How Attached is Your Passive Aggressive Husband to His Mom?

"text-align: justify;">passive aggressive husband

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 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 violent with her, so they repress all anger feelings; or 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. That way, we can resolve the hidden issues that have been swept under the rug.

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 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 avoid and deny his own need to eliminate the maternal expectations from his identity. As he can't do any challenge or confronting 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. Of course, when he learns this lesson, there is no more need for his passive aggression! He will know how to confront another person's demands with fairness and respect. This is another reason that he must be shown that his passive aggression doesn’t get 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 strong discussion with a passive-aggressive partner will not give you the recognition you need in the first moment, before the fight. You can stop being more attacked, hurt, and put down, using these fair fighting techniques; and you will teach him how to do safe confrontations he never learned with his mom.

Dr. Nora

Dr. Nora

Dr. Nora is a well-known coach, conflict solver and trainer, and CEO of Creative Conflict Resolutions, Inc. Sign up for free, here on her blog, to be connected to her innovative conflict solutions, positive suggestions, and life-changing coaching sessions, along with blog updates, news, and more! We can begin by having a complimentary consultation with Dr. Nora. Visit Dr. Nora at this link today to talk with Dr. Nora and receive a plan for action to change your life. She's ready to help!
About Nora Femenia

Sign up for your Free Coaching session with Coach Nora, where she will help you understand your specific situation and what would help you most.
Please, click here to schedule your no charge session


  1. Parents sure can mess kids up.  Then they have kids.  Sigh.

  2. “Expectations” is a 4 letter word to my husband or whatever I call him after being separated for 3 years(lol)!! His mother overwhelmed in that area growing up as his father was ineffectual….always on the couch according to her….so I believe she turned to him to act in the role of quasi-husband/father…..he basically had too much placed on him…..not understanding what a healthy family looked at he began to push against what that required….he didn’t want to grow in the role of husband/father although he told me I showed him what a real family looked like but I also realize within that statement what he was saying was “but I can’t handle the expectations”….he wanted to be free….he wanted to stay 5 years old…..looking back I heard him talking to his mother via me….moments in therapy when he would say “that’s right wag your finger at me….I’ve been a bad bad boy”….can’t be much clearer than that eh!  And statements like “I don’t want to feel I have to be a better husband/father”…..also “is someone going to spank me if I do this”….that my daughter and I would shut him out……so it told me a lot….that she had wagged her finger at him telling him he was a bad boy and also spanked him….once he lightly spanked our daughter when she was little when it was hard to toilet train her….he then felt terrible about it and had a chat with her….and he never did that again and now I understand that as it happened to him so often……so when he hears the control button go off in me or another woman the face of his mother passes over….essentially transferrence…..his brother was always seen as the good one apparently so when my husband began sending his mother flowers for different occasions and she responded he would say “now I”m the chosen one”… can hear the 5 year old talking although at the time all of this flew over my head….since we have been separated he has seen his mother often…he’s even the executor of her will….he says he has a good relationship with her but as the article says he has never brought up the past with her although he told me he didn’t have two loving parents….that I was an amazing mother….and an acquaintance said that years ago he told her that he wished I had been his mother….doesn’t this say so much eh…..and then at after I told him to leave and he came by one day and we can began to argue he got up and said “I just want to get away from you”….of course it’s not “me”….it’s his mother who put that charge there….the inability to handle “emotional intimacy” on any level…..

    So as the women married to these men when we place any “normal” expectation on them they resist and avoid it and as my husband would do pick up his golf clubs and head out of the house….often I would follow and say “that’s right….run away….do you think those golf guys will be there for you the day you have a heart attack”…..emotional intimacy they didn’t learn via their mother except that it was something to be avoided….and they learned it by observing their dads who taught them to avoid it via their passive aggressive behaviour.  Early on he said there was so much yelling with his parents that if he’d had a gun he would have killed himself…..then when he couldn’t take being married anymore he said “I’ll put a bullet through my brain…I”ll have an affair”….it was always about threatening some action……and of course even though I knew none of that made sense I didn’t understand all of this “pa” stuff back then….he felt that our marriage had run its’ course although now I realize marriages don’t run courses but people do when they run out of tools on how to deal with this behaviour….we as women will learn but sadly they aren’t up for that as they would have to feel too much pain to do that….spend too much time in therapy processing this and in his case thinking the crying would never stop as that is what he did a lot of in therapy.

    I can’t believe how much he tries to please her but I now understand that it’s “Her” love that he has needed all these years….not mine….I can’t fill the hole she created….her comment as a mother would be “I did the best I could”….so she taught not taking responsibility for herself…she didn’t learn to give or to love or to ever say I’m sorry”….and so he isn’t capable of it either….not beyond the superficial… “direct controlling” nature that he saw me triggered him to his past although he doens’t make that connection yet because he doesn’t want to hear it, see it, learn about it….nothing….because to see it all would mean he would have to change and to face that stark reality that if he went to her about all of this she could well deny it and tell him it wasn’t that way at all….so he is rejected again….so instead he rejects me….as the little 5 year won’t reject her….they won’t go against the edicts of the parent….and now she has lung cancer….so when she passes away it could likely be he will shut down and bury it as he does everything else….

    For these type of men the only love they no doubt were going to get growing up was from the mother….and yet these mothers intruded on their son’s lives to get their needs met as the husbands weren’t meeting theirs….so they never had their own space….so when they marry they suddenly feel the lack of space….the expectations arising… suddenly they begin to look at all that is wrong with you…not themselves……as I told my husband “you will never go against your mother”….despite all she has done she is still his mother….he now spends Christmas day with her…..gad imagine how that has made me feel….the woman he doens’t realize he is trying to free himself from….it’s her emotional charge that he is carrying around inside him, not me….I didn’t raise him…she did……

    I totally agree with the above article when it stated until they deal with their mothers and what went on in the past they will hold onto their defensive behaviours and continue to act it out on other unsuspecting women unless they are benign, laid back and non-interferring…..all the traits that didn’t live in their mother.  But it’s a scary step to let go of one’s defenses when they have served you well your entire life….or you at least believe they have served you well….and as women we have our own controlling defenses and no how hard they are to give up as well….so that can open up some compassion but still lunless they do what the article above says then they stay trapped emotionally as a 5 year old.

Speak Your Mind