We’ve all used passive behavior at some point. We have all used the tactics of pouting, guilt, or given the silent treatment on occasion. When we feel hurt or angry, the child inside us comes out. Families in which honest expression is not permitted ultimately teach their children to deny their true feelings. The children learn to resort to passive aggressive behavior to express pain and frustration.
However, you may have encountered someone in your life who regularly resorts to passive-aggressive behavior. They have very few skills at healthy communication or dealing with conflict. Every hurt or angry feeling is handled covertly.
Passive Aggressive behavior is a form of what is called covert abuse. Many narcissists use covert abuse or passive aggressive abuse. Covert abuse is disguised abuse, or abuse that is not readily seen by others. When someone pushes you or hits you, you know that you’ve been abused. It is obvious and easily identified. You can draw a line between physical abuse and normal, loving behavior. Covert abuse is less obvious. It is disguised by actions that appear to be normal, at times even loving and caring. Passive aggressive people are using covert abuse.
Passive aggressive behavior stems from an inability to express anger in a normal, healthy way. A person’s feelings may be so hidden that they don’t even realize they are angry or feeling resentment. They often cannot see the problem and simply feel that others misunderstand them.
Common Passive Aggressive Behaviors:
- Making excuses for lack of follow-through or poor performance, blaming others.
- Creating drama or chaotic situations. These behaviors can quickly ruin your good time without it looking intentional.
- Procrastinating at the expense of others, especially if the other person is one that has “wronged” the aggressor. (ie. my ex would take extra time getting ready to go somewhere he didn’t want to go with me. When leaving the house for a safer location (a family member’s house) during a tornado watch, he intentionally packed up what he “needed” V-E-R-Y s–l–o–w–l–y).
- Being chronically late or forgetting things in order to control or punish. They often think they are more important than others. (See narcissistic personality disorder)
- Avoiding intimacy. Passive aggressives often avoid intimacy by witholding sex, affection, and attention. He/she may purposely sleep facing away from you to show that he is upset, though he may or may not talk about his/her reasons why he/she is upset or even may deny being upset.
- Using guilt or sulking to punish or gain attention. See above.
- Being argumentative, critical, or resentful to punish or get one’s own way.
- Creating intentional obstructions to punish or get one’s own way.
- Being unresponsive or non-communicative to avoid discomfort or conflict.
- Withholding kindness, love, or actions (such as sex or favors) to punish.
- Sabotaging the efforts or relationships of others, either obviously or insidiously.
- Forgetfulness: The passive aggressive avoids responsibility by “forgetting.” For example, he/she may forget an anniversary or special event that his/her partner wants to attend. Forgetting is of course only a passive aggressive weapon if it is intentionally used to cause pain in another person.
- Ambiguity: The best gauge of how a passive aggressive feels about an issue is how they act. Normally they don’t act until after they’ve caused some kind of stress by their ambiguous actions. For example, my ex-husband would often start an argument about my parents in the car on the way to my parents for Christmas, Easter, etc. and would often end up turning around and driving back home if I didn’t agree 100% with his.
- Blaming: Covert aggressive people are never responsible for their actions. If you aren’t to blame then it is something that happened at work, the drive home, or a co-worker or family member that caused it. The passive aggressive has no faults, it is everyone around him/her who has faults and they must be punished for those faults.
- Lack of Anger: He/she may never express anger. There are some people who are happy with whatever you want, at least on the outside. The passive aggressive person may have been taught, as a child, that anger is unacceptable. Hence they go through life ignoring their anger, appearing to not care, then sticking it to you in another secretive way when you do what he/she had said was okay.
- Fear of Dependency: He/she struggles with dependency issues. He/she feels dependent on you but these feelings often scare him. Therefore, he tries to control you.
- Fear of Intimacy: The passive aggressive often has trust issues. Therefore, they guard themselves against becoming intimately attached to someone. A passive aggressive will have sex with you but they rarely make love to you. If they feel themselves becoming attached, they may punish you by withholding sex.
- Obstruction: He/she will try to appear to be giving you what you asked for while, in reality, they have no intentions of giving it. He/she wants you to think that what you are asking is too much.
- Victimization: The passive aggressive feels they are treated unfairly. He/she is always the innocent victim of your unreasonable expectations, a slow driver on the highway, or the the secretary at work.
- Procrastination: The passive aggressive person believes that deadlines are for everyone but them, especially if they are trying to get back at you for something.
