A passive aggressive partner can be tricky to identify as differences between the couple never really leads to an open confrontation. Instead there is a simmering tension which makes life uncomfortable for the other partner.
Passive aggressive partners are often covert with their emotional abuse and manipulation. They seek to establish their dominance in a relationship without being loud.
There is a serious lack of communication with passive aggressive partners as they obstruct any attempt at healthy discussion with sullen silences and gaslighting.
They resort to such hostile tactics because deep down they are insecure about losing control. Emotional blackmail and making you feel inadequate are some of the ways they try to cover up their inadequacies.
Clinical psychologists say passive aggressive relationships often come from a place of codependency which may lead to low-self worth in a partner preventing him/her to voice opinions openly.
This post will provide some insights on what causes passive aggressive behavior, signs of a passive aggressive partner and how to deal with it.
#1. What causes passive aggressive behavior?
To be fair most of us are passive aggressive in some ways. There are times when we all have exhibited passive aggressiveness instead of expressing our anger or disapproval openly.
But in passive aggressive people there is a behavioral pattern where they try to establish their authority without showing their displeasure explicitly.
If you are stuck with a passive aggressive partner you are well aware of the classic traits of sulking, brooding and silent treatment.
They rarely think about consequences or feelings of their partners instead resort to denial, gaslighting or completely blocking whenever you try to initiate a discussion. Here are 3 factors that may cause passive aggressive behavior.
A. Personality Disorders
Research says that passive aggressive behavior may have other personality disorders like narcissism and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
In many cases passive aggressive people have borderline narcissism where they hold themselves in high-regard and are pretty self-centered.
People with ADHD often exhibit passive aggressive behavior because they have difficult in maintaining attention which affects their ability to listen and follow instructions.
This in turn affects their capability of taking responsibilities whether it’s in relationships or in their work life. These people may often suffer from low-self esteem and their frustration at being inadequate often leads to passive anger.
Additionally mental health issues such as stress, anxiety disorders, depression, substance abuse, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, oppositional defiant disorder etc are also connected with passive aggressive behavior.
B. Negative experiences
Traumatic childhood experiences or having a passive aggressive parent can also cause passive aggression in individuals.
Disturbing childhood events which one has suppressed or been forbidden to ever speak of may lead to repressed anger and frustration leading to passive aggressive behavior.
Our parents make a huge impact in our personalities and if you have witnessed passive aggression among your parents with sullen silences and a tense atmosphere at home chances are you will be affected and display such behavior as an adult.
C. Critical parents
Children whose have parents are overtly critical may display passive aggressive behavior later as they feel hesitant to express their opinions for the fear of criticism.
If you have a passive aggressive partner note if their parents are constantly critical of their efforts no matter how hard they try.
9 signs of a passive aggressive partner
Those in a passive aggressive relationship may have seen their partner displaying these classic behavioral traits. It may be difficult to identify passive aggressive relationships at first because the emotional abuse is subtle but it is abuse nonetheless. Read about these traits and note if your partner has displayed any of these behavioral symptoms.
#1. Sarcastic Humor
A common trait of passive aggressive partners is taking sly digs at their partners both in public and in private space. These digs or jokes at your expenses are laced with sarcasm that provides them an outlet to express their disagreements.
This sarcastic humor may be related to your life decisions, your job, your family and friends, your appearance and basically anything they don’t approve of when it concerns you.
However when you protest they always take the moral high ground or act hurt and dismiss your objections accusing you of being too sensitive or claiming they were just kidding around.
#2. Vague Attitude
Since passive aggressive people have serious communication issues it adds certain confusion in their minds. They will never say a definite “yes”or “no” to things. Even if they say yes to something you propose their body language would indicate the complete opposite.
Like suppose you are planning a get-together on weekend and you ask your partner to arrange the food. He won’t directly say no to you instead procrastinate on the task you have given him. If you reprimand he will find a way to blame you, for instance saying he was too busy and how you never try to understand him.
#3. Stonewalling & obstructing discussions
Passive aggressive people rarely discuss things instead they would stonewall your efforts to initiate discussions. They remain in denial about their issue, sometime unconsciously, and obstruct when you try to point out a problem.
They never want to see through a discussion calmly or have a follow-up talk, instead they may just slam the door and lock themselves in room or leave the house to be away from you or cut your phone call midway.
#4. Express anger passively
It is necessary for every human express their anger, because it is a necessary emotion. But since passive aggressive partners can’t express their anger openly it comes out in covert forms
They take refuge in brooding and silence to register their protest. They may suddenly stop talking to you; avoid any communication from you out of the blue.
While you may keep on wandering what went wrong they would treat it as a form of punishment you deserve. This also extends to physical closeness. They may deliberately avoid physical intimacy as a form of punishment in case of a conflict.
