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Passive Aggressive Relationships

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roseguide posted 7/8/2012 21:02 PM

This is all achingly familiar.

BearNY posted 7/10/2012 03:30 AM

Thanks for helping me feel normal.

I brought up PA in MC like 5 years ago. I printed out the list of things that describe PA behavior and it spelled out exactly what was going on.

The MC swept it under the rug because my STBX could not admit to anything and the MC was not very good.

As I read this thread, I realize that you cannot change the light bulb, the light bulb has to want to change.

So I sent my STBX a note that when all the dust settles from the D, it would be nice if she read up on this.

I do see that most of the PA are men. I ended up with a PA wife. They exist and are just as toxic as men.

Reading these forums helps me understand so much about what went wrong.

Thanks for sharing everyone!

Elaine2012 posted 7/12/2012 22:40 PM

The examples really fit my relationship with WH. From what I've read it's just how it is for me. I have gone crazy trying to understand why I can never get "it" right. The "boomerang relationship" really struck a cord.

I have stopped doing so many things because I don't know what his response will be to any given situation will be. Hugs sometimes will withdraw or brush past me on the way to "do" something. Just enough to make me gun shy to try.

10YearsLater posted 7/14/2012 10:34 AM

All of this is my WH.

Ten years and I could never get all the way through to him no matter what I gave, and I gave a LOT.

It feels good to read all of this.

heartbroken_kk posted 7/17/2012 20:31 PM

Hey all you sufferers of the P/A partner...

I found a couple of VERY interesting articles from Dr George Simon, PhD, at the following website:

This article discusses Dr. Simon's work to characterize COVERT aggression, as a distinctly different type of behavior from PASSIVE aggression.

" Aggression can also be covert. That is, it can be carefully cloaked so that aggressive intent is concealed from open observation. Covert-aggression is at the heart of much interpersonal manipulation and emotional abuse. People often get conned and abused by others because they fail to spot their aggressive intentions and behaviors until after they’ve already been victimized.

Most of the time, when I hear people use the terms “passive-aggressive” or “passive-aggression” what they really mean is “covert-aggression.” I usually hear the term “passive-aggressive” used incorrectly to describe the subtle, hard to detect, but yet deliberate, calculating and underhanded tactics that manipulators and other disturbed characters use to intimidate, control, deceive, and abuse others. That’s what covert-aggression is all about. Although this kind of aggression is often subtle or concealed, there’s absolutely nothing “passive” about it. It’s very active, albeit veiled, aggression. "

Also from the same website is this, again from Dr. Simon:

"Beware the Covert-Aggressive Personality

The covert-aggressive personality employs a potent one-two punch: the covert-aggressive conceals aggressive intent to ensure you never really see what’s coming; and he or she exploits your normal sensitivities, conscientiousness and other vulnerabilities to manipulate you into succumbing.

Covert-Aggressive Personalities are the archetypal wolves in sheep’s clothing that I introduced in my first book, In Sheep’s Clothing. These individuals are not openly aggressive in their interpersonal style. In fact, they do their best to keep their aggressive intentions and behaviors carefully masked. They can often appear quite charming and amiable, but underneath their civil façade they are just as ruthless as any other aggressive personality. They are devious, underhanded, and subtle in the ways they abuse and exploit others. They have usually amassed an arsenal of interpersonal maneuvers and tactics that have enabled them to effectively manipulate and control those in relationships with them. The tactics they use are effective because they simultaneously accomplish two objectives very effectively:

The tactics conceal obvious aggressive intent. When the covert-aggressive is using the tactics, the other person has little objective reason to suspect that he is simply attempting to gain advantage over them.
The tactics covert-aggressive personalities use effectively play on the sensitivity, conscientiousness, and other vulnerabilities of most persons — especially neurotic individuals — and therefore effectively quash any resistance another person might have to giving-in to the demands of the aggressor.

So, it’s this one-two punch of the tactics: never really seeing what’s coming, and being vulnerable to succumbing to them, that’s at the heart of why most people get manipulated by them.

A good example might be the case in which a wife confronts her husband about not spending as much time as she would like him to with the family. He might retort that he constantly feels as if unreasonable demands are being placed on him by her (casting himself as the “victim”), that he works hard to provide for his family but no one seems to appreciate it (casting himself as the suffering, under-valued servant), and that she never has anything good to say about him and is always complaining (using the techniques of shaming and guilt-tripping). Within moments, the woman’s good intention to correct a problem in family relationships is now framed as a heartless attack on an unappreciated devoted husband and father. If the wife buys into the tactics, she will be successfully manipulated. She won’t see the situation as one in which she is in a relationship with a person who puts his own desires and his career first and his family second. In fact, she might not view him as an aggressor at all and may even come to believe that she is the unjust attacker. She’ll probably relent and remain under her partner’s dominance and control.

