They say yes, and then their behavior screams NO. They try to sabotage your wants, needs, and plans using a variety of tactics. You end up feeling hurt and angry. You may do more job-searching on their behalf than they do. This is another nonverbal form of saying NO. They hate to take a stand. However, their behavior tells the truth, which is usually NO. This way they retain control and blame you for being controlling. As you might expect, negotiating agreements, such as in a divorce or child visitation plan, is exasperating.
In addition to procrastinating, they avoid being pinned down. This only postpones negotiation when repetitive arguments can occur over every exchange of the children. Alternatively, they might agree to terms, but not abide by them. You can expect to be back in court. In childhood, they may have been punished or scolded for showing anger, or were never permitted to object.
Their only outlet is passive-aggressive, oppositional behavior. When they finally do what you ask, you likely have to redo it. At work, they make careless errors. Chronic lateness is a half-hearted way of saying NO. They agree to a time, but show up late. Lateness at work or delivering assignments is a self-sabotaging form of rebellion that can get them dismissed. Their personality may include pouting or acting sullen, stubborn, or argumentative.
They feel misunderstood and unappreciated and scorn and criticize authority. They frequently complain and envy and resent those more fortunate. Their denial, shame, and lack of responsibility cause them to play the victim and blame others. You or their boss become the controlling, demanding one. Their obstructionism is a pseudo attempt at independence. An autonomous person has healthy self-esteem, is assertive, and can take a stand and keep commitments.
Not so for someone passive-aggressive. Their behavior is designed to avoid responsibility for themselves and family, and sometimes they depend unfairly on their partner for support. Withholding communication is another form of expressing anger and asserting power passively. This undermines intimacy as a way to fight against their dependency. Look for a pervasive pattern of several of the above symptom, and monitor your feelings. You may feel angry, confused, or powerless when trying to get cooperation.
When you nag, scold, or get angry, you escalate conflict and give your partner more excuses and ammunition to deny responsibility. Not only that, you step into the role of parent — the very one your partner is rebelling against. Neither be passive, nor aggressive. It would be similar to nagging your child, but allowing the youngster not to do his or her chores.
This takes practice and requires being assertive. Be prepared to set boundaries with consequences. But trust me when I say that people who are passive-aggressive have gotten this feedback from other people for years. Passive-aggressive behavior is behavior in which someone, with one fell swoop, attempts two separate goals: The truth is, passive-aggressive men and women usually have a low self-esteem and feel insecure and powerless much of the time.
Frequent examples of passive-aggressive behavior in romantic relationships: Regardless of what causes a person to become passive-aggressive again, low self-worth mixed with anger , this type of adolescent — no, elementary school — behavior should be absolutely unacceptable in any relationship between two adults. In other words, sometimes it takes a minute, an hour, or even a day or two to figure out that his behavior is, in fact, passive-aggressive. As a result, you need to follow a few steps to make sure that you put this behavior to bed for good.
If you live together, you can spend some time in another room so that you have space from his problematic and unfair behavior. Every time you are on the receiving end of this kind of passive-aggressive behavior, practice this same exact protocol: Identify what you believe is passive-aggressive behavior; state the specific behaviors that are passive-aggressive; give her time to correct the behavior; and ask him to start being more direct with you when he is angry or upset.
Trust that this protocol works. He will inevitably get sick and tired of hearing the same script from you when he tries his passive-aggressive behaviors, so he will stop pulling the same stunts in order to avoid the same lecture. The added bonus for you is that having this routine protocol to use allows you to simply recite the script when it happens, as opposed to taking the behavior personally, trying to figure out his motivations, or letting the behavior upset you yet again.
Seth is a licensed clinical psychologist, author, Psychology Today blogger, and TV guest expert. He practices in Los Angeles and treats a wide range of issues and disorders and specializes in relationships, parenting, and addiction. He has had extensive training in conducting couples therapy and is the author of Dr. Overcome Relationship Repetition Syndrome and Find the Love You Deserve.
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How to Stop Passive-Aggressive Behavior: No, You’re Not Crazy
Defusing the Passive-Aggressive
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