Passive Aggressive Husband

overcoming passive aggression

Are you looking for encouragement today overcoming passive aggression? Why not read this story from Lori M, posted here. Her story started as one of the many tales of heartache and self-blame that wives of passive aggressive husbands know by heart, with the destruction of her self-esteem as a consequence:

"Very slowly, I began to lose myself, as I call it, but at the time, it was happening so slowly that I didn't recognize it.  The passion that I had for life started to fade.  Even when I was doing something that I loved, I felt empty inside.  I began distancing myself from family and friends, even to the point of dreading making a phone call to one of them.  I felt trapped.  I felt scared to death (which is NOT my nature).  I thought at one time that he was psychotic, but I also felt I was becoming paranoid.  My reality had been ripped out from under my feet so many times that I didn't know WHAT was real.  I began to second-guess myself on even the simplest things.  I found myself being very afraid of him.  Not of physical abuse, but I had been hurt so many times by him by using our children, his family, friends, by distorting reality, etc.  Our relationship had no stability or security or reality."

But Lori found the key to overcoming her husband’s passive aggression!

"It takes two people to play the passive-aggressive game, so if you bow out, they either have to find someone else to participate, or it's over.  In my case, one of the reasons that the roller coaster ride went on for so many years, was that I was a willing participant (without realizing it).  Only (and if you don't listen to anything else I have written, PLEASE listen to this) ONLY until I started focusing on myself, and not on him or his pa ways, did things really take a turn for the better with my life.  I do believe that passive-aggressive people find mates that are independent but are also very caring, giving, rescuing, outspoken, secure with ourselves, etc.  We generally have very big hearts, and the pa person zooms in on that right away.  In my case, my pah knew exactly what buttons to push to get me to play the passive-aggressive game.  If I didn't play the game, then I felt like I was showing him that I didn't care about him or us, and I loved him and wanted my marriage to work.  And, it's not that I did NOT want to be the "bad guy", but I DID want to be the "good guy", because that's what I had been taught as a little girl.  I was taught to take care of everyone else's needs and problems, and I learned that it made me feel good and important inside.  If I wasn't helping them out, then I wasn't showing them that I loved and cared about them, at least that was my thinking.  If I wasn't focusing on them, then I was being self-centered and that was wrong of me to do.  It took me a lot of soul-searching to realize what I was "thinking" about me.   When I started writing down the things that I would tell myself in my head, I realized how distorted my thinking really was.  I've never ever thought it was selfish for someone else to put themselves first, why did I think it was selfish when I even thought about doing that for me?!?"

Lori points out the most basic concept in healing a passive aggressive marriage: find yourself again. Live for yourself again, and don’t just feed all your energy into the other person, who is using it to hurt you. By learning to detach, you get perspective, and perspective helps you see the situation in a way that makes solutions and future actions more clear. You will not get the power to change others, but you can change into a stronger, more confident version of yourself simply by remembering that you have to be taken care of, too. And if your partner isn’t doing that, well, you have to start taking care of yourself!

Here’s more of what Lori did in her situation, in order to feel stronger and more free in her daily life:

  • Trusting herself more and more;

  • Having hope and faith in her possible future (not putting all her faith in her husband);

  • Putting herself and her needs first;

  • Taking care of her health;

  • Doing fun, spontaneous, out of character things (so to stretch your self);

  • Keeping promises and fulfilling commitments;

  • Being aware of who her true friends are;

  • Loving herself for who she is;

Lori also talks about how her husband is now making progress through counseling sessions and their own practice at home. She notes down the most important things a passive aggressive has to achieve in order to start making progress:

  • Admitting fault;

  • Accepting that we each choose the roles that we act out. so he has to be responsible for his PA actions;

  • Trusting yourself and others more;

  • Submitting to others/letting go of the need for control;

These are things you can be working on with your own husband, because these four areas are really the passive aggressive husband’s weak points, the places that create the fear that drives his behavior. Working on them together will help alleviate the tension and irrational ways of thinking that make recovery from passive aggression harder than it needs to be.

Remember, if you need help with any of these steps that Lori mentions, Coach Nora is always free to talk with you!

