How attached is your passive-aggressive husband to his mother, and how much she influences him?
We know that our behaviors are formed by how much love or rejection our mothers give us when we are born and later growing up. But can his present relationship with his mother still influence your passive-aggressive husband’s behavior?
The expectations a mother can place on her children in early life can cause deep pain in adulthood if they aren’t met (and usually they aren’t met, because they are too steep in the first place). Because passive-aggressive men have trouble probing their feelings and expressing their resistance to the mother’s expectations, (fearing they would be too strong with her, so they show themselves as emotionally unavailable; fearing that she would not love them anymore), they may attempt to carry on a supposed “healthy relationship" with their mothers without ever talking about the past pain. Thus, they never learn to confront either her expectations or anybody else's!
This can lead to an odd and uncomfortable family dynamic that needs to be addressed. Using a direct approach we can resolve the hidden issues that have been swept under the rug for a long time.
What most often happens is that a passive-aggressive man, trying to respond to a “command” or "expectation" expressed by his mother, will act in ways that push his present wife and family away. He will twist certain things around in an attempt to understand them (the one we’ve heard from a reader is his mother’s insistence on staying “free” in a marriage, something his mother “learned” from being over-dependent on his father, but totally out-of-place and cruel in his present marriage).
When the passive-aggressive man can’t line up his adult life with the strange lessons his mother taught him, he often takes it out on the wife and/or children, who are perceived by him as “holding him back” or being “out to get him.” He is unconscious of the fact that he is still trying to please his mother in the only way that he understands: displacing the dynamics of his own relationship. What he needs is to play “catch up” with his mother so he can resolve the old trap and the primal situation can be cleared.
His weird, sick present dilemma is how to connect with his mother, but also control and eliminate the maternal expectations pressing on his identity. As he can't do any challenge to her wishes or confront her... he is stuck! (And of course, being passive-aggressive, he will blame you, the wife, for trapping him there!). It can take years to accept that he needs to learn how to confront his mother with respect about the past mandate that is bothering him. Once he learns this lesson, there is no more need for his passive aggression! He will know how to confront any other person's demands with fairness and respect. This is another reason that he must be shown that his passive aggression will never give him the love and respect he’s really looking for.
What can you do to help your husband out of this trap?
This is less a question of helping him directly, and more a question of how to show him what a healthy interaction looks like.
Practice constructive conflict with your parents, and your children, and even with him so that within your home there is an environment of no-judgment analysis and exchange of proposals to solve the inevitable life problems. The main difference in the quality of the interaction hinges on the mutual respect people can show for each other, even in the heat of an argument.
Knowing this, there has to be a way to learn how to create a safe environment where both spouses can equally communicate with respect, and this is the area of fair fighting skills. Do you need training in fair fighting techniques to deal with any passive-aggressive partner in your life? You can visit here for a great resource.
These are a set of skills that help partners clarify the situation, allow both sides to recognize their needs, and provide a way to find a solution without violence. Fighting and having a violent discussion with a passive-aggressive partner will not give you the recognition you need now, before the fight. You can stop more attacks, hurts, and puts down, using these fair fighting techniques; and you will teach him how to do safe confrontations he never learned with his mom.
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