When one spouse is passive aggressive, it can be even more difficult to resolve issues and deal with differences of opinion. It's easy to recognize when someone explodes in anger, but passive aggressiveness can be quite difficult to detect, especially when the person denies the actions. Although you may feel unable to change things, stay calm and remember that you have as much power in the relationship as your husband.
Part 1 of 3: Exploring Passive Aggressive Behavior
Step 1. Identify passive aggressive behavior
It is important to be able to identify and understand this type of behavior and not just draw conclusions about your husband's attitudes. The biggest indication of passive aggression is the incompatibility between someone's actions and behavior, especially when the person is angry. Understanding behavior can be helpful in identifying what is implied in the husband's words or actions, and how it is possible to respond to hidden meanings rather than just the behavior itself.
- Passive aggression should not be confused with defensiveness. It is a set of calculated and purposeful attitudes that often become a standard.
- It's easy to fall into situations like this, and then feel responsible or guilty, when it's actually a manipulative tactic.
Step 2. Look for denial
A passive aggressive person refuses to take responsibility for his or her behaviors. Your husband may lie or blame you for what he did or said, rather than acknowledging that he hurt you. Making excuses, trying to rationalize or downplay the situation can be ways of denying his behavior or the impact of his own actions.
- Your husband may "forget" to shop, or say you didn't remind him to pick up the kids from school.
- He can pretend he didn't do something when there is clear evidence that he did.
Step 3. See if he plays the victim
Somehow, no matter what happens, he finds a way to put the blame on other people, never on himself. He may blame you for being angry and make you explode or get aggressive. He finds ways to escape responsibility and guilt for hurting others.
Does your husband always find ways to twist the truth to escape guilt? Does he always blame you for everything that goes wrong, even if you haven't done anything?
Step 4. Understand how “retention” works
Instead of saying what he wants or needs, he leaves in the middle of an argument, stops talking to you, or tries to end the conversation by saying, "I won't even argue. You're always right." He can also withhold things like money, sex, or the like, as a way to wield power.
- Throwing away or giving away things that aren't his or even things he knows are important to you is also a way to exercise retention.
- Does your husband suppress his emotions as a way of trying to control people? Does he always make the final decisions?
Step 5. Recognize the chronic delay
Always being late can be a way of expressing passive aggression. It's a way of saying "This isn't important to me" or "What I'm doing is more important than what you planned."
You have an appointment, but it always takes time to turn off the TV or computer and start getting ready. He often makes excuses about being busy at work or stuck in traffic
Step 6. Be wary of incompetence
Doing chores anyway can be a form of passive aggression. He can do everything at the last moment, and still make a minimal effort to get the job done, so that someone else has to do it later. This can be a way of saying, "I don't care about this (or about you), and I'm going to express myself by not doing a good job."
Does he often try to put off tasks, do them halfway, or make excuses for having done poor work?
Part 2 of 3: Responding to Passive Aggressive Behavior
Step 1. Watch the signs
Your husband can start being passive aggressive without his realizing it. Ideally, identify the behavior before things get out of hand. He may start slowly, trying to evade responsibilities, procrastinating longer than usual, or using excuses to do or not do certain things.
When you notice such signs, avoid conflict, as it only makes passive aggressive behavior stronger
Step 2. Don't try to confront him
While the urge is to complain or fight, resist the temptation. You might end up taking on the role of his mother, which won't do either of you. You probably don't want to become the mother of your own husband, and he probably doesn't want to play the role of the child in the relationship.
If you feel like you're going to explode, stop and think for a moment. Think about how you feel and what thoughts are running through your mind. Take a deep breath before saying anything
Step 3. Try to dialogue
Don't play his game. Getting involved in the situation will only cause the passive aggressive behavior to continue, creating a cycle, until both of you are completely unhappy. Instead, pick a good time and tell him "We have a problem we need to solve."
If he is chronically late, say, "We have a hard time getting out of the house on time when we have an appointment. What do you think we can do to make it to places without delay?"
Step 4. Be firm
Maybe in the past he's been able to make you feel guilty or accept responsibility for everything, but that should end. Don't let these tactics work anymore. When he says he's not angry, but you can clearly see he is, ask him to be honest and tell him how he really feels. If he says "I was just kidding," respond that you don't like that kind of kidding.
Don't be afraid to say that his behavior hurts you, especially if he asks "Why are you angry?" Say, "It's very frustrating when you don't talk to me. I'd like to know what you're thinking and feeling."
Part 3 of 3: Improving Communication
Step 1. State clearly what you want or need
Instead of doing as he does, be direct about your own needs and expectations. Don't leave room for him to make assumptions. When you ask him to do something, state clearly what needs to be done and when you need it done.
Get into the habit of writing down the things that need to be done. Leave no room for ambiguity. The clearer you are, the less likely he is to find a way to make excuses
Step 2. Don't blame or embarrass him
Doing this won't help at all. Hold back the accusations and instead tell him how you're feeling. Say what's bothering you, how it affects you (and the relationship), and what you'd like to do to improve the situation.
Instead of saying "I hate it when you don't do the things I asked you to do, I can't believe you're so lazy", say "It's too bad to know I can't count on you to do chores. I feel stressed out because the house and the routine are not organized. Can we find a way to work together to do everything that has to be done at home?"
Step 3. Know that he is likely to feel resentful or angry
Your husband probably feels resentful or angry and finds no other way to vent these feelings. It's much easier to take it out on someone else than it is to deal with the problem. Maybe he wants to make you explode with rage so that most of the blame falls on you. Learn to recognize this pattern and decide whether or not it's worth giving up.
When both are calmer, talk openly about the issues. Say what's and isn't working for you, him, and both of you as a couple. Find ways to express your own resentment or anger, and encourage him to do the same
Step 4. Listen to each other
Set aside time each week to talk, listen to each other, and offer support. These are skills that need to be developed over time, so it might be a little difficult at first, but don't give up. Show your husband that he can express his emotions to you and that you will support him. And let him do the same for you too.
- Practice the active listener role by repeating or summarizing what he says. "So you've had a rough day and you'd rather not talk about money and bills tonight. Isn't that right?"
- When he expresses emotions, show him that you care about what he is feeling. Saying "I understand you're frustrated" or "Wow, you look really stressed, I'd feel that way too" are ways to make it clear that you sympathize with his feelings.
Step 5. Seek professional help
Consider seeking help from a therapist if the situation starts to get out of hand or if you cannot resolve it yourself. Look for couple therapy or even an individual therapist. The professional will be able to help them to modify the problematic behavior, improve communication and the expression of feelings and emotions.