Relationship Advice: “So, the passive-aggressive guy said….!”

fighting-coupleMaybe it was Art Linkletter who said, “Passive-aggressive men say the darndest things!” 

The passive-aggressive guy said, 

If I can’t get what I want, then why should I give you what you want?”

Now, in a supposedly loving relationship, that’s quite curious. It turns relationship into bartering. And, of course, it’s not rocket science to see that there will be a never-ending inability to even the score! 

Passive-aggressive men are generally not happy men. They may put on a good show for company or at the company, but at home, not so much. Most passive-aggressive men were raised feeling that they never really got enough of what they wanted, or at least, their fair share. It creates a special kind of selfishness that is demonstrated in that quote above. It’s a bit like the child who doesn’t want to take responsibility for his part in a fight.  When his mother asks what happened, the passive-aggressive-man-in-training says: 

He hit me back first!”

With the passive-aggressive man, everything is someone else’s fault.  He cannot accomplish worthwhile things at work because “People push me too hard.” His entrepreneurial business venture fails and it is “the market is bad for start-ups right now.”  He cannot achieve his goals because “I cannot concentrate” leaving it to you to fill in the omitted reason he cannot concentrate as being your fault in some vague way. 

Does this all sound familiar to you? You may well be living with a passive-aggressive man.  

He says that he’s not willing to give you what you want because he’s not getting what he wants. Hmmm…that’s the never-ending story of who goes first. And, with a passive-aggressive man, that will be you. You give him what he wants, hoping that sets a positive stage for equality and equilibrium. But, guess what? It’s not enough. It’s not at the right time. It doesn’t count. He still cannot trust that it will always be there for him.  So, you’re still without, and he’s getting what he thinks he wants! 

Passive-aggressive men who refuse to give you what you want or need are playing a withholding game. Whatever it is that you want or need is going to be withheld from you so that he feels powerful. When he does that, you need to recognize it for what it is: a manifestation of hostility.  And, you need strong boundaries…right now!

Don’t play this game with him! Do not take responsibility for what he does not do. Do not do it for him. Simply remind him that he is an adult and therefore everything he does tells you who he is and demonstrates his engagement in the relationship.  You are the observer of what he chooses to show you. Then, you make decisions about your next steps.  

Here are some suggestions for moving the passive-aggressive man to a better balanced, more adult–read: grown-up–relationship: 

  • Remind him that all decisions he makes have consequences, and that you respect his right to choose his path. That means he also chooses the consequences. He is in control of himself in that way.
  • Help him to re-establish his sense of control and personal autonomy by pointing out the ways in which people rely on him, or look up to him. 
  • Remember, you are not his mother.
  • Do not make decisions for him because it will only set you up for complaints, derogatory comments and further criticism.
  • Empower him to make choices and support him when he does. Let him know that you are really on his side.

Passive-aggressive men are really afraid that they are powerless, ineffective or controlled by others. When you invite them to step up with the suggestions above, and they do, you’ll probably find out you like them a whole lot better!  

I wish you well. 

Need help understanding your partner’s behavior?  I can help and I’m ready to do just that. No matter where you live, we can have a session by Skype or on the phone. Visit The Optimize Center website to make an appointment. 

 

About Rhoberta Shaler, PhD

Rhoberta Shaler, PhD, is The Relationship Help Doctor. She makes it easier for her clients—individuals, couples and teams—to talk about difficult things. Well-known for her gentle, effective blend of humor and practical wisdom, Dr. Shaler shares her insights on finding solutions to relationship problems as a mediator, consultant, counselor, coach and keynote speaker.

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