Shortcuts for Coping with Passive Aggression

Is there a way of confronting passive aggression when you find it?

Here are some ideas:

1.- The main problem many people face when dealing with passive aggressive behavior is how to identify the behavior itself. The same mind that needs to observe and evaluate (yours) is being barraged and clouded by mixed emotional messages. It is extremely important than whenever you feel stressed or anxious about your partner’s behavior, you slow down and think about why you’re upset. Asking “Why?” is vital to unraveling the mental chaos that passive aggressive partners create.

Immediately after that, we need to accept that confusion and emotional pain are indicators of being with a passive aggressive (PA) person. After you realize this, it is much easier to see that you are not at fault – your partner is just spinning you in circles!

2. Remember that a person who displays PA traits is a person who never learned how to accept and manage his own emotions. Instead, like a child, he continues using twisted behavior to project his responsibility onto others ("you made me angry"). Deep inside, he is emotionally unavailable and can’t allow anybody to get close; displaying PA traits is simply a way to deflect feelings, and recover the security of his own isolation. DON’T feel rejected at a personal level, because this is occurring at an internal level.

3. Which brings us to the last shortcut: it is not related to YOU! You don’t have to be a beauty queen, a savvy business manager or a sex bombshell to make him happy. It may come as a surprise, but PA behavior has nothing to do with what you can offer him. Whatever you are, he is NOT relating to you, but reacting to some mental image he has about what a “good” partner is or does. Often, this image is twisted to meet his no-responsibility needs.

This means that it doesn’t matter who it is – he will react this way toward anyone who tries to enter into his private world and get involved. His fear is not of you, but intimacy and yielding his “ideal”; in other words, he is afraid of emotional compromise.

Why are these shortcuts important? Because they are just that: shortcuts. They enable you to cut through all the confusion and chaos, and get to the heart of the matter more quickly. In doing that, you’ll be better equipped to control your own situation and future, releasing you from the influence of your partner’s passive aggressive behavior.


Dr. Nora

Dr. Nora

Dr. Nora is a well known coach, conflict solver and trainer, and CEO of Creative Conflict Resolutions, Inc. Sign up for free, here on her blog, to be connected to her innovative conflict solutions, positive suggestions and life-changing coaching sessions, along with blog updates, news, and more! We can begin by you having a complimentary consultation with Dr. Nora. You can request an appointment today to talk with Dr. Nora and receive a plan for action to change your life. She's ready to help!
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  1. Well, it all depends on him. In those 12 years of marriage, what evolution have you seen in him? You have grown up, shed some childhood illusions, adopted more mature attitudes…what did you see him maturing into? 
    How much is he different from the man you married 12 years before? what kind of new responsibilities has been accepting and growing into?
    Make a list of his positive attitudes; then make a second list, kind of a progress report, and see how much difficulties he has been able to overcome and learn from.
    If you get to recognize that he is pushing himself to grow, then there is hope: put that quality in the good first list of positive attitudes. If he is resisting, denying the need to change and grow up, making of you a desperate coach, then the picture is not good.
    Remember: we get married to learn from each other and support each other while developing into grown up people. This is the basic marriage contract…If he is not recognizing and fulfilling his side of the contract, begin making plans for the rest of your life without him, before is too late for you…

  2. Thanks for this posting…I remembered that one of my therapy exercises was to identify and collect those “bits of myself,” left dispersed behind. I was led to remember my creative pieces, my love for dancing, my deep interest in spiritual things, singing folk songs, a true appreciating for my resilient body able to withstand so much punishment without losing the capacity for joy…so many aspects of myself alienated had to be recovered and reintegrated into myself: “this little piece of dance love is mine,” I’m also “that person who  loves to be near trees,” etc.
    In the end, if you work to re-integrate the pieces of yourself you see as lost along the way, they will come back and be part of you again. Begin making lists of all the things you loved before right now!

  3. wondering says

    I have one question.  Can a woman have a happy and fulfilling marriage with a PA man.  I love mine so much but am exhausted after 12 years of marriage.  I despair that a healthy, mutually satisfying relationship is even possible.  Is leaving really the only way I can find my sanity again?

  4. Thanks Nora…I know for me I spent a great deal of time on the emotional and spiritual aspects of my being….congitive therapy and emdr therapy and reading many books….I could start a used bookstore at my house(lol)…..but through that journey I found myself….in the book my therapist gave me to read about co-dependency there was one line that summed it up…”through co-dependency I found myself”….short and sweet and to the point….I just sat there at that point thinking “I get it”….I then realized how much of myself I had lost along the way….interesting as my husband said that in the first year of therapy about himself…..of course the therapist said the other year “the two of you did the best you could with the tools you had then”…..the saddest part is that while I have grown though he seems the same….still not talking….no desire to consider changing because I suspect to change would mean there was something wrong about him and that would make him feel bad and that in turn would cause him to have to take responsibility for himself and “pa’s” don’t do that….he sees I have changed a great deal which of course would enforce “you see it was all about her”….there’s just no winning in this scenario…..maybe as I told him when he becomes an old man he will finally realize he needs people and that will be when he might learn.

