Peter Pearson

Asking your mate to empty the dishwasher should theoretically be totally devoid of drama or tension. It's just one of many chores necessary to keep your home functioning–right?

However, with a passive aggressive personality, any situation has the potential to go from the trivial to emotional combat.

It started with the simple question from my wife, Ellyn, “Pete did you empty the dishwasher?”

I didn't respond but begrudgingly left the History Channel and headed for the kitchen, knowing I had agreed to do it before now.

 

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I hadn't put more than three coffee cups into the cupboard when Ellyn informed me I wasn't unloading the dishwasher properly.

“Oh, really just what do you suggest?” said I, packing 100 pounds of sarcasm into that question without a shred of genuine curiosity.

Ellyn – seemingly stunningly oblivious – responded as though I had some interest in learning a better way. “Empty the bottom rack first so dishes don't get dripped on when you empty the top rack.”

I fired the second salvo of sarcasm when thanking her for the lessons on dishwasher liberation.

Many times Ellyn has gotten mad at me for not following through with an agreement. This was the real problem for Ellyn and the dishwasher. After I'd blown numerous promises, she would understandably get tense in her voice and face while expressing her frustration.

OK, so far this is pretty normal stuff for most marriages. But I could take it to new heights. I would criticize Ellyn for the way she got mad at me. I'd change the topic. The problem became her unreasonable way of expressing disappointment instead of my broken agreement.

Doing this tricky psychological maneuver took absolutely no effort, thinking or planning on my part. Just pure instinct. The implication was that if she would just change the way she expressed her frustration the problem would be solved. Better yet, if she just had more patience, I would eventually get around to getting it done.

Poor Ellyn, she was doomed if she got angry and doomed if she said nothing. Welcome to the crazy world of the passive aggressive partner.

Although I wasn't a full fledged, card carrying passive aggressive personality, I had the qualifications to be an honorary member of the club.

Want more help? Check out our audio workshop on passive aggressive partners.

Here's a big secret about this problem. Passive aggressive behavior is a very difficult challenge for couples. The passive aggressive person is a pain to live with and very hard to change.

Here's why. Passive-aggressive people are typically hypersensitive to actual or perceived criticism.  Especially when they don't follow through with promises. Here's the kicker. They have great gobs of good reasons for not following through with crucial agreements.

For example, I could blame my failure to complete agreements on ADD. Or I might say that I suffer from a condition of temporary and intermittent cognitive slippage (which is only a devious description of being lazy and forgetful).

This is a problem that affects both partners, but in different ways. The passive aggressive person generally feels they are under assault and no matter what they do, they cannot please their partner. “Jeez, I can't even empty the dishwasher right!”

The other partner believes they cannot depend on the passive aggressive mate to reliably follow through. Even if I am 80% reliable, as I would sometimes point out to Ellyn, she has no idea what the 80% will be or when it will be completed. This screws up the logistical part of being an effective team which supports being an effective couple.

So what causes this aggravating problem that painfully affects both partners in different ways? Most passive aggressive folks have two things in common:

1. A highly critical parent or parents, resulting in a high sensitivity to being judged on performance.

2. A lot of painful disappointments in life. This results in a reflexive coping mechanism that severely restricts their hopes and desires in life. Minimizing desires is a subconscious attempt to avoid getting hopes up and then dashed which triggers a warehouse of painful disappointments stored in the emotional brain.

It becomes much easier for passive aggressive people to say what they don't want than what they do want.

It's like running life's race with your shoelaces tied. But the frustration of living a life of pinched desires leaks out in being “obstructionistic” – to their spouse, therapist, boss, and anyone else that might have a say, or at least a suggestion, about what they should do.

“I don't like anyone telling me what to do, including myself,” said Bill, who has a passive aggressive personality. This is not an easy mind-set for a spouse to live with.

All in all nobody is happy.

Passive aggressive behavior can show up in other subtle ways. Hard core passive aggressive people rarely initiate doing leisure joint activities, buying things, going places, celebrating special occasions, planning surprises, or giving compliments, and they often have a hard time buying gifts.

So what can you do? This is a complex question with no easy answer. The solutions to this problem are extremely hard to summarize with the clarity and brevity required for a newsletter column. Next month I'll describe why passive aggressive behavior is a systemic problem and what both partners need to do. In the meantime, it should be some small comfort to understand some of the challenges and to recognize what you're dealing with.

About 

Peter Pearson, Ph.D., Relationship & Teamwork Expert for Entrepreneur Couples

Pete has been training and coaching couples to become a strong team since 1984 when he co-founded The Couples Institute with his psychologist wife, Ellyn Bader.

Their popular book, “Tell Me No Lies,” is about being honest with compassion and growing stronger as a couple.

Pete has been featured on over 50 radio and television programs including “The Today Show,” "Good Morning America,” and "CBS Early Morning News,” and quoted in major publications including “The New York Times,” “Oprah Magazine,” “Redbook,” “Cosmopolitan,” and “Business Insider.”


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  11. I’ve been with my husband 10 years now .
    I’m at the end of my tether now his PA is getting worse . He has been going to
    He has been getting counselling first once a week he thinks when we have a good week he doesn’t need to go .
    He is s workaholic and uses his work to stay later and later sometimes it’s to punish me .
    Money and his work are his life I’m last .
    He doesn’t talk to me unless it’s about work or someone at work , he never asks how me how my day has been . He is always calling me lazy though I work and do everything in the house cleaning shopping cooking car cleaning and everything that involves the car . We have houses we rent out I deal with all the cleaning maintenance contractors , taking phone calls for repairs finding someone to do them . I do the 6 monthly checks on the houses he says he doesn’t like going round peoples houses and has no time to do any repairs .
    I do everything yet I’m still told I’m lazy . He also calls my son lazy and has insulted us both verbally with words you wouldn’t repeat .
    He makes promises then drags his feet and if I remind him or ask if he has done that yet he will say no because you are going on about it .
    When he realises he can’t find anymore excuses after a bad time arguing then he may be sorry but that’s after the ignoring and blaming me and the insults .
    I’m lonely there is no affection no sec life not much communication. We don’t have friends as he won’t communicate with them and I find it embarrassing so dong invite anyone round now.
    Family come but he works and rather than communicate he will go go bed early or sit on his iPad or just sit saying nothing .
    He comes home unfriendly no sign that he actually likes me at all rather like he hates me .
    When things have been horrendous I’ve said I wang to leave he then becomes nice for a while but it soon goes back to the later .
    He controls me with finances, he sold the econical car for an expenses one which I find drains me of money to run it . If we talk about buying anything for the house that I want to change he will drag it out drag it out , I’ve waited 8 years for a new table , promises a new fridge but I’ve given up on that . Holidays we have some good ones but from the discussion about one go actually booking it is a long process and usually an awful time has to occur before it actually happens .
    He is always saying he can’t agford it yet though we don’t spend on much rarely go out rarely look forward to anything as we aren’t able to plan because he won’t .
    I’m just left broke as all my money goes on food things gifts for family and my son .
    He makes me feel like a drain on him I don’t ask him anymore for anything .
    He promised myself and my son a holiday and then didn’t book it and again caused a nightmare of a time as I kept asking if he had changed his mind as he hadn’t booked it he said again it’s becsusd I went on about it .
    When I told him to stick it then he booked it and another time of ignoring me as I didn’t thank him that resulted in calling me boring and he was bored with me and didn’t know if he wanted to be with me any more . Because I went quiet what could I say . He then said something wrong with me behaving like that like he was oblivious to what he had done before.
    Then said he wished he could cancel the holiday or my son should go with his girlfriend as I didn’t say thank you and I was rude and didn’t deserve to go .
    I feel like I’m going mad . I want to leave had enough now. No love affection money socialising always madd to feel blame yet he says I always blame him every thing is his fault and then the ignoring starts .
    Figs children from his first marriage his mum his step mother me that dies the communication with them making excuses for him why he doesn’t call them though he may be at home at the time but won’t speak to them .
    I’m venting as I’m angry frustrated and totally at a loss at the circle of episodes ever ceasing.
    I’ve got to leave for my own happiness and that of my sons I know that .
    I’ve stayed as he has no friends no family communication only his work which he says he only has and stats so long as my behaviour makes him stat there .
    What will become of him also my financial situation will make it hard for me to move out and I know when I do he will make my life hell on earth not that it hasn’t been anyway .
    I know I must go . I think I’ve gained the strength now probably because it’s hell to stay and the peace I will feel is what is helping me .
    I’ve read a lot of these posts and to hear that some of you have had as bad a time as I have it helps as I feel like I’m not mad after all

