Suppressed anger is a time bomb. Dealing with passive aggressive people is quite a challenge. They will never tell you directly that something is wrong, but they will torment you long and slowly, in the spirit of "guess yourself, my dear." You have not yet learned to read their thoughts, have you? Well, yes, of course, they know that nobody cares what they feel. People who tend to constantly avoid conflicts are more prone to passive-aggressive behavior in relationships. Outwardly, a person may seem good enough, sweet and pleasant, but their intentions, attitude or behavior are fueled by hostility. A passive-aggressive personality can constantly force other people to do something for them with the help of manipulative behavior. Their passive-aggressive behavior is simply an emotional manipulation to achieve the desired. How to deal with passive aggressors and what does passive-aggressive mean in a relationship?

passive aggressive behavior in a relationship

What Is Passive-Aggressive Behavior?

Passive-aggressive behavior (or passive aggression) is a type of behavior when anger is suppressed. There is passive resistance to negative remarks of the opponent, meanwhile, it’s possible to achieve the goals, set by the person using this behavior.

Among passive-aggressive traits, the suppression of anger is the main one. A passive-aggressive person has a lot of resentment, anger, but they do not know how to express negative emotions and are afraid of this. Such people never say directly what they want and what don’t, what they don’t like and are not happy with. Instead, they subtly avoid the conflict, worry others with lies of omissions, waiting for you to guess why they are offended. Hence, the relationship turns into a nightmare. The list of things to determine if a person is passive-aggressive.

  • Sarcasm.
  • Procrastination.
  • Sly wrecking.
  • Pretending to be in ignorance.
  • Evasiveness.
  • Tardiness.
  • Irresponsibility.
  • Obsession with oneself.
  • Insincere compliments.
  • Inability to participate in a "team game."
  • Inability to cooperate.
  • The person constantly looks away.
  • The person is constantly offended and leaves because of this.

Passive-Aggressive Behavior Examples

1) Every Saturday, Bill and Sarah leave their son with a nanny and go to dinner. Sarah dresses up for every date. She hopes that it helps keep the spark in the relationship. Once Sarah puts on a new little red dress. It is lower cut compared to the dresses Sarah usually wears. She is nervous before appearing to her husband.

When Bill sees Sarah in a new dress, he smiles, shakes his head in surprise and says, "You look ... different." Sarah is upset but decides not to talk about it. She feels awkward all evening. Sarah swears to herself that she will never wear this dress again. Later in the evening, in bed, Bill wants to kiss Sarah. She casually smacks him on the cheek, turns over and pretends to be asleep. All week Sarah thinks about the red dress and her husband's remark. When Bill wants to have sex, she pretends that her stomach aches.

passive aggressive relationshipBy next Saturday, Sarah is mad with anger but she keeps her feelings to herself. She does not ask her husband, “What did you mean when you said that I looked different?” She does not admit that it offended her. If Sarah talked to her husband, she would feel better. Bill would tell her the truth: he had never seen her in such a dress, Sarah surprised him. But he liked the way she looked. Sarah’s response to Bill is a typical example of passive-aggressive behavior in a relationship. Passive aggression is an indirect expression of anger. The person feels uncomfortable but cannot express anger or resentment honestly and openly.

2) - Let's go to the cinema.
- As you wish.
- You do not want?
- I don’t care.
- Are you in a bad mood?
- Maybe.
- Did I offend you?
- It just seems this way to you.
- Can I help you with something?
- I don’t know.
- Well, let's stay at home.
- Do what you like.

3) One says, "We spend little time together," but tries to slip out of the house every time. He/she keeps silence and frowns, hiding eyes, and at the same time, asks, “Is there something wrong?" A person sighs, complains, can demonstratively redo the work you have just completed, showing that you have failed, although they say, “No, no, I just want to help you.”

These are examples of passive-aggressive behavior in relationships. Was aggression manifested in these cases? Sure. Was aggression expressed openly? No. This is the essence of passive aggression: such an aggressor never crosses the socially acceptable boundaries. Thus, due to the fact that social norms were not grossly violated, it is difficult to blame the passive aggressor. But the victim is well aware of how they were treated! The victim does not rejoice, and it is not very easy to persuade them, "Never mind." One felt fully-fledged aggression against them. This is it, aggression, expressed in a passive form.

