Though it is difficult to be partners with a man who constantly frustrates you with his passive aggressive behavior, there are things you can do to break through his lack of involvement. When you begin to understand the problem and use a little straight talk, a passive aggressive man’s behavior can change. It does depend on the severity of the learned passive aggressive behavior but in most cases, positive changes can be made. That being said, you should know that there is no easy cure for the life long habits taken on by a passive aggressive man.
Dealing with someone who handles life’s problems in a passive aggressive way is much like dealing with a defiant teenager. You must be direct and straight to the point at all times. The passive aggressive knows how to push buttons so, it’s important for you not react and play his game. One major problem with dealing with a passive aggressive is unrealistic expectations as far as him changing. This might cause you to demand more than he can or is willing to give. You have to stay realistic in your expectations. Change what you can and learn to live with the rest if you choose to stay in the marriage.
Setting Limits With Passive Aggressive Behavior:
- Set firm limits as far as what you will and will not tolerate and then stick to them.
- When communicating with the passive aggressive do not do it in a defensive way. Use messages that begin with “I” when expressing feelings of disappointment.
- Don’t protect the passive aggressive from your unhappy feelings but be sure to communicate those feelings to him in a way that will keep him from withdrawing further.
- Never accept excuses for his passive aggressive behavior.
- Don’t buy into the “I forgot” excuse. If the passive aggressive “forgets” an important date and leaves you in a lurch tell him it was his choice to “forget” and how his choice hurts you. Remind him that he never has a problem remembering dates and activities that are important to him and give him examples of times you have gone out of your way to show value toward a date or activity that was important to him.
- Choose your fights wisely. Being involved with the passive aggressive man you have learned that 9 times out of 10 he is going to avoid anything he views as conflict. This is not only destructive to him but the health of the relationship also. You should all choose our fights wisely BUT should never shy away from confrontation over big issues in the relationship. When you do this, you are playing into his neurotic needs and giving him the opportunity to point a finger at you and call you crazy when you eventually do blow your top over some small issue.
- Rules need to be set between you and the passive aggressive when arguing or discussing an issue. No abusive language, stick to the subject at hand, don’t get off track and start bring up the past. Take time out to cool off if things become too heated and then return to the discussion.
- Encourage him to make choices and you will be helping to build his confidence. When it is time to go to a movie or out to eat, tell him you want him to choose the movie or restaurant. If he refuses to follow through and uses the “I can’t” excuse remind, him that what he really means is he won’t because he resents you asking. Ask him to be more honest, to stop making excuses, and to just tell you that he doesn’t want to do what you ask him to do. There is no harm in pointing out his lack of effort and telling him that if he doesn’t start carrying his weight in the relationship, even if it is something as simple as choosing a movie you are going to stop asking for his input. If he refuses to take more of a leading role then you will have to start asking for only what you absolutely need from him.
- Don’t allow him to play the victim The passive aggressive loves to play the poor, poor me guy in hopes that you will feel sorry for him and not bring up their negative actions. It’s a powerful tool he uses to get out of accepting responsibility for his part in the relationship. The sad thing is, it is directly tied to his lack of confidence and a fear of not being able to hold up his end of the relationship. It’s important to praise him often in areas that he does do well in and to stress how committed you are to the relationship. His actions show a great depth of dependence upon you and fear of abandonment by you. Try to get him to discuss his fears by pointing out to him that anyone views themselves as a victim must be afraid of something.
- Point out every time he tries to control you with his anger. The passive aggressive expresses anger by withdrawing, being sarcastic, using intimidation, withholding affection and love and, in some cases physical violence.
Consequences for passive aggressive behavior must be stated and carried through if they refuse to take responsibility in the relationship. If, in the end, he is unwilling to make changes to his negative behavior, don’t take it personally. It is learned behavior that he uses to avoid confrontation and he may have an obstinate need to hold onto that behavior and the fears that come along with it.