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how do you interact with a passive aggressive person

By August 13, 2009 - 2:34pm
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Hil, I want advice on how to interact with a loved one that is passive aggressive. From the symptoms of passive aggressiveness described on one of the threads of empowher, I see that this person falls almost smack into this category. The behaviour of this loved one is affecting the quality of my life. I feel helpless, especially when I get the silent treatment when I confront & this goes on for days. And in the end somehow manages to blame me for everything. I don't see much hope for improvement since this person is older & probably has behaved this way for a long time. Could be chronic.

Help!!! :)


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HERWriter Guide


After reading your second post, I'm a little more informed so thank you!

General Anxiety Disorder obviously affects a person's daily life but to be honest, people don't party all night, play video games, hang out with their friends and ignore their pregnant girlfriend and then get to say "well, it's because I have GAD." I have some knowledge of GAD and it doesn't work like that. You can read more about it here : http://www.empowher.com/media/reference/anxiety

While your boyfriend does exhibit some traits, we all have certain traits that could also be attributed to GAD. His drinking is not going to help things at all - it'll make it worse but his drinking may not be connected to GAD.

You may have to accept that many of his behaviors are choices. He doesn't want responsibility or a job or to have to get up early in the morning. Therefore he parties all night and sleeps all day.

Again, I'm not saying he DOESN'T have mental or psychological issues - however, it's not likely that all of his behaviors are attributed to a mental health issue.

Think about this : if he were alone all day, and sleeping too much or too little - if he were unable to function or eat - that's one thing. But he's perfectly capable of getting up and leaving the house to party all night long and he's perfectly able to play hours of video games. Yet when it comes to responsibility he's suddenly incapable due to mental health issues? Think about this Anon - please.

You say you love him and he has some great traits. I'm sure you do love him. But love isn't enough, no matter what songs or movies tell you.

If it were just you and him then we could spend all day analyzing why he is how he is, although he does not seem to be doing the same for you. But you have a baby coming very, very soon and you need to fix your situation, not his.

Where do you live? If you can let us know, we can help you further, in terms of geting help, housing etc. This is the time to get really practical, not philosophizing about your boyfriend's issues.

I know it sounds like I'm being a bit tough but I think need to open your eyes to the fact that your relationship has never been good (from what you have said). It's time to fix what YOU can fix and all you can fix is YOU.

If this continues I can tell you, your child will be in kindergarten and you'll be fighting the same battles. And then high school. And his or her memories will be a childhood filled with anger, resentment and blame. Children survive coming from a broken home a lot better than a lifetime lived in one.

You'll be ok on your own. Women do it every day. Let us know where you live (you can send it in a personal message if you prefer) and focus less on what you can't control (him) and more on what you can (you and your reaction to what's going on around you).

I'd love to tell you that convincing him to go to therapy will make it all ok, and that the baby will wake him up to his responsibilities but I can't, because the odds are that won't happen. In fact, the odds are that this will get really worse and I have seen it happen over and over.

When you say you'd like a support group, can you tell me in what capacity? Pregnant moms? Single moms? Tell me and I will look into it for you. You DO need support and I promise you that you CAN do this. We can help you here, but I want to make sure you know that the time is now for you to be practical, not wishing everything was different. Your precious baby isn't going to wait in your belly until everything is better. He or she is coming now, and you need to be prepared and I want to help you.

I hope to hear back from you and please know that I have your (and the baby's) best interests in mind.

November 15, 2009 - 12:17pm
EmpowHER Guest

Hi there, I am looking for some advice. I am 6 months pregnant with my first child. I fear that my boyfriend of 6 years may be passive-aggressive. He has not held a job for 5 of the 6 years we have been together. He has never really been affectionate, and just recently (within the past 7 months) went to the doctor for anxiety. He says that for the past several years he has been dealing with a great deal of anxiety. All I ever saw was him staying up all night drinking and playing computer games. Also, he is tremendously stubborn. He will purposely not do something because I ask him to. Lately, he stays out all night at a friends house, and when he does come home he stays on the computer and goes to bed at like 3, 4 or 5 in the morning and will sleep all day. When I do ask him to come to bed, or not to stay up all night, or even to start looking for a job, he gets mad and tells me not to nag him that he is sick of hearing it and that he will look for a job, but never does. I have asked him if we can go to couples counseling and he says that he does not need counseling. I don't know what else to do. We argue allllll the time. help?

