Passive Aggressive Husband

howtospotPerhaps because it's summer, I can see more clearly the marital control game going on?

Just driving around when a thought exploded in my brain: are we all playing this universal game? Let me explain the "control game," when both sides push and pull, but are always in the same place?

Most men resist growing up for different reasons, but to pass the time, they are able to put up and enjoy a good fight. They love to have an enemy to resist!

When there is time to marry, they get some wishful woman to marry them and so the battle begins...

She is bent on teaching him the basis of healthy marital communication:

  • need to share feelings,
  • be open & communicative,
  • show interest in your partner's happiness,
  • care for her and show love to her by talking and listening,
  • and so on and so forth...repeat ad nauseam!

What are the men doing in response? How do they play their hand in this marital control game?

Making from their partner's pressure to improve a long term battle, they see this loving training as an obnoxious control over their precious freedom to behave as they see fit. Men want to afford themselves the luxury of not connecting their own actions (passive aggression) with the inevitable results (marital failure and suffering). The last thing they consider doing is making themselves responsible for the consequences of their passive-aggressive behaviors at home!

And, (summer as the time of reflection as it is...) my brain kept asking:

What are all the women really doing, when they keep trying to improve their husbands' behaviors for the long term: 5, 10, 20 years?

Why do they keep compensating for men's lack of connection forever?

Is this an effective strategy to make their husbands grow up and develop responsibility? No way, it's only distracting and long as men keep wives engaged in improving their communication skills, they are safe from divorce and loneliness... They only have to learn how to stall, promise, and postpone change for her to keep busy pushing them into adulthood,  waiting for improvements that never materialize. They can avoid to confront themselves forever, by only using defensive tactics against his wife's attempts to connect.

How do I know? well, I get lots of letters from women that realize, after 15, 20 years of marriage, that they feel more isolated and emotionally starved now than ever! And getting to be 50 and in a lonely marriage is devastating for my readers...because the future now has no illusions that change will finally happen. And at that time in their lives, they know that a bit of happy life can be obtained only by having extreme courage to confront and finally leave the marriage.

I realized that we could develop a preventive plan....perhaps by talking around with our daughters, friends, and relatives, we could have a consensus on what to avoid and how to detach? And perhaps planning of having a "temporary contract" with the guy, over the changes of issues that need addressing and reviewing results in a periodic fashion? Just thinking!


a) systematic insensitivity and avoidance of any "emotional" conversation;

b) denial to learn about and take seriously her human needs;

c) stalling, postponing, and promising responses for after the marriage;

d) inability to confront with love, express their needs and negotiate, escaping into silence;

e) a very significant lack of personal friends

Here you have more help: HELP!

I'm posting here my own list. Probably you observed a characteristic that in itself represented for you the whole passive aggression picture? Would you share it with us? Thanks!

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Reply to  Beth
8 years ago

I agree that the moment you realize you are getting poor treatment from the most important person in your life is crushing…Emotional neglect can be very damaging, and growing old is partially centered on finally accepting and loving ourselves…You know that you deserve more, and need to begin doing simple steps to nurture yourself. Don’t threaten him with leaving, but leave for some time each day, and find something that you love to do…volunteer in a place where they have a need you, go to the community center and take a class on meditation, write your memories, seat at the park and feed the pigeons, whatever. You need time only for yourself, to hell with other demands, so you can connect with your emotions and find out what your needs are…This is now your task, so stop asking permission from him to be yourself.

8 years ago

I can agree that my husband meets most of the criteria for PA behavior except he never bothered with letter c i.e. stalling, postponing or promising anything. He just always expected complete acceptance and unconditional love for his way of non-communicating and it is no longer OK with me. I am now 63 and it’s true that I am starting to fear that I will never be in any other position than that of being considered “emotionally neglected” by him. I am glad I found the book and this blog; I need to be able to vent and learn how to live with how I feel. I was happy and content for almost 25 years and unfortunately, a financial issue came up that threw our marriage into turmoil and a long time male friend of mine let me see how a non-PA man behaves. That was quite by accident but blatantly brought to my attention that I no longer wanted to just accept my husband’s unwillingness to make more of an effort to be a partner in our marriage. He refuses to discuss ANYTHING emotional and says “I’m not arguing with you”. When I threaten I may have to leave he says “do what you have to do” and “there is nothing I can do about it”. It’s infuriating and hurtful. He would rather be divorced than to solve a problem or talk to me about anything. It’s all very depressing and distracting. I am praying the book helps.

