Are You Living With A Passive-Aggressive Partner?

Date Posted: May 11, 2015
Are You Living With A Passive-Aggressive Partner?

Anger is one of many emotions on the spectrum of feelings, and there are constructive and useful ways to communicate anger toward people who disrespect, hurt, betray, neglect, or abuse you. But some people will react with irrational fear and stubborn resistance to any suggestion they advocate for themselves by revealing their anger. These people aren’t trying to be difficult, they just learned early on that anger is a dangerous or shameful emotion to have, and one to be avoided at all costs. Whether this perception is the result of growing up in a home where anger was expressed violently and abusively, or was vehemently suppressed, the result is the same: a passive-aggressive child who grows up to be a passive-aggressive partner.

Passive-aggressive partners are elusive. They can appear indifferent or uninvolved, yet be harboring anger beneath their calm surface. Although this can be infuriating, you’ve got to understand that passive-aggressive partners are truly unconscious of how pissed off they are feeling. As a result of this lack of self- awareness, their anger usually ends up being acted out in indirect and covert ways. For example, they will withhold, disengage, disappoint, ignore, or simply forget promises they made as a way of indirectly expressing anger or gaining power and control. To make matters worse, because they are unaware of their own bad feelings, passive-aggressive partners will willfully deny feeling angry when confronted.

Living with a passive-aggressive partner can feel crazy-making. You can feel as though you are shadow boxing when you try to confront a passive-aggressive partner’s maddening behavior, as he or she comes up with rational excuses to deflect your attempts at communication. As hard as it may be to believe, your partner is probably equally confused. Your partner may not even understand why he or she experiences a secret satisfaction from watching you blow off steam for him or her.

Passive Aggressive Behaviors

If your partner displays even one of the following behaviors on a regular basis, you are most likely struggling with a passive-aggressive partner.


Appears compliant in problem-solving conversations, but then doesn’t come through on promises or agreements made in those conversations.


Uses sarcasm to sadistically poke fun at you in front of other people in social settings, and then accuses you of being too sensitive, humorless or unable to take a joke when you aren’t laughing or react with hurt or anger.


Drags his or her feet and frustrates you to avoid doing things he or she doesn’t want to do.


Expresses anger with intentional inefficiency, and allows problems to fester for inordinate amounts of time

Until your passive-aggressive partner starts to make the connection between his or her behavior that causes anger in others and his or her hidden anger, you can forget about making solid headway toward constructive, hearty communication between you. In the meantime, start to connect the dots yourself. Remember that every time you have an explosion of anger at your passive-aggressive partner, you are working out his or her anger for him or her. And as long as you’re willing to do that, your passive-aggressive partner will continue to be just that—passive aggressive!

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