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anon please
Reply to  Jmbriere
11 years ago


When I think “why did I pour love and attention into this nothing of a relationship?” I remind myself because healthy relationships are two-way and love and attention SHOULD be showered upon those we care about.  As I watch my beautiful girls grow, I can see how the strong, solid, dependable, all loving Mommy I’ve been allows them to mature and develop to their full potenial.  How they experience the world as a wonderful, exciting place they enter with confidence and everyone they meet as worthy of respect and interesting (they are still young 🙂 ).  If my PA husband could have recieved my love and attention in a similar fashion we could have had a beautiful, invigorating, interesting life together.  Instead he took and never gave and I feel exhausted from carrying the whole burden of responsibility and trying to protect the kids from his neglect.  And being an honest and responsible person who is an attentive listener, when he threatened to leave if I didn’t stay at the job I hated I took him at his word that this was something extremely important to him (and in a pragmatic fashion – if he was threatening to leave, I’d better have a job with benefits to support myselft and my children).  If I threatened to leave, it’d be over something extremely important to me (like my self respect) and I thought he was communicating in a similar fashion.  Threats to leave don’t even earn a spoken response now.

anon please
Reply to  Jmbriere
11 years ago


Thanks so much for your thoughtful and kind reply.  The term “passive aggressive” is one I recently became aquainted with, and it neatly labels my husband’s behavior.  It’s been very helpful to have an encompassing label to describe his behavior rather than explain it peicemeal.  As I’ve read more about PA, I feel fortunate in that I’ve never felt worn down.  What I have felt is exhausted, because all the adult responsibilities land on my shoulders.  I’ve always worked outside the home and maintained my friendships.  As the kids get older, I’m able to engage in more social acitivites than I did when they were infants/toddlers.  “Cheated” is a good way to describe how I feel.  I know our relationship and my life could be so much fuller if he would ever act like an adult.  And how much he is missing – if he’d get down on the floor and play with the kids, read them a story, sing them a song, look up from his !@*** iPhone – how much richer his life would be.  But those are his losses, not mine.

11 years ago

To Anonplease,

I understand your fears in terms of your husband not being able to be responsible with your children…..inside one there is a fear that on their watch these children could die.  Soooo, is there a way that you could enocurage your husband to join you in therapy to discuss your concerns?? Is he aware of his behaviours and the impact it is having on your marriage/family??? I know how difficult it can be to have them take responsibility for thesmelves and hence the children…their inner “5 year old” just doesn’t have the tools…..if he won’t go for therapy are you prepared to go for yourself….to have a therapist build you back up to where you once were…..doing things for “you”….which allows you to become stronger… you shift he will have no choice but to see that shift… talking to a psychologist can you find our whether he could be declared incompetent in terms of not being able to care for them on nights/weekeneds…..other than that I think doing as Lori spoke above…..take care of you… yourself back up….does he ever have times within his job that take him away for a spell? Time for you to take stock of your life? Do you work outside the home? If you don’t taking advantage of that time away to build your life back up……because this is what suffers is the loss of your own being over time….do you have family far away that you could perhaps take yourself and the children to under the guise of a visit….but a place and time which would allow you to recoup yourself and even for the kids in terms of the impact this has had on them??? While these types of men are cognitively smart they aren’t smart in the emotion department so that is where you can take steps that will keep him unaware and unsettled….they are experts at self-deprecation I read on this website….but as the women with these men you have to turn that behaviour around telling them those are their feelings but right now we need an “adult” response to the problem at hand…..your children are little sponges right now being the ages they are soaking up “this is how we handle conflict”….they know who they can turn to for guidance and that’s you…..the key of course is for the marriage to become balanced so that the children can learn from both parents….so therapy for both of you would be ideal and if he won’t go for that then you go for yourself….start making lists of things you used to enjoy or still enjoy and find time for you to participate in them even if it means taking the kids to someone else’s home to watch them…..find time to burn off the stress by getting out walking even with an understanding friend…..a yoga/meditation class that provide some calm within your storm…..if you attend church that is a place that could also provide you with resources to support you……just anything that will build you back up so you can begin reacting to him differently especially if he won’t join you in therapy…..and while the state would allow him to have the kids on weekends/nights in the end would he really want that responsiblity put totally on his shoulders 100% of the time….if you do follow through with this divorce are your kids old enough to handle a cellphone….calling you if something happens that upsets them?  I do wish you luck where you are as I know how difficult all of this is…..know that there are many women on this site who can support you as they’ve walked the road…..