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  14. This has been helpful for me. My wife’s mother did a number on her. She can’t get organized, she won’t stick to a plan (even seems like she makes a pint to never do so.” I do 80% of all house work, and she believes herself to be “doing all the house work alone.”
    The only undone work is her clothes, her room (I refuse to share one because I like to see my bed, floor and countertops not piles of clothes). She will spend all her time cleaning and things just look hordes, not sorted. She places baskets and piles of loundry in the front and back hallway so that the doors can not be opened. If I complain about they laundry (which primarily belongs to her but she mixes it with the children’s to,claim only partial ownership. She will organize dirty dishes, but not clean them, sometimes several times before I or in a rare occasion she cleans them. Every bit of information brought her way is questioned to no end, depreciating the validity of the presenter. She leaves for work 5 minutes before she should be there and has never been on time, ever, for a job while we have been together, 13 years. She won’t plan events, parties or buy presents. If she is criticized she will tantrum like a toddler. I last week I spent hours fixing the furnace, when I came up she suggested I do the dishes while on a role. We have split up, and she has threatened to move out, but instead she has moved into the living room, which is a mess now. She broke up with me because she could no longer stand my criticism, and she had an online boyfriend before she broke the news to me, but if she even thinks I am talking to someone she acts like we have never broken up and I betrayed her.
    I hate her mother, she is the most passive aggressive person I know personally. She will walk into a room and huf and sie until someone asks what her problem is, then she tells you what yours is in that not so direct way. “O your Irish, lucky I am not Irish or I would have a broken fence and dirt for a from lawn.” Her mother makes her feel like a child who will never measure up to anything, her two older sisters, her ancestors ect.
    I feel like the woman in the relationship with being the foundation for the kids and doing most of the housework, she was a stay at home mom for a long time, but I still did most of that stuff most of the time, the rest of the time it just went undone. I feel like any bit of cleaning I do is enabling her to,believe she is maintaining the house. My room is spotless, and the kids get clean sometimes, but she keeps the kitchen living room and her room in shambles.
    Good to vent, I am not perfect, but I have nowhere here exadurated accept when I use words like never, she has bought some presents and must have gotten to work on time at some point, but examples are very hard to produce.
    I am a Virgo and she an Aquarius if anyone was wondering.

  15. Crikey, this has knocked me for six. This is my husband after been married for 6 months how stupid I feel for falling for all is charm and believing her was such a good person. I now beginning to realize I need to get out of this marriage . We dated for 2 years before marrying and I was blinded by love even though all the signs were there. Now am paying for it. Am 54 , so tired with all that goes with PA man. I do not want to stay around to help him. Am done . Thank you for the insight x

  16. I figure I am married to a PA have put up with it for 31 years never got any wedding gift from him or his family he moved into my apartment and then the first week of marriage he wasnt there he would go and stay with his cousin and have dinner with him that first week I had such a strong feeling to leave him and get marriage annulled but I loved him so the torture continued on. I bought a condo that we both moved into cuz I was desperate to get out of that 300 square foot apartment, the condo was a disaster it became dangerous and unliveable 24/7 of noise vermin rats and mice and millions of cockroaches I worked out of the condo so I ended up very sick being locked up in there had to file bankruptcy then we became homeless too sick to work. He had a lot of fun he coached girls at a catholic private girls school making a penauts really a stipend and boy did he work overtime. also he does a radio show for free every sunday–more fun!! never had a honeymoon never put up a dime for the small wedding no gift or even flowers when I married him not even an I Love You. My father put up money for a house in cash and my mother felt sorry for hin and put Half in his name. we moved in a very nice home bought and paid for and he never thanked anybody he actually used to sneer at me he nver cut the grass he never did anything with the house I couldnt do much –I was so sick from anxiety disorder and a chemical imbalance from the mess in that condo He refused to take out trash. H for example he left some rugs outside on the porch forever and yellow jackets made a nest and he just let it go my poor dog got stung but he was okay thank god I begged him to get rid of the rugs fell on deaf ears never went on a trip only to his home country where I was stuck for a month in the house with hsi mother doing nothing while he was out ;lying soccer with friends He always told me his parents had a perfect marriage but I found out the father was always cheating and never home
    mother had everything provied for and seemed useless. I always gave him my paycheck to pay bills. I cooked and cleaned never complimented never appreciated.
    I am an artist and he resented tht. he decided that he wanted to be a painter what a joke and got mad when I told him he has no talent for that. I have no relatives now but inherited some money that he wanted half of Im too wise now and said never!!
    Now I have Lyme disease was bedridden and of course he has no empathy and he screamed at me while I was at my lowest point I am stronger now —He refused to clean leaves or cut grass so we were full of ticks never cleaned out little shed hundreds of mice we had two dogs at time and he never cleaned up the poop I did of course but it was a mess people would walk by and look with disgust. He lies alot but he turns it around on me like I imagined it all. He has no friends I feel drained of everything and I am still paying out money he still makes peanuts I beg him to make xtra try a tag sle to take the burden off me but he never does. I am afraid of going through all of whatever I have left to take care of myself he seems angry if he pays for a cheapo meal my mother left me her almost new car he was driving and totaled it and tried to keep the insurance money from it but I demanded it back
    it goes on and on. Im just like all of you poor souls married to one of these creeps.
    good luck to all of you but get out while you can

  17. I think that one of the things that needs to be discussed on pages like this is also the possibility of getting the heck out. Unfortunately I’ve got 2 kids with my husband and am not sure if it is in their interests or not for me to stay. They may be better off if we stay together than split. I recently had to spend two months out of town dealing with my parents’ significant health needs. While I was gone, my husband sort of kept things running (he doesn’t have a job so it isn’t like he is busy with other things, either). Hmmm. Building a raised bed for strawberries? Sure, but then instead of pulling the sod out he just leaves it in, making for dozens of hours of extra work for me. I would have been able to do it myself. Oh, and while he did that, he conveniently “forgot” to take the kids to 4H. He watched my dogs, but then when a puppy got sick, gosh darn it, it just didn’t cross his mind to call the vet, so my puppy died. He mowed the lawn, but pretended not to see all of the raspberry plants he destroyed instead of mowing around them. He kept the chickens fed and watered, but gee, when the new chicks from the hatchery started dying, it just didn’t cross his mind to call the vet and see what was going on; rather, I had to blow my top at him before he did that (turns out it was Marek’s disease). And so on. Doesn’t take the initiative to get the kids enrolled in ANY extracurricular activities, and then complains and whinges on when I take the initiative to do so. “Forgets” that I had our youngest kid in flute lessons. Lets the house (in my absence) turn into the sort of filth pile from which social services snatches the kids, and then I become the bad guy when I come home after 2 months out of town and get angry when I see piles of dirt mixed with shedding dog hair and torn up paper all over the house. Gets the kids fed, but when daughter comes home from school with an obviously fractured finger, it doesn’t dawn on him to call the doctor, so then I become the bad guy when I chew him out over it and make the doctor’s appointment myself (from 180 miles away) and direct him to take her there. Rude and snarky comments when I don’t get dinner going at his demand the first night of Passover, and then pretending (since he isn’t Jewish) to understand the significance of the holiday, and feigning complete ignorance as to the level of rudeness he just displayed.

    I can’t wish my kids away. What I do wish is that I would have left him 10 years ago when we were expecting our youngest kid. But now what? Do I leave him over his ongoing passive-aggression and thereby wreck our kids’ participation in extracurriculars (since he will, no doubt, constantly “forget” to get them where he needs to during his time of placement, should we split and have shared placement)? At least the way things are, I can get them to Hebrew school, 4H, and other activities, no matter what night it is. If we were to have 50-50 placement, then bye-bye participation in any non-school activities because he would be able to sabotage it half of the week.

  18. Wow !!!! I’ve been married almost 2 years and this is so crazy to read , it’s my husband to the t!!!!!!!!! He never apologizes or takes reaponsabilitu for his mean selfish behavior, he always procrastinates, never gets stuff done, has so much potential so I hope he’ll change but he doesn’t care to reach it Bc he doesn’t like to set goals. He hates planning or committing to doig anything.

    I’ve cried almost everyday Bc If he decides Im annoying (usually over nothing) , he will punish me by silent treatment after insulting me and getting mad at me and blaming me when really he’s the one at fault. If i ask him to plz do something he promised he’ll do he feels attacked even if i do it with love and if i don’t bring it up then he won’t do it either so either way I’m screwed.

    Everyone loves him but I know the real mean him.
    He cheated on me at first on chatting apps, then with escorts and got us in HuGe debt Bc of being a sugar daddy as if we had money. He thinks he’s so amazing and just the most amazing at everything and better than everyone at most things.

    If we disagree or he’s annoyed we can never problem solve Bc he just withdraws , he says stuff like ugh go away ur so annoying , and even says stuff like he doesn’t care about me or if I leave

    🙁 so much pain

  19. Living with a passive aggressive personality is indeed frustrating. If you listen to politicians you will notice they often do not respond to the questions asked. They duck, dodge, weave and then respond to the question they wanted you to ask. It is crazy making to the interviewer or viewer. Politicians are trained to do this. Passive aggressive people do it naturally. It is a defense against making emotional contact and the being painfully disappointed when emotional connection and then having it ruptured. Passive aggressive people do not have the resilience to tolerate the connection and inevitable disconnection. Many do not change but some do with sufficient insight and motivation.

    it takes a team effort to make the change.

