You have seen it all: The cold shoulder. The hidden anger and sly sabotage. The denial, the guilt-trips, the loneliness and fear of your own loved one.
Why does a passive aggressive husband behave the way that he does? What brings him to cause you and your family pain, yet still claim he loves you?
Even when there is proof that says otherwise, we tend to assume that people who hurt us do it on purpose. This is especially true in a passive aggressive relationship, where it can be hard to listen to the experts who say “Don’t take it personally.” However, research into the ties between childhood and adulthood are helping us understand the complex emotions at play within the passive aggressive person’s mind.
More often than not, a passive aggressive person behaves as he does simply because it is the only response he has available. But, contrary to what you might think, he’s not weighing the options and thinking, “Yes, this is the only thing I can do.” His unconscious brain is the one doing that for him, taking cues from lessons in childhood.
What kind of lessons are we talking about? They’re usually lessons learned by force. A look into your husband’s past would reveal some deep emotional wound (abuse, neglect, humiliation). Some definitive hurts coming from a relationship with either controlling, domineering or abandoning parents. The wound went unresolved (and perhaps festered) until it ended in a traumatic separation from some essential attachment (to a father, mother or both).
After that major trauma and detachment from love/connection, your husband’s emotional growth all but stopped. He is now frozen in time, dealing with you and every other person in the same way he did as a child, because emotionally, he is still a child.
The child inside your husband creates protective barriers to insulate himself from the people who he can’t trust. The problem is, as a child, he cannot discern what is a threat and what isn’t. That is why you are often shut out along with everyone else. The ironic twist is that this child also craves attention - thus the “dual personality” that wives often notice, where the husband seems to be both charming and attractive, uncaring and abrasive, needing love and rejecting it at the same time...
But now that you realize the strange duality in your husband, what can you do with that information? Often, frustrated families will tell each other (through their tears) that you should just run, get away from this person. If it’s true that if the roots of this behavior are largely misunderstood even by the PA himself, couldn’t they be misunderstood by those fleeing families, as well? The most beneficial thing for the family could be to stay together and avoid severing ties with each other, which can emotionally hurt all involved. In order to stay together, families need to both learn more about the causes of PA, as well as the defenses against it and ways of disengaging (rather than reinforcing).
In the end, a PA husband’s behavior will not change unless he unlearns the subconscious lessons that are controlling him now. He has to help his inner child grow up and feel safe doing so. Families can help by knowing what to expect from a PA and why to expect it, but their greatest task will be leading the PA to help and heal himself.
Is your family in danger of separating because of your husband’s passive aggression? You can avoid the emotional scars of severance by helping your PA find solutions to his dysfunctional behavior. Choose a resource that speaks to him directly and encourages him to analyze his own behavior and past. Such a resource can be found here, at Passive Aggressive System.