Passive Aggressive Husband


I'm stuck in a marriage with three children! she wrote...

Some days ago, this posting landed in our comments section, and it was really painful to read. Once you overcome the shock of the pairing of two words that are opposite (who can be single being in a marriage?)  the stark, basic truth hits you right smack on your heart: she is describing such a dysfunctional marriage, that she describes herself as "single."

Can you say more? what can you say to a person that is the depth of despair like her? Her words tell us how much despair is there, how much loneliness and how many frustrated emotional needs are in her situation. How is she required to raise those three children feeling such isolation?

A spouse going into complete isolation, silence and withdrawing all communication to the other person sharing life with him is directly attacking the basis of the home his children need to grow up nurtured and loved. Even if this person considers that he needs to defend himself from some imagined o real insult, the presence of three children should convince him of making a decent effort to improve the situation.

Today, I'm going to reverse the usual provision of ideas, and ask you what can you suggest to make her life better. What ideas, support and ways of changing this despair into a reasonable companionship can you offer? Let's see if the shared pool can share some ideas that she can use?

Thanks already for your good will!

My life is crumbling, largely because I have a completely passive aggressive husband.  I like the advice I have seen so far but don't think they're relevant to my situation because I don't think my husband would mind one bit if I ignored him when he behaved badly.  He wouldn't even notice.  In fact, if I didn't talk to him or look at him or touch him or anything ever again, he wouldn't give it a second thought.  I am single and yet stuck in a marriage with three children.  Any advice welcome.  Thanks.

Dr. Nora
Dr. Nora
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Reply to  fawndasnsong
11 years ago

Wow.  37 years? I thought my 28 years with a severe PA was a waste of my precious life.
My PA is the ultimate nice guy / pillar of the community / suffering martyr.  I recognise lots of your husband’s crazy-making behaviour.  If I buy it or cook it he’ll somehow forget to use it, wear it or eat it but he’ll say “its fine” with that long stupid face I’d love to smack.  I really suffered through my first decade of near celibacy but the last 18 years I’ve been ok with it because I dislike him so much.  It is only because he managed to father 2 fabulous kids that he has maintained this sham of a marriage but they are gone now. 

anon please
11 years ago

When I read your words, I thought “I could of written this”.  I am ready to leave the marriage, but we have 2 small children and one of his persistant PA behaviors is to not assume responsibility for the kids.  In my state, joint custody will be awarded (I’ve done my research, spoken with lawyers….)  So, until it is safe for the kids to watch themselves I’m stuck.

12 years ago

Read as much as you can about the disorder so you will know how the recurring cycle works.  The mixed messages, lying and twisting the truth into something they can convince you with to avoid responsibility for their overt, covert and,hurtful behaviors.  One woman called these behaviors getting zingered.  If you are not on to them you will be fooled into thinking that you cannot trust your perceptions and intuitions. They can be trusted  Passive aggressive peoples lie! This may be hard for you to believe because you probably are a very honest person and is probably one reason they choose you. You can never solve any conflicts because they will never fess up to doing anything wrong.It’s hard to wrap your head around how bizarre their behavior is.  Be astute and detach yourself and watch their behavior.  You cannot trust their words but their behavior tells their true feelings about you and the relationship.  They are resentful of their responsibilities and your wants and needs.  Tell them what you want and need and they will do their best to see you don’t get them.  I told my husband that I would enjoy his wearing the cologne that I got him, so he never wears it.  I think I may hold the record for getting zingered though.  My husband writes songs, mostly sad songs about being a victim.  He wrote a song about being so much in love with a woman and had it recorded on a cd.  He named the song Fawnda’s song.  Isn’t that sweet.  Everyoone thinks he is so kind and caring.  It says over and over again “I love you”. Then months later he told me that the song is not about me.  He wrote it when he was a sophomore in high school about some other girl. Be aware of the backhanded compliments too.  The way that they control you in the relationship is to push your buttons and send mixed messages and never really give you a sense of love and security for very long and frustrate you by their irresponsibility until you blow sky high with anger and then they look at you like they don’t understand where this is coming from.  They stay calm and tell you that you need anger management classes.  You think your the one causing the fights because your unreasonable.  Don’t believe it.  You are being manipulated to meet their wants and needs.  I suggest you research how capable they really are of really caring about you.  I have been in a marriage with a passive aggressive man for almost 37 years.  I raised three daughters mostly with no emotional support from him but lots of emotional chaos, isolation while he withdrew and stress.  I am a christian which is one reason I stayed.  Does God want me to continue in this emotional waste land?  It is the way they behave in all their relationships not just the spouse so how can it be my fault except that I enable him by letting him manipulate me.  I am seriously thinking of divorce now.  Also. they withhold sex to punish and show you who is in control.  Yes, if you come to them and initiate you may have sex but you will not make love.  They also play the hapless victim who just happens to forget things you need and desire.  They will try and get you to feel sorry for them.  I could go on and on because I have 37 years worth of crazy ass material.