Now, as you can see from the preceding example, aggressive personalities that use such tactics to bring potential adversaries to submission are anything but passive in their interpersonal styles. Yet for years many have erroneously applied the label “passive-aggressive” to such behaviors. I wrote about this in a prior post: “When Passive-Aggression isn’t Very Passive”. Furthermore, personalities such as the husband described in the example above are very different from the kind of personalities that are appropriately labeled passive-aggressive personalities. The eminent researcher Dr. Theodore Millon describes passive-aggressive personalities as having an “active-ambivalent” pattern of relating to others. That is, they are very ambivalent about whether to adhere primarily to a staunchly independent mode of conduct or to rely primarily on others to tend to their emotional needs. As a result, they engage in a continuous pattern of vacillation between the two extremes. Ask them where they want to go for dinner and they will tell you to decide. Pick a place and they will complain that they don’t really like it that well and don’t want to go there. Invite them to pick a place of their own liking and they will complain that they asked you to decide. Tell them of another preference and they will be lukewarm to your suggestion. It goes on and on. Therapists who treat passive-aggressive personalities know this kind of scenario well. Their client will pelt them with pleas for assistance. But when the therapist recommends a course of action, the client will come up with ten reasons why he or she can’t do what the therapist prescribes. When the therapist throws up his or her hands in exasperation, the client will wail and complain that nobody cares. It’s a horribly self-defeating vicious circle of ambivalence.

As you can see, covert-aggressive personalities are very different from passive-aggressive personalities, and they are anything but passive. They are very actively aggressive personalities who know how to keep their aggressive agendas carefully cloaked. Dealing with them is like getting whiplash. You don’t know how badly you’ve been taken advantage of until long after the damage is done. They are, perhaps, the most manipulative of all personalities with the possible exception of the psychopathic (alt: sociopathic) personality — the subject of an upcoming post."

Here is a link to an article about seductive manipulation, with more links to a series of articles Dr. Simon has written about manipulation:

Anyway, enough quoting from me, I am only part way into reading the material on his website, but it immediately struck a chord with me. Like WOW.


BearNY posted 7/18/2012 03:36 AM

KK, that was a great post!!! Just when I was starting to think that maybe I am the P/A one... the example you quoted was exactly what happens with my STBX in the P/A behavior.

That said, I came on here to post the following observation about my situation and wondered what other's thought of it?

It is a familiar story to others I have heard… I was raised in a home with an alcoholic father. We were never good enough for him, because he was putting all of us down.

I got used to being told I was no good, made to feel like I did not try hard enough and that everything was my fault. I learned to not only survive in this, but I also learned to live in this environment.

Many years later, I find myself with two beautiful daughters but headed to divorce.

My soon to be ex-wife will tell you that I am not the good person I project myself to be, that I never tried hard enough at the marriage, and that everything that went wrong is my fault. My wife is an alcoholic (who has been sober for 18 years).

I picked someone/something I knew and was comfortable with when I married her. Not that it was the right choice, but it certainly was a safe choice, because I knew how to survive in this chaos.

As much as I loved my father and did everything I could to try to win his love, nothing I would do could change his in-ability to love himself and then be able to love others. As much as I loved my wife and did everything I could to try to win her love, nothing I would do could change her inability to love herself and to then be able to love me.

At one point in our lives, we wake up and realize we are not where we wanted to be and we decide to move on. That is where I was in January 2012 related to my marriage.

I have done some personal growth, and I expect to continue to make time to connect what is important for me and my values.

My soon to be ex wife and I will need to continue to work together on raising our daughters. She has a passive-aggressive personality. It is pretty horrible stuff for her and for those who live around her. I am looking forward to “getting out”.

She grew up with two alcoholic parents. She was never good enough for them and when she tried to give and get love from them, she got hurt. She learned not to trust loving someone who is supposed to be your closest partner. She could never open up to me emotionally, for fear of the same pattern would come back that she knew from birth.

She expressed it as “I have the feeling that I have been had” or “taken for a ride”.

Our marriage was doomed from the very early start.

Today, she still struggles to take care of herself and that means she has nothing to offer someone else.



[This message edited by BearNY at 3:40 AM, July 18th (Wednesday)]

broken <3 posted 7/18/2012 21:26 PM

Ill read more later but right now I just have to get this off my chest!!
I've told fWS my requirements for R and he's avoiding it and it's driving me crazy!!!
On the 12th I found out more about his A - I said I'm getting to the point where I can't do this anymore and have been extremely depressed since. I said to go over his records and give me a detailed time line - I posted here about it and got great feed back and passed that info to him.
On the 13th (Friday lol) I told him he has 48 hours to work on it and discuss it when he's done.
Today he has off work (long over the 48 hours!) he drives me to my appt and then we do some shopping and running around and when we get home - he's back out the door to hang out with his little brother!!
Boy oh boy can you say codependent or what??
Heading over to that forum next to read lol...

