Passive Aggressive (adj.) Of, relating to, or having a personality disorder characterized by habitual passive resistance to demands for adequate performance in occupational or social situations, as by procrastination, stubbornness, sullenness, and inefficiency.
Covert (adj.) Not openly shown, engaged in, or avowed : VEILED
Passive Aggressive Behavior Defined:
Passive Aggressive behavior is a form of covert abuse. When someone hits you or yells at you, you know that you’ve been abused. It is obvious and easily identified. Covert abuse is subtle and veiled or disguised by actions that appear to be normal, at times loving and caring. The passive aggressive person is a master at covert abuse.
Passive aggressive behavior stems from an inability to express anger in a healthy way. A person’s feelings may be so repressed that they don’t even realize they are angry or feeling resentment. A passive aggressive can drive people around him/her crazy and seem sincerely dismayed when confronted with their behavior. Due to their own lack of insight into their feelings the passive aggressive often feels that others misunderstand them or, are holding them to unreasonable standards if they are confronted about their behavior.
*FEAR OF DEPENDENCY – Unsure of his autonomy & afraid of being alone, he fights his dependency needs – usually by trying to control you.
*FEAR OF INTIMACY – Guarded & often mistrusful, he is reluctant to show his emotional fragility. He’s often out of touch with his feelings, reflexively denying feelings he thinks will "trap" or reveal him, like love. He picks fights to create distance.
*FEAR OF COMPETITION – Feeling inadequate, he is unable to compete with other men in work and love. He may operate either as a self-sabotaging wimp with a pattern of failure, or he’ll be the tyrant, setting himself up as unassailable and perfect, needing to eliminate any threat to his power.
*OBSTRUCTIONISM – Just tell a p/a man what you want, no matter how small, and he may promise to get it for you. But he won’t say when, and he"ll do it deliberately slowly just to frustrate you. Maybe he won’t comply at all. He blocks any real progress he sees to your getting your way.
*FOSTERING CHAOS – The p/a man prefers to leave the puzzle incomplete, the job undone.
*FEELING VICTIMIZED – The p/a man protests that others unfairly accuse him rather than owning up to his own misdeeds. To remain above reporach, he sets himself up as the apparently hapless, innocent victim of your excessive demands and tirades.
*MAKING EXCUSES & LYING – The p/a man reaches as far as he can to fabricate excuses for not fulfilling promises. As a way of withholding information, affirmation or love – to have power over you – the p/a man may choose to make up a story rather than give you a straight answer.
*PROCRASTINATION – The p/a man has an odd sense of time – he believes that deadlines don’t exist for him.
*CHRONIC LATENESS & FORGETFULNESS – One of the most infuriating & inconsiderate of all p/a traits is his inability to arrive on time. By keeping you waiting, he sets the ground rules of the relationship. And his selective forgetting – used only when he wants to avoid an obligation.
*AMBIGUITY – He is master of mixed messages and sitting on fences. When he tells you something, you may still walk away wondering if he actually said yes or no.
*SULKING – Feeling put upon when he is unable to live up to his promises or obligations, the p/a man retreats from pressures around him and sulks, pouts and withdraws.
A passive-aggressive man won’t have every single one of these traits, but he’ll have many of them. He may have other traits as well, which are not passive-aggressive.
The Passive Aggressive and You:
The passive aggressive needs to have a relationship with someone who can be the object of his or her hostility. They need someone whose expectations and demands he/she can resist. A passive aggressive is usually attracted to co-dependents, people with low self-esteem and those who find it easy to make excuses for other’s bad behaviors.
The biggest frustration in being with a passive aggressive is that they never follow through on agreements and promises. He/she will dodge responsibility for anything in the relationship while at the same time making it look as if he/she is pulling his/her own weight and is a very loving partner. The sad thing is, you can be made to believe that you are loved and adored by a person who is completely unable to form an emotional connection with anyone.
The passive aggressive ignores problems in the relationship, sees things through their own skewed sense of reality and if forced to deal with the problems will completely withdraw from the relationship and you. They will deny evidence of wrong doing, distort what you know to be real to fit their own agenda, minimize or lie so that their version of what is real seems more logical.
The passive aggressive will say one thing, do another, and then deny ever saying the first thing. They don’t communicate their needs and wishes in a clear manner, expecting their spouse to read their mind and meet their needs. After all, if their spouse truly loved them he/she would just naturally know what they needed or wanted. The passive aggressive withholds information about how he/she feels, their ego is fragile and can’t take the slightest criticism so why let you know what they are thinking or feeling? God forbid they disclose that information and you criticize them.
