How to Stop Being Passive-Aggressive in a Relationship

16.04.2019

Nobody likes aggressive people. They are hostile, scandalous, insulting, and rude – all their actions are aimed at harming another person. But fighting down the anger is often considered a much smaller evil, but it sometimes manifests itself very strangely and causes absolutely the same pain. In psychology, there is such a term as passive aggression. Let's make out what it is and find answers to the questions, "What does passive-aggressive mean in a relationship?” and “How to stop being passive-aggressive?”

being passive aggressive in a relationship

What Is Passive-Aggressive Behavior?

Passive aggression is an indirect or repressed expression of anger. The person feels uncomfortable but cannot express anger or resentment honestly and openly.

Passive aggression is a scar from childhood. It often originates in a childish relationship with anger. If you saw explosive outbursts of anger, one of the parents shouted at you or showed physical aggression, you may fear this emotion in adulthood. You are afraid not only to see someone in anger but also to experience anger yourself. Also, passive aggression can occur because of parents who restrained the anger of their child with words like, “Stop it! Don't take that tone with me!” or avoid anger as an emotion. Joy?

Yes. Sad? Of course, everyone sometimes feels sad. Anger? No. It has no place in our house. Such children grow up with the conviction that anger is scary, and it cannot be shown. Being an adult, it prevents them from recognizing anger in themselves and expressing it in a healthy and relationship-friendly way. There are a lot of passive-aggressive men in relationships, but the number of women having this problem is even greater.

In many articles and books, a passive-aggressive person is described in a completely terrible way, and passive aggression is shown as an absolute evil. In fact, we all sometimes resort to such behavior in everyday life, when the situation does not allow us to react differently. Passive aggression becomes a problem when it is the only form of expression of negative emotions.

Passive-Aggressive Behavior Examples

There is one of the most common examples of passive-aggressive behavior in relationships. Every Saturday, Bill and Sarah go out on a date. One day, Sarah puts on a new red dress. It is more revealing compared to the dresses she usually wears. She is nervous before showing it up to her husband.

When Bill sees Sarah in a new dress, he smiles and says, "You look ... different." Sarah is upset but does not tell him about it. She feels awkward all evening and swears she will never wear this dress again.

Later in the evening, Bill reaches out to kiss Sarah. But she carelessly kisses him on the cheek, turns away, and pretends to be sleeping. Sarah thinks about the red dress and the words of her husband all week. When Bill wants to have sex, she pretends that her stomach hurts. By next Saturday, Sarah broils with anger but keeps her feelings. She does not admit to her husband that his words hurt her. If Sarah had talked to her husband, she would feel better. Bill would tell her the truth: he had never seen her in such a pretty dress, Sarah caught him by surprise. But he liked the way she looked.

Here is another example of passive-aggressive behavior in social relationships. When Maria came to work for the first time, everyone was glad to see her. She looked kind, sweet, modest, and always ready to help. Her duties included planning meetings, distributing mail, and making appointments. In the beginning, everything went well. Maria answered “yes” to all the instructions in a face-to-face conversation. But as soon as the interlocutor turned back, she eloquently rolled the eyes heavenward. When colleagues asked her for something, she acted deliberately slowly, complained about any occasion, and scolded all managers. A coworker tried to listen to her and calm her down, but everything was in vain. In the end, Maria was fired.

There is another example of passive-aggressive behavior when a person does not say clearly and directly what they want, dodge the problem, and do not explain what is wrong.

- Let's go to the cinema.
- As you wish.
- You do not want, do you?
- I do not care.
- Are you in a bad mood?
- Perhaps.
- Have I hurt you?
- That's not on you.
- Can I help you with something?
- I do not know. Hardly that.
- Well, let's stay at home.
- Do whatever you want.

how to stop being passive aggressiveHow to Deal with Passive-Aggressive People?

Dealing with passive-aggressive people requires considerable self-control. However, there is no need in ending a passive-aggressive relationship as such behavior can be changed. And so, let's analyze how to deal with passive-aggressive behavior in a relationship.

Recognize the behavior and discuss the real problem

Be calm and self-disciplined while communicating with your loved one. Try to put yourself in the place of your partner. Be benevolent. Do not raise the tone of voice. The partner may try to drive you mad as it is a kind of passive-aggressive manipulation in a relationship. Try to make them admit that the cause of their passive-aggressive behavior is a deeper problem. Create a “bridge” of understanding and care so that the person feels comfortable.

React openly

Do not become passive-aggressive, be decisive. Talk about dissatisfaction and problems directly. “I got angry when you had promised to go somewhere with the children, but refused at the last moment, remembering more important things. Please live up to your promises.”

