Coping with a Passive Aggressive Partner

Diane was angry at Al, her passive aggressive husband who disrespected her every day of their marriage. It was driving her crazy. She felt like she was worthless. Her husband would avoid any responsibility by saying, “It’s not my fault I forgot. You should have reminded me.”

Diane wasn’t even aware that Al’s antagonism was making her angry, or that her anger had no place to go. As a child, she couldn’t afford the luxury of expressing anger. Her mother was depressed and wouldn’t tolerate her outbursts. She dismissed Diane’s anger for years.

Diane is angry at herself for being a people pleaser and trying to live up to everyone’s standards, but her own. At age 46, she is on the verge of collapse. She thought the only way to save her sanity would be to divorce her husband of 28 years and find another partner.

In counseling, she was given the power of choice. She had it all along. She just didn’t know how to use it. She could choose to engage Al in a mutually destructive screaming match over guilt, fault and blame. Or she could express her anger at Al like a grownup. She chose Plan B.

Diane said, “Al, I’m angry at you for being irresponsible. You do no take accountability for the consequences of your choices.”

Al: “Are you trying to make me feel guilty?”

Diane: “No. It isn’t a matter of guilt, fault or blame. It’s a matter of happiness.”

Al: “What do you want me to do about it?”

Diane: “Oh, no. I’m not going to fall into that trap. You’ll do just the opposite and blame me when it doesn’t work. I’m not telling you what I want. You have a mind of your own. You think of something. It will be your choice to do it or not. It’s up to you.”

Al: “Oh, yeah, well I’m angry at you for telling the neighbor you want a divorce.”

Diane: “I don’t blame you for being angry. I’m glad you can tell me that because if you don’t tell me, I won’t know. I’m not a mind reader and neither are you. I regret I made you angry, but that’s the way I feel sometimes.”

Al shut up. It was an all-time first. There was some movement here. That’s how we know things are changing

I asked Diane how she felt afterwards. She had made some new choices, not against her husband, but for herself. She had used her own mature, independent judgment. She had chosen to replace her old good intention to make him understand, which he could defeat by saying, “I don’t understand.” Instead, she told the truth and was honest. She was doing what pleased her for a change. In doing so, she began the process of replacing a lifetime of self-doubt with feelings of self-respect. This is called “Telling The Truth” and it took courage to say these things to Al for the first time.

Who gave her the courage to overcome a lifetime of discouragement? She gave it to herself.

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Shared by: Aaron Karmin, LCPC, Contributing Blogger

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