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Am I Living with a Passive-Aggressive Man?

An unlikely, but newsworthy, top story:

"Passive-aggressive men drive their partners crazy daily!"

Are you being driven crazy by the behaviors of a passive-aggressive man? Read below and see.

Yes, of course, passive-aggressive behaviors are not limited to men. But for today's post, I want to focus on them because, often, we women have deep-seated inclinations to believe we can nurture anyone out of anything. It's that old thing: once we're married or living together, he'll change. Or, he'll feel safe and settle down. Or, fill in the blanks for yourself.

Then, you step into full-time, supposedly committed, bliss together, and find that you cannot do enough, take on enough, or put up with enough to get the PA (Passive-Aggressive) behavior to stop. And, it's true: passive-aggressive men drive their partners crazy daily!

So, how do you know if you are living with a  man with PA traits and  tendencies? Here are a few things to consider:

  • If you tell him what you want, it makes it more likely you won't get it.
  • You think you are working as partners, but he fails to include you in critical details.
  • He agrees on a plan and talks a good game. Then, he shows up three hours late, or not at all, with no apologies.
  • He makes a promise, fails to live up to it and then somehow makes it your fault.
  • He shuts you down when you want to talk about a problem, and magically turns the focus onto how he can get what he wants.
  • He treats your relationship as a power struggle he's going to win.
  • He's always the victim of misunderstandings and other people's his own mind!
  • He frequently makes you doubt yourself and question your sanity.
  • You too often feel emotionally bruised and become unwilling to engage.
  • You back off asking anything of him because it invariably ends up becoming another opportunity for him to blame you.
  • It feels as though anger is close to his surface and ready to pounce on you.
  • He WILL NOT say what he really means.
  • He's very good at selling himself, while withholding himself from you.
  • There is a big gap between who he pretends to be and how he acts.
  • Doing nothing, he hides behind innocence and good intentions while insisting he is pulling his weight.
  • He keeps you confused, uncertain, and walking on eggshells. Sometimes, it seems to you to be his life work!
  • He is mostly--maybe even aggressively--"resistant to you, to intimacy, to responsibility and to reason"*.

Recognize anyone? Don't panic!

[success] My free Passive-Aggressive Checklist will help you clearly identify whether or not the behavior that is crazy-making is, in fact, passive-aggressive.


Do not feel defeated, stuck or imprisoned by being in relationship with a passive-aggressive man.  Learn. Grow. Develop. Step up to the challenge and step into a healthier way of being with yourself and others. You can do it. And, you'll be so happy you did, whether you end up staying with him or not!

Living with or working with a passive-aggressive man can be transforming. With the right help, you can learn SO much about yourself, and develop the strong values, vision, boundaries and skills to feel whole, powerful and confident in any relationship. Yes, it takes time, energy and willingness and you're worth it.

Rhoberta Shaler, PhD, The Relationship Help Doctor, is the author of Stop! That's Crazy-Making: How to Quit Playing the Passive-Aggressive Game.  She works with clients worldwide through Zoom Private Video. If you are ready to move forward in life, you can book a 1-hour introductory appointment right now! And, yes, she can help you manage your relationship with a passive-aggressive man more effectively!


* from Living with the Passive Aggressive Man by Scott Wexler 

Disclaimer: All advice, insights and suggestions made here are not to be construed as psychological or legal advice. Any actions you undertake as a result of reading any article, book, video, ebook or blog post from Rhoberta Shaler, PhD, are entirely your own. Having worked with individuals and couples for more than thirty years, she offers her insights and opinions for your consideration only.

