Passive aggressive individuals often struggle with expressing their anger in a healthy way. They tend to be disconnected from their feelings and may not even realize that they harbor anger and hostility toward their partner. When we think of domestic violence, we usually think of physical abuse, but there are other types of domestic abuse that are not so readily identified—such as passive aggressive behavior.
People that are passive aggressive often enter into co-dependent relationships with individuals who have low self-esteem. The passive aggressive person will often avoid making an emotional connection with their partner, while simultaneously making their partner believe that their needs are being met. They refuse to accept responsibility for any problems in the relationship and may engage in gaslighting (an all-too-common form of psychological manipulation to cause a person to be doubtful). Although they deeply crave an emotional connection, they are ill-equipped to facilitate it, and keep their spouses at arm’s length.
Passive aggressive individuals share numerous common traits and behaviors, including:
Fear of intimacy. Passive aggressive individuals often have difficulty trusting others, so they maintain emotional distance at all times to protect themselves from getting hurt. The relationship may be sexual, but if you are with a passive aggressive, it will not be intimate.
Inability to express anger. Often, passive aggressives have been taught it is unacceptable to display anger, so they have learned to completely repress their emotions (on the outside).
A passive aggressive will point the finger at everyone but themselves.
Passive aggressives will never give their spouses what they want. They may appear to want to give it to you, but never follow through. This is a very specific type of abuse.
Passive aggressives will play the victim card frequently. They may say that you are treating them unfairly.
Communicating with a Passive Aggressive Relation
What can you do if you are in a relationship with, or divorcing, a person with a passive aggressive personality? Usually confronting a passive aggressive person will not result in their acknowledging fault. Instead, they may give you the silent treatment.
By focusing on your own feelings, the conversation may be more productive than if you focus on your passive aggressive partners behaviors. Focus on using sentences that start with “I” instead of the word “you.” Do not attack their character or shame them by discussing these issues in front of others.
Passive aggressive people employ a variety of techniques to avoid conflict like “turning tables.” Whenever you bring up the behavior of the passive aggressive, they will take control of the conversation and change the subject, often attempting to deflect all the blame onto you. Be sure to keep a supportive and mature tone.
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