  5. Thanks for expanding on my thought Nora…..this holotropic breathing is something I read about I believe in the book “Soul Shaping”……I have found since my husband and I have been apart for 3 years that he has seen more of his mother over that time and now he’s telling me he has a very good relationship with her….I feel he doth protest too much but I told him that’s fine but it doens’t negate what happened in his early life…..heavy expectations placed on him which resulted in him not being able to preserve himself….hence why he is so much into freedom and actually expressed that when I first met him….so not a new thought….as the therapist said “everything about the two of you was fully in place when you showed up in each other’s life…..she tried to tell him he could be married and still free but you could see he just couldn’t take that thought in…..for him he sees himself on the losing end if he ever returned……he basically wants to be free from stress….free to self-determine his day, his life…..but having lost his job 2 years ago so much has happened.  And in the end as a passive aggressive he never communicates but so much of us his stuff is still here at the house….a closet full of clothes…..

    I believe like you say above that he needs to play “catch up” with his mother…..but he is unconscious of all of that….he sees me as the problem although I think after 3 years he realizes I don’t hold the key to his freedom…..that it’s his issue but he has too much pride to admit that….I heard the other week that his mother has “lung cancer” so I do wonder what road this will take him down….but being him I suspect he will bury it and others not seeing him will not see how shut down he is. We reach a point when we’ve done all “we” can do and we hand it over to God.

  6. Yes, it does…Janet is saying that by going through the experience, creating a thousand ways of pleasing him and coming up empty-handed, you “recreate yourself into a higher form…” 
    In my language, you develop resiliency, the strongest aspect of yourself going through this ordeal. Somewhere I explained that, considering this part of your life as a “learning by fire experience”, you can decide once and for all times that you have learned what you needed to learn, and then, give yourself permission to walk out. To go to this step, you need before to go through a phase of self-repair. Please, see here the list of activities that can help with self-repair: 

  7. Thanks for this post; is very clear. It forced me to remember something when you say: ” It would no doubt take a huge emotional/physical trauma in their lives to bring the truth that lies in their unconscious forward…..then perhaps they might feel some guilt and sadness and regret at pushing you away so often…” I know of a couple past their fifties, and for some reason he attended a seminar where they did a technique called “holotropic breathing,” and because still he could not remember anything,the coordinator asked if he could do something more to help him remember…It was waterboarding: put his head in a pail of water and forced him underwater for as much time as he would tolerate. The same as a torture method to extract information! It worked: then he remembered being abused by a friend of his father’s at 5, 6 and 7. Of course, this was only the beginning; he then went back to live with his mother (being in his sixties!) leaving the wife behind, and tried to know more about his own trauma. That was his deep truth, and when he knew it, he needed to catch up with his own mother, so repairing the relationship with the wife probably was the last priority…..sad story, I know, but illuminates what you’ve been saying here.

  8. I totally understand how difficult it is to have lived with a man who prefers the world of “fantasy”…..and of course during all the years you are trying to be supportive not realizing that all of this comes from a part of their past that hurt them deeply….regardless as the wives we endured a great deal of pain while trying to maintain what we felt were healthy lifestyles for our families.  Holding to illusions means he doesn’t have to live in the present world where he needs to learn how to accept responsibility for himself…..his pattern growing up was no doubt shame/blame/punishment….and he can’t carry any more… they make decisions that have no sense of reality in them and then they don’t follow through on their ideas but you have been swept up in their fantasies which takes a lot out of you.  In the end he needs his fantasy world to feel more real as “pa’s” don’t do reality.  You are so right “what else can a woman do if she wants to be in a real relationship”. Certainly “avoiding” is part of the “pa” personality…..that and resistance and withdrawal and making excuses for themselves….also underachieving and placing limitation on themselves so they don’t have to worry about responsibility.  In the end to accept responsibility for their behaviour would be a death to their psyche…..they have to blame you for the problems as they can’t contain any more pain in their lives and they simply don’t see the pain they are inflicting on you.  It would no doubt take a huge emotional/physical trauma in their lives to bring the truth that lies in their unconscious forward…..then perhaps they might feel some guilt and sadness and regret at pushing you away so often.

  9. Spiralsunc says

    It took me a LONG time to realize how deep my husband was into his fantasy version of what things should be. I finally came to understand that I could not compete with women who don’t even exist. The sad thing is that there is also a version of himself in his head, which interacts with the fantasy wife, which is also not real. He is more interested in maintaining these illusions than being present to what is actually happening. He has told me that his fantasy life feels more real to him than this other stuff. Incredibly sad!  My divorce is pending – what else could a woman do if she wants to be in a real relationship? Is maladaptive daydreaming or avoidant personality often a part of PA?

  10. This is so “right on”!!! The inability to accept responsibility accompanied with strong denial mechanisms…..the women in “pa’s” lives twist themselves into so many knots trying to make themselves the best they can be in all ways to no avail….because in the end they don’t want a partner but just someone who is basically benign, laid back and non-interfering….essentially a robot as you aren’t allowed to have any needs with them.  The upside of all of this is that the women spend more time trying to perfect all aspects of themselves and come out on top in the end once they separate themselves from the “pa”. In the end you come to better understand the above “shortcuts” but by trying to please them in every way you recreate yourself into a higher form which turns you into a more emotionally healthy person and if you have truly learned the lesson you won’t need to repeat it again not in this life or in a life to come.

  11. says

    Makes no sense! Lol

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