Confronting the Passive Aggressive:
Beware, if you confront the passive aggressive he/she will most likely sulk, give you the silent treatment or completely walk away leaving you standing there to deal with the problem alone. There are two reasons for confronting the passive aggressive. One, if done correctly you may be able to help him/her gain insight into the negative consequences of their behaviors. Two, even if that doesn’t happen, it will at least give you the opportunity to talk to him/her in a frank way about how his/her behavior affects you. If nothing else you can get a few things "off your chest." Below are some ways you might approach your passive aggressive:
Make your feelings the subject of the conversation and not his/her bad behaviors.
Don’t attack his/her character.
Make sure you have privacy.
Confront him/her about one behavior at a time, don’t bring up everything at once.
If he/she needs to retreat from the conversation allow them to do it with dignity.
Have a time limit, confrontation should not stretch on indefinitely.
If he/she tries to turn the table on you, do not defend your need to have an adult conversation about your feelings.
Be sure he/she understands that you care about what happens to them, that you love them and that you are not trying to control them. You are only trying to get to the bottom of your disagreements and make the relationship better.
Inside the Passive Aggressive:
The passive aggressive has a real desire to connect with you emotionally but their fear of such a connection causes them to be obstructive and engage in self-destructive habits. He/she will be covert in their actions and it will only move him/her further from his/her desired relationship with you.
The passive aggressive never looks internally and examines their role in a relationship problem. They have to externalize it and blame others for having shortcomings. To accept that he/she has flaws would be tantamount to emotional self-destruction. They live in denial of their self-destructive behaviors, the consequences of those behaviors and the choices they make that cause others so much pain.
The passive aggressive objectifies the object of their desire. You are to be used as a means to an end. Your only value is to feed his/her own emotional needs. You are not seen as a person with feelings and needs but as an extension of him/her. They care for you the way they care for a favorite chair. You are there for their comfort and pleasure and are of use as long as you fill their needs.
The passive aggressive wants the attention and attachment that comes with loving someone but fears losing his/her independence and sense of self to his/her spouse. They want love and attention but avoid it out of fear of it destroying them. You have to be kept at arms length and if there is an emotional attachment it is tenuous at best.
The only hope for change in the way they deal with relationship issues is if they are able to acknowledge their shortcomings and contributions to the marital problems. Facing childhood wounds, looking internally instead of externally to find the cause of problems in their life will help them form deeper emotional attachments with a higher sense of emotional safety.
An emotional security & you are safe here… and we need to seek and learn to ask for it
The Role Anger Plays In Passive Aggressive Behavior
By Cathy Meyer
I’m about to fill you in on a little secret. Anger plays a role in passive aggressive behavior. Yep, that passive aggressive spouse that is driving you insane is angry as hell and full of grief. The passive aggressive deals with anger in one of two ways. Either they have no control over their anger or they have problems expressing their anger.
Anger Out Of Control:
How we handle our anger comes from lessons learned during childhood through our family of origin. Below are examples of early childhood experiences that will produce an adult who expresses their anger inappropriate rage.
The little boy who is taught that boys play with guns and girls play with dolls. If that boy is reprimanded for playing with toys that society associates as a girl toy, he grows into a man who believes that being a man means being aggressive.
The little girl who grows up in a family with an alcoholic parent learns that the only way to get her needs met is to through a tantrum. Mom or Dad are to invested in their addiction to put the little girls needs first. She grows into a woman who caries the belief that if she wants something out of a relationship the only way to get it is to act in an aggressive manner.
Some children learn through their family of origin to become so passive that they allow others to walk all over them. They bend over backwards to please their spouse, keeping their own desires a secret and internalizing any anger they feel. Below are examples of early childhood experiences that produce adults who don’t know how to express anger.
The little boy whose mother never shows love or affection. His mother is so emotionally closed off that not only does she not show love and affection, she doesn’t allow any expressions of anger. She avoids both the pleasant and unpleasant aspects of being a mother and raises a boy who becomes a man who is also emotionally closed off.
The little girl whose father is too busy or too afraid to show her love and caring. Her father works long hours. When he is home, he sits in front of the computer or television. When the little girl seeks his attention, she is scolded and learns that asking for what she needs means being reprimanded. She learns that getting her father’s attention means being a good little girl. She grows into an adult who is angry over her needs not being met but to afraid to express that anger.
Adults who have no control over their anger and those who have no idea how to express their anger are grieving. They are grieving the loss of something that was rightfully theirs. Their right to entertain themselves regardless of societies or their parent’s beliefs of what was right or wrong. The right to be heard and cared for regardless of how addicted a parent was to alcohol or drugs. They are grieving the right to express love or negative feelings or a desire for parental attention without fear of punishment.