  20. Oh & one more tip – in my case the key phrase was “I forgot” -“I forgot to put the cat net on the cot (again) & the cat nearly smothered the baby”, “I forgot to close the front door & out toddler was nearly killed by a car”, “I forgot to find more work so we have no money”, “I forgot your birthday/anniversary etc etc”.
    I now know if I heard the words “I forgot” there was passive aggression happening – for years I had racked my brains to understand how he could “forget” important things yet again. That man recked my life & those of our children. I’m now so happy to be away from all that stress & continual unhappiness. Btw PAs don’t want to change because they are getting what they want out of the situation which is seeing their victim’s externalise the PAs anger & upset which they are unable to directly express themselves. Don’t expect them to give that up for anyone.

  21. My ex husband was PA & I lived with his appalling behaviour for almost 20 yrs before reading something on line about PA & there he was on paper! By this time I had gone through a mental breakdown & my physical health was dreadful too. I showed him the traits of PA & said “I think you do this”, he read it & said “yes & you don’t know how deep this goes”. This gave me hope that now he knew he would change & stop his appalling behaviour – after all no-one would treat the people they love like that intentionally right? Nope – he decided he didn’t want to stop it & I divorced him. He is now carrying out his nasty little games on his new girlfriend. I want to tell her but she wouldn’t believe me. Our daughter is also suffering as he uses his PA against her too. I’ve had to tell her about PA & how her dad acts to try to give her the tools to protect herself but I know she is feeling very bad. Do not be under any illusion – PAs do not change – they may look like they are but this is just a tactic so they can get your defences down & start it up all over again. The only solution is to leave & have no contact. Run away as fast as you can. My tip is judge a PA by their actions only – ignore everything they say – its all lies. Their actions tell you what they really mean. Good luck to all those suffering with one of these disgusting people – save yourself – you can’t save or change them x

  22. Many thanks to all of you for your comments,they have given me great insight.
    I have been married for 26 yrs to a PA man and have only just realised it.I’m not taking any more of his ‘sabotaging’ behaviour and he knows it!He comes from a broken home,his parents’ divorced when he was very young[5] and to top it off he went to
    boarding school in the 70s…bleak emotionally bereft places in England.As soon as the
    children came along he changed.They have left home now and it’s just me and him…
    I do love him..but he exhibits classic PA behaviour..TEXTBOOK!I don’t want a divorce
    even though he’s driving me insane sometimes..I want him to change and I think he is very slowly doing so…so there IS HOPE.In the end change comes from within..he has to want it.Calmly tell them that they are passive aggressive and that you won’t be tolerating such behaviour anymore..it can work.Good Luck.

  23. I feel shocked reading your descriptions of PA husbands. So accurate! I have no way out but I am happy for those of you who can flee.

  24. I can so relate to many of the testimonies. I am 64 and finally getting a divorce after 40 plus years of marital hell as I describe it. I am a person that likes reconciliation and restoration. That doesn’t happen when you are with a PA person. Anytime you want to address issues, you are treating the person unfairly or get stonewalled or gaslighted and the problem ends up being YOU. I only recently figured out what this all was that I was dealing with for decades. No counseling really helped me to figure it out. It is emotional abuse that stems from a passive aggressive person. I could never figure out why I felt nuts all the time. I always looked like the one out of control because they stay in control ~ that keeps up their facade. I wanted desperately for the marriage to work and tried and tried but finally now realize it is pretty useless and hopeless and I am burned out to the max and have no desire to live the way I have anymore. My poor sons had to be witness to all this and there was a time they thought I was the one out of control too but now they are wiser. I wanted desperately for the man to be free to be a stable and happy man but it is all just wishful thinking and I stayed Far, Far too long. Should have gotten off the bus many decades ago. Don’t wait until you are like me and most of your life has passed you by. If you see no effort on their part to want to change, chances are great it will not happen.

  25. I hate my husband. I don’t know how to get him out of my life. He’s a user and passive aggressive. My life is hard. I’m old and tired. My house is a disaster even though I work hard. Life has no reward. I have dreams but no hope.

  26. How I got my husband back and restored my marriage. First of all i want to thank jennifer for the post she made on how Dr Thomas helped her in bringing back her lover before NEW YEAR . At first when i saw the posting i was so happy and in the other hand so scared,That this might not be real, Then i decided to give it a try in which i contacted Dr Thomas and told him how my lover left me for another lady for the past 5mouths and i have been crying and depressed without him, So i asked him if he has helped anyone called jennifer and he said yes, that was the lady he helped in bringing back her lover before NEW YEAR, I said good and i asked him that if he can help me in bringing back my own lover, He laughed and said once i have contacted him that I should consider my problem solved. He said that my lover will be back to me within 24hours and do an unexpected thing for me. i said really, Truly when the 24hours was completed i got a text from someone saying am sorry then i decided to call the number i saw it was my lover jack. I was so happy he was begging me on phone, That he is ready to do anything that will make me happy in life, So i told him to come over which he did, As he was coming he came with a brand new car as gift i was so happy and made me had access to his account to prove to me that he is not going to leave me for another lady, Am so happy today and am also thanking jennifer for posting this early. Dr Thomas you are truly a man of your word. He can also solve any kind of problems in this world problems like WINNING LOTTERIES, GETTING GOOD JOB. CHILD BEARING. SPIRITUAL PROTECTION. JOB PROMOTION. CANCEL DEBT/LOAN from any finance company and he can also cure and kind of diseases with his herbal medicine. Friends you can contact Dr Thomas on his private Email: (drthomasherbalhome21[email protected] .com) This man is a GOD sent..

  27. I believe in God, my girlfriend and I had been dating for over a year and a half when she decided to move to Peru to join the Peace Corps. I always knew she was considering going but she did not want to ever talk to me about it, at one point a few months before she left she told me she was leaning towards not going and staying in our hometown. Three weeks before the date she would leave she told me she was going. She told me she was scared to talk to me about it worrying I would react negatively, and that she wanted to stay together during her two year commitment. I felt that ending on good terms and staying in touch would be best for us and our possible future, but I ended up agreeing to stay together. I found myself heartbroken in the month following her departure, and I admit I made the mistake of acting needy and doubtful of our relationship, which she said ended up pushing her away. We broke up for good over a month ago and she told me her feelings have changed due to how I have acted. She asked I give her space and do not talk to her over the app we had been using to text/call. I am going to respect her request but it is hard because I really still love and care for her. I want to know how she is doing. I was worried that by not talking we will grow further apart/if I wait for her she will not talk to me again.Than I have handwritten a few letters explaining my feelings for her.But she never reply, But lucky for me DR IFA was the one who brought my love back to me, he is a good spell caster. his contact address is (drifatomilolaspiritualtmple @ gmail . com, You can still save your marriage or Relationship if really you still love your partner.

  28. Wow!!! Im blown away. For most of my 16 years of marriage Ive been concerned that I might have mental issues because I just could not understand what was going on around me and he ALWAYS attacks my character. His favorite saying is …”You don’t have the capacity to…….” You can fill in the blanks there with what ever you like. I am currently on Valium to subdue my panic attacks and I struggle to keep depression at bay. About 2 years ago I contemplated suicide because I went through a severe depression. His mother was living with us at the time, and she too is highly passive aggressive. My mother had just had a heart attach and my father had called for to come asap. They lived about 2 hours flight away from us. My reaction was to immediately ask my mother in law to watch the kids for a couple of days and she flat out said NO…..”I will have a heart attach if I have stay here and watch the kids”…I couldn’t believe it! My husband was out of town on business and I called him to let him know what was happening. He promptly told me that there was other family to take care of my mother and if I should even BOTHER to make alternative arrangements with the kids he would take all my money out of my account so I could not buy a plane ticket. And to top it all off I told him what his mother said and his response to me was…”Well you know how you can be……” What does that even mean!!
    And so my depression began. I have suffered for YEARS. I have fought myself out of that depression and left him for about 6 months to get away from that toxic environment. We are back together but he still hasn’t changed. I know now that I AM NOT CRAZY. And with his mother living with us makes it 100 times worse. I cannot do this ANY LONGER. I am seriously considering divorce. Ive been a stay at home mom most of our marriage. But because he cant keep a job for more than 2 years….which I am now convinced is because of his PA……Ive been working a receptionist job. It doesnt pay much but it feeds our kids and helps with the necessities. He has been out o work for almost 3 years and STILL he says ‘ I dont mean to diminish your job but on your salary we just get by”…..or…” No disrespect but with my salary we would be able to do much more than we do know” Well then keep a job Mr I know it all!!! Im exhausted! Ive been in and out of ER’s, drinking pill after pill for depression and anxiety and the bastard has the audacity to tell me its all in my head! Yes I am angry. Angry for believing that I am the cause of an unhappy marriage. I feel stifled, like my life has been sucked out of me, no have no energy left. I have no friends because he constantly assuming that Im sleeping with my friends if and when I make friends. I know I have to leave….but Im afraid too