November 14, 2009 - 9:56pm
HERWriter Guide (reply to Anonymous)


I'm sorry you are dealing with this now, especially during pregnancy.

He may be "passive-aggressive" and he may certainly be suffering from some kind of anxiety or depression but if he refuses therapy, you are left in a very difficult position. The good part is that he went to the doctor seven months ago but where did this lead to? Did the doctor offer counseling? Medication?

I know this isn't something you want to hear but your boyfriend might just be a bum. Not everyone who is perpetually unemployed, unmotivated and drinking/playing on the computer all night has some kind of medically diagnosable condition. He might just be a lazy bum who treats others around him badly.

How does he survive without a job? How does he pay his bills?

I can imagine you feel it was a mistake to get pregnant by him and it probably was. Why did you get pregnant? Did you think a baby would make him see the light or motivate him to get his life together? Did you look at his behavior for all these years and think "he's going to be a great dad and provider for the family"? Because you know that's not the case. That's not going to happen. Babies do not make a couple happy, if they are unhappy to begin with. In fact, usually only strong relationships maintain their strength when the shift goes from being a couple to a family.

If he continues with his behavior and ill-treatment of you and refuses any kind of therapy, it may be time to move on before you bring a baby into this chaos. The chaos will only increase. Can you imagine bringing an innocent babe into a home where the dad is drinking all night, won't get a job, plays on the computer and then sleeps all day? How will this benefit you and your baby?

You only have a couple of months to decide on whether to stay or go. You have been with him for 6 years and 5 of those years have been filled with fights, unemployment, lack of motivation and turning his issues back on you by saying you are "nagging" him if you suggest he looks for a job or join you in counseling.

He can't blame the current recession on his unemployment since it has been chronic, even in the boom years.

I'm not trying to convince you to go. I hope that all couples, especially those with a baby, can stay together and make things work. But if the strongest predictor of future behavior is his past behavior, then you're in for a very hard time if you stay.

He may well have mental health issues that are undiagnosed but if his answer is "no" to any kind of help, make sure that precious baby is not a part of the chaos that's only going to continue. You have all the choices right now, so make the right one for your baby. You are fully capable of taking your own life into your hands and taking control of the outcome. Stand up for you and your baby and empower yourself. Don't allow his behavior to dictate how you and your baby live. You CAN do this and we're here to help.

Don't try to fix him right now. Fix yourself. I have a few questions for you:

Do you have a job/income?
Do you have somewhere else to live?
Do you have a support network (family/friends)?
Is your afterbirth plan in place? (recovery/support/childcare/income)?
Are you planning on child support? The father is legally bound to support the baby financially. He must have some kind of income if he can afford alcoholic and video games so get a child support order in place.

Take good care of yourself and will you keep us updated?

November 15, 2009 - 8:00am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Susan Cody)

Thanks for replying so quickly. Well as far as how he pays the bills, I sadly must say that I pay them. I always have. I have enabled him. I've always had a great job and we have always lived with one of his parents. (We have never had our own place..) I have paid for everything in our relationship. And now, I recently started a new job that does not pay so great and we really need for him to work so that we can afford to take care of the baby, especially while I am on unpaid maternity leave. As far as somewhere else to live - no where else to go. A support network - non-existant. I do not speak to my family and the one family member I do speak to, my sister, lives in Germany. I cannot even pick up the phone and call her when I need to. I have called his aunt a couple times and cried my eyes out to her. But she also lives far away. I do not have any friends either. As far as an afterbirth plan - him and I have discussed him staying home with the baby during the day and getting a part time job at night. We are also moving in with more of his family to help with our financial situation. This was not a planned pregnancy, we have always been good about not getting pregnant..except this time. And as far as his anxiety goes, he was diagnosed with general anxiety disorder and was put on meds. I think those are definately contributing to the way he has been lately. I just keep hanging in there. I do love him and want things to work out, and he does have some really great traits, but I am so lonely and wish he was more affectionate and supportive. There is really just so much to the story. When I posted my previous comment, he just left because he was irritated with me..because I was mad he was leaving again..I called him a few hours later and asked him to "please make it a point to be home early, and go to bed early so that we can spend some time together the following day". He said "I will make it a point". What did he do? Stayed out getting drunk till 4 am. He never compliments me or gives me positive reinforcement. The only time he holds my hand is when I grab his. I have never been on my own and am scared to do so with a child. I guess I am hopeful he will change when the baby comes. He is also still adjusting to the medication. I really just wish I had a support group..how do I find one? thanks.