How to Deal with Passive-Aggressive People

Passive-aggressive behavior can be observed among relatives, colleagues or friends. It can be motivated by envy, jealousy, personality disorders, or medication, a side effect of which is passive-aggressive behavior. What is the best way to deal with a passive-aggressive person? Directing them to such behavior doesn’t usually help because at a certain level they know what they are doing and can only aggravate such behavior in retaliation for raising a question. Main Rules

1. React openly, “I’m angry when you promise to go somewhere with the child, but at the last moment refuse, referring to more important things. Please make a promise only if you can do it for the next time.” “We seem to have agreed with you not to give the baby a sweet, but it turns out that our agreement is not being implemented. Explain why you are doing this; I want to understand." Further developments depend on the answer you’ll get. In any case, show that you are ready for dialogue. When talking with a passive aggressor, it is important, to be frank about your feelings and desires, “I hate,” “I don’t like,” “I’m sorry,” “I’m angry,” “I want," “I offer.” And ask them directly, “What do you want? What are you planning to do? If you do not want to do something, just say, we will look for a solution that suits everyone.”

2. If you have the desire, opportunity, and resources, calmly but firmly insist on the fulfillment of what the person who behaves in a passive-aggressive way has promised you. This is an energy-intensive measure. For this, alas, you will have to constantly remind them of the promise. It is useful to agree on the timing, “Well, tell me when all the blown bulbs will be replaced. Tell me the day and time. ”

3. If your partner continues their course of conduct, they hesitate, resist, sabotage, don’t do what they have promised and do not cooperate, then make conclusions: you cannot rely on them. Do not take their part of the responsibility. Organize your life the way that the frustration of interacting with passive-aggressive people is tenuous.

Am I Passive-Aggressive?

Nobody wants to deal with passive-aggressive people, but what if you are one of them? Take a look at these features that show you may tend to passive-aggressive behavior!

1. Never say, "No"

Passive aggressors can’t admit they don’t like something, they don’t want and will not do this. They agree with everything, but don’t do it.

2. Suppressing anger

These people fear open conflicts. This is often the case with those who grew up in a very emotionally unstable family, where the mother and father constantly abused each other. Such a child grows up with the feeling that anger is a terrible uncontrollable force, that it is ugly and unbearably shameful, therefore, emotions must be restrained and suppressed.

3. Not admitting actual feelings

It is clear that believing in such a terrible force of negative emotions, the passive aggressor doesn’t want to show them - it is better to hide them than to destroy a good relationship (or to seem angry). The passive aggressor will never say the first that something is wrong. If you ask them what happened and why they aren’t happy, the answer will be, "Nothing," "Everything is fine," "I am fine." But their voice demonstrates that everything is completely wrong and not perfect.

passive aggressive behavior in a relationship4. Keeping silence

The passive aggressor may be silent for hours, days, weeks. They won’t answer your questions. This is such a way of punishment: this is how you should find out that you did something wrong, something that offended them.

5. Manipulating

Passive aggressors constantly make you feel pity and guilty. To say straightforwardly what they want is about as unrealistic for them as saying no. And if they need something, they go in complex roundabout ways. Instead of just asking you to help carry a heavy box, such a relative or neighbor will remember all of their medical diagnoses, make loud moans and whine that last time under such circumstances they had a hernia, a heart attack, and hemorrhoids.

How Not to Be Passive-Aggressive in a Relationship?

A passive-aggressive relationship means that both partners constantly suffer from being together. They feel and understand that something is wrong but often can’t split up because, well, all couples go through this.

How to stop being passive-aggressive in a long-term perspective?

Fighting passive aggression in the midst of conflict is the last resort. For many couples, passive-aggressive behavior and passive-aggressive manipulation in a relationship become a long-term problem. The best way to change this pattern of behavior is to work together on it for a long time. Partner’s course of conduct doesn’t depend on gender. Both passive-aggressive women and passive-aggressive men in a relationship can act in the same way and use analogous means of manipulation. To eliminate passive aggression, you need to draw clear boundaries between you and your partner. You need to respect each other’s physical and emotional space. Flexibility is also needed.

Ideally, you and your partner should reach a state in which you feel safe. Thanks to this, you can move boundaries without fear of losing yourself or ending a passive-aggressive relationship.

If your partner is prone to being passive-aggressive in a relationship, you must clearly explain to them what words and actions upset and anger you. To show anger doesn’t mean to destroy the relationship. If you are prone to passive aggression, be open. Listen to a partner: how you can satisfy their emotional needs. To determine the boundaries of each other and build a healthy relationship with anger, follow three steps:

  • Make a list of problems that have recently arisen in a relationship.
  • Draw the boundaries. The list will help figure out how to push the boundaries to strengthen the relationship. The request should be as accurate as possible.
  • Move gradually. Each of you must make concessions. Take one step and see what it will lead to.
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