Understanding passive aggression is not as hard as it seems. Many experts will try to explain passive aggression in official definitions like this:
“Passive-aggression is a personality trait that is marked by a persistent negativity and passive resistance to responsibilities and cooperation.”
However, we'd like to offer a better, more simple explanation that works to not only help you understand what's going on during a fight, but also what is going on in the passive aggressive man's mind.
|What she sees||What he sees|
|He is not including me in the decisions of the relationship.||I'm weighing options and making the best decisions.|
|He refuses to contribute to projects.||There are many good reasons for not joining in – others are expecting too much of me, are not smart enough, are not fair enough.|
|He is late for things important to me; just as I ask his help for a project, he will promise support and then sabotage my project||She’s too demanding, too controlling with my time – she needs to be more flexible. I have other commitments. (“I’ll show her who is in control”)|
|He breaks his promises: says he will do something and then nothing happens, no communication about when task will get done, nothing…and when I ask questions about the project, he explodes!||I’ll do it when I have time. She’s asking too much from me, to have it done now.|
|I have to pull things out of him.||She’s invading my privacy; she’ll use what I say against me later or take it the wrong way.|
What we see is that within the relationship, the wife and the husband each have different perceptions of their roles (the man feels he's doing his duty by making the decisions, and the woman feels she's not getting a say). In a healthy marriage, the two people can eventually calm down from a conflict, confront each other in a respectful way, and find out who did what that hurt the other. This creates gradual growth and mutual learning.
When the husband is passive aggressive, however, there is no learning or growth. A confrontation that goes like, “Well, do you see why I’m angry?” will end like, “Why are you accusing me? I’m not doing anything wrong, this is all because you don’t love me.” His sudden desire to get away usually leads to silent treatment and emotional withdrawal.
The cycle continues, and what we have are a husband and wife with two very different ideas about what a marriage is!
It's useless to try to convince him to try to communicate better, in this case. You need strategies to address this person, and make this person focus. A third party always works best for getting these strategies started, until eventually the two of you learn how to do it on your own.
Ready to get started? Click HERE to visit Conflict Coach and receive your free coaching session! Don't let the cycle continue... break through to him and get your marriage back!