November 15, 2009 - 11:03am
EmpowHER Guest

I do understand your frustration, I have a friend of mine who despite knowing me for 2 years now,and who I see on a daily basis 'forgot' my birthday the other day and just gave me the cold shoulder all day long, despite asking me two days before if it was my birthday or not. But at the same time, you cant expect someone to just change like that, specially when he has behaved like that for years! It sounds like a lot of pressure to me to just change instantly, and more likely to backfire, and have him go back to his old ways! You could try and see what things you could handle and things you cannot absolutely tolerate, and draw a line everytime he steps the mark. One thing I know is that you need a lot of patience, but try and see the good things in him, and dont let yourself get upset or frustrated by his behaviour, which I think in a big element on why he behaves like that. Best of luck

October 11, 2009 - 1:48pm

Thanks Alysiak.

Alison, I copy-pasted this behaviour list from an empowher discussion thread. In my opinion, he displays these behaviours in various degrees. I discussed some behaviours with him & he agreed that he exhibits them:
- Procrastination to the point where some things don't get done for months to never
- Not acting upon things inspite of reminders (both big & small matters) - appears as intentional to me
- Complaining, Blaming others for almost everything
- Grumpiness almost on a daily basis
- Irritation with me and the kids over small things
- Resistance to suggestions - agreement in words only
- Unexpressed hostility - complains a lot about things I have no control over, to the point where I feel highly nagged and frustrated - for eg., things like federal policies or how the media is portraying someone, etc.

He seems to be making serious effort to change - in the past few days. But I almost had to give him an ultimatum. I told him I don't want to have to go to such extreme measures to have him act - it is too stressful for me & will not work out for both of us in the long term.

Regarding reasons, he said it has been kind of in his nature to delay things. He does not have much family. His mother who is in the same state has not been there for him even in his most difficult periods as a single dad. She was apparently quite uncaring even when he was growing up - from what he told me. His ex-wife left him for someone else & moved out of state. He does not make friends easily & probably was quite lonely. He has told me he used to have panic attacks when his kids left him to visit his ex during holidays. He had also put on a lot of weight due to over-eating post his divorce and at some point decided to work out, get fit, go out there to meet people and take charge of his life. His relationship with his kids was really poor when I first met him. There was a lot of disrespect from the kids, he was taken for granted, a lot of sarcasm flowed between them, and it looked like a vicious cycle. A lot of these things have changed now, for the better. He has told me on multiple occassions that he is getting the love he has never got before, from me now.

He seems like a genuine person & appears to love me deeply. This is a huge part of why I got into this relationship & married him. The passive aggressiveness was not intense earlier & I really was not aware of this type of passive aggressiveness. I mistook it for someone that was a little 'laid back'.

Hope this detail helps.

August 20, 2009 - 9:32am

Just wanted to let you know that I'm still waiting to hear back from an EmpowHer Expert I contacted. I've not forgotten about you!

August 18, 2009 - 4:55pm
(reply to alysiak)

Hi alysiak, have you heard from the experts?

October 3, 2009 - 3:04pm
HERWriter Guide (reply to lkam)

Hello lkam

I am not clear if our expert got back to us - but how have you been in the meantime? Are you in counseling - have you seen any changes in your relationship?

I was looking through your list of personality attributes (that your husband has) and I think we all have these, to varying degrees. Most of us, fortunately, only have them very moderately and it's often temporary due to environmental factors. Has he been diagnosed with some kind of personality disorder?

Please give us an update as to how you are doing and what steps you both have been taking - I hope things are going well for you - or at least on their way to improving!

October 3, 2009 - 4:43pm
(reply to Susan Cody)

Hello Friends,
Hope you are all doing well. 2 yrs and 3 months since this thread & 3&1/2 yrs of marriage. Thought I had it figured out. up to around 25% & rest of the time managed to settle for what I have gotten myself into, by marrying again. People don't change much after their 40's, based on my experience. But it had been some time since I got the days of silent treatment!!! It's back :)

January 21, 2012 - 6:14pm
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