How do you deal with a passive-aggressive relationship?

What Is Passive Aggression?

Passive aggression is behavior that is indirectly aggressive rather than directly aggressive. Passive-aggressive people regularly exhibit resistance to requests or demands from family and other individuals often by procrastinating, expressing sullenness, or acting stubborn.

What is Passive-aggressive behavior

Passive-aggressive behavior is an indirect way of expressing negative emotions where you do not communicate them directly. Instead of being overt about your anger or needs, you express them in a very passive manner. There is definitely hostility in this type of behavior, although it is often covert. For example, if your normally punctual spouse is late whenever you pick the movie, they might be acting passive-aggressively. When you confront them, they deny doing this on purpose and offer plausible reasons as to why they were late. While it seems like they’re doing this on purpose, it can be difficult to tell as it is very subtle. Passive-aggressive behavior can have a very negative impact on your relationship.

Passive aggressions

Why Some Partners Are Passive Aggressive

Marriage is a contract, one you enter into expecting to get your needs met during the good times and bad. Passive-aggressive people are pretty good at showing up and meeting needs during good times but not so much during the bad times.

Their trepidation toward conflict coupled with their fear of forming emotional connections keeps them from being a fully engaged partner. “Passive-aggressive partners are generally codependent, and like codependents, suffer from shame and low self-esteem,” Lancer says. Attempts to engage with a partner who suffers from this may result in a sense of emotional abandonment.

What Makes People Passive Aggressive?

Passive-aggressive behavior, while expressed in many different ways (sarcasm, the silent treatment, running late, to name a few), has the same roots: There is an underlying fear and avoidance of direct conflict, yet a feeling of powerlessness and helplessness.

There can be a number of reasons for the cause of the behavior. One is from a fear of anger. Most of us learn when growing up that it is bad to express anger inappropriately. The passive aggressive person has learned that expressing anger in any way is bad and that he or she is bad for feeling anger.

Another reason is based on upbringing. Children who are raised by overly controlling parents, in an environment where self-expression is not permitted, are forced to learn other ways to express feelings of anger and hostility. Since they are dependent upon their parents, they risk punishment if they don’t do as their parents say. Therefore, they lash out at their parents covertly and maintain that behavior into adulthood.

There are many other biological and environmental factors that can contribute to the development of passive aggressive behavior. A few of these include:


Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder


Anxiety disorders


Bipolar disorder


Alcohol abuse

Drug withdrawal

Ways to stop Your Passive Aggressive Behavior

Whether you find yourself in a relationship with someone who displays their anger in a passive-aggressive manner, or you recognize such behavior patterns within yourself, consider eliminating this communication style in order to relate to others in a healthier, more effective way.

1* Recognize your behavior

The best way to nip passive aggressive behavior in the bud is to become aware of when you’re reacting in a passive aggressive way.

2* Be open to confrontation

While directing expressing your needs can lead to potential confrontation, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Keep in mind that confrontation can be direct and respectful — even if positivity isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you think of it.

3* Understand why your behavior should be changed

It’s important to realize that passive-aggression is not less aggressive simply because it’s passive. Essentially, passive-aggression is an indirect form of aggression — not necessarily a milder form of aggression.

4* Cultivating Emotional Support

Being able to vent to your partner without fearing their comments is also important.
Having a daily ritual where you just talk about your experiences or feelings without the express intent of finding a solution can be cathartic and help with strengthening your emotional support system.

5* Realize it’s OK to be angry

You can still be a positive person and feel emotions we typically label as negative. And you can be a loving friend, girlfriend, boyfriend, wife, husband, mother, father, son, or daughter while feeling anger in response to something the other person has done.

Ways to stop your passive aggressive behavior

5* Understanding the effects

Realising that passive-aggressiveness can be just as damaging as other forms of aggression or negativity is crucial.

You will never address the issues that cause anger or frustration if one, or both of you are too fearful to fully acknowledge the underlying problems.

When carried out in a clear and constructive manner, disagreements can be a natural and healthy part of a relationship. Passive-aggressive behaviour is not a healthy or sustainable way of handling your frustrations.

Why are people with passive-aggressive behavior so hard to deal with?

Generally, difficult social conflicts frequently involve passive-aggressive behavior. The reason passive-aggressive behavior is often more distressing than even aggressive behavior is because you are not only hurt but it causes you to doubt yourself and your experience of reality. In contrast, when someone is aggressive towards you, their intention is clear and it is easier to make a decision such as “I need to steer clear of this person” or “I need to report this behavior.”

passive-aggressive behavior is not so clear. The purpose of passive-aggressive behavior is for the aggressor to avoid responsibility for their actions while causing distress for someone else or obtaining something they want.


Passive-aggressive behavior can easily be denied or blame shifted:

“I didn’t mean it the way you took it.”

“You’re being too sensitive.”

“You’re just trying to get me in trouble.”

As a result, passive-aggressive behavior cannot be addressed in the same way you might handle aggressive behavior.

How to deal with passive-aggressive partner

Passive-aggressive people are stubborn, sullen, and inefficient. They blame others, are resentful, resist suggestions, and avoid responsibility. They can’t communicate their feelings, won’t let their partner know what they want, and expect others to read their mind. The passive-aggressive person represses his or her anger and is unaware of the hostility he or she feels.

1* Set Boundaries.

Decide exactly what passive-aggressive behaviors you won’t allow to happen. For example, if they promise to take your car into the shop to get it fixed and then don’t do it, ask yourself if that will be a problem before you rely on your partner to do it. If not having your car will cause you difficulty, do it yourself.

2* Be Realistic.

Understand that your passive-aggressive partner is unlikely to change. Generally, the passive-aggressive partner is nice because he or she avoids direct confrontation and can’t express anger openly. If you want to handle your partner’s passive-aggressive behavior, be very specific about what bothers you–avoid generalities. Be clear about what you want your partner to do to fix the problem.

3* Be Assertive.

The best way to deal with a passive-aggressive partner is to actively assert your own needs and feelings in a clear way and don’t back down if they become abusive. Be factual, state your feelings clearly, avoid emotional words and use “I” statements. Don’t label your partner as “passive-aggressive.”

4* Don’t Enable Your Partner.

Do not be a secret helper who enables passive-aggressive behavior by allowing your partner to abuse you. Don’t tolerate your partner’s passive-aggression because it seems easier than dealing with the problem. If you avoid fighting because you fear the relationship won’t tolerate confrontation, you are accumulating future problems and enabling your partner to continue to abuse you.

How to deal with passive aggressive partner

5* Stay Calm.

Don’t react to provocations by your passive-aggressive partner. Remain calm, notice what your partner is doing, recognize triggers of your own anger, and be proactive to avoid falling into a pattern of expecting something that never happens.


How you can Stop Passive Aggression from Ruining Your Relationship

1* Chill out

Attempting to begin a dialogue when one or both of you are in a very negative headspace will cause the person who behaves passive-aggressively to shut down or to escalate the situation. Take a minute to chill out and calm down before approaching each other and the issue.

2* Brainstorm

The work of being in a successful relationship takes two people. As often as possible, come up with ideas for solutions to your issues together. Make your list of options as long and as wide-ranging as possible.

3* Talk it out

Don’t try to guess or assume you know what your partner is feeling or thinking. Instead, ask your partner how he or she feels.

4* List pros and cons

Once you’ve finished brainstorming a list of possible solutions, talk through the pros and cons of each idea on the list.

Thanks for reading, please share to educate others and don’t forget to like and comment your opinion in the comment section. See you next time and have a blessed day.


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