It is about loss, the loss of normal things any child should expect from a parent. Instead of grieving that loss in a normal way, they internalize it and compensate by being overly aggressive or overly passive. The grief shows itself in behaviors that are destructive to themselves and anyone who engages in a relationship with them.
A man who abuses his wife is often motivated by feelings of loss and grief. Feelings that are expressed through rage. Women who emotionally manipulate their husband by withholding affection are motivated by the same feelings of loss and grief.
The aggression or passivity hides their fear of rejection and helplessness when it comes to getting what they need from their spouse. The spouse is left reeling and wondering what he/she did to deserve a slap across the face or the withholding of normal loving affection.
The spouse feels responsible in some way. That is the sneaky thing about living with a passive aggressive individual. They don’t know how to properly express anger but they are geniuses when it comes to shifting the blame and projecting their own bad behavior off onto their spouse.
Next time you are trying to make sense of some nonsensical behavior by your spouse remember you are dealing with a wounded, damaged child. Don’t make excuses for him/her. Don’t take responsibility for their inability to properly express their grief and anger. Understanding why someone acts the way they do does not mean excusing their hurtful actions.
Knowledge is power. Learning what is behind the actions of your spouse will enable you to make an informed decision about whether to continue in the marriage or leave the marriage.
Recovering From Passive Aggressive Behavior
My name is Lance; I am in treatment for passive aggressive behavior. My wife printed out and showed me your article on About.com: Divorce Support. It was entitled Passive Aggressive Behavior, a Form of Covert Abuse. I have no problem with your article, in fact I agree with most of it. However I disagree with my behavior disorder as a form of covert abuse towards her.
I will admit to not being able to find the right words to express things to her. I stumble over words and more times than I want, the wrong word comes out and my meaning is unclear. The
truth is I also have a case of dyslexia, I will always believe that my dyslexia will cause me to say the wrong thing. I constantly say right when I mean to say left and so forth.
I have been working with a therapist for about 4 or 5 months, so I have only started to understand and correct my behavior. I can admit that in becoming a passive aggressive person it took several years of negative conditioning. By negative conditioning, I mean I was never allowed to vent my feelings of frustration. I had no outlet, no safety valve. It all built up over several years and viola Passive Aggressive Disorder. My wish is this: I want to learn how not to be one anymore. Do you have any writings that point out ways to overcome this disorder? Can you point out any writings that would help? I am committed to overcoming it. I am not the innocent victim of a slow store clerk. I in fact did not give myself enough time to get to the store.
So why do I not agree with the term covert abuse? Easy, my intention is not to hurt, abuse or cause ill will. Honestly it isn’t. It’s case of not being able to effectively express emotions. All emotions need an outlet, both the positive and negative ones. How do you express the negatives with out causing resentments? That has been my path to this disorder. And I’m quite sure other people have taken the same path, before me and after me.
My wife compares me with her first husband. He was a drug addict and an alcoholic. He used crystal meth, an insidious drug. Did you know that drugs cause the user to lie and distort things? This is a way the drug has of justifying itself to the user. The user intern conveys what the drug is saying as the truth. And a vicious cycle begins. It’s a skewed vision in favor of a chemical dependency. He would tell her that he wanted to be different and such else. Meanwhile he sank further into drug dependency. I fear drugs and I have no desire to take alcohol. I too have told my wife that I want to be well. The difference between me and him is I mean it. I will work past this disorder. I want good physical health and better mental health too. The first step is to admit it, yes I admit to having Passive Aggressive Behavior. Yes, I admit I have caused stress in my wife. No, she did not deserve it. My responsibility is to erase what she wrote on the printout of your article. What she wrote was this: WOW-! All my feelings validated in one website! I carry that printout with me, usually in a pants pocket or in the glove box of my car. What she wrote, and what you wrote hits home.
My Thoughts On The Subject:
We may have to agree to disagree as far as passive aggressive behavior being a form of covert abuse. I would like to explain my belief that it is such if you don’t mind.
Passive aggressive behavior is not only covert abuse towards your wife but also towards yourself. It is a behavior that keeps you or anyone attached to you from forming a deep bond.
Being involved in a relationship with someone with passive aggressive behaviors feels like you are being frozen out of their life emotionally and physically. Not only does that harm your wife but, it harms you and the relationship. The passive aggressive doesn’t intentionally abuse the person they love. It is the defense mechanisms they have built up that do the harm…not the person themselves.
