Passive Behavior

Overcoming Passivity and Passive-Aggressive Behavior

…in the Early Stages of Therapy Couples therapy has numerous challenges in the early sessions depending on the type of presenting problem. Our next few newsletters will focus on some unique challenges and what to do about them, beginning with passive behavior and passive-aggressive behavior. A common pattern of highly distressed relationships is each partner wants the other to change first. The complaining partner wants massive personality changes. The “request” is more or less stated as a demand or accusation, with no awareness of how much is being requested. When this happens, the pressure is on either you or the partner to do something to relieve the distress of the complainer.… Read more...

Couples’ Fights: What Is One Big Common Denominator?

Couples fight for many reasons. Yet, at the heart of most fights are violated expectations. There is a significant difference between expectations and desires and it is this difference that causes much painful struggling in couples relationships. Expectations have a “should” quality implied about them. For example, “My partner should do X. It’s just the right thing to do. Therefore I have permission to be passive without putting much effort into helping bring those expectations into being.” However, when someone really desires something and especially if they want it quite fiercely, they will activate themselves to obtain it.… Read more...

Self-Reflection in Chronically Angry Couples

  This month I’m writing about the chronically angry couple. These couples often wait too long to go to therapy or may have tried therapy with a therapist who did not provide enough structure for them. At the beginning, these couples need structure and they need for the therapist to be especially clear about the direction of their work. Chronically angry couples have several traits in common: 1. Frequent, rapid escalation of hostility (either overtly or passive-aggressively) 2. High demand for intimacy without the developmental capacity to support the demand 3. Minimal self responsibility paired with an avoidance of vulnerability 4.… Read more...

The Hidden Cost of Too Much Compromise in Your Relationship

Who hasn't heard about the importance of compromise in a relationship? But how often do we hear about the price that is paid for that compromise? In a relationship of significance, most people do things that are accommodating. But what happens when that behavior becomes passive behavior and is over-accommodating? What happens when you deny, suppress or repress a meaningful portion of yourself? The result is that you become embroiled in an internal struggle. One part of you clamors to be heard and responded to, and the other parts of you go into the accommodation mode. By continuing to compromise and deny important aspects of yourself you stay anxious and conflicted.… Read more...

Six Steps to Telling the Truth

  It's understandable that couples are wary about bringing up sensitive topics. The avoidance of pain and distress are major motivators to go into hiding. But too much avoidance or passive behavior can lead to marital corrosion. So how can this difficult problem be managed? Because of the extra length, this month's column is divided into two parts with the second part finishing next month. We will follow Tina and Tom through their truth-telling process. They met as students at a large Midwestern university and married soon after graduation. They both come from religious, church-going families.… Read more...
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