In a relationship, because we see our partner as someone we “choose,” we expect them to give us all the attention we crave. This is contrasted to relatives who are given to us, not chosen, and who don’t always give us the support we need.
All humans are self-esteem machines - like expensive cars, we run best on steady doses of high-grade appreciation. That is the only way we can develop our true capabilities. What is more surprising in passive aggressive behaviors is that they produce unexpected effects: they dry the provision of appreciation to the other, yet still expect it in return. Husbands, is this you? Are you expecting your wife to give you the support you need, without giving her the sustenance she needs to survive and feel happy?
In a passive aggressive relationship, nothing is provided for the other person to feel valued, appreciated or even seen. This is the most maddening of the consequences of PA behavior. Even when the passive aggressive is doing this because of his defense mechanisms (doesn’t want to connect for fear of rejection; because imagines he will be rejected), he ends being the main source of rejection for his spouse. It’s as if his brain is saying, “It’s okay to do it to you, if that’s what it takes so that you don’t do it to me”!
Husbands, in order for this appreciation business to work, you need to go beyond only thinking and move on to doing something.
- You need to say the words: “I like it very much when you wear this dress, because...”
- You need to express your gratitude: “When you are there to keep the house running even when I can’t help you, I feel so supported and grateful...”
- You need to do things for the other: “Let me do this heavy task for you...”;
“I just put gas in your car, so you don’t have to wake up earlier tomorrow”;
“All the bills have been paid, so one thing less to worry about for you...”
So here is the formula, in case you are inclined to try the easy way to stopping your passive aggressive resistance.
Find something positive in the other person, and find a word to describe it:
- When you ______ (take the dog out, are beside me at my dad’s funeral, took care of driving when I was sick)
- I feel ________ (grateful, supported, relieved)
- Because _________ (having you in my life makes it so much better).
Once you find the formula, you always have choices about how to do it in a way that you’re comfortable with:
- You can say that in person;
- You can write a short phone message;
- You can tell her that in a phone conversation