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  1. Elk - Reply

    Hi Dr Shaler, i have just found you’re articles online and have found them very insightful as to understanding PA.I have been in relationship with my partner who i believe has this disorder for the past 5 years now.We don’t live together anymore as i found his behaviour unacceptable + far too difficult and did not fully understand that this is what both our families have been living with and what PA actually is until now.Two nights ago i took out an advo which lasts for 3 months due to violence and my wrist being fractured,
    My son and fiancee share a house with my partner and my partners nephew which at first we thought this could work out supportively for all concerned as my partner has twins 7 year old and all wanted a safe family home to enjoy. Today my partner will be receiving a letter from the landlord to move out with his nephew and find somewhere else to live as his behaviour has become totally unacceptable to all.and he is also behind in his rent being the reason for the landlord terminating his tenancy as well as the emotional well being for all concerned after the abuse that warranted obtaining the advo.
    My partner is in total denial as to the effects his behaviour has had upon all who love, care and have supported him. How can i make him see reason to seek professional help? I feel by finally taking a stance with the advo is my last straw to set clear boundaries and have healing time to process and grieve from this relationship and the damage it has done to us all which needs to be addressed as unacceptable. I know there is deep issues to heal for my partner and he does come from a disturbing family background nice enough ppl but a little odd too and a tad disfunctional hence why his nephew moved in to live with him to get a stable life at 20 yrs of age underway. But as he is 36 years old a grown adult who has made unhealthy choices in the past with drug addictions in his youth, i do not feel he can blame this or his parentage on his bad behaviours or the choices made.Since we came together,he has improved 100% and grown in awareness both emotionally, spiritually and learned to man up to his responsibilities as a father to his children and learnt to respectfully share co parenting their children with the mother which at times he still sabotages which i dont tolerate for all their sakes i just explain how his behaviour is affecting everyone and usually he comes good only to relapse again from time to time.I worry that these direct actions may push him over the edge as i know he is feeling remorseful at present but no-one has to live thru this hellish PA abuse.I have intuitively followed your advice when dealing with his incessant rambling dialogues and have fallen prey to submission to this which isnt healthy but now i feel the ball is in his court to want to make a change as he has lost us all at present. Fearful of the outcome Can you offer some advice please.Thank you Elk

    • DrShaler avatar
      DrShaler - Reply

      Dear Elk,

      Much applause for your held boundaries and your advo!

      You are absolutely right that adults who try to blame their current choices on their past history or relationships are not yet interested in becoming grown-ups! When an adult maintains denial of their behavior or its consequences, they see no reason to change. Holding your boundaries has given him the clear information that you will not be tolerating behaviors you find destructive and toxic. His response to what would seem to be a significant loss is to not take it as a wake-up call. I hope you are taking it as a wake-up call for you to realize that you could pour love, attention, compassion, nurturing and nourishing his way forever, and it might not be enough. There is nothing currently indicating that it is, is there?

      When you have had all the indications that you have stated that your partner is not only in denial, but unable and/or unwilling to see that he is the main actor in the drama he is creating all around him, you ask a very good question: “How can I make him see reason to seek professional help?” My answer is: you cannot. If he is willing to lose you as a live-in partner, your respect due to his behavior, his current residence, his credit score and his court record, and NOT see that he needs help, you cannot do much.

      What you CAN do is to continue to hold very strong boundaries, no matter how difficult or painful to you. The willingness to clarify, express, maintain and act on your boundaries demonstrates that you matter to yourself. Unfortunately (as I think you want it to be different), it seems you do not matter to him. At least, not enough yet to make him take steps to figure this all out and learn how to manage his life from the inside out. I know, you want to believer that you matter greatly to him because he matters to you. What continuous evidence do you have that you matter to him?

      I fear that you are “parenting” him, not partnering him. Could that be the case? I know that is hard to come to terms with, but it seems likely so.

      You have a very complex situation, and I’m here to help. When you are ready to talk this through and get the support and solutions you need right now, we can talk. You can make an appointment online by CLICKING HERE We can talk in my office, or on the phone or through Skype video, so distance is of no consequence.

      I hope we can talk soon and gain clarity about best next steps in your relationship.

      I wish you well.
      Dr. Shaler

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