How to manage your husband's passive aggression:
You have spent considerable time researching this issue...because your gut feeling is telling you about the huge gap between what his words say and his acts tell you...
Let's say that, at this moment, you feel empowered to look further, confirm your perception that you are being served with a lot of passive aggression, and want to educate yourself in self-defense.
What is it that you need to do now? Is time for us to offer again this very useful guide:!
I. Focus your attention on what he does, not on what he says:
In passive-aggressive communications, he can keep many interactions vague and confusing on purpose. You must separate words and deeds, and look only at the facts. What is what he is doing now? Regardless of what your partner says about "forgetting details," start asking yourself is there is:
- The discrepancy between what he promises and what he delivers;
- Avoidance of his responsibility, always blaming others;
- "Good" words expressed, but nothing to show.
You can look at those behaviors and see indicators of passive-aggressive punishment, provided they are consistent and often centered around one particular type of activity.
Here's a good example: if Robert generally is dependable and is home on time for Tina to attend her meetings, the one "miss" may not be motivated by passive-aggression.
However, if he often only sabotages Tina's attendance to a particular event (her therapy sessions or her female friends' group monthly dinner) while denying he is intending to do so, an attack pattern is emerging.
II).- Start "Operation Consequence" if there is no match between words and results:
In order to nip his passive-aggressive attack in the bud, you must show that you are going to handle it in an adult way, taking action and not throwing a fit, as he expects you to do.
a) Your task is then to:
- Suspect sabotage and resistance;
- Suspend expectations: "I don't wait for you to show for the party one hour late"
- Say gently: "As I could not be sure you would go, I decided to do it alone, so I did go to the party by myself."
b) Learn his hidden anger indicators:
You can halt future attacks in their tracks by learning his patterns and indicators. People are creatures of habit, and passive-aggressive husbands are no different.
Here are some examples of indicators that he is hiding his anger and is trying to attack/punish you:
- Vengeful "accidents" such as ruining only your things: deleting your computer files, burning food, etc.;
- No emotional reaction, but a show of indifference when you share your joy over an accomplishment;
- Detaching from the people or family members you love, and you are emotionally connected with; no reason given
c) Learning how to confront him efficiently:
- Collect proofs by having another person around or taking notes. Prove the connection between actions and damages by showing how one leads to another;
- Establish responsibility by presenting him with the choice between child or adult behavior, like:
- "When you mistreat my parents, as you did this afternoon hanging upon them, I feel hurt because later I need to do a lot of explaining. Is this the way you want them to see you?"
d) Control Your Desire to Attack Back:
Detach as to be able to respond without emotions, avoid crying or throwing a tantrum (discussed above);
Remember: if you have outraged reactions to passive-aggressive behavior, you are emotionally rewarding the passive-aggressive husband big time!
e) Practice much-needed detachment and self-discipline
We say not to throw a tantrum at your husband, but you will gather a lot of anger and frustration living with him...It is of course normal and must be dealt with in a healthy way. So, you need to:
- Work on yourself, to sort out any deep animosity you may have towards this person;
- Examine the relationship and find moments in which you gave control, responsibility, or your personal power to this person;
- Link the power given to him with the results obtained, and ask yourself: "Am I being shortchanged here"?
- Pay attention to your first reaction, the emotional one, because this is probably the most truthful. You are allowed to feel resentful, frustrated, or angry at his skillful defection; it's a natural reaction. And it is the tantrum version of this reaction that your husband is setting you up to have. You can take back control by handling that anger in an adult way. Keep breathing deeply so you can control yourself!
Now, you want to confront this person in the most productive way, diverging from showing this person how much he can hurt you. The "emotional outburst" type of confrontation will not serve your purpose. If you allow yourself to show your disappointment, then he has fulfilled his mission!
III) Decide what is it that you need to accomplish:
Your counter-action rides on knowing what you're trying to accomplish by recognizing and handling his passive-aggressive attack. Ask yourself, what is your real goal upon seeing him sabotage you and your best projects? What goal will help you live a better life and not be brought down to his level? It is to...
- Let your husband know of your frustration? what is accomplished here?
- Have a cathartic show of your pain, so you can feel better, and he knows how to hurt you?
- Get him to finally deliver? Now, you are talking! you need him to deliver!
All of these are worthy aims, but remember that the first two are dangerously close to the tantrum-throwing result that he wants to see. Finally, what you want is to get him to deliver, right?
Is time then to do some Fair Fighting, in a calm, rational but direct way.
Remember that the best way is to detach emotionally from any result, and see if he can recognize his involvement in this marriage and moves towards cooperating with you in making it happen. If you get him involved in his own healing through following the 4 Steps to FREE Your Marriage of Passive Aggression” then you are on the good path to recovery... Good luck!
About the Author
About Neil Warner
Neil Warner is the CTO of Creative Conflict Resolutions. He offers strategies to heal difficult issues in a relationship, such as anger and passive aggression. His latest program, Stop Your Passive Aggression, offer a plan for action to change your life by eliminating passive-aggressive behaviors from your interactions with your loved one.