  29. After 27 years of marriage and still dancing the same tune only now at age 53 after reading everyone’s testimonials do I honestly see and understand that my husband is PA. He has pushed me to the point of insanity where I have done anything and everything to get a response from him. I have screamed and shouted, I have thrown things, I have attempted suicide, I have even thrown a glass of wine at him as well as hitting him (I am very ashamed and guilty of my behavior). We have 2 older sons in their twenties who have been privy to some of this dysfunctional behavior. We have been for counselling but he always blames me. I feel guilty about myself and any decision I make all the time. I beg him to talk to me and say what he feels and feel what he says and he just looks at me dumbfounded. If I ask him a question, he sees it as a confrontation and withdraws completely. I sleep in the spare room and he comes into the room asking me everyday if I had a good sleep and would I like a cup of tea??? Yet he never every brings up the elephants in the room. He cannot understand why I have withdrawn from him and tells me I am crazy why cant we just move on. I cant anymore as I have done it so many times to my own detriment and when I see him walking down the passage shaking his head and whistling it drives me insane when there are issues to be confronted and talked about. All our friends and my sons think he is such an awesome, positive person and such fun to be around and I of course am seen as the problem. I left a page on PA traits (which I had printed from the internet) next to the kettle for him to read to try and get through to him- he didn’t even acknowledge it or say anything about it but did ask if I would like a cup of tea. I have not had the courage to leave as I always think he will change, up until now I have always believed that I am the problem. He says that he had the best childhood any child could ever have had, he says he never screams or shouts at me, or ever criticizes me which he doesn’t but at the same time I can read him like a book and know that he is thinking something but not saying what he is thinking or feeling. He puts on this act in front of friends that he is a model husband. I am at a total loss within myself as I know he will not change and that I have to find the courage to move on. My self esteem is so low, I live on tranquilizers to get through each day and have now started drinking early in the evening because all I want to do is sleep and not wake up to another day of feeling bad and guilty about me being the person I am.

  30. Sam – your comment about ” I eventually asked him to leave as I was becoming ill with it all.” reminds me of a woman I once worked with – she was in a similar situation as yours and said after I told him to leave and he did, i noticed I didn’t need anti depressants any more.

    There is a price for staying and a price for leaving – the choice of the price is always ours.
    Thanks for sharing
    Pete

  31. Kim – I’m glad you got some of your struggles off your chest.
    Your final statement “but am tired of living with someone who will never change” .suggests the next move is up to you. Do you fear living without him is a greater fear than the anguish of living with him?

    There is a really good book that may shed even more light on you and your situation. It is called The War of Art. It is a lot about the demons you and your husband are fighting . The author is Steven Pressfield
    Good luck
    Pete

    • Its never too late to leave them. I have been with my husband for 8 years and married nearly 6. I am 53 I eventually asked him to leave as I was becoming ill with it all. He was also constantly on his phone which led me to think he is also an addict. He wouldn’t do anything and on his days off he would sleep, blaming everybody else except himself. They are also selfish to the core. He couldn’t even get up on a Sunday so we could do things together, He never bothers about me or what he is doing to me. I was signed off work for 2 weeks with depression and he carried on with his own life coming home at 8,30 so he could avoid me and play on his phone. I can’t believe all the things I have gone though are the same as other people. In 7 weeks he’s been round 6 times and stayed for an hour each time. I changed the locks and his excuse for not coming round…he wasn’t going to stand at the door waiting for me to unlock or open it like Billy no mates. He is at his daughters as the moment and if I ask how it is he says ” not great it’s not where I want to be” tough he should have taken notice, but it can’t be that bad as he’s not coming round here anyway. I think I have also enabled the process and tried to help him by trying to understand him, help him suggest things to him but it is a waste of time and I don’t have anymore to waste on someone who doesn’t care. We have all had lives that weren’t great but we all get on with them and try to make them better but these people want the victim card and maybe they should try to stop playing the victim and get a life..as you are a long time in a box

  32. I have been married to my husband for 39 years. He had convinced me I was crazy then 3 1/2 years ago we had a huge fight over his family and their behavior and he said unforgiveable things to me and then a week later told me I was crazy because he never said these things. I know I am an idiot for putting up with his behavior for 35 years but I finally took a good long look at our life and problems and starting researching online to see if other people we’re going thru similar things a5nd there it was-the extreme passive aggressive. He cannot tell the truth about anything-even something as simple as “did you fill up the dogs water”. He uses what I have always called hostile humor which I believe is a way for him to be hateful and then pretend that He was just joking. He has always lied about money. I was so glad when employers went to direct deposit because he couldn’t lie about his paycheck anymore. If I ask him to do something he will either do it halfway or say he will get around to it (which means not in this lifetime). He will not start any chore unless I am there to help. If I ever say anything critical to him he will get furious or ignore me and walk away. The worst thing is he says mean and nasty things to me and when I confront him about what he said he will circle his finger by his head and say I am crazy because he didn’t say anything or he didn’t say it the way I think or he was joking and I can’t take a joke or he will just walk away. I have a list of reasons/excuses he uses (and so does his entire family) when he has something really hateful and he realizes it has upset me or someone. 1) I only said that because I care 2)I was only joking-can’t you take a joke 3) you misunderstood what I said 4) I didn’t say that the way you took it 5) you must be crazy because I didn’t say that at all. I know he had a supercritical verbally abusive father and a mouse of a mother who never allowed her kids to express their emotions in case it made dad angry or failed to protected the kids when dad did get angry. I believe his mother was passive aggressive and taught this behavior to her kids (one is a mouse like her, one is a lesbian and hates men and the other one is a drug addict/drug dealer). I have tried talking calmly to my husband, I have tried rationalizing with him, I have cried and ranted and screamed, and nothing gets thru to him. I did start reading articles about passive aggression to him and he said he did see some of his behavior talked about in the articles and he will try and change and he will go to couseling and so far he has not done anything he has promised. I was a young sweet kind naive young girl with no self-confidence when I met my husband. My father was an abusive alcoholic and my mother was a codependent enabler who taught me to be a codependent enabler-keep the peace at all costs. I believe my husband recognized me as an enabler and realized I was raised to put up with bad behavior. In fact when I was reading about this to my husband he immediately said that it was my fault that he said and did the things he did because I let him get away with these things. (Can you see where this is going). I quit going around my husbands family years ago because he would never stand up for me when his family was mean and nasty nor allow me to stand up for myself because he didn’t want me to hurt his family feelings (he was not concerned that they had hurt my feelings). Wow! I feel better just getting this off my chest. Not sure what I will do. At 57 I am probably too old to start over but am tired of living with someone who will never change.

  33. My husband is two different person, when he is good everything is great, he is responsible and helpful, once he becomes angry (every 2 months)his face changed, in every fights wants divorce, and completely humiliate me, I don’t know why I start to cry and ask him to stay, usually it takes one to two hours, then he accepted and again the cycle starts. Very good moments and suddenly for nothing just a short argument we go to hell and he wants divorce.Should I accept divorce?

  34. I’m still starting on this journey of understanding. Not entirely sure of why things are as they are, but do know it’s not right – ie meeting my needs and desires, as opposed to his. 27 yrs married, effectively living separately for last 15 because of my job, and he’d been ‘supportive’ on the surface. But I’m beginning to realise that his reluctance to move with me, despite the fact he has given up his business and has not actively sought work in my location owes as much to his PA as to anything else. I’ve found it damaging to my self esteem – why wouldn’t my husband want to spend time with me? – and hugely unsettling. I spend all my time trying to appease him and make sure he is happy. It’s all surfaced again because he resents my family inheritance and is now demanding I spend money on him. I don’t really care about the money but he clearly does. I suppose I should have seen it coming and am annoyed with myself that I let this happen. But I’m thinking maybe this is more about self preservation – not having critical comments, sacarstic remarks, silent treatment, and other undermining stuff will be such a relief.

  35. Wow Ana! You just described the relationship I have with my husband! We are in the middle of divorcing after almost 36 years of marriage. He was my best friend and I loved him dearly. But he made a choice to be angry and harbor resentment towards me about so many things. Things I am just now learning he was angry about. I want to stay together, but I would have to give up myself and my wants, needs, and dreams to do so. I have changed over the years from being an outgoing, fun, productive, active person to a shell of my former self from all the comments and demeaning actions, not to mention the utter lack of respect, support or encouragement. He says that he understands what he has done and that he wants to change. My heart wants to believe him but my head says I can’t. The trust is shattered and I am scared about my future on my own. But I truly believe the only way to save myself is to continue with the divorce. Do others feel this way? Has anyone stayed and been able to successfully change the situation for the better? Do you have to constantly point out the passive aggressive behavior? I am not sure I could do that for the rest of my life.

