“I’m fine.” (obviously hot fine)
“I’m okay.” (tears streaming down face)
“I’M NOT MAD!” (slamming the door and leaving)
Emotional acrobatics, clever barbs, and submerged hostility are hallmarks
of the passive-aggressive person. Forever pretending that everything is fine, this person’s words run counter to their body language – and to your understanding of the way human beings work.
Passive-aggressives act like they are complying, but in reality they are resisting. If they don’t want to do something, instead of just telling you that they don’t want to do it – they’ll create an excuse that removes them from any liability.
“I forgot to take out the trash.” (you can’t get mad if I forgot, right?)
“I didn’t realize that you meant to do it today.” (just a simple misunderstanding)
“Why are you upset? I was only joking.” (you’re not allowed to be upset if I was joking)
Passive-aggressive people fear expressing anger, sadness, and negative emotions. They sulk. They withdraw. They give you the silent treatment. They pretend that they forgot. And worst of all – they insist that nothing is wrong, so you are shut down from changing the situation. They bend over backwards to avoid any kind of conflict – hence the “passive” part of the personality.
But anger, sadness and negative emotions are part of being a human, and suppressing them can backfire – and this is the “aggressive” part.
Are you dating a passive-aggressive? Honestly expressing your emotions – both good and bad – is an essential component of intimacy. By keeping their negative feelings inside, they are denying themselves, and you, a deeper human connection. Open dialogue is crucial to relationships, but emotional honestly can be very difficult for the passive-aggressive person.
So how do you deal? First of all, remember that you cannot ever change another person’s behavior – you can only change yourself. But you can describe what you are experiencing from your point of view:
“I feel like you are sad about something. Your eyes look red, and your shoulders seem to be drooping.”
“It seems to be like you are angry right now because you are yelling.”
“The way you are looking at me makes me feel uncomfortable.”
Most likely, the passive-aggressive person will deny their anger or sadness. They’ve been doing it their whole lives. Don’t get sucked into an argument, and don’t correct their denial. Just say: “okay” – and leave the discussion. Repeat, repeat, repeat: tell them what you are experiencing, and how you are interpreting it.
By continuing to acknowledge your partner’s negative emotions – whether they do or not – you are sharing the fact that you are aware of what is going on inside of them.
You’ll also need to set boundaries, and be ready to enforce them. This is where things get tricky. If your boyfriend is always saying he “forgot” to take out the trash, you’ll need to express how important it is to you, and what will happen if it happens again. And then you must enforce your boundaries. Only you can decide where your boundaries are, and what you are willing to put up with.