8 years ago

You are right that I need to focus more on me and not on him “making me happy”. I have decided to give up my control issues with his health in that it’s not working the way it is. I won’t remind him to call his kids, or that their birthdays are coming up. I will work harder at what I enjoy and make fewer self sacrifices. Like most of us we fall into patterns of behavior without realizing how we sabotage our happiness. I don’t want to ‘blame’ him for my disappointments, so backing off on those things that bring on that ‘here we go again’ response seems obvious. The PA part that I feel from him is not being direct in asking me for something or his answer to me. I want a Yes or No or tell me what you want, and instead it’s ‘okay fine I don’t care, or ‘that’s okay’ or ‘never mind’ when I ask for clarification. I don’t want to be a controlling nag. I don’t want to the vocal one with my frustrations, while he carries on acting like the poor stepped on guy, never saying anything. Just tell me…don’t make me guess and then just ‘go along’. Right now we are in a good place. We had a big bbq last night and it was fun and no embarrassing issues from him came up. (ie: falling asleep at the table)

8 years ago

Dear Nancy,
your answer is one of the reasons I keep writing here…Such a story! I can’t but notice that you are also watching how your own behavior has sabotaged your life projects…
Here, I’m going to invite you to do a different choice..Instead of being this person, which obviously makes you really unhappy:

“We want him to be who he promises. We are like foolish lambs to the slaughter who keep loving him despite our many disappointments.”
I’m inviting you to reconnect with who you are. There is not time limit, and we are always invited to recover ourselves and embrace our mission in life. Perhaps at this moment, it would be nice for you to review hoe your own needs are taken care of. I’m shifting the focus, its’ not him, but YOU.
Let’s do a free survey, and begin thinking about what your own personal needs are. You have been focused on his needs for too long! Here is the link:

Once you get a look at the areas of your life that need nurturing, perhaps you can have a free coaching session with me to make a simple, affordable plan to bring more joy to your life. It’s NOT too late, and you deserve a bit of satisfaction and love.

8 years ago

I will be married to my PA husband for 39 years in August. He is a very generous (helps others and does not withhold his finances) man and tells me often how much he loves me. But, he is also selfish and insecure. I have spent most of our marriage encouraging him to take better care of his health. My own father died when I was only 7 and I have had a dreaded fear of ‘losing’ my husband all my married life. Yet he displays his PA behavior by eating junk food, or skipping meals and then feeling poorly. He smokes behind my back and lies about it. In fact he is a clever liar who is adept at convincing me of what I want to believe and I am stupid to fall for his lies and promises to change. He has many friends unlike the characteristics you mention. His mother was not a physically loving woman but he adored her and has said he always felt very loved growing up. He was the last of 5 children and really was brought up by his siblings as his mother was 40 when he was born and there was 10 years difference between himself and the next sibling. His 3 adopted adult children (who live in another state) love him but have infrequent contact with him. They have all been down a bad road with drugs, encounters with the law and other shameful pasts. Their father is an educated admired man and they I’m sure are ashamed of their lack of doing anything successful with their lives. My husband is an over promiser and they know he exaggerates his intentions and is not reliable. Yet they love him and like myself, want him to be who he promises. We are like foolish lambs to the slaughter who keep loving him despite our many disappointments. For me to get angry only makes me miserable so I forgive and things are fine (seemingly) until the next time. Why do I stay? I guess because I can’t see being alone at age 66 and I do love him. Or am I in love with who he pretends to be? It’s all very complicated. I feel like I have made huge sacrifices and he goes about willy nilly doing what he wants even if it hurts me.

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