Sonya Thomas lcsw

Passive Aggression in Relationships – Part 5

Onward as we look at the growth edges of the partner of the passive-aggressive.  If you think you can’t possibly let up at home, ask your partner and family how they experience you as you doggedly pursue tasks.  I bet they think that you might be better off if you chilled out and relaxed a little more. Here are some thoughts on how to think about and approach this endeavor:

  • 1.  Continue to remind yourself that many passive aggressive people don’t pursue their own desires directly and may not even know what they want.  Try to engage in conversations that probe for how both of you can get more out of life.  Engage in thought experiments designed to help your partner access what would make them happier.  Often, by the time you are are the end of your rope, you will be angry and resentful, and these kinds of conversations may be beyond your capacity.  Encouraging your partner to get into therapy to explore their deeper aspirations may be the best route.
  • 2.  Accept that your partner will likely have wishes that take them away from you and your expectations.  Many passive-aggressive partners will expect their spouses to deprive them of personal time for activities such as hanging out with friends, engaging in hobbies, exercising, etc.
  • 3.  Leave the bossy, nagging, and judgmental part of yourself out of the mix for the next few weeks. This may be hard when you are at your wit’s end, but it is necessary for you to do if you want to hold up your end in shifting the dynamics in the relationship.  Rather than acting out your frustrations, process your thoughts and feelings with a trusted and wise confidant or therapist if necessary.
  • 4.  Resist complaining to family or friends who will undermine your commitment to working on this dynamic or who will malign your partner.  You need positive reinforcement from others, not negative “piling on”.
  • 5.  Give your partner lots of strokes for delivering on their commitments. Tell them how much you appreciate it when they follow through or show up as a teammate.  Most passive-aggressive people grew up in an environment where they were deprived of positive, loving strokes. Giving this to them now can go a long way towards making up for the deprivation they have experienced.
  • 6.  Offer your appreciation without condescention.  You may ask “why should I have to thank them when they are just doing what they should have been doing in the first place?” Or “why should I give them compliments for being a grown-up?”  The compassionate answer is that we all need to know that we are appreciated, especially when we are stretching and trying to lean into a growth edge.  The more selfish reason for doing so is that you will be supporting your partners’ growth and this will increase your chances of getting what you want from them.

In our last post in the series, look for guidelines for the passive-aggressive partner as they pursue becoming my dependable, giving and trusting.  Until next time, peace.