11 years ago

I’m ready to divorce my PA husband.  However, we have 2 small children.  I have not yet filed for divorce because I fear for their safety while they are in his care.  I have consulted (several) divorce lawyers, and all have told me that joint custody will be awarded in our state.  As a responsible parent, I cannot allow their safety to be compromised.  (Joint custody would mean they would spend evenings, weekends, and vacations in his care.)
One of my husband’s persistant PA behaviors is to NEVER be responsible for the children.  Passive Aggressive is a term I was recently introduced to, which perfectly describes my husband.  I am in my initial stages of research, but have not found any information focussing on PA parents.  Other than waiting for my younger child to grow to an age where she can be somewhat responsible for herself, I do not see any options.  Any suggestions would be most appreciated. 

11 years ago

I would like to know how much progress Lori’s husband has really made and over what time period. My husband has made some progress over four years, but not enough for me to say that we have acheived a sufficient level of intimacy and trust to sustain the marriage. He is still PA at the core, but has been able to modify selected behaviors.

Does she have to “manage” his behavior and remind him of their agreements? Does she always have to have a pla B, for when he “forgets” or gets distracted. Is she truly able to put her faith in him and know that he has her best interest at heart.

I have discovered that a man can admit  his passive aggression, go to counseling, say he’s working on it, but it can be just another stonewalling technique. Just another way of keeping me from leaving and having what I want. I hope his progress is genuine

11 years ago

Thank you Lori for sharing with all of us your journey! Everything you say is absolutely true. I pray you become one of the “success” stories in overcoming passive aggressive behaviour in your spouse.  Like all the women on this site I wish I had been aware of this behaviour in time to save my marriage. My husband and I have been separated for 3 years and if a divorce is going to happen via the right channels I will have to do it as a few years ago he wanted to divorce me on an online website after 25 years of marriage.  I panicked and called a lawyer however nothing went beyond the first meeting where she told him what he was prepared to give me was not enough as I had been at home for over 20 years.  He thinks he can simply skulk away taking no responsibility for any of this.  He told me “you will pay for this then”….of course being so fragile at that point I couldn’t even stand up to that…thankfully as I became stronger I put the brakes on that and am currently wanting to find out if there is a way I can get him back in the lawyer’s office but have the cost assigned for this divorce as he is the one who wanted it because he refuses to see his issues…….as you say your self esteem is eroded slowly over time…after awhile you don’t even recognize yourself….to do things just for yourself has become a lost art…you wonder how they can’t appreciate you for all that you do but then via this site I found out they don’t put value there….they value their privacy and don’t want a woman interferring in their life…it’s like “be there for me but don’t get in my face”… feel wrong giving anything to yourself as time goes on and yet once upon a time you were this independent woman…….one looks for their approval and once you become clear you ask yourself how you allowed that to happen…the fear you feel causes you to feel frozen….always waiting for him to be there as without him you feel empty….empty because you took everything out of yourself and poured it into him because as you say we are the caring, loving spouses who were raised to take care of others… enters the picture and for any woman who has experienced abandonment when very young their threats of leaving you are very real.. numerous times he would say “if I don’t get to do what I want to do I will leave”….and that was the biggest fear… find yourself cowering to their comments…..they know your insecurities and they play on them….it’s not love but all about power..these are the little boys still enacting their disempowered childhoods with their mothers out on the women in their life….we are paying the price for all that went wrong in that early relationship….and all I heard was “don’t give me this psycho-babble”……you do begin to wonder if they are psychotic or bi-polar or shizophrenic ….they are experts at manipulations and when your brain is not wired that way you simply don’t understand what is happening…we get pulled into their “distorted” world which is very unhealthy……it’s been 3 years of building myself back up to even a wiser version of my younger self….I have learned to take all that energy I poured into him and poured it into myself……I am grateful for all I have learned on this site over the past few years and for therapy that has made things clears. Once again I wish you all the best Lori!

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