Further development of the situation depends on the response of the partner. In any case, show that you are ready for dialogue. Talking with a passive aggressor, it is important to talk about your feelings and desires directly, “I hate,” “I don't like,” “I get angry,” “I want,” “I offer.” And ask them straight forward, “What do you want? What are you planning to do? If you do not want to do something that we've agreed, just say, we will seek a compromise.” If you manage to “draw” to the partner a proposal to solve a problem, this is an important step in getting rid of the passive-aggressive behavior.

Accept resistance

Your goal is to get your partner to show the anger that they hide deep inside. But as soon as you indicate the presence of this emotion, the passive aggressor will begin to deny its presence. When they do so, you should say, “Okay! I just felt it and decided to share my opinion with you.” Do not argue and do not prove anything. You can get out of the conversation, but the partner will understand that you treat their emotions respectfully and calmly. And, perhaps, they will soon cease to hide them.

Set boundaries and be outspoken

Once you outlined a real problem and discussed it with your partner, you should set boundaries. Tell them clearly what you will or will not tolerate in the relationship.

Do not forget to work on yourself

If you are dealing with a passive-aggressive personality, concentrate on the present and future events. Do not remember past insults, even if you are still worried about them. You will not be able to solve current problems if you go back to the past all the time. Respect the thoughts and feelings of your partner and expect the same from them. Your behavior is your responsibility, do not forget about it.

Even if the problem with passive aggression is characteristic only for your partner, remember – you are not perfect as well. Focus on solving a problem, not proving your right. Each of us has the potential for self-improvement and strengthening relationships.

Am I Passive-Aggressive?

Due to the fact that passive-aggressive behavior is implicit or indirect, it can be difficult to detect it even in cases when you feel some psychological consequences. Unfortunately, most often a person does not even realize that they have any passive-aggressive traits. There are 15 signs that will help you find out, “Am I passive-aggressive?”

  • You perceive everything happening around negatively.
  • You often complain about being underestimated or misunderstood.
  • You never express your point of view and let the partner decide how to act.
  • You often forget about important things, for example, agreements and plans. You never reject, you just do nothing.
  • You never feel guilty.
  • You blame your partner and other people.
  • You feel the constant need to be right.
  • You never express anger openly.
  • When events do not go the way you want, you become sullen and withdrawn and demonstrate your indifference.
  • You readily criticize situations, events, ideas, and other people. It neutralizes your fear of being inadequate.
  • passive aggressive men in relationshipsYou hate schedules and deadlines, repeatedly postponing things for later.
  • You do not really respect figures of authority.
  • You are sure that you are unique in your sense of desolation in the world of failure. You take everything from the position, “How could they do this to me?”
  • You constantly rush from open hostility to seeming regret.
  • You avoid serious conversations: about finances, feelings, or sex. You often tell your partner, “You are always right” or silently go out, leaving them alone with problems.

How Not to Be Passive-Aggressive in a Relationship

If you realize that you are passive-aggressive, do not despair. Any habits can be changed. These useful tips will help you stop being passive-aggressive in a relationship with your loved one.

Define your desires

To stop passive-aggressive behavior you should understand what you want and get rid of everything else. Some people are so aware that other people think and expect from them, that they simply put up with it to their own detriment. They do not think about their desires but only about what others want. So the best solution is to listen to the gut instinct. Get rid of external voices, then you will understand in which direction you should move.

Be sincere with yourself

Try not to lose awareness of your own actions. If you want to respond to your loved one sharply, stop, exhale, and say what you want directly but calmly. Any "I am angry because others get everything" can be turned into, "I want to be loved, I am ready to disembosom myself to people." First of all, be honest with yourself. Sincerity is a direct way to open dialogue, constructive aggression, and overcoming difficulties.

Do not be afraid of conflicts

Many people consider confrontation as something negative. Because we are taught that it is bad. However, in fact, confrontation is not bad. The conflict concerns the direct discussion of the problem. It does not mean that it should end in a fist fight, it just means that you are dealing with a problem.

Learn to be resolute and express your feelings honestly

Find a problem that bothers you to defend your point of view and speak without equivocations. Rehearse the answers to find the right words and not to make wild statements. Listen to yourself. You can be a convincing and straightforward person, not hurting others. Express your feelings in a positive way and stop using the accusations. Try to open up to your loved one, even if you feel vulnerable. Over time, you will gain confidence.

Ask for help

Do not be afraid to seek help from a qualified psychiatrist or psychologist. Passive-aggressive behavior often has deep roots and requires not only self-correction. Psychotherapy will help you identify and solve some hidden problems. Now, when you know how to deal with a passive-aggressive relationship, why not start here and now? You will notice that the romantic relationship with your loved one becomes stronger and you will feel much better.

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