Passive Aggression…and it’s killing your marriage.

Passive aggressive behavior is all about one simple word: disconnect. It’s the “disconnect” between what is being said and what is being done.  Unfortunately, all around us, marriages are suffering from it.  There are many different ways in which passive aggressive behavior can be expressed in our marriage. What I’ve got written down here is a simple list, though not exhaustive, covers some of the most common examples.  I wonder if you can add anything? 

  1. Having a hostile attitude. Passive aggressive spouses tend to assume that something done that they didn’t approve of was an intended to be a shot at them. For example, you might assume your spouse know/understands how hard you’ve been working.  When your spouse asks something of you, you assume that he/she has something against you and is trying to use this as a dig against you.  It never occurs to you that your spouse simply may not understand the load/pressure that you’ve been under lately.  
  2. The silent treatment. Nothing highlights disconnect more than the famous silent treatment…and I’m quite skilled at it. There are three common forms: 
    • The Payback: Silence that make you look agreeable but you far from it. You may have lost an argument but this is a pathetic way to get a victory by leaving your spouse in wonderment by making them feel, even though the discussion is over, it’s far from over. 
    • The Cliffhanger: Silence that comes after the word “nothing.”  “What’s wrong?…Nothing” It’s just leaves something hanging out there in which you know that there is “something” wrong.
    • The Warning Shot: To answer any question with just one word followed by silence. This is intended to signal that there is a problem, without you having to say it.
  3. Building resentment. Passive aggressive peeps will view requests/demands/issues of others as unfair.  Instead of pouring out (expressing their feelings, they’ll bottle them up and resent the other person.  
  4. Withholding. In a marriage, it will manifest itself in three ways: 
    • Withholding intimacy.  Instead of the sexual act being a sacred and beautiful moment in a marriage, it’s used as a weapon. “Why give my spouse something I know he/she wants? This will teach them to do _______ to me.” 
    • Withholding praise.  Some people have a hard time with others, besides themselves, receiving praise.  In your mind, it’ll keep your spouse humble and/or in the place YOU want them. 
    • Withholding appreciation.  “Nobody thanks me so why do I need to thank him/her.” I also like this one, “Why thank her/him for something she/he should already be doing?”
  5. Acts of sabotage. These are deliberate acts designed to punish your spouse. 
    • Strategic Procrastination.  Consciously putting off what needs to be done. It’s usually used as a punishment toward your spouse. 
    • Intentional mistakes. Rather than saying “no” to your spouse’s request, you’ll perform the task poorly as to not be asked again.  
  6. Manipulative communication.  These will be manifested in: 
    • Criticism.  A passive aggressive spouse will use a manipulative tongue to criticize but make it appear as a joke or a complement.  You may not even catch it till you’ve left the room or the house. 
    • Complaining.  Everything in life is a personal attack on them.  Anything, and I mean ANYTHING, that doesn’t go his/her way is seen as unfair and it an injustice.  Every decision is made about him/her because life is all about how it impacts him/her.
    • Sarcasm. It seems that you can’t get a straight answer. Sarcastic words are simply indirect put downs to your spouse.
  7. The social media vent. Instead of facing your spouse, you’ll vent over the social media venue of your choice and use it to cut into your spouse. There are usually two reasons for doing this: 
    • First, there’s something therapeutic about writing something out.  I wouldn’t discourage journaling or writing your spouse a letter, but social media is public (thus the name).
    • Second, you’re most likely using the “venting” to rally your friends/followers to your aid.  You’re taking it public to get the “public” behind you.  You make think it’s a good think, but it really makes you AND your spouse look bad. 
  8. The final blow.  Passive aggressive spouses thrive on getting the last word in.  Even if the conflict is over, he/she will slip something in to leave his/her mark on the situation. It may be subtle, but it gives him/her a sense of victory. 

You’ve got to see passive aggression for what it is: Hostility.  Like any form of hostility, if you give into it, It will want to rule your life.  You and your spouse need to fix the disconnect by doing a few simple things: 

  1. Confront the issue by being specific. Don’t dance around it…that’s feeding it with more passive aggression.)
  2. Set expectations.  Don’t let them be wishy-washy expectations.  Use them as boundaries.  
  3. Rebuild your communication.  Practice assertiveness and active listening. 
  4. Repentance.  Nothing makes a marriage grow more than Christ-like humility. 
  5. Pray.  Pray for each other.  Pray with each other.  

I leave you with Romans 12:18

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

Thanks for letting me ramble…

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