10 Signs of Passive Aggressive Behavior in a Partner


A passive aggressive personality is one of the most difficult to have a relationship with. However what usually makes things worse is that you do not realize what you are getting into until quite far into the relationship. Since such a partner always avoids expressing what he/she is thinking and feeling inside, you usually do not have an inkling of his/her compulsions till the relationship is already toxic. To minimize chances of this happening to you, here are ten signs of passive aggressive behavior to watch out for in a partner.

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  1. Lack of anger

    One of the first things that could offer a hint that your partner is passive aggressive behavior in a person is complete absence of open anger. All humans get upset or angry some time or other – it is after all a way of processing disagreeable situations so as to be able to decide what to do about them. Passive aggressive personalities on the other hand process negative situations differently – they lock their resentment and anger inside until they can find far less obvious but more insidious ways of expressing their hostility. Also they use their lack of anger as a way to exhibit their control. On the outside your partner might say that he/she is happy to do what you ask but that anger is bound to find a way out in inappropriate ways.
  2. He/she is ambiguous when communicating

    People with passive aggressive behavior use words rather than actions to manipulate others and one of the chief weapons in their arsenal is ambiguity of words. They rarely mean what they say or say what they mean. This ambiguous way of communicating serves them well since they can easily deny any negative impact their words may have on a partner. For instance you may be hurt when your partner tells you that the house is not tidy enough and that you spend your days wasting time. But when you let your partner know that your feelings have been hurt, your partner reacts by saying, “fine” and walking away. In the end you are left to wonder what “fine” means. Does it mean your partner will no longer make unkind remarks? Or does it mean that imply that he could not care less whether your feelings were hurt or not? Such ambiguity however makes it impossible to work through conflicts with someone who sends unclear and insufficient information.
  3. He/she forgets too easily

    One of the easiest ways that a passive aggressive partner can be found explaining his/her hurtful behavior is that he/she forgot. For one it is a handy way of avoiding responsibilities in a relationship - for instance your partner says “I forgot to pick up the milk” while he/she was out getting groceries because your partner is lactose-intolerant but you are not. For another it is also a convenient way of punishing you for some perceived injustice, like forgetting that lunch date or your birthday or, better yet, an anniversary.
  4. Sulking a lot

    Since passive aggressive people don’t express their feelings and resentments in an open, healthy manner, they take recourse to sulking. Likewise you may find your partner starting to sulk whenever things don’t go the way he/she wants it to. When asked directly if he/she is unhappy or if something is wrong, your partner may deny but still continue sulking. It puts the person in a position of power because his/her mood can dictate how the situation goes.
  5. Blaming others, especially you

    One of the most distinctive signs of passive aggressive behavior is blaming others for anything that goes wrong. Thus if such a guy fails to get the contract, it is because the presentation by the co-worker was badly put together or because the client was stupid. Nothing is ever the fault of the passive aggressive – it is always people around them – especially you - that are to be blamed for his/her unhappiness and failures. Thus whether the cable konks off or his/her clothes remain unironed till the morning of the conference day, it is always because you did or did not do something about it.
  6. Putting things away

    Yet another way that the passive aggressive personality evades responsibility is by constant procrastination. He/she believes that deadlines are for everyone but them. Thus despite your many reminders, your partner may stall refilling the gas tank in the car or depositing the mortgage in the bank – come hell or high-water, he/she will do things on their own time schedule – the consequences like a financial burden or road accident will of course be taken care of you.
  7. Playing the victim

    This is again a highly effective way in order to obfuscate the real issue – that is a passive aggressive’s inability to take responsibility – by feigning victimization. Such a person will always complain that he/she is being treated unfairly. If your partner is late for a date, it is because the traffic conspired to make his/her life miserable or if he/she has been slapped a tax penalty, it is because the IRS is personally out to get him/her. Playing the victim is a ploy such people use to turn the tables and make them appear to be the injured party. Your partner probably knows that are empathetic, perhaps suffer from co-dependency or simply don’t like the idea of others suffering – whatever the specifics, he/she knows that the victimization process enables him/her to have the upper hand in a relationship.
  8. Fear of dependency

    Despite their need to blame a partner for the ills in his/her life, a passive aggressive actually suffers from a fear of dependency.  Your partner may fear of becoming dependent upon you and this dread is so strong that it is imperative to him/her to remain completely dependent and self-sufficient, not ever admitting to any needs. Dependency fear in a passive aggressive personality may be exhibited in different forms ; in your partner it could mean an emotionally distant personality who is reluctant to share his/her innermost thoughts and needs and who may have chosen you specifically because you are independent sort and may handle his/her fear of dependency by remaining self-possessed in the relationship. In more severe cases of dependency fear, the passive aggressive personality may choose to marry someone who is highly dependent upon them. Their dependent spouse has so many needs and is so emotionally dependent that it keeps them from having to focus on their own needs. If you are a single mother or locked in a bitter divorce case with your ex, your passive aggressive partner does not worry becoming dependent on you since your own needs outweigh his/her own.
  9. Fear of intimacy

    At the heart of the passive aggressive personality lies an inability to trust and because of this they are unable to come close to a partner, both emotionally and physically. A fear of intimacy is the inevitable outcome of which is why you may find your partner guarding him/herself against becoming intimately attached to you. However this does not mean that they are abstinent. A passive aggressive partner will have sex with you but they rarely enjoy or nurture physical intimacy. Indeed if such a person feels that he/she is becoming attached, he/she may punish you by withholding sex.
  10. Seeking to obstruct

    One of the most important ways a passive aggressive personality feeds his/her sense of power by creating as many obstacles as possible in someone else’s life. If you are unlucky to be the partner of a passive aggressive, you will find waiting endlessly for your needs and wants to be fulfilled but never getting any closer to realizing them. Interestingly enough your partner may act as if giving you what you want is important to them but, rarely will he/she follow through with giving it. For instance you may have waited a long time to buy or move into a new home with your partner but every home you look at your partner has an issue with.
    The bathrooms are too small, the kitchen needs to be updated or the neighborhood is not good. It is very confusing to have someone appear to want to give to you but never follow through. You can begin to feel as if you are asking too much which is exactly what he/she wants to you to feel.