Dealing with the Passive Aggressive:
The passive aggressive desires, at least sub-consciously, a relationship with someone who can be the object of his or her hostility. They need someone whose expectations and demands he/she can resist. The person who displays passive-aggressive tendencies often is drawn to co-dependents, those with low self-esteem and those who find it easy to make excuses for others.
The biggest frustration in being with a passive aggressive is that they never follow through on agreements and promises. He/she will shirk responsibility for anything in the relationship while at the same time making it look as if he/she is pulling his/her own weight and is a very loving partner. The sad thing is, you may believe that you are loved and adored by a person who is completely unable to form an emotional connection with anyone.
The passive aggressive ignores problems in the relationship, at least the ones that YOU bring up. He/she sees things through their own warped sense of reality and, if forced to deal with problems, they will completely withdraw from you. They will deny any evidence of wrong doing, distort what you know to be real, minimize their behaviors or lie so that their view of what is real seems more logical to you. Divorcing the passive-aggressive leads to a high conflict situation with long-term negative consequences for all involved. See also divorcing a narcissist, as many of these traits overlap.
The passive aggressive will often say one thing but do another. Then, he/she will deny ever saying the first thing. They don’t communicate their needs in a clear manner, expecting their significant other to read their mind and meet their needs. They expect their spouse to just naturally know what they needed or want.
Some pointers for dealing with passive aggressive behavior:
- Recognize and understand passive-aggressive behavior when you see it. Sometimes it is so insidious that you can feel confused or at fault, especially when you are blamed by the aggressor, but once you recognize a pattern of this behavior, accept that you are not to blame.
- Create healthy boundaries for yourself so you aren’t manipulated by a passive-aggressive person. If you notice disrespect, do not allow it to continue.
- Brush up on your own communication skills so that you can respond to passive-aggressive behavior with maturity and honesty.
- Calmly communicate your need for truthful behavior and ask your partner to work on a new way of dealing with conflict.
- Be understanding of the circumstances that created the passive-aggressive behavior. Most of it is based in emotional pain and misplaced anger, but do not let that excuse the behavior.
Confronting the Passive Aggressive:
Beware, if you confront the passive aggressive, it will most likely not be well received. He/she will most likely pout, withdraw, give you the silent treatment, or completely walk away.
There are two theoretical reasons for confronting the passive aggressive. One, if done correctly you may be able to help him/her gain insight into the negative consequences of their behaviors. Two, even if that doesn't happen, it will at least give you the opportunity to talk to him/her about how his/her behavior affects you. However, if your passive aggressive is a narcissist, you will most likely get nowhere. In this case, it is probably best to NOT confront the issue and get out if you still can. If you think you are dating someone with narcissistic personality disorder, read as much as you can on how to deal with him/her. See also my list of resources on the right side of my web page.
Inside the Passive Aggressive:
The passive aggressive has a real desire to have an emotional connection with you, but their fear of that connection causes them to engage in self-destructive behaviors. He/she will be secretive in his actions and it will only move him/her further from his/her desired relationship with you.
The passive aggressive never looks internally to examine his role in a relationship problem. They live in denial of their self-destructive behaviors, the consequences of those behaviors and the choices they make that cause others so much pain.
The passive aggressive objectifies the person of their desires to be used as a means to an end. Your only purpose is to feed his/her own emotional needs. You are not a person with feelings and needs but as an extension of him/her. When you no longer fulfill their needs, you are likely to be discarded, especially if you are involved with someone with NPD (narcissistic personality disorder).
The passive aggressive wants the attention and attachment that comes with loving someone but fears losing his/her independence and sense of self to you. You have to be kept at arms length and if there is an emotional attachment it is sporadic. With my ex, he'd claim we would have a love that songs were written about, be over-the-top in his affections toward me, then completely withdraw all affection for weeks on end over a small disagreement. It was very perplexing.
The only hope for change in the way they deal with relationship issues is if they will acknowledge their mistakes and contributions to the marital problems. Facing childhood wounds, looking internally instead of externally to find the cause of problems in their life will help them form deeper emotional attachments with a higher sense of emotional safety. If the person is willing and able to see his/her faults, he/she may be able/willing to change. If not, don't walk. RUN!!!
The information from this article was taken from : http://divorcesupport.about.com/od/abusiverelationships/a/Pass_Agg.htm. It is a very informative website that you may want to check out.