Passive-aggressive behaviors spring from emotions that can be carried from childhood through to adulthood. This type of behavior is quite often a coping mechanism for people with unresolved childhood traumas, or who were unfortunately discouraged from showing and expressing their emotions.
This ‘teaching’ has caused them to learn very quickly that they need to keep their emotions to themselves. As they become adults they are not used to expressing themselves or showing how they feel, so they become fearful when they have to.
Unfortunately, this is the story of many passive-aggressive adults.
Passive-aggressive reactions may be a temporary coping mechanism and they don’t always become a long-term behavior, which is when it can be problematic.
Finding yourself in a relationship with a passive-aggressive partner can confuse and hurt your own emotions, and if you want the relationship to continue, you have to be patient and understanding. The pain and hurt received can at times make things unbearable.
While a healthy relationship is normally a give-and-take situation, you’ll need to be comfortable with the idea of being the bigger person most of the time. As toxic as it may seem, thriving in a relationship with a passive-aggressive partner is not impossible, but it does help if you are better prepared.
What Can You Do?
You can take care of yourself, by learning how to handle your relationship, if you suspect you are dealing with a passive-aggressive partner. Here are a few things you can do:
Acknowledge Their Behavior Without Appearing Judgmental
Recognizing your partner’s behavior may be met with some denial initially. You may be deeply in love and not want to acknowledge that your partner has negative traits. However, persistent behavior has a way of revealing itself, and eventually, you recognize it for what it is. This is the first step, recognizing this truth because it’s neither tolerable nor healthy for either of you.
Talking about it is necessary, but remember, you don’t want to look like you’re a judge, jury, and executioner. You have to be patient and understanding and not appear judgmental in any way.
Understand Where This Behavior Is Coming From
Having acknowledged this behavior in your partner is a great step but it’s only the beginning if changes are to be made. To be a loving partner means to understand why your partner is behaving the way they do.
Is it out of a stressful situation, which means they are trying to cope with the situation temporarily, and soon it will all go away? Or is there nothing visible you can say it is caused by, so it may be due to their upbringing?
Whatever the cause, it’s easier to address a negative behavior when you know and understand how it came about in your partner’s life. Seek to understand and be empathetic. Your patience and caring love may win the day.
Keep Your Emotions In Check
Being on the receiving end of passive-aggressive behavior is never a pleasant experience. If you want to help your partner and save your relationship, you need to be as loving as possible and not feel the need to ‘win’ every battle.
You don’t have to hide your emotions, you need to show that expressing your (and their) emotions is allowed. You do need to keep yours in check and not do what they do, for example, give them the silent treatment. An overt emotional expression such as screaming and yelling will not be the answer either. You can sit down with them and tell them how you are feeling, and ask them how they are feeling too.
While it’s natural to be angry and frustrated, keep your emotions in check. Don’t add more fuel to the fire which will only add further strain on your relationship. Remember that it’s not always about you, it’s about both of you.
Maintain Healthy Boundaries
While you are in your relationship to love and understand your partner, don’t risk enabling the behavior by passively accepting it. Establishing your boundaries is a healthy way to counter this toxic behavior in a relationship. It is also a form of discipline that discourages the negative behavior of your partner.
It may take some time to reinforce better habits and positive behavior for someone who is passive-aggressive, but you need to step back and give them space and time to comprehend what is going on, and to realize that they can trust your emotions. Give them time to accept, and then change.
To better manage passive-aggressiveness in your partner, you need to be assertive of your boundaries. If your partner cares about you, they will respond in time as they gain trust. When a person realizes they are loved unconditionally, they will feel more open and willing to change.
Passive-aggressive behavior in your partner can be overcome if you are both willing to build trust and show unconditional love. This type of behavior can be a long-standing fight against deeper issues such as mental illness, or a personality disorder. In this case, intervention needs to come from someone medically and professionally trained to handle this type of aggression. Therefore, they may need to seek professional help if possible.