Facebook Pixel

how do you interact with a passive aggressive person

By August 13, 2009 - 2:34pm
Rate This

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!!! :)


Add a Comment12 Comments

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
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

While we wait for an expert to respond, I am curious what your husband would say about your list of behaviors---would he agree that he exhibits these behaviors, and to what degree? (always to never; slight to extreme).

Your husband has apologized to you, but I am wondering if you think this is his personality type, a diagnosable disorder...or some other reasons? Is he sad, depressed, feeling lonely, stressed? Are there any internal or external reasons that he has shared with you that account for his behavior?

August 18, 2009 - 2:06pm
Expert HERWriter

Hello again,

I am very sorry this is your husband that you are talking about; I was really hoping it would turn out to be a co-worker or family friend--in other words, someone you could avoid contact with as much as possible. I really feel for you. I have also dealt with some passive-aggressive people in my life and it is so hard.

It's interesting to me that he didn't show any signs of this while you were dating. I'm also very glad to read that you are not the doormat type--good for you!! To me that means you are not going to settle for this type of behavior in your marriage. Since you have a child to think about too that is, in my opinion, extra important.

Have you tried confronting him about this behavior? Is it at all possible that he doesn't realize he's doing it? What would you think about asking him to join you in couples therapy? Or tell him that if he won't go, you will? Either alone or together, counseling might give you some ideas on how to handle his behavior.

Since it's his second marriage too, I'm wondering if he did this same stuff before with his first wife? I'm also wondering what type of relationship his parents had or have?

You are most welcome for the hugs. More are heading your way right now. Please keep us posted on how you are doing. Big hugs, Michelle

August 15, 2009 - 9:54pm
(reply to Michelle King Robson)

Thinking back, he did show signs when we were dating. Only, not so pronounced. I did not realize it was passive aggressive behaviour because I did not know that this was a specific behavioural type with those symptoms. I mistook it for his inability to do things & low level of ambition, and thought it was up to me to help him move faster on things. About the silent treatment, I have seen people react in that manner before. But not for so many days!

I did confront him over this last weekend about his behaviour. I was on the verge of taking steps to separate from him if needed. Like you say, it appears that he did not realize he's doing it. After I confronted him, he apologized to me multiple times, told me he loves me and did not mean to hurt me, does not want to lose me, and wants to change. I have told him I will believe it only when I see it. I have gotten a lot of lip from him before, with no action.

Also he said he is willing go to therapy if that is needed. And I do think this same behaviour contributed significantly to the failure of his previous marriage. He is coming out & confiding about it now. In the past 2 days I am seeing him making effort to actually do things without my having to push. He still has the habit of telling me his intent of doing things (multiple times) before actually doing it. But I will hear him out patiently as long as he actually gets down to action. I need to stay strong, watch and see if this lasts long-term. I think I can't expect miracles but if he is not able to sustain positive change in his behaviour, I will have to think about what's best for me & my child. Life was better as a single mom since I only had to take care & worry about a child that is soon growing up and maturing. I am unable to take care of a grown man & his 2 kids, in addition.

I would still like to get advice from experts on dealing with this kind of personality type. FYI - he shows all the following behaviours in varying degrees:

Intentional inefficiency
Avoiding responsibility by claiming forgetfulness
Blaming others
Fear of authority
Resistance to suggestions from others
Unexpressed anger or hostility

Thanks again you guys! What would I do without you?

August 18, 2009 - 1:40pm

Michelle, I was hoping it did not come to this stage where I have to ask for help. This is my husband & my second marriage. It's only been a year & a little since we married. I have been playing man & woman of the house since then - financially & in doing things for the family. It's amazing how he falls right into the description of passive aggression and this behaviour was not apparent when we were dating. I did not see it & I have not dealt with someone so classic of a case. I want to make our marriage work, but do not want to destroy myself & my child in the bargain. I am not the doormat type, which makes it harder for me to deal with this.

And thanks for the hugs :)

August 15, 2009 - 11:54am
Expert HERWriter

Hello there! I am so sorry that you are having to deal with this person and that he or she is causing you such grief. I once read that when someone gives another person the silent treatment it is pretty much the same as a silent temper tantrum, just like a little child would do. I think Alysiak gave you great information above, but I was wondering too if you wouldn't mind telling us what the relationship is that you have with this person. That might help us give you some more ideas. For example, can you please tell us if this is your spouse, parent, boss, co-worker, friend, etc? Passive-aggressive people can be so hard to deal with. I'd love to try to help you more if I can. And I'm glad Alysiak is passing this along to an Expert as well. Big hugs to you, Michelle

August 14, 2009 - 11:48pm
Enter the characters shown in the image.
By submitting this form, you agree to EmpowHER's terms of service and privacy policy
Add a Comment

All user-generated information on this site is the opinion of its author only and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for any medical conditions. Members and guests are responsible for their own posts and the potential consequences of those posts detailed in our Terms of Service.

Relationships & Family

Get Email Updates

Relationships & Family Guide

Have a question? We're here to help. Ask the Community.


Health Newsletter

Receive the latest and greatest in women's health and wellness from EmpowHER - for free!