“My husband is passive aggressive and I can’t stand it anymore! It’s so negative!”
Dealing with a passive aggressive person can be extremely angering and confusing. However, the way you respond to the passive aggressive behavior will influence whether or not the behavior changes or continues.
When people behave in a passive aggressive manner, they don’t speak or behave in a manner that is consistent with the way they feel. Instead, they pretend to agree with others and then secretly sabotage the efforts.
Examples of passive aggressive behavior include:
- A husband tells his wife he will go to dinner at his mother-in-law’s home but later says he has a headache and cannot attend.
- A wife tells her husband she agrees with the new budget he created but she then goes on a shopping spree and says the kids needed new clothing.
- A husband agrees to mow the lawn but then tells his wife the mower won’t start so he can get out of doing it.
- A wife agrees to spend less time on the computer. She purposely forgets to pay the bills so she can later remind her husband that without internet access, she can’t conduct their electronic banking.
Reasons Your Husband is Passive Aggressive
It’s important to look at the possible reasons why your husband doesn’t want to be direct and honest with you when he disagrees. People usually behave in a passive aggressive manner because they are afraid of confrontation. Take a look at how you would respond if he was direct and honest with you. For example, do you yell at him when he disagrees? If so, he may be trying to avoid a fight.
Sometimes passive aggressive behavior develops as a result of a habit. Perhaps he grew up in a home with a lot of conflict and now goes to great lengths to avoid any type of conflict possible.
Take some time really thinking about the likely reasons your husband may behave in a passive aggressive manner. Also, take an honest look at your own behavior and how it might influence him. Does he complain that you are mean? That you yell a lot? It might not seem like it but he really could be afraid of your raised voice and confrontation. Men often feel shamed by women and work to avoid a fight by being passive aggressive or lying rather than confronting it.
How to respond to your husband’s Passive Aggressive Behavior
The best way to respond to passive aggressive behavior is to do so in a direct manner. Remember however, that confrontation doesn’t need to be negative and it doesn’t need to result in fighting. Instead, point out some of his behavior that you find to be passive aggressive. Listen to what he has to say about the reasons for his passive aggressive behavior. Work to establish trust in your marriage. If your husband trusts that you will respond appropriately, it’s much more likely he will respond in a direct manner when he disagrees.
Learn the skills that we teach in the Imago dialogue. It’s worth it to speak in a manner in which he finds to be safe, so that he can be more open and direct with you, resulting in a healthy, connected relationship not one of sarcasm and aggression.