12 years ago

I wanted to add to what I had written above….it’s also understanding that as the wives we are the opposite side of the same coin…..we both have attachment issues going on.  People show up with the story of their life in a marriage…..what they brought with them is how they learned to manage conflict….there is “direct control” vs “passive control”…..passive people see direct control as very threatening as that was not acceptable within their biological home…..they could only achieve their needs by coming in the back door…..I do think once each person is willing to understand that the “other” is not the enemy but someone who believes he is doing the best he can as you are donig the best you can then we level the playing field.  We are all one and the same…..within that it’s finding forgivenss and replacing our arrogance with humility.  In fact we have been the best growth gift and teacher to us despite the pain…..the “other” presented our early years to us….we actually married the combination of both of our parents but didn’t see that initially….the gift is there to heal the past….integrate the emotional wound/charge so it will stop running each other’s life…..once this can be achieved the gift is that we both finally get to grow up. Once we better understand and respect what each person is trying to achieve with their behaviours then compassion can blossom….the one needing space can have it without the other feeling abandoned and the one needing closeness can have it without the other feeling smothered. It’s a process and one which I wish my spouse was willing to look at.  I believe life can calm down but it takes two willing partners who wish to attain “awakened monogamy” not immature monogamy where we are always fighting the other.  Passive aggressive people push against therapy because it makes them feel vulnerable in expressing their insecurities and where they grew up expressing your needs or vulnerabilities was shot down or not valued….they were shamed for it and then punished so for them to break out of that ingrained shell is very difficult…..I think what I came to understand that we all think the other should know better even though we didn’t either.  You were both doing the best you could with what you were raised with….and until both of your ‘false egos” are unearthed they will keep running the show….the 5 year olds are at play duking it out to see who will win but this is not some schoolyard altercation.  Therapy will help each person to grow up and become the person they were meant to be before life got a hold of them and imprinted them.


12 years ago

thanks for responding, your suggestion is head on, and a very basic one…but very necessary to recover your own self. There is not an equivalent suggestion that gets to the core of the problem of recovery of our own identity. So much is the damage done….it takes a serious effort to get back on track.

12 years ago

Knowing what I know now I would say that seeking therapy for yourself is crucial even if he won’t attend with you.  So much of your self has been eroded away by living with a man with those behaviours.  It happens slowly until one day you barely recognize yourself.  Now my child was grown and away at university when we parted due to his drinking….which he was doing because he was so unhappy….an unhappiness that he wanted to blame on me….remember passive aggressives won’t carry anything….it’s remembering that within any emotional confrontation you are connecting to what I call the “5 year old boy”. So therapy for you is crucial and the sooner the better.  The sooner you can reclaim those parts of yourself that you have lost along the way the better. You will find out what parts of yourself allowed yourself to match up with this type of person. It will take time to resurrect yourself and of course with three children finding that time will be hard but please make the time for yourself.  The enabling has to stop and there is always a reason for the enabling.  I learned a lot via “imago” therapy about childhood triggers and why we match up with the person we are with.  I have been separated from my husband for 3 years during which time we did some therapy and despite his broken down moments he is still choosing to live in his world of denial.  Taking repsonsiblity for themselves is very hard due to the shame/blame/punishment cycle they were raised with.  But it’s important to realize that you aren’t his mother a role that seems to play out with this type of man.  They prefer shining the mirror on others rather than themselves becasuse they don’t want to feel bad about themselves. 

So the best solution I can offer you as I have done therapy for myself on and off for over 3 years as well as read countless books is to “run” to a therapist’s office for support and for uncovering yourself before you are no more than a shadow of your former self.

Best of luck……Janet

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