refreshing new start. Take care.

  • http://twitter.com/peacewonk peacewonk

    Many thanks Tina for your comment…it is very powerful! you have discovered your own power. Let him reflect on what is necessary for us to pay attention to them! meanwhile, life continues and there are so many interesting things to enjoy!

  • tina

    I am going through the same thing. They make us feel crazy and that we're the problem. Boy was he shocked when he got the divorce papers. Know he suddenly is doing everything he was supposed to do all these years. To me, it's too late. I feel more empowered now that I don't have to put up with his sulking, forgetfuless, silent treatment etc. I know that you feel naive. I do too. Now I realize that my husband has only taken advantage of my good nature and my positive attitude. He almost stripped that away from me. Hang in there. You can't follow your dreams if you're living in your fear. Wishing you a refreshing new start. Take care.

  • http://twitter.com/peacewonk peacewonk

    Many thanks Tina for your comment…it is very powerful! you have discovered your own power. Let him reflect on what is necessary for us to pay attention to them! meanwhile, life continues and there are so many interesting things to enjoy!

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