Jrazz posted 7/18/2012 22:47 PM

Interesting correlation between Passive Aggressive and Codependents in relationships, broken<3... that's what we have going on in the Razz household. Food for thought...

Crushed1 posted 7/18/2012 23:24 PM

I read some of Dr. George Simon's work a while back and was very impressed. Dealing with a P/A is all too familiar territory for me. I see that I had been dealing with a classic P/A for all these years and suddenly everything made sense. It was like being hit with a bolt of lightning. But I also see signs of some covert/aggression here as well. Truly eye opening stuff! Knowledge is POWER, thanks for the info!

You don’t know how badly you’ve been taken advantage of until long after the damage is done.

I've been coming to so many realizations and lately the above quote has been hitting me so hard. I'm feeling a lot of anger and sadness because 'The damage is done' and there's no going back but I cut myself some slack because I had no idea what I was dealing with. Boy, I wish I had known way back when. But like Dr. Simon said it's a "veiled aggression" and they're so clever at hiding it...sorry I'm about to start ranting just thinking about the lost time I can't get back...

I am learning to deal with it though, so making some forward movement. And that's always good.

Peace and strength to everyone dealing with this type of relationship.

2oldforthis posted 7/19/2012 07:43 AM

I really need someone's help here.

I am 5 years out form his A but it has been the aftermath that has been killing me. I mostly post in general. Today someone posted an articile about PA and there is alot in there that seems to apply to my WS.

Another time I had posted in general something WS had done and they suggested to me he might be PA. I did come to this thread and read the Boomerang Relationship. I did not see that as similar to us and therefore did not explore PA any futher.

Here is the main problem that I see with him he is extremely defensive if I dare say anything about him that he may preceive as negative (even in the slightest way) this I have been aware of since the A was uncovered and we started talking about it. He is so much so that I can't even say that you hurt me by doing such and such without him being extremely defensive and then making some remark to turn it around back to me.

I had thought that he was a conflict avoider but now I think it may be more.

What is the difference be conflict avoider and PA?

What should I start to read first?

I am so frustrated in this relationship and trying to comuunicate with him.

Please help me.

Lightbulb moment: I have had the tag line: Love kills slowly, for along time.

Maybe this is the connection to that statement.

[This message edited by 2oldforthis at 7:59 AM, July 19th (Thursday)]

broken <3 posted 7/19/2012 19:55 PM

Personally for me he is P/A and I'm codependent for sure. Turns out that I was too sensitive yesterday and today - he has been working on his timeline.
I've just got the book "codependent no more" from the library and have yet to read it.
Right now I'm just going thru the motions - but today he's been awfully helpful around the house - doing chores - wow I didn't even have to ask!
Maybe he's feeling guilty lol

sadandtrying posted 7/19/2012 20:52 PM

2oldforthis...I truly know how you feel, I'm one of the "older ones", am in a 30 year M, and am over 4 years out from dday....

I wonder, was your H defensive about your saying anything "negative" about him before the A? Or is it just since the A? Or just "more-so" since the A?

Sometimes an A is a PA behavior (not dealing outright about things in the M, expecting the spouse to "know" what's on their mind, and deliver, etc, and then when they don't, they "punish" them, covertly, by having an A)
In my opinion, this is what my H did.....

So, I have been reading like a mad woman about PA disorder, conflict avoidance personalities, emotionally unavailable men, etc, etc. since my H's A. Yes, for over 4 years!
(These are things I thought about and explored a little before the A due to his behavioral patterns in general, but were really "in my face" and commanded my attention afterwards.)

I can't tell you the exact difference between PA and conflict avoiders, but they seem to go hand-in-hand.

After reading kk's post about Dr. Simon, I went to his website and read and read and read.... I found it incredibly insightful, sensible, and clear.
Google him if you have some time!

I read his "tools for personal empowerment" - how to hold your own and keep your power when dealing with people who he says have personality disorders, who are manipulative, difficult to communicate with, etc. I thought they were right on, and right to the point. Very helpful...

Best of luck, "2"...

2oldforthis posted 7/20/2012 08:28 AM

(Sadandtrying) Thanks for your help. I am going to read some of the places that you gave me to start. Right now I am trying to sort it all out.

All that I know is that I am having a very difficult time trying to R with him. He is actually driving me crazy. For him to not listen and me to not be able to say a word to him about anything is extemely frustrating. I cannot live like this anymore.

