A partner with passive-aggressive tendencies in a relationship is extremely difficult.
Sure, outright assault can be incredibly scary and destroy a relationship in an instant, but it’s obvious and impossible to ignore, even if the aggrieved party doesn’t want to come to terms with it.
Passive aggression, on the other hand, can be difficult to deal with in a relationship, as it can sometimes be difficult to identify or verbalize.
Sometimes the culprit can do this unintentionally, and this is also something very easy to deny.
But it can slowly shake the foundations of a relationship, sometimes bringing it down completely.
But what exactly is passive aggression?
What are some examples of this in a relationship?
And how can this behavior be approached and managed in such a way that it does not create new problems between you?
Keep reading to find out.
12 examples of passive aggression in a relationship
Passive aggression can be defined as negative behavior that manifests as a reluctance to communicate.
It is non-assertive behavior, when someone refuses to tackle a problem head-on.
Someone who is guilty of this will only communicate their aggression indirectly, perhaps out of sarcasm or by emotionally withdrawing.
They tend to show you good or good to you on the outside, while trying to make you suffer to a lesser or greater extent – whether consciously or unconsciously.
Here are some examples of passive aggression in a relationship. If you recognize any of these in the way your partner behaves towards you, it is a clear sign that there are issues between you that need to be resolved.
1. They waive all responsibility for important decisions.
If there is a conflict between you and you are faced with a complex situation, their standard response is to simply withdraw completely, so that you are left to resolve the issue on your own.
This can cause serious problems, as long-term relationships are about sharing the load and supporting each other, and the partner of a passive aggressive person will often feel abandoned.
2. They withdraw intimately.
They show their displeasure with you by denying their normal physical affection for you, whether it’s hugs, kisses, hugs, or anything more.
They almost seem to use physical affection, or the lack of it, as some kind of reward or punishment for your behavior.
3. They withdraw emotionally.
When there are problems in your relationship, their default response is to raise their emotional barriers so that you cannot reach them at that level.
They punish you by cutting you off emotionally.
4. They rarely show their anger openly.
A passive-aggressive partner doesn’t often get angry in the classic sense, either because they’re afraid of the emotion, or they just don’t know how to express it in a healthy way.
They prefer to withdraw it from you indirectly.
5. They use hostile humor.
They are often sarcastic or tell thinly veiled hostile jokes, then laugh when you react badly. After all, they were just joking.
They may tease you about a certain thing or make comments about your appearance or behavior.
6. They give you the silent treatment.
This is a classic passive-aggressive behavioral trait. It could just be the silent treatment, or they could go so far as to pretend you are invisible in an attempt to punish you for something you did.
7. They sulk and never respond to their feelings.
Their default response to a situation in which they are failing is to sulk. You’ve never known them to be honest when they’re feeling frustrated or angry.
8. They deliberately push your buttons.
They know how to wrap you up so that you are the one who seems to get angry, not them.
If you’ve done something they don’t like, they’ll make you angry so they can come across as the hurt part.
9. They remember the information you need to know.
Another way they might passively attack you is by withholding important information from you to deliberately cause trouble between the two of you.
Making you feel excluded and untrustworthy or complicating your life by withholding information is a classic passive-aggressive tactic.
10. They play the victim.
They manage to turn everything upside down, it seems like the world, and you, still persist with them, and they are just the unsuspecting and helpless victim.
They may exaggerate personal, professional, or health problems, or prove to be powerless or weak.
11. They know how to hit you where it hurts.
They know exactly what your weaknesses are, and they’re not ashamed to kick low that they think will hit the mark when they want to make you feel bad.
12. They always deny their behavior.
If you tell them that they seem angry or annoyed, they will deny it outright, while continuing to sulk.
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8 steps to dealing with passive-aggressive behavior in a relationship
This might have been a pretty painful list to read, but I hope you’re not in a relationship with someone who ticks all twelve of those boxes.
Now that we’ve looked at a few examples, it’s time to think about how you can move forward if you are in a relationship with someone who regularly displays this type of behavior.
1. Ask yourself if the relationship is worth it.
The first thing you need to do is ask yourself if you are really ready to do the work of getting over this problem between yourselves.
After all, it’s likely that your partner will retain certain passive-aggressive tendencies forever.
You can’t expect them to change the way they approach problems overnight, and finding a way forward is going to take a lot of patience and love from both of you.
If you love them and are committed to a future with them, the hard work should be worth it.
But love is not always enough. You can love someone while believing it’s best to leave them for both of you.
Of course, if you don’t like them, you have little reason to stay.
2. Think about how you are reacting to this behavior now.
How you react to your partner’s passive-aggressive behavior will have a big impact on how they behave afterwards.
Do you get on their bait?
Do you let their behavior make you angry?
Do you activate their behavior because you can’t stand the confrontation?
Do you feel controlled and limited by it?
Are you seeking approval from your partner?
Or are you able to spot the behavior and avoid activating it?
Pinpointing how you are responding now will help you determine what changes you need to make in order for you both to progress.
3. Determine where the line is for you.
It is important to understand what you will accept from your partner in terms of passive-aggressive behavior and what goes too far.
Going forward, you need to be able to stick to that line and be prepared to tell your partner when they cross it.
Let them know exactly what your expectations are and what the consequences will be for both of you if they don’t play their part.
4. Make sure you are prepared for the situation.
You should be aware that calling your partner into passive-aggressive behavior won’t be pretty.
Your partner is used to avoiding confrontation, so they probably won’t respond to you very well if you want to tackle the situation head on.
They might pull out, cry, settle down, or get irritable with you, and you need to be prepared.
5. Rest assured.
The best way to deal with a passive-aggressive person is to respond confidently and clearly.
If you decide it’s time to address the behavior, you need to be able to point it out clearly, preferably without getting emotional.
Let them know what your expectations are and repeat them if necessary.
6. Do not use the words “passive aggressive”.
There is no faster way to alienate your partner than to categorically tell them that you consider them to be passive aggressive.
Rather than using this phrase, focus on how their behavior negatively affects you or makes you feel.
Give them a taste of what it’s like to be at the reception.
7. You yourself.
When you are in a relationship with someone who is guilty of this behavior, you can sometimes end up running your life around them.
It’s all about keeping them happy and preventing them from sulking.
But if you want them to work on the behavior, it has to stop.
You need to get on with your life, make plans and live your life in the best possible way, spend time with all the people you love, and focus on your goals.
They might have a hard time seeing you striding along while they spend their time sulking, and in that case, it could be the end of your relationship.
But they might find a new respect for you, which means your relationship can start to mend and even flourish.
8. Stay calm, calm and calm.
It won’t be easy, but if you want this behavior to improve and put less strain on your relationship, it’s important to stay calm when discussing it.
That way you can maintain the heights and never give them the chance to accuse you of being unreasonable or out of proportion.
The more calm you stay, the more you stay on top.
That way, you have a much better chance of reaching them and tackling behaviors that could, if left unchecked, destroy your relationship.