Coping with a passive aggressive partner | Center for Growth Therapy

Coping with a passive aggressive partner

Alex , CAS, MSW, ACSW, LCSW — Founder & executive director

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Recognize and Deal with a Passive Aggressive Partner - Learning to Read Between the Lines

How women can recognize and deal with a passive aggressive partner: While not everyone can say exactly what “passive aggressive” means, everyone knows it when they see it: the boss who takes forever to get back to you at work and leaves you hanging, the man who seems to sincerely agree with your suggestions but then goes off and does exactly what he wants anyway, the person who says he’s willing to take on an assignment but then procrastinates and does an intentionally poor job to get out of it. These people tend to become irritating, especially because most passive aggressives constantly maintain their innocence and will quickly take the role of the victim if confronted. At work, most co-workers eventually just quit giving passive aggressives any real responsibilities and stay away from them. However, the most difficult interaction with a passive aggressive man is not in the workplace, but in a romantic relationship. When you are in a relationship with someone who is passive aggressive, their behavior is no longer just irritating – it becomes frustrating and hurtful, and it chips away at your self-esteem.

Passive aggression is common among males in today’s society, although women can certainly be guilty of it as well. With the rise of feminism, modern culture discourages men from outwardly expressing their anger and admonishes them to “be more sensitive.” Men who use overt displays of aggression are often labeled as being a jock or trying to be macho, and are frowned at for not being more in control. These expectations steer men away from outward aggression, and they are forced to find another outlet: passive aggression. More extreme cases usually begin in childhood, often in a family with a dominant, controlling mother and a submissive father who does his best to just do what his wife says and keep her happy. The child not only learns from his parents that a man’s job in a relationship is just to give verbal agreement to whatever his partner says or wants, but mixed messages create vast reservoirs of anger and frustration. His mother says she loves him and wants him to be happy, but often uses guilt to make sure he stays close. She keeps him so controlled that he is never allowed to develop or express himself, which includes expressing all that anger. Unfortunately, anger doesn’t go away when you don’t express it, it just finds another way to come out.

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