Sonya Thomas lcsw

Passive Aggression in Relationships – Part 4

Let’s shift into focusing intrapsychically as it relates to a relationship in which there is a passive aggressive partner.  What role does their beloved play?

Although on the surface it may appear that the passive-aggressive partner is solely responsible for the toxic dynamics, in reality, it takes two to break this pattern.   Understanding the passive-aggressive partner’s contribution is important, yet also understanding your contribution to the problems is essential, as well.  Partners of passive-aggressive people share a common trait – a strong tendency to over-function. You feel a sense of responsibility to perform in ways in which your partner is often oblivious.  This feeling of responsibility can pervade your life. You’re drawn to responsibility like a magnet to steel.  This trait makes you a hard worker, responsible volunteer, and an admirable contributor to society. At home, you take charge and pick up the slack.  You get things done.  You stretch yourself thin.  But this over-functioning comes at a huge personal cost, resulting in physical and/or emotional depletion.  When your tank is empty and you are running on fumes,  you can become resentful and even enraged at your passive aggressive partner for being unreliable and insensitive.

You may be able to own that you over-function, yet quickly justify this by saying or thinking, “But I have to do it this way because I can’t depend on my partner.”  Here comes the hard part.  Your growth edge is to pull back from being so overly conscientious. You may have been trained since childhood to take on responsibility beyond your age and doing so has meant neglecting important aspects of your development, such as tending to your own desires and dreams.  You must do a better job of self-care. Self-care means more than getting a massage or pedicure, though I am not knocking the importance of those indulgences.  It also means talking to your partner about not only the standards you impose on them but also the exacting demands you place on yourself.  With intention, your partner can help you with this. They are aware of how you drive yourself. They see the never-ending “to do” list you try to complete before you can relax.  It is true that in our hectic lives, our to-do lists are never-ending.  However, neglecting leisure, relaxation, rest and self-care in the service of mastering the to-do list and picking up the slack is masochistic.  Stay tuned for more on this in our next post.  Until then, peace.