#5. Insecure about themselves
Passive aggressive people are deep inside insecure about themselves. They are conscious about their personality and there is certainly a need for validation. This lack of self-confidence and self-worth may often take form of jealously and negativity.
They may be uneasy about others’ achievements, including you. They may also display a tendency of bad-mouthing every other person without any reason. This habit of over-critiquing may also extend to people in your circle, who your partner cannot stand.
Don’t be surprised if he subtly asks you to maintain a distance from a particular friend. This is nothing but their insecurity creeping in.
Gaslighting is again a common trait of passive aggressive people. They will always blame you for their issues. Their abuse, mood swings and repressed anger is always your fault. It is just another way of avoiding responsibility for their actions.
They will also blame you for their unacceptable behavior and pretend to be emotionally distressed because of you. This is another tactic of shifting the blame on you conveniently so you end up feeling guilty.
#7. Victim Mentality
The need for sympathy is regular with passive aggressive people. They are masters at manipulation and playing victim or martyr.
They never accept their mistakes instead find a way of blaming other and convince you too. This is again a psychological issue because deep down they are convinced it is someone else’s fault.
Research also says these people may exaggerate incidents, create false stories and distort the truth to gain sympathy from their partners. They also wallow in self-sympathy to reinforce a notion of life being particularly unfair to them.
#8. Emotional Blackmail
Emotional blackmail is a form of psychological manipulation where you are constantly threatened by your partner of drastic steps if you dare to leave the relationship. Co-dependents may regularly adopt such tactics to stay in control and gain your attention and sympathy.
Threats of self-harm are nothing but emotion abuse to coerce you in continuing the relationship don’t give in to such tactics. If such behavior has been happening frequently please reach out and seek help, understand the fact that you have been wronged and you are the victim not the other way around.
Passive aggressive people are not good at following instructions. All that repressed anger within them views this as form of domination by an authority. Unconsciously they feel it is unfair to take orders and hence they have absolutely no regard for deadlines at work or in personal lives. For them it is a form of rebellion where they aren’t answerable to anyone. This propensity to be stubborn shows up in several ways.
Suppose you asked your partner to arrive at an event at a particular time he will deliberately be late or avoid it to assert himself even when there isn’t any need for it.
They may conveniently forget to go get things don’t around the house or mess up your plans to put you in a tricky position. But you can never reason with them because ultimately they will gaslight you and play the victim.
#10. Hit you in weak spot
Passive aggressive partners with borderline narcissistic behavior may withhold information from to sabotage you. Nothing makes them more insecure than the spotlight shifting from them to you. They may stealthily try to manipulate you into withdrawing a decision that may enhance your career or intentionally pick you on your weak spot.
They rarely display positive or supportive attitude instead may be cynical and pessimistic about your choices to instill a sense of self-doubt in you. But don’t get cowered down if you are convinced about something and feel it in your gut. Just go for it and be confident in your capabilities.
How to deal with passive aggressive partner
If you have noticed signs of passive aggression in your partner and are fed up of walking around the eggshells maybe it’s time to have some heart to heart talk. But keep in mind certain factors while speaking to your partner. People with passive aggressive behavior have a lot of undiagnosed issues and they detest the idea of open communication so you have to be prepared mentally to face some initial resistance.
A. Have empathy for your partner but don’t pity or sympathize with them. Their passive aggression may be their defense or coping mechanism. They may indulge in such behavior unconsciously also.
B. It is difficult not to be emotional especially when you are at the receiving end of passive aggression, but try to state matters as it is, control your anger be calm and convey your concerns about their behavior.
C. During the discussion don’t drag up past issues or even if you do use it as a reference point. Don’t blame and shame your partner. Passive aggressive people are prone to low self-respect so shaming them may have a reverse effect.
D. Call out their behavior then and there when you witness your partner behaving in passive aggressive manner. If things are really serious consider couple’s therapy or counseling session for your partner.
E. Let it be a two-way discussion where you to ask their opinion about what they feel about you. This would help you to learn something about yourself also whether you too are unconsciously displaying passive aggressiveness. Talk as a friend with an aim to have an honest conversation.
F. If however you are mentally drained in your relationship it is important to ask yourself some pertinent question is worth your peace of mind to stay invested in a relationship which is so toxic. Reach out to your support group and seek help.
When you have a passive aggressive partner it is easy to fall prey to their manipulations and feel guilty and inadequate, but try and remember you aren’t at fault here you are not here to be anybody’s punching bag nor are you responsible for their actions.
Although healthy discussion is an antidote to a lot of issues the challenge with passive aggressive people is to bring them to the discussion table. But if you are willing to work things out with your partner you have to be mentally strong and brace yourself for some setbacks and resistance from the other side.
But once you are successful in making a breakthrough it is possible for you both to cultivate a loving relationship.
Hopefully you found some useful insights in this post are you stuck in passive aggressive relationship please leave your thoughts below.