Recognizing Four Passive-Aggressive Behaviors in Your Marriage and Tips to Overcome Them

Tip #1: Be More Self-Aware – In order to respond effectively to your partner’s passive-aggressive behaviors, you have to recognize the feelings of anger and hostility their behavior is arousing within yourself. Take responsibility for yourself and own your feelings. Understand that if you have to ask your partner to perform a seemingly simple task more than twice, he/she is likely behaving passive-aggressively. Instead of engaging in the behavior yourself and responding to your partner by yelling and screaming (what he/she wants), try to remain calm and discuss your feelings with your partner. You could say something like “I feel like you are not listening to me, as I have asked you to do ________ two times already. I don’t want to fight about it, but can we talk about why you haven’t done it yet?” Perhaps he/she has a good reason. Perhaps he/she does not. Either way, you are avoiding an argument (hopefully) and giving your partner an opportunity to discuss his/her feelings with you in a calm and collected manner.

Tip #2: Be Clear With Your Requests – Sometimes things seem very obvious and clear to us in our own heads, but in the head of the recipient, these messages may not be so clear. For example, if you ask your partner to run to the market to pick up some last minute groceries because you have a dinner party to prepare for tomorrow, be sure to state this specifically in your request. Simply asking your partner to do you the favour by going to the store is sometimes enough, but you have to keep in mind that your partner cannot read your mind. Perhaps he/she has forgotten that you have a dinner party tomorrow. Maybe he/she has a lot going on and it has slipped their mind. Whatever the reason is, if you are very clear and specific in your requests, this lessens the chances of miscommunication and misunderstanding, which inevitably lead to conflict. For example, instead of requesting you partner to just go to the store for you to get a few items, you could say something like: “I have that big dinner party tomorrow and it would be very helpful to me if you would run up to the store and get me some lettuce and tomatoes for the salad I’m going to make.” This request was very specific in nature, and also served as a reminder to the recipient of the reason why the groceries were needed so urgently. Make sure the tone of voice you are using is neutral, yet assertive, but be careful not to sound bossy or condescending.

Overall, passive-aggressive behaviors, while effective at achieving their purpose in the short-term, can cause a marriage or relationship to quickly diminish if they become the dominant behaviors in your relationship. Passive-aggressive behavior usually means that you are suppressing feelings of anger and hostility. Therefore, it is always better to address these feelings and figure out why you are having them as opposed to continue down the destructive path of passive-aggression in your relationship. Remember, positive communication is the key to a healthy relationship. If you are not communicating effectively, your relationship will noticeably suffer. While passive-aggressive behaviors do convey emotion and communicate feelings, they do so in an indirect, covert manner which is unhealthy and destructive to a marriage or partnership.

If you think that your marriage could benefit from marriage counseling, please give me a call at 858-481-0425 for a consultation today so that I can help you and your spouse get back on the road to a happy, healthy relationship!

Copyright ©2012 Jan Rakoff. All Rights Reserved.

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