  36. Yes, amazing how the passive aggressive husband is loved by everyone except those who know him well. He has no close friends and even his counselors seem to tire of him fairly quickly. He never calls then complains about me not calling. He is an excellent provider, but negative or absent emotionally. He either naps or pretends he doesn’t hear you. He stares into the distance much of the time and shrinks up like he’s being injured if you scream in frustration. He never screams. He rarely talks. In fact, he seems pleased to display no emotion although you can sense how angry and/or resentful he is. When he does tasks, he makes sure to screw them up or ask you a thousand questions. How many ways can you cut vegetables??? I only have about two answers for questions like this. Over the years, I’ve defaulted to, “Cut them the way you want to eat them”. On the tasks where I do specify, he makes sure to not do it. Then, he gets really defensive when I ask him why. I know he’d rather I didn’t ask him to do anything at all, but, then, he seems bored if he’s not disappointing me somehow. The oddest part about all of this is that I can tell that he loves me, and that he is just duplicating how his mother behaved. His father angers easily and screams at anyone for anything at an incredible volume. However, I screamed maybe once a month during the first years of our marriage and once I finished professional school (and the stress was much lower), maybe once every three months. In other words, there is no need for him to feel he must withdraw into silence and play ignoring games with me. However, I know he did it for years with people at work, too. He finally seemed to figure out that it might be related to his lack of promotion to a new title. Now, I’m trying to get him to see that he’s just copying his parents relationship in his mind….that there is no need for him to torture himself. After all, he despises his parents, so I hope he can see what he is turning around onto me. BTW, I am currently in full rebellion mode. After 12 years of marriage and 15 years together, I have gotten sick of doing everything in the house and him taking no responsibility. What makes me angriest is that he will sit quietly (yawning or looking very bored) even when we are out in public, trying to have a date, even though he had earlier said he wanted to go. We don’t even bother with vacations. So, I’ve let the house and the cooking and the trying to have a good date and the intimacy all fly out the window. Shockingly, it seems to be getting through to him. Will it last? Wish us luck. I long for that man I knew for eight years who was so enjoyable.

    • Wow. Just wow.I totally understand.

      From a personal standpoint, I just wish there was a solution. I hoped for so much more than this. I wish for more for my husband. It just seems for all intents and purposes we should really be living a beautiful life but instead THIS. I showed him a PA post yesterday, he became defensive and derisive of course and felt attacked. I don’t want to give an account of all of his characteristics. You can read any of the comments above for that. I guess I just wish that showing him this would lead to a better life for us, but I have to admit I’m wondering what punishment be will follow up with. It’s so sad for each party involved. I just wish things could be different, but my hope has dwindled and this situation is starting to wear me down. I’m sad, disappointed, disillusioned and also upset with myself for getting myself into this type of relationship.

  37. Hrmm… I feel people are making a lot of assumptions here. I don’t want to sound too passive agressive, because I know I have some problems with that, but sometimes we need to ride ourself of emotion by doing something constructive before pointing the finger so directly at someone else other than yourself. No one can really controle how you feel. What you think is mainly a cause of your own feelings and hurt. Pointing the finger at your partner and not talking directly to them about actual scenarios and turning to a website instead seems a bit passive agressive. Everyone can act passive agressive at times. It seems easiar to divert the attention to something other than the issue at hand rather than deal with it right there and then. Lay out precise observations on truths table. Don’t slam the truth in the face of your loved ones or anyone. The truth speaks for itself. If they are passive agressive then they’ll tell you that that’s your opinion or that you are the one distorting the truth. I’m going to have to think and pray real hard on this. I’m not sure how to approach my wife, I am scared, but it feels good. She shows some chronic signs, but mostly in communication, where I have realized, by all your help, im greatful to you all, that I may be that typical male passive agressive. I’ll tell you one thing, I’m not going to consider it a disease or anything, but I do believe its contagious. Id like to challenge all of us involved to be more assertive now, don’t wait a single moment longer. Anger is a good way to get the dishes done. And if your spouse decides to do them this time, for god sake and theirs, don’t criticize how they do it, just say thank you sooo much. But don’t seem so cheesy like something is up or have anger when you say it and not tell them, because that makes you the passive aggressive. In fact, if you do feel the anger rolling out as they finally did the dishing, you should say, OMG! I’m so glade Im furious! If they ask you why, then you made a break through, and if you don’t tell them the truth, then you are in fact passive aggressive. It is okay to argue! Its healthy! Just DO NOT yell! Passive aggressive people love to get your goat by setting off emotional triggers so they can blame you for their Anger as it is now yours. Just keep in mind! They did not do that to you! You did it to yourself! You are in charge of your own emotional well being. Unattatching yourself from that and finding something else or someone else to blame for it is passive aggressive behavior. Sorry about any grammar or spelling..I’m not even going to re-read it…just send it into the whirl wind. Thanks again to all, but I have to say to some who are sounding like nasty complainers, grow some you know what! You better get tough now. Your emotional well being is yours. Be a rock. Read up on co-dependency issues. If you haven’t heard and you think you are except, then you are in for more of a ride than with this subject. Also, don’t blow your mind online. That’s messed up. Everyone has very real and freakish issues they have to deal with, what counts is how we deal with them. Character is made that way, when all the good times have to be preserved in pictures. Have a total fantastic thrill ride. Out with plastic peace and oneness bull crape, in with healthy anger exercises and division to personal uniqueness. Life hurts and that’s what saves us.

  38. So much unhappiness on this page. I came looking for answers, but I think I’ve found more questions. Is my partners behavior P/A? (Silent treatment, “No don’t, I’ll do it as usual”, constant criticism, lack of intimacy, sleeping in separate rooms, an underlying anger, never saying sorry or admitting wrong, never saying anything positive etc). Now I’m wondering is mine? (Always been really defensive to criticism, hate sound of arguing, showing frustration and anger, throwing arms up in the air, feeling unappreciated / unloved).

    Background 2 people 2nd marriages mid forties, met 5 years ago. Her boy 17, girl 14, me son 9 and our daughter 2. Me loud gregarious Mediterranean teacher, her quiet shy stunning looking very English para-legal. She has big intimacy issues with her dad, i had a childhood of loving but constant criticism from mine.

    She hates the son I adore, who stays every fortnight, says its his fault for being nasty and not doing what she says when I’m out of earshot. Everyone else thinks he’s polite and sweet boy.She also angry at me for not being punishing him enough or dealing effectively with his very difficult mother. He is not allowed to eat with us, or be in same room as her. Her 2 children; nice kids I love them, but they seem to break rules with impunity until she gets really angry at them. I feel they are molly coddled, we run round after them, they have no chores, renage on any responsibilities given to them.

    When questioned I feel like I am being cross examined in the dock. If I raise any issues about the kids or her, she gets aggressive, gets even more angry, if I try to walk away. I am therefore pushed until I snap. Not violent, but I’m not nice when red mist descends. Resulting in me getting days of cold shoulder/silence / stone face from someone who is not very warm at best of times.

    Are we both P/A? Are we just a bad combo? Can we change or are we doomed?
    Any advice or help?
    Lost dazed and confused.

  39. I thought I was ok. Then my wife forwarded this article to me. She said please read it slowly and take it all in. NOW I realize that I am a PA (perfect asshole). This is probably a result of the over critical parental treatment, but I blame myself for not recognizing any of the above. I have always been a good provider, working many years of long hours. I have also often worked at home remodeling, building, etc. The household chores are another story. It is SO hard to do the redundant tasks required by every household. I have plenty of energy, but It just seems like such an invasion on the few precious free minutes that I get (distorted thinking).
    My wife is a dear soul who does not deserve any of the treatment mentioned above in various comments. Life brings enough challenges without dealing with my BS every day. Omitting the detail, the things I just read are way too familiar in our relationship. We are currently involved in couples counseling, but now I feel that I should be seeking individual help. Our marriage will surely benefit if I can change. Bless her heart for putting up with me this long. Thank you for the article and postings, in helping me to be aware of my own behavior.

  40. I, too, am in this situation with my husband. I’ve spent the last 10 years battling him, and I’m so tired. I slipped into a deep depression. I went on medication to help me deal with passive suicidal ideation. My physical health has deteriorated. Now I just want him out. I feel guilty because I think he will honestly end up homeless, but I can’t let my 7 year old daughter grow up thinking this is normal. At least now I might be able to stop questioning myself: my perceptions, my observations, my motivations, and my sanity–all because he refuses to acknowledge that *he* might have a problem. Thank you for that. Thank you to all you beautiful people who shared your stories. I am absolutely overwhelmed to know that I am NOT crazy, and it’s not “just me”.

  41. Wow, I can not believe what I am reading. It fits my husband to a T. Ive been married almost 20 years , and have been confused and upset for so long. Just knowing I”m not crazy helps.

