Coping with a Partner Who Exhibits Passive Aggressive Behavior

People with passive aggressive behavior can be a trial in routine life – a co-worker who avoids responsibilities or a neighbor who ignores common requirements of civil existence can be painful to deal with. However having such a person as a partner can drive one crazy because of the latter’s difficulties with communicating and resolving issues in a healthy manner. Worst of all, living with passive aggressive behavior could suck you into a pattern where you and your partner avoid problems rather than deal with them. In all these ways, if you find yourself constantly exasperated by passive aggressive behavior in a loved one, read through the following tips to cope.

Know what you are dealing with

Passive aggressive behavior in a person stems from an inability to express anger in a healthy way. A person may have been taught in childhood never to express anger or resentment as a result of which now their feelings may be so repressed that they don't even realize the truth of what they are feeling. Such people feign forgetfulness and take recourse to ambiguity, avoidance, procrastination, and victimization to process the resentment they are really feeling. On the outside instead of open anger, they would make use of obstructionism and blame game to hurt a partner. Fear of intimacy and a dread of dependency are other traits that make it extremely difficult to have a loving, open, and trustful relationship with someone prone to passive aggressive behavior.

Stop blaming yourself

The first thing to realize is that passive aggressive behavior in a partner is not your fault. If they're acting negative or making comments, tell yourself that their inability to take responsibility for the problems and issues in their life is not a cue for you to sweep in and fix things. Actually mental health experts point out that those suffering from passive aggressive behavior need to have a relationship with someone who can be the object of their hostility. They need someone whose expectations and demands they can resist and who they can blame when things go wrong as they will because of lack of will and responsibility. At the same time though remember that a passive aggressive is usually attracted to co-dependents, people with low self-esteem and those who find it easy to make excuses for other's bad behaviors. If you believe this echoes your own personality, take steps to make yourself stronger from within. Go out and get a job; take up a hobby or sign up for evening classes at a local college. Anything that builds your self-confidence and helps you feel good about yourself will combat a sense of low worth that passive aggressive behavior feeds on.

Avoid being drawn in

The passive aggressive has mastered the practice of blaming others to a fine art. He/she is never responsible for their actions. In outside life, it is always something that happened at work, the traffic on the way home or the slow clerk at the convenience store that is to blame for what went wrong with them. The favorite punching bag is of course, you. Though a partner with passive aggressive behavior will seldom level loud, angry accusations, he/she will whine and complain about how their sniffles is the result of you keeping the window open last night or how a missed appointment is the direct outcome of you taking a bath in the morning. That they should have got up earlier will never occur to them – this is because in their world-view, they have no faults, it is everyone around them, especially you, who has faults and they must be punished for those faults. You may internally seethe with rage and frustration every time a passive aggressive takes such a stance but remember this is exactly the response he/she is angling for. Thus the only way to effectively cope with such unreasonable behavior is not to get drawn in at all. Ignore his/her barbs and complaints. Keep doing what you are or if the whining gets too much, take the dog and go for a walk. Once your partner realizes that you will not play his/her blame game, he/she may take it elsewhere.

Communicate your concerns

Unfortunately you can ignore a passive aggressive only so much and if he/she is your partner, you need to engage with him/her sometime or other. The only way eventually to cope with such frustrating behavior is to use strategies of effective communication. Even this is an uphill task with a passive aggressive – such a person say one thing, do another, and then deny ever saying the first thing. They don't communicate their needs and wishes in a clear manner, expecting their partner to read their mind and meet their needs. When such an unreasonable expectation as this cannot be met, they naturally blame their partners. The passive aggressive withholds information about how he/she feels, their ego is fragile and can't take the slightest criticism. And yet despite all these issues, having a conversation is the only way to resolve problems in  a relationship. Be direct with your partner about how you're feeling. Stay focused when you bring up behavior which has hurt you, and explain how you would like your partner to communicate with you. Don't get sucked into endless circle of accusations and counter-accusations or attack his/her character. Instead be specific about what upsets you. However confront him/her about one behavior at a time, don't bring up everything at once. Also if your partner needs to retreat from the conversation, allow them to do it with dignity. In the end, have a time limit since confrontation should not stretch on indefinitely.

If you proceed with a discussion correctly, you may be able to help your partner see how his/her passive aggressive behavior is impacting your relationship negatively. Even if that doesn’t happen, at least you know that you tried your utmost. The least effective way to respond to passive aggressive behavior in a partner would be with more passive aggressive behavior since this will only make the problem worse and impossible to reach a resolution.

Reassure him/her of your love

Though you may be frustrated with your partner's passive aggressive behavior, keep in mind that this behavior is not really malicious. He/she has not set out to destroy you specifically but his/her behavior is such that it is ruining chances of having a healthy relationship. In many cases, a passive aggressive has learned that repressing anger and blaming others this is the only way to communicate. The passive aggressive has a real desire to connect with you emotionally but their fear of such a connection causes them to be obstructive and engage in self-destructive habits. Thus try and be understanding when it comes to your partner and explain that you want to help them with this issue. Let them know that you love them and that you are not trying to control them. You are only trying to get to the bottom of your disagreements and make the relationship better.

In severe cases of passive aggressive behavior though, any modification is quite impossible without the aid of a mental health professional. Facing childhood wounds and looking internally instead of externally to find the cause of problems in his/her life may require the help of a therapist or trained counselor since only after resolving deep-rooted issues, your partner may be emotionally equipped to have a healthy relationship.