Monday, July 8, 2019

Dealing with Passive-Aggressive in a Relationship

Alex took his family for a vacation on a cruise. His parents were supposed to join in, but his parents did not want to go with him and his family. Well, his relationship with his parents had some cracks which affects Alex on vacations and family functions. Alex however, got his wife Lisa and two kids, who enjoyed the cruise. Alex asks Lisa, Honey! Did you like it? Lisa says of course I loved it. I wish they had more menu options in the dining restaurant ”. Alex confirms again, “so you did not like it, you mean?”. Liza says “no of course I loved it, I love to be in the cruise with you”.
That day Alex gave a detached feeling to Lisa. He was with her all the time but not there mentally. He was sulking from inside. In the evening, Lisa wore a nice dress and asks Alex if he wants to join in for a musical night at the cruise. Alex with a sullen face refuses and says “oh no! You go ahead, I will be checking with the Casino here, it seems to be good”. She had no clue what’s going on. She asks Alex if there is anything wrong. Alex is fuming mad from inside but holds his feelings instead he refuses and says with a smile “nothing wrong, just go ahead, you will be late for the show”. Well there! Lisa gets angry with this silent treatment with no intimacy. Alex however, shows surprise and with a smile says, there is nothing wrong. He is also relieved that finally the anger is out. That anger coming from Lisa is his anger. Alex was angry all this while but did not know how to express it, for him expressing anger is bad. He had been misunderstanding that Lisa did not appreciate the cruise and did not appreciate his efforts for this vacation plan. Alex is indeed Passive Aggressive. But, hush! Do not tell him this directly. Do not use this label. They hate labels.  Let’s find out how to deal with such passive-aggressive people in a more empathetic and assertive way.

Passive-aggressiveness is behavior that involves using indirect aggression towards others.

Who are Passive-aggressive people?
There is a general perception among people that Passive-aggressive people are cold and emotionless, that’s not true, most Passive-aggressive people are emotional and empathetic towards others. however, they do not know how to express anger.
Most Passive-aggressive people are highly intelligent. They are logical, so if you happen to argue or fight with them, they would fight with you logically, never emotionally. They do not know how to confront emotionally. But inside they have that feeling, those emotions which they want to express but something holds them back.
Passive-aggressiveness, as the word indicates, is a tendency to engage in indirect expression of hostility through acts such as subtle insults, sullen behavior, failure to accomplish required tasks.

Causes of Passive-Aggressive Behavior
The exact cause of passive-aggressive behavior isn’t known. However, both biological and environmental factors may contribute to the development of passive-aggressive behavior.

Researchers believe people who exhibit passive-aggressive behaviors begin doing so in childhood. Parenting style, family dynamics, and other childhood influences may be contributing factors. Child abuse, neglect, and harsh punishment can also cause a person to develop passive-aggressive behaviors. Substance abuse and low self-esteem are also thought to lead to this type of behavior.

Some common Passive-aggressive behavioral pattern:
1. Silent Treatment:
In the above Scenario, Alex is angry and cannot confront directly with his wife Lisa. Hence, he gives her a silent treatment. Well, that’s the worst thing your loved ones can do to you. But there are more subtle ways that a person may subject you to the silent treatment. You may not be able to even spot it. He may be there with you, converse with you but at the same time give you the feelings of detachment through his non-verbal gestures and at times lack of intimacy in a very subtle way which only you can notice. However, if you bring up the point, you may be accused of blaming him for no faults of his/her. Because Passive-aggressive are very good at arguing logically. They might just accuse you of finding faults in them. Since it is so much at a subtle level you may not be able to explain him/her that he/she may be hurting your feelings.
What to do:
The most effective approach is to ignore their behavior and pretend nothing happened. When you do not react that’s when they stop, they know it is not working for them. Another approach is to give them lots of assurance that you appreciate him/her and that you love him/her. Go at an emotional level and talk to them, ask them what is the hurt, is anything bothering them. Sometimes, Passive-aggressive stems from past emotional hurt which leads to low self-esteem. You have to constantly give your partner positive strokes to maintain their self-esteem. 

2. Subtle insults
Subtle insults are worst than upfront insults. A subtle insult could be with regards to your weakest points. For example, your friend visits your home and she is a working woman, you are not working, you are a home maker. When your partner subtly insults you by praising your friend overly, that she is working really hard and managing both work and house, it is challenging and it needs great efforts.  Now, isn’t this subtle? most of you might not even guess if this is an insult. Well, there you go! It is difficult to spot.
What to do:
You cannot ignore such behavior as it might affect you psychologically. You might at some point go into depression and mood swings.
Ideally, you and your partner can get to a place where you feel secure enough in your relationship that you can change your boundaries without fear of losing yourself or the relationship. 

3. Failure to finish tasks:
Starting projects and not finishing, but also sulking when someone else finishes what they haven’t. Competing tasks late or slowly even if others are waiting.

What to do:
Set clear expectations. The most effective way to manage is to set crystal clear expectations at the very outset of an interaction and to never assume that the passive-aggressive person understands your instructions fully. Be sure to review your expectations before the deadline many times, so he/she knows that you are expecting him to finish task before the deadline.

4. Withholding:
Withholding communication, refusal to talk or discuss the problem is another form of expressing anger and asserting power passively. They may refuse to talk things out, they may play the victim game and say “you’re always right”, shutting down the discussion. They retain their power with silent treatment or material/financial support, affection, or sex. This undermines intimacy as a way to fight against their dependency.
What to do:
You might feel angry, powerless, confused when trying to figure out with your partner. But do not react. Never say you are a problem, that you are passive aggressive, they hate labels. You have to be assertive, look from yours as well as others perspective. Do not say words like you hurt me. Do not blame. Empathize with your partner and deal with it assertively. Say something like, "we both need to discuss and resolve this".

The Passive-aggressive person knows he has a problem, they are intelligent enough to know what’s going on inside, however they just do not want to acknowledge it to you. They hate to come out of their idealistic personality who never losses his/her temper. They love their nice man/women image. They think its not good to be angry.
If you genuinely want to save your relationship then do not be passive or aggressive, do not play the game, eye for an eye with them, else at the end you both would suffer. Be assertive, set your boundaries, show love and appreciation from time to time. Don't blame or judge your partner. when you get angry or shout, you escalate conflict and give a chance to your partner to not take his/her responsibilities.  Just make them aware about how it affects the overall harmony of a relationship. Be assertive, confront the issue, not the person, be empathetic towards your partner. 

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