"my intention is not to hurt, abuse or cause ill will. Honestly it isn’t. It’s case of not being able to effectively express emotions. All emotions need an outlet, both the positive and negative ones. How do you express the negatives with out causing resentments? That has been my path to this disorder. And I’m quite sure other people have taken the same path, before me and after me."
You are able to identify negative emotions when you feel them but fear expressing them because you fear your wife will resent you. That fear that you feel is the crux of the problem. It is what makes a passive aggressive, passive aggressive.
We all need to be in relationships where we feel safe expressing both positive and negative emotions. The passive aggressive learns that it is not safe to express negative emotions. To rid yourself of the passive aggressive behavior you have to get rid of that fear.
You need to learn that when your wife ask you how you feel on a certain subject that she really wants to know how you feel. She may not like how you feel and may react with some anger or negative emotions of her own BUT that is how relationships survive. Both sides getting their negative emotions out and finding solutions to problems.
Have you talked to your wife and told her that you are afraid that if you express negative emotions she will resent it? If not you need to talk to her. You need to tell her that you need to feel safe in expressing those negative emotions. You need to tell her that you fear her leaving you if you express negative emotions. You need to tell her that you need her to help you learn that expressing negative feelings is safe. Your recovery something you AND your wife are going to have to be a part of.
"My wife compares me with her first husband. He was a drug addict and an alcoholic."
How does it make you feel when your wife compares you to her first husband? Alcoholics and drug addicts make a conscious choice to take another drink or do more drugs. They put thought into, weigh their options and are fully aware of the consequences of drinking and drugging before they do it again.
The passive aggressive does not make a conscious choice to behave the way they do. Their behavior is learned from years of conditioning and is second nature to them. Very few people who love their spouse are going to consciously do something that is emotionally harmful to them. I don’t see a connection to a drug addict or alcoholic and a passive aggressive at all. The behaviors may seem similar but the motivations behind those behaviors are different.
I wish you well Lance. I’m glad my article got through and hope that you will soon be able to throw it in the trash and start living life without the need of those defense mechanisms that have built up. Please keep in touch…if you wish.
Your letter was concise and hit the nail on the head. Every thing in it was truthful and extremely well stated. It explained a lot to me and it’s honesty made my eyes well up. I’m glad I’m getting help. I’m glad I reached out to you.
My personal thoughts:
As observed people around me, passive agressive behavior is often used, yes I agree as defense mechanism especially when you feel so weak to face a situation and you don’t know how to react properly to the event that is taking place. Sometimes, it goes too far that may create tension and hurt to oher people involved. But I just hope and pray we all get out of this rotten behavior by resolving it as this is so destructive to our selves and to our relationships with all those special people we need to relate with. We need them actually but our rotten behavior, obstruct the flow of expressing our true feelings thus making us always in trouble & say the wrong words and act the wrong way.
Let’s reach out to people whom we think can give us insight and help us encourage to change for better. We can’t do it alone. Let’s accept it! And we know nothing is impossible if we have the will to change for the sake of our own happiness, for the sake of the ones we love and for the glory of God. Maybe hardships like these are meant to be so we will learn to cope and grow, learn and get wisdom to do the unleashing of own knots … Let’s make ourselves free from the trap of fears that destroy our life! i believe open communication combined with humility and love may help a lot.
LOVE YOURSELF A LITTLE BIT MORE! and i encourage you to express your true self, try to find ways and means to ventilate true feelings. Don’t be defensive try to communicate openly about the issues you are struggling. be humble coz most of the time pride blocks good communication. learn to trust that there are people who care for you and are willing to help you and pray for inner healing. And do trust that God can help us resolve our conflicts. and to try applying therapuetic hugs and kisses more and more everyday. happy people often said it’s working wonders with them and it’s making them open to life’s starry moments.
The therapeutic hugging can work miracles.
There’s something in a simple hug
That always warms the heart;
It welcomes us back home
And makes it easier to part.
A hug’s a way to share the joy
And sad times we go through,
Or just a way for friends to say
They like you ’cause you’re you.
Hugs are meant for anyone
For whom we really care,
From your grandma to your neighbour,
Or a cuddly teddy bear.
A hug is an amazing thing –
It’s just the perfect way
To show the love we’re feeling
But can’t find the words to say.
It’s funny how a little hug
Makes everyone feel good;
In every place and language,
It’s always understood.
"Hugs don’t need new equipment.
Special batteries or parts.
Just open up your arms
And open up your hearts."
"Time is a companion that goes with us on a journey. It reminds us to cherish each moment, because it will never come again. What we leave behind is not as important as how we have lived. ~~Captain Jean-Luc