Passive-Aggressive = Dysfunction
Not an awesome experience by any stretch of the imagination.
It can leave you feeling a whole spectrum of not-so-awesome stuff; anywhere from walking on eggshells waiting for the bomb to go off to blindsided to defensive and angry like you’ve just been accused of something. Either way your emotional bank account is left depleted.
Depending on how often you experience this with someone, you can be running on emotional fumes in that relationship. Fumes leave you no foundation to build on or recover to, and end up creating resentment and contempt in your relationship. Not a recipe for long-term happiness or success.
“I’m fine.” is just an example of passive-aggressive behaviour. Passive-aggressive sniping comes in many forms, regardless, it’s cowardly and never has a place in a relationship – I don’t care how mad or hurt you are.
Not sure exactly what passive-aggressive-behaviour is? Basically it’s the indirect expression of hostility using various methods to convey your message. Methods such as: sarcasm, hostile jokes, stubbornness, resentment, sullenness, and procrastination. Even deliberate or repeated failure to accomplish requested tasks you’re responsible for can be considered a form of passive-aggressive behaviour.
Passive-aggressive behaviour consists of deliberate, active, but carefully veiled hostile acts. It’s a defence mechanism that allows people who aren’t comfortable being openly communicative get what they want under the guise of still trying to please others. They want their way, but they also want everyone to still like them.
Regardless, it’s a destructive pattern that, depending on the severity and frequency, can even be seen as a form of emotional abuse in relationships. It erodes any trust that exists in a relationship and can create immense hurt and pain to all parties.
When negative emotions and feelings build up inside you, and are then held in based on the need for either acceptance by another, dependence on others, or to avoid even further arguments or conflict, passive-aggressive attacks are bound to happen.
If some of this is sounding familiar don’t worry – we all do some of the above from time to time. It doesn’t make us passive aggressive necessarily nor does it mean your partner is. Passive aggression is when the behaviour is more persistent and repeats periodically, where there are ongoing patterns of negative attitudes and passive resistance in personal relationships or work situations.
The driver behind passive aggressive behaviour really comes down to the need for control. Over time people learn that it can be less confronting to use passive aggressive techniques to get their way, and for most of us avoiding confrontation or conflict becomes an instinctive behaviour.
Examples of passive aggressive behaviours are:
Non-Communication: When something is up and should be addressed however you avoid or refuse to address it.
Avoiding/ Ignoring/ Evading: When you are so angry that you feel you cannot speak calmly so rather than deal with your sh*t you avoid and ignore the person you should be talking to or bury your head in the sand.
Procrastination: Intentionally putting off important tasks that you know you’re responsible for and messing around with less important ones.
Obstructing: Deliberately stalling or preventing something from happening with counter productive actions.
Ambiguity: Being cryptic, unclear, not fully engaging in conversations leaving the people you’re talking to unclear and ill at ease.
Chronic Lateness: A way to put you in control over others and their expectations.
Chronic Forgetting: Showing a blatant disrespect and disregard for others to punish them in some way.
Making Excuses: Always coming up with reasons, justifications, or explanations for not doing things that you’ve agreed to do.
Victimization: Unable to look at their own part in a situation will turn the tables to become the victim and will behave like one
Blaming: Projecting responsibility or blame onto others for situations rather than being able to take responsibility for your own actions or being able to take an objective view of the situation as a whole.
Withholding: This would be in regards to anything that is a normal expectation. For example withholding: sex, cooking, cleaning, etc. that are normal behaviours within the relationship. This also references general niceties that have become the norm within the relationship: like making cups of tea, running a bath etc. Anytime you’re doing these things in an effort to reinforce an already ‘unclear’ message to the other party – because if they were paying attention or cared they’d know what was wrong…
Learned Helplessness: When someone continually acts like they can’t help themselves; for example – deliberately doing a poor job of something for which they are responsible, likely so they can avoid having to do it in the future or to punish the other people impacted by their failure to complete the task.
Passive aggressive behaviour is often a defence mechanism people use to protect themselves. It might be an automatic response learned over time based on what they learned growing up from the relationships around them. For example, if you grew up in a home where your parents were passive aggressive with one another, you would naturally pick up on the behaviour and think it was a normal way of communicating and getting your needs met.
Regardless of what drives the behaviour or what you’re trying to protect yourself from, passive aggressive behaviour only creates dysfunction and has no place in a relationship if you’re hoping for long-term success and happiness.
What can you do instead?
Here are some basic rules to help you avoid or overcome passive aggressive patterns in your relationships:
Draw boundaries (emotional limits) and stick to them.
If you feel like you’re not being heard or understood, buck-up and say something. If you feel like you’re being disrespected, have a conversation about it.
Say what you mean and mean what you say.
If you want them to know how you feel, you have to tell them; if you want them to do something you have to ask. It’s so much easier to assume that if our partner/ friend/ family member really cared about us or was paying attention, they would know what we needed at any given time. Although there may be times when you’re both in sync, there are lots of times where you won’t be. That’s why it’s always your job to be responsible for actively and effectively communicating how you feel and what you need.
Ground rules are for more than just playgrounds.
Knowing how to ‘fight fair’ is a key part to the growth and development of any relationship, so set rules with the other party about what works and what doesn’t. Knowing what your fair-fight-boundaries are before a disagreement happens can make tough conversations much more effective – and as a bonus, it increases trust and connection.
Forgive and move on.
When you said you were ‘over it’ and you would let it go, you have to keep your word and do just that. Bringing up stuff from the past that’s supposedly been dealt with and put to rest is unfair and only puts the other person on the defense.
If you lied when you said you were okay with everything, then you need to get responsible for that and deal with the consequences of LYING to your partner, or friend, or family member. If you have trouble getting ‘complete’ and letting go of previous situations, you might need to do some investigation into what’s getting in the way of that for you…
Being tolerant and being a doormat is NOT the same thing.
There is a BIG difference between these two things and you need to figure out where your boundary is. In the long run, people-pleasing is a waste of time. Lying to yourself has an expiry date – you will eventually get sick of pretending and that you’re okay with something when you’re really not.
Ultimately you will end up resenting the person you’ve been ‘pleasing’ – not to mention a deep rooted contempt for yourself. Selling yourself out never pays off…
Until next time ,
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