  42. As I read all of your responses, the one resounding thought in my head is “my god, they are describing my wife to a TEE!”. Ive been married for 13 years now, and have 2 young children. In the beginning my wife was affectionate, loving, and fun to be with. We lived together for a year before we got married. It was literally from the day after we were wed that her passive aggressive behavior started. After our wedding she stopped holding my had, we took both our immediate families out to dinner and she sat her niece in between us. The I noticed that she began to with hold sex, stopped touching me, and never talked with me about anything. The she started giving me an attitude whenever I asked her to do anything, and even managed to screw up even the most menial task. When I tried to express my feelings, I would me wet with either a blank stare, rolling of the eyes, or she would simply stare off to the side and say nothing, or “whatever”. I was going crazy because I could not figure out what the problem was. We went to couples therapy, and all of a sudden she was a waterfall of emotion, where I was the bad guy, and she told lie upon lie. I swear, I didn’t know who this women was. I tried to stick it out after the birth of our 2 children, but things just kept getting worse. It became clear that she had absolutely no regard for my feelings. And no matter what I said to her she would either come up with some excuse or blame me for it. Nothing was ever her fault. I spoke recently, to a psychologist friend about this and she said that my wife seems like an extreme passive aggressive. I didn’t know exactly what a passive aggressive was until I followed her direction and did some research. My wife and I have not slept in the same bed in years, we have zero intimacy, and no communication. She is also an extreme procrastinator, when we first met she was working on her PHD, 2 years ago I found out that she had let her research lapse to the point where it was no longer valid, I flipped out over that. I sent her to school to do medical transcription, and she did that for a while until she slacked off and got fired, I paid for her to go back to college to get a teaching degree, only to find out that she had taken the last 3 semesters off. Having finally seen the futility of trying to change her or work things out I have decided that my mental health and sanity must come before my desire to keep my family together, and am now seeking a divorce.

  43. My husband and I have known each other for over 20 years. When we met as teenagers, (What do teenagers know, right) I thought he was my soulmate. He was so gentle, kind and considerate. His sole purpose was to make me happy, and I felt the same way. Now, it seems like he is a different person. It’s always someone else’s fault; He can’t take criticism; He will say one thing, do another and then defend how I either interpreted what he said or what he did wrong. It is frustrating and heartbreaking to deal with this type of confusion and uncertainty and he seems to be totally ambivalent to the situation. This leads me to question whether he really loves me or is just playing some sort of emotional hokey pokey with my feelings. Almost like he is testing me to see how much I can endure before calling it quits, so he can cluelessly say “What happened.” ” I had no idea you were so unhappy.” ” Did I do something to make you feel this way.” I’m so confused because I feel this is not the person that I fell in love with. To his credit, we have gone to several counselors; however, things will get better for a week and then he reverts back to his old behaviors. I’m emotionally exhausted. Thanks for listening and letting me vent.

    • It sounds like he is depressed. He may or may not know why. He may well be a different person to who you married bc we were all young and full of hope and ambition. At his age he’s reached his peak. He has to accept that and maybe that’s hard. Maybe he takes it out on you. But it doesn’t mean it’s your fault or anything to do with you. We can’t fix other people. They have to do it themselves and men rarely do. Just look after yourself. Find your own happiness. Just don’t flaunt it in front of him. Use humour to relax tense situations.

  44. Wow! I read the help for passive aggressive couples and how to help him. The advice is to give him more down time and praise him for what he does do. Honey, I’ve tried the praise routine. I’ve given him space to relax and decompress an do what needs to get done at his leisure. He never gets done. Right now I am looking at my lawn that hasn’t been mowed in two weeks. I haven’t mowed it, which I normally do just because it has to get done and isn’t worth the hassle. I’ve suggested it. I have said nothing and still it’s like anything else. It doesn’t get done.

    We were working on paving stones two weeks ago. Of course it has to be done with me here or he won’t do it. I praised him, said wow don’t you feel good, isn’t it amazing and so forth. It still isn’t finished because it’s waiting for him to cut some stones. He only worked part time this week as in 16 hours, I worked two jobs. Plus housework. And I still managed to lay down some of the stones.

    Ok sorry, some of that is venting. Seriously, this man is making me crazy. He’s 48 years old. I have no clue he can’t hold a job, he can’t do the most basic of household chores, I am lucky if he feeds the dogs which is about the only thing I can count on. Putting out water for them is a 50/50. It’s like living with a preteen and I don’t have children. But I have heard from people and have lots if nieces and nephews to hear those conversations.

    Here’s my thoughts grow up and put on your big boy pants or please get out. He’s making me sick. I am tired and I can’t keep up the pace. I have to clean up after him too. Plus work all the time.

  45. Only a passive aggressive person would counter every point and reverse everything. A discussion on how she treats me as a man and projects her anger onto me is countered with “you leave dirty spoons on the counter.” Idiot.

  46. Woke up today to wet glasses stacked on top of wet dishes….wet containers stacked on wet containers…clothes stacked on dryer…all things discussed ad nauseim. Wish I would have paid more attention before having a child with her…I would be out otherwise.

  47. Wow…legit complaints from me are met by ” I never do anything right”….or….”you always want to argue”…. Or ….”I didn’t know”….or….”you are perfect but I’m not”…. Or….”that’s my business don’t worry about it”….or “why are you bringing that up” or………etc…..dishes sit in the sink for four days…but it’s my fault for making dishes when I cook…..laundry sits in and on the dryer but it’s, “thorn why don’t you take them out”….but she did the laundry….student loans in default after she waited for seven years to address the issue although I told her that procrastinating would led to default and effect our ability to buy a home….her response….why are you bringing up the past…..wtf do I do?…. I’m frustrated and ready to cash out?

  48. I’m 68 and have had a screwed up life. I’m not looking for sympathy. I’m beyond that. I’m writing about my feelings, because I have been fooling myself with the thought of being a reasonably decent person, never intentionally setting out to cause angst. It is said everyone is looking for love. I have no memory of experiencing love as a child. I came from a dysfunctional family, and find it difficult to relate to love within relationships. My father’s nerves were shot with nervous anxiety on his return from WWII. He was a hard working man but totally devoid of emotion. My mom wore the “pants” around the house, and was the voice to be heard. Although quick to anger, I do recall an infrequent display of love or kindness. My father didn’t row. It was mom who usually hysterically shouted at dad. This has allowed me to develope a rather jaundiced outlook on women, as confrontational beings. It had been many years later when I realised her outbursts were out of sheer frustration with dad. I never had any girl friends, in spite of being well built six footer. There was nine years between me and my older brother. He too had his emotional problems and left home at 18 years old. He was a good brother to me and I can remember thinking to myself as a nine year old, that I will never see him again. I was right. He remained a bachelor until his death at age 51. My first wife walked out on me for her new found love after 12 years of marriage, and left me with my 12 year old son. She had a long string of broken relationships before she met me. She did not have a loving relationship with her own dad. In hind site this was probably a recipe for disaster from the word go, as we married only six weeks after first meeting. I think we both confused lust with love from the outset. A few months after my divorce I met my second (current) wife at a divorce & separates club. Her husband died and left her with two young kids. We were both lonely, and miserable, so we threw in together, to try and make a better life. We too married shortly after meeting. Bringing up her two and my one, was a challenging nightmare. Nobody really got on well together. I was emotionally ill equipped to deal with such a scenario. I struck my own son once for being out of line and immediately regretted it, and never laid a hand on anyone else since. They are grown up now. My blood son has a family of his own, but both step kids are in there 30’s and still single and are avowed to remain that way. My wife has always been hyper-sensitive, and has suffered with agoraphobia for the last 20 years. It was triggered by a car accident we were both in. In short there hasn’t been many laughs or good times, but I shouldn’t complain as many others are far worse off. I must count my blessings.

  49. I think I have a passive aggressive partner. I always thought it had been me through the years, or at least that’s what she’d tell me whenever I’d complain about something which I thought was inappropriate, and I believed her. So I’d read books, try self improvement courses, even visited and did CBT.

    I believed her because when she met she always said she’d never lied EVER, so I respected her opinion. Only years later did tell me, she used to lie about things to upset me. Though she now denies she said that!

    I didn’t do any of these “self-help” things before, it all started about 5-6 years of marriage, I used to be a normally happy guy. But since then I’ve had two break-downs (my own fault because I tried to play her at her own game, which just ended up as guilt and feeling bad for me BIG MISTAKE). And I now have no friends, I’ve been virtually removed from my family circle and I rarely see them, talking about them seems to raise an eyebrow and a dismissive ‘oh your family’.

    And I’m constantly told it’s actually all my fault, I’m the one who had the break down. I’ve no doubt some is, but all of it?

    I came from a very lovey family environment. We had problems of course, but hugging and generally sharing feelings was the norm. I thought that’s how it would be with my wife, but I feel foolish, hurt and I regret ever meeting her, but at the same time I love her!! She is a great mother, and at times a great wife.

