Most frequently, I receive letters from women readers asking the most urgent question, that shapes the relationship's future: Can a passive-aggressive person change his heart?
It is really painful not to have ready a fast, reassuring answer, like: "Yes, he can change his heart, and this is the way to get there...." In all honesty, there is not such an answer.
Let me recover the basic facts of the passive-aggressive defense in life:
We have a person who survived a rough childhood, lacking the basic healthy connection with a caretaker as to develop a basic trust in other human beings. (Just ask about how his family treated him while growing up). People which grew up in an environment producing insecure or avoidant attachment styles never trust other people, so intimacy becomes a chore they try to avoid....even when there is no conflict.
The closer you get to him, the more he feels vulnerable and afraid of being seduced into a bonding experience that, according to his previous experience, only can end up with him being rejected or dropped afterward. Feelings of neglect and abandonment are the two biggest concerns of people with Avoidant or insecure attachment. And what happens when they are inundated by those feelings? they can escape, into being in protective silence for weeks, or fight, creating weird reasons to fight with you, never declaring the real reason behind the fight...
Perhaps getting to know the triggers of those feelings can help you understand the scary world where the Passive Aggressive person lives:
- If you need to stay late for work;
- Or need to change or cancel plans suddenly;
- Or you are spending a lot of time with other people, perhaps friends or relatives. Greeting others when you get back home, before greeting him;
- Even being with your own children can be interpreted as abandonment!
- Doing chores at the home without connecting verbally to him...
Why do I need to share all this information with you? because a change of heart assumes exactly the opposite attitude: being ready to appreciate your love for the children; respecting your work demands, etc...are the indicators of a healthy approach to the relationship. If you find yourself confused, please, think that to change his heart he needs to do battle with his old feelings of impending abandonment...and convince himself that you are constantly near him.
Perhaps all you can see is his fast and angry response to hidden feelings of abandonment...or the stony silence that hides the deep fear that you will reject him. Trust me, the old anxious attachment is below, prompting in him all kinds of negative feelings that are always flooding his perception of the situation.
In short, if there is a lesson in this piece of information, is perhaps that to get a change of heart (from fear of abandonment to feeling secure in this relationship) you play a huge part. How so? by providing constantly the information about you being there for the long haul; telling him about impending change with a bit of time, so he can see that there is no abandonment, and in general, managing his environment as to send the message that this relationship is different and better than what he had growing up.
Perhaps this is not exactly the answer my readers wanted...a magical solution that makes him change without involving yourself in the process? well, that is magic! and here magic consists only in knowing his behavioral deep reasons, not getting angry at him, but understanding the roots in his old pain, and providing different stimulation for promoting his changes.