I am not sure if he was this way before the A I would have to think about that a little more. I can tell you that he definitely was a conflict avoider. I can remember going to him about this with the kids etc and he would walk away from me when I was talking. I remember having to follow him around in order to finish the conversation. How stupid was that? That is what I would do, even from the inside of the house to the outside. But I didn't stop him from doing it, I would just follow him around and finish my conversation.
I should have stopped that along time ago and made him stop to listen to me.

If someone is PA is it something that they are able to change?

LionessQn76 posted 7/20/2012 23:55 PM

from what i read so far a PA person can learn new behavirs to counteract the pa behaviors, but they have to admit to the problem first right.

which is the hard part in my opinion

I really like the covert-aggressor that is definitely a different view of the PA personality.

I am just trying to confront and destroy his delusions. I can't believe how he became the victim he cheated, lied had our child around the slut and kicked us out but I should be shamed to apply for child support bc now he wants to move out of state with no job prospects and cant contribute to his debt and to child support.

and after he tells me his sorrows (mind you i'm underemployed and can't pay daycare) he breaks down how he is not going to... he is a complete victim and we all use him. sigh
he is completely delusional so is his mother!

he hasn't text-ed or call me why? he received the child support papers he knew he was going receiving sigh.

Elaine2012 posted 7/31/2012 19:19 PM


Thanks for posting this it's so helpful and eye opening. I have been trying to figure out the crazy train that I'm on and have been for almost 34 years. Maybe it really isn't me after. I am aware that I have my own issues that I need to work on. I've always felt like I can just never do "it" right.

tooloyal posted 8/12/2012 15:42 PM

Does anyone know how the OW uses passive/aggressive behaviour to keep WS?

scangel3 posted 8/23/2012 20:53 PM

Ok just found this group looking around SI, and got me thinking...
Is my husband passive aggressive???

After reading some posts. I think he is, But still not sure. Here is what makes me think he is/isn't, please let me know what you think...

*I make most of the decisions in the home, and the one's he does make is after a HUGE fight/argument between the two of us forcing him to make the decision.
*When we are around other people and he knows what I want to do or where I want to go to eat, but we are making a choice as a group, he still says "what ever you guys want is fine" even when he knows I don't like where they are going. He won't put his own input in.

*Sometimes I feel like he is just ignoring me around his family and friends, ignoring what I want. Just so he doesn't have to say he wants to do or go somewhere different.

*Then there's the times in-between us, he will usually do what ever I ask him to do. Sometimes I feel like a bitch. But I will ask him why don't you say no or say something about it, and his response is "I don't know" or "I don't want you to get mad". And no matter what is going on if I question something he says or does regardless if I am mad or not he thinks I am mad at him. Even when I tell him I am not mad, (which makes me mad in return )

Those are just some of the things I am realizing off the top of my head. I get so frustrated with him and have always wondered why he is like this, but if he is passive aggressive then I guess I at least know the why.

Thank you for any responses I get, I am just starting to think about this and just wondering.

LionessQn76 posted 9/4/2012 08:29 AM

scange i have seen this with my ex too.

one of the reasons I didn't really fight for R.

sickrn posted 9/4/2012 15:36 PM

Great thread, seems the more I read, the more I see our relationship. I knew WH avoided conflict but these reactions are EXACTLY what I get.
Me-What do you want for dinner?
H- Whatever you'd like
Me- No preferance?
H- Nope
Me- Okay, chicken
H- If that's what you want,(heavy sigh)
OMG, it's like dealing with a 13 year old...same with housework "what would you like me to do to help you today?" Help me? I am the primary wage earner and I'm also responsible for the housework? You live here too, ANY chores would be helpful...
Wow, looks like I have some serious reading to do..thanks for the thread..

realitybites posted 9/9/2012 06:58 AM

Sadly with a P/A personality is that you are dealing with someone with extreme hidding anger issues. Add to the mix someone whose maturity level has stayed somewhere in their teens....or they just stopped at some point while you kept up with the rest of the it puts you in the parent role. They won't or can't make a decision. They leave it all up to you. Then when the weight of all decisions are left up to you and you are exhausted and drained of all life and have no energy to cater to them anymore they run off and have an affair with someone. Usually to put you in your place, it is punishment because you are not playing the game any more. OR they have drained you of everything you have to give and they find a new source to start the P/A game with.

Do you ask them to do things and they never get them done?

Are they irresponsible with money?

Like the above posters, do you ask them an opinion about whats for dinner, or where to go to dinner, or what they want to do that day, etc.... and there answer is always "I don't care or whatever you want to do" yet are then angry at your choice?

Because they never make a decision.

And after years of this you are just spent with nothing left in the tank thinking you were this great person who "loved" them and you were a great partner because you did EVERYTHING for them.

And they went and screwed someone else.

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