    Apart from the standard always 15-20 minutes late I get if I need a lift. I’m not willing to share too many things (there are a lot), but the biggest kick in the face for me was supposedly not performing well in bed. Then being told it’s not the best compared to others. The next day I confronted her on it and thought it was hurtful. “It was a joke, jesus, can’t you take a joke? That’s your problem, you just can’t take a joke. And what about all the things you say to me” on which I get a list on why I’m actually not a great person before going off in a huff because I’m getting angry (which is true, I used to rise to it). I’m the one then who ends up apologizing and still feeling frustrated because I got my feelings hurt without any acknowledgement:-S On this occasion, it was just that she’d been tired, so instead of just telling me that , I get punished with something I found quite hurtful. Even if it’s not true. Or is it? I’m not sure anymore. I just don’t have any confidence in myself to say ‘It’s like this?’ in fact, I’m already feeling guilty/nervous for sharing this.

    Sorry, none of this really makes sense. I just feel a bit down today and I wanted to write it down somewhere.

    • Simon
      Thanks. You saved me trying to describe the contradictions of my relationship with my PA wife & my sanity perhaps. As I am trying to play my wife at her own PA game & going nuts.
      I wish I didnt love her so much. I’m in trouble! lol or should that be Sh*******!

  50. I have been married 27 years. My husband’s passive aggressive behavior has almost killed me literally. The past 3 years has been most emotionally stressed for me. Being treated for stress, anxiety, panic attacks, loss of weight, fighting depression, I couldnt handle his behavior and get well in my body. I. packed and ran for my life, my sanity, and a even a chance to save the marriage. The separation has been extremely painful especially with unanswered questions. I couldn’t figure out if I was crazy, didn’t understand my husband crazy-making behavior until one my girlfriends described my husband as passive aggressive. After coming across websites like this has given me a since of relie. Everything I’ve read about PAs fits my husband to a T. And i tried to get him
    to take a look at the symptoms.However, instead of seeing it as a way for our relationship to get
    better, he felt I was attacking him as PAs often do. It doesn’t matter what concerns or issues I try to discuss with him, gently or not, crying or not, he saw it as me attacking him, blaming him. He does not take responsibility or accountability for anything. He
    completely shuts down on me and quietly punishes me or get back at me. 99% of the time he does not
    communicate with me about anything. Only when he wanted something from me, he would communicate. Any concerns I had, he would totally ignore. It amazes me how he would stonewall
    me. Not just for days but months! He totally detach himself from me with no intention or concern of
    working through the problem. So I could never get him to show any concerns for my feelings, which
    chips away at your self esteem. It said that i didnt matter. When in a corner, he would blatantly lie.
    Present himself has calm but full of anger which i would later have to suffer the consequences through his undermining way. I would beg, plead, cry, pray, trying to get him to treat me right, trying to
    get him to make this marriage work. Have asked him WHY countless times.. To no avail. We’ve gone to counseling twice in past 3 years. Each time he never finish. Two different therapist required work
    from him. He didnt like that and stop going but yet said he would do anything to save marriage (lie)
    He NEVER explained to me why he stopped going. Being exhausted emotionally, physically, I didn’t bother to ask why. It had gotten to be too much for me. His behavior was as if the counseling never
    happened or existed. Much like how he’s treating me now. Together over 30 years and he has
    discarded me like a piece of trash. Refusing to communicate with me. Taking every opportunity to be
    spiteful to me. Ive learned because he doesn’t know how to deal with his anger, he cannot accept
    responsibility or accountability, he only surround himself around those that do not hold him
    accountable and thinks he’s the best thing since slice bread. He creates his own world that makes him comfortable.. In the relationship, either I had to accept him and his abusive behavior or jump
    ship. I held on for as long as I could. Suffering with stress, in and out of ER, no reasoning with him,
    absolutely emotionally exhausted. It seem the more I begged him, the worse he got. It was as if he
    thrived on my misery. What happened to this man? … I had to decide whether I wanted to live or die. It
    was THE HARDEST decision I have made in my life as my family is most important to me. However, abuse overt or covert is unacceptable. I never thought I would be in this place at this point of my life. My heart is still open to saving my marriage if my husband recognize his issue and seek help for it.

    • I read your history and thought you were describing my story. HOWEVER: my now ex-husband stopped having sex with me 20 years ago; stopped sleeping in the same room with me 16 years ago; lied about working; criticized my job (I supported the family x 24 years); stopped doing things as a family 8 years ago; started biking 6 years ago and forgot that he had a family; has not worked FT in 16 years; consulted even though his financial contribution was bare bones; belittled me in front of our daughter and his friends for years. Now we are divorced and he has yet to move his personal belongings out of the house; the basement and garage areas remain in a hoarding state. What my question is: WHY would I stay married to a person who is neither a man; a father or a husband for 24 years? Is it because we had a child? This male person was NOT a provider for his family; a mooch; a person who was not able to provide spiritual/ emotional/ intimacy/ financial efforts to a marriage.

      • I only say this out of empathy for you. Get out of the marriage. He isn’t EVER going to change. Best predictor of his future behavior is looking at his past. In all this time he isn’t even willing to admit he has a problem. I hate divorce-been thru it twice-I would never recommend it-but in your case I am sorry. For your own happiness and sanity-GET OUT! GET OUT! GET OUT! of your marriage. Go find the happiness you deserve, it starts with getting out.

    • Wow: I have read your testimony. I feel like you wrote my life with my now ex-husband. I could take it anymore. He sucked all the joy out of my life. I to feel if he were to change I would take him back. Im not counting on it though. The one most crazy behaviors my ex husband had was. If I asked he him anything, his response was always NO. He meant Yes. In his head Yes was always the answer. Then a fight would occur cuz I could never understand the NO. He would say I never said that. So on and so on. I would turn and mouth to myself WTF. I was loosing who I was. I thought I was going crazy. My third child just graduated from high school. I feared what my life would have been like with just us. I did meet a man. I enjoyed his conversation a lot. Because it was normal. I did try for a year to get him to understand how I was feeling. I went online, read books, went to therapist, pastors. After awhile I could tell he had no interest. The covert abuse was rampant. I just ended the marriage. I feel stuck in my feelings. This was not what I wanted for myself. The is so much more. I feel I could write a book. It was an extremely hard decision. Good luck

    • My heart hurts and so relieved at the same time. I have been with my husband for almost 6 years, we have a 2yr old and this is exactly what I’ve been going through. He shuts down, blank stares, does not take accountability, unreliable but shows up. will mess up, do something wrong, never follows thru 100% (not based on perception but a fact) he will not feel or show any remorse. In fact if I point it out or upset because he promised he would do something and doesn’t then it’s my fault and he tells me that I just talk to much. I asked, begged, pleaded, cried, got loud and angry, practically had panic attacks lately and he just stares at me and then will ask if I’m done talking and will turn around walk away as if I’m non-existent.?.?.?.?. I’ve asked politely “do I met your needs?” He responds with, “no, not all.” Okay fair enough I say in a calm curious manner… “What needs do I not met?” I asked. He responded “I don’t know.” I know we are young (32 & 30) BUT for the past 4.5 years I have tried every different approach, suppressed my emotions, gave benefit of doubt, placed blame on myself to fix it and start over…. Nothing it is the same pattern. Some where in me, I believe we could have a happy healthy marriage. I’m very realistic when it comes to relationships, I understand no two people are the same and compromise, take steps back to move forward, you fall in and out of love , it takes work…. I’ve noticed he is not like this around his parents especially his mother. I’ve also noticed that he is never given the opportunity to take responsibility or express full emotion when around them. It’s like I’m a third wheel and my daughter and I come last. The better of a wife I become, the better of a mother, the more I better myself the more he becomes distant as if he really doesn’t want this marriage but has never and will never say that even when given opportunities. Lately, endless opportunities. I’m not perfect and have my faults as a person and in this relationship but I have done tremendous growth and soul searching since our daughter was born bc I wanted to make sure we gave her the ultimate opportunities for emotional and physical growth. I am having a hard time with the advice accept him for who he is or leave. I can’t right now. I can’t stay in a relationship and suppress my emotions or look at him and not want better for him. As well as leave, on a level it’s silly. We don’t fight about “normal” marriage stuff. Jealousy, sexual commitment, finances, parenting style… We don’t fight/argue about those. Granted he is not the most forth coming when it comes to a plan of action for these things and generally it’s me that has to come up w a plan or goal but I even askbefore a decision made, what do you think, any input, how do you feel…???? How do you cope with this without leaving or losing your integrity, values while staying?

      • You can’t meet his needs bc he is broken inside and no one can heal him. He doesn’t even know what or how he can be helped, all he knows is he is not happy. But you cannot heal him. And men typically don’t want to accept they are flawed and put in the therapy work. What I do with my PA is recognise that this is what he is. It comes from unmet emotional needs and childhood damage etc etc. he doesn’t do it deliberately. He does it out of instinct and survival and it’s very immature but they don’t know any other way to keep “in control”. Men want to be in power and have control – that’s how they are born. And they just do this behaviour as a natural instinct bc they can’t think of a more mature and evolved way of behaving – like women do! Try and focus on the good things about your husband. Realise he is not necessarily able to “be different” and won’t accept he has issues. But the truth is that we all have issues. You do too and they play out in different ways that you prob aren’t aware of. Living with someone is really hard for everyone. Few people are happily married and it’s always hard work and full of compromises and learning to understand your partner and how to work with them not against them. It’s going to conintue, the PA behaviour, but what can change is your perspective and seeing it for what it is rather than questioning yourself. Even knowing your husband is PA often makes people feel a lot better. Just keep working on it and don’t give up so young. Get some therapy for yourself to help you keep on track.

    • My heart hurts and so relieved at the same time. I have been with my husband for almost 6 years, we have a 2yr old and this is exactly what I’ve been going through. He shuts down, blank stares, does not take accountability, unreliable but shows up. will mess up, do something wrong, never follows thru 100% (not based on perception but a fact) he will not feel or show any remorse. In fact, if I point it out or get upset because he promised he would do something and doesn’t then it’s my fault and he tells me that I just talk to much. I’ve asked, begged, pleaded, cried, got loud and angry, practically had panic attacks lately. he just stares at me and then will ask if I’m done talking and will turn around walk away as if I’m non-existent.?.?.?.?. I’ve asked politely “do I met your needs?” He responds, “no, not all.” Okay fair enough I say in a calm curious manner… “What needs do I not met?” He responded “I don’t know.” He really doesn’t know. His face his eyes say it all. It’s like you see the wheels turning and he is trying to think hard but nothing comes out. I know we are young (32 & 30) BUT for the past 4.5 years since we got engaged, even worse when we found out I was pregnant which he was onboard and we had tried for several months… He just got worse, his excuse was I can fend for myself. I have tried every different approach, suppressed my emotions, gave benefit of doubt, placed blame on myself to fix it and start over…. Nothing! it is the same pattern. Some where in me, I believe we could have a happy healthy marriage. I’m very realistic when it comes to relationships, I understand no two people are the same and compromise, take steps back to move forward, you fall in and out of love , it takes hard compassionate work…. I’ve noticed he is not like this around his parents especially his mother. I’ve also noticed that he is never given the opportunity to take responsibility or express full emotion when around them. It’s like I’m a third wheel! my daughter and I come last. The better of a wife I become, the better of a mother, the more I better myself the more he becomes distant as if he really doesn’t want this marriage. He has never Said that though even when given opportunities. Lately, endless opportunities. I’m not perfect and have my faults as a person but I have done tremendous growth and soul searching to gain more compassion and have more empathy. I am having a hard time with the advice given, accept him for who he is or leave. I can’t right now. I can’t stay in a relationship and suppress my emotions or look at him and not want better for him. As well as leave, on a certain level it’s silly. We don’t fight about “normal” marriage stuff. Jealousy, sexual commitment, finances, parenting style… We don’t fight/argue about those. Granted he is not the most forth coming when it comes to a plan of action generally it’s me that has to come up w a plan or goal but I even askbefore a decision is made, what do you think, any input, how do you feel…???? How do you cope with this without leaving or losing your integrity, values while staying? I’m exhausted

  51. I am also dealing with a passive aggressive husband and it is truly driving me crazy. He loves to look like the calm cool collective man that he is not especially when all the kids and their spouses come home. I have been married for close to 35 years!!! I just don’t think I can take it any longer. Divorce is not an option, but going insane isn’t either. From the 2nd year of marriage I have asked him to go with me to counseling….He will NOT do it cause there is nothing wrong with him! I am the only one with a problem. I have gone to couseling myself and it does help me to cope. He says one thing and does another…..he procrastinates…he never asks me before he turns the oven off (ruins the dinner), or puts the clothes in the dryer (shrinks clothes), hides items from me, does everything the opposite of how I ask him to do it….says he can do it anyway he wants. Yikes!! It is worse then having a child or an out of control animal in the house. If I set something in a certain place in my home, in my room…etc…..he will change everything. And when I can’t find it or when I am angry he gets such a smirk on his face…..I feel like I am in a never ending nightmare!

      • Thanks for this information and especially for the website. I love my husband of 30 years very much. We’ve been working on these issues because he had such a terrible childhood he was left damaged. There is hope, folks. Give your passive-aggressive spouse the information; if he really wants to stay married he won’t procrastinate anymore. He’ll start reading about it, get embarrassed and finally start changing back into the person you married. I say this because it’s happening for my relationship, now. It takes time and patience. I have to remind myself he’s like this because of a rotten childhood, not because he hates me. It’s hard, never let your guard down. But, if you love them enough, work with your passive aggressive partner to help them change. They really can change if they want to and have a bit of help.

          • Makes me laugh too. PA spouses don’t change. They make you crazy and enjoy the ride! They are determined in the belief that their emotional misery and suffering is caused by everyone else, never by their own actions/choices. I am going on 26 yrs. marriage w/junior high age children. You either accept them or move on. For now, I choose to stay… more good days out-weight the bad days, but when they are bad… ouch!!

    • I’ve been married for 35 years to a passive aggressive spouse. For 27 years I knew something was wrong in the marriage, but I thought it was all my fault. I thought I must be asking wrong. 8 years ago, I learned I had breast cancer. After 3 surgeries, chemo, and radiation, I am doing ok. When I was diagnosed, it became extremely clear to me that it was not my fault and that he was a passive aggressive spouse. He was never there for our children (never his fault) has never apologized for anything, if I ask him a question, he won’t answer. He’s now talking about retiring, and I am miserable. I’ve been a stay at home mom since 1984. I’m now 63 years old, and hate the thought of starting over at this age. Right now, my 89 year old mom is 1000 miles away and is having health issues. I’ve learned not to tell him anything because he will just come back and say it’s all my fault. Well, at least I feel better for venting. Still not sure what path to take – I really don’t enjoy doing activities with him any more. If we go somewhere, he won’t talk to me in the car at all, then when we get to the activity with friends, he is as charming as he can be. Everyone tells me how lucky I am to have him because he’s such a great guy. He’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde!

      • Reading this everything is the same with my husband. Absolutely everything. I have been married 24yrs and with him about 30yrs. I’m at a loss what to do with him hes so angry as well most of the time. Never complimentary about me, constantly lying. Will never move when he’s at home. Some small argument turns into something major in he walks out the house and sleeps in the car. So not normal. then when I get worked up he smirks. on top of all this he is verbally abusive. I have been called all the names you can think of. he is also a taker and i’m a giver. he as no empathy towards me at all. I collapsed once whilst at home he walked over me and went to work. Nothing from him all day. He turned around and said to me why should I help you we had been arguing. This to me is horrendous behaviour. Cope by doing your own thing and count them out of the equasion. You won’t change them because everything is everyone else’s fault. Look into their family there will probably be mental health issues within people in it.

    • Although my husband doesn’t do exactly the things you mentioned your husband does, my husband seems to enjoy my not being happy about certain things. I have learned not to respond so he doesn’t know. Isn’t that a great way to live? No, I probably won’t seek a divorce but I certainly pray a lot! And through that, I have learned to survive and be happy. Not happy with the relationship! But happy in spite of it. It ain’t easy, I know. It’s nice to get support just hearing what other people are going through but still sorry to hear it.

  52. Thank you for the smplicity of this, and the perspective. I’ve been looking for an understanding of what’s been happening in my relationship and I’ve found it. Next question, for me, is why I’ve attracted it…

    • I also have wondered why I attractive p/a people. Twice now, I have got burned by these people. It seems they can sense we have a helpful nature and we make an excellent prey for them to lease out their “stuff” on us. Perhaps we ourselves have an somewhat dependent way and we look for a soft place to land? Another thought, a taker can always smell a giver.

  53. I have been dealing with my spouses behavior for 12 years it was up until I was looking for sites on signs the marriage was over I ran across passive aggressive behavior, that I see exactly who my husband is. I thought he was just purely evil and didn’t love me anymore. Now that I havr a better insight on his mind and tactics, I now after 12 years understand how to deal with him and open his eyes to how he has been abusive. He is a little calmer and surprised that I found him out. I’m not going to let my guard down, because I know as they say they are very difficult to change if never. Thanks for your research and help.

  54. Thank you for this article. I have been having problems with my spouse over similar things mentioned in your writing (tiny things that start a full blown fight, leaving both of us hurting, angry, and one of us sleeping on the couch). I felt my spouse had a more passive personality than I did and that was causing a lot of the tension. I tried looking through books, websites, and articles for advice. I hoped that I could bring some of the terms and explanations to his attention so that we could hash things out easier, but most of the things I find about passivity or passive aggression sounds too extreme. They talk about how our partner secretly delights in the stress they cause, how they will take out credit cards in our name, run up the balance and leave us with the bill; things that to the average person (with a SLIGHT passive tendency) sound ridiculous. You gave me something to work with that is a normal everyday application, something that sounds non-threatening. And for that I thank you.

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