By Veronica Jacques
Help Me Oh God! It had been four years into my marriage when I finally had to sit down and have a long conversation with myself. Being brutally honest and with no excuses I had to admit my marriage was a mess. I no longer felt love, affection, adoration, even friendship from or for my fairly new spouse. The dating was great, the first 6 months were good, but why has the train jumped the track. Fussing, fighting, silent treatments, disrespect, bitterness, and resentment to say the least. Name-calling,intentionally hurtful comments, and ignoring each others very presence. How can things get so bad so fast? After much soul searching and research and looking at the dynamics of my marriage, I came to realize my husband was a chronic text-book passive aggressive.
Definition of Passive Aggressive Behavior-a personality trait, is passive, sometimes obstructionist resistance to following through with expectations in interpersonal or occupational situations. It is a personality trait marked by a pervasive pattern of negative attitudes and passive, usually disavowed resistance in interpersonal or occupational situations. It can manifest itself as learned helplessness, procrastination, stubbornness, resentment, sullenness, or deliberate/repeated failure to accomplish requested tasks for which one is (often explicitly) responsible.
Signs & Symptoms
Ambiguity or speaking cryptically: a means of engendering a feeling of insecurity in others
Chronically being late and forgetting things: another way to exert control or to punish.
Fear of competition; Fear of dependency; Fear of intimacy as a means to act out anger: The passive aggressive often cannot trust. Because of this, they guard themselves against becoming intimately attached to someone.
Making chaotic situations; Making excuses for non-performance in work teams; Obstructionism
Procrastination; Sulking’ and victimization response: instead of recognizing one’s own weaknesses, tendency to blame others for own failures.
A passive-aggressive person may not have all of these behaviors, and may have other non-passive-aggressive traits.
Who treats a spouse this way? Apparently, tens of thousands of married couples are dealing with this chameleon. Passive Aggression silently sabotages the marriage by blending in and imbedding itself in the very fibers of the day-to-day marriage habits and activities. You’ll start to adjust your personality to cope with the PA’s strange behavior. At first, it will be subtle. Yielding here and there, making excuses for the moodiness, and then conforming for the sake of survival. This is understandable because it’s not easy to spot passive aggressive behavior, but once you know what you’re really dealing with and what the PA personality is capable of; you will begin to handle things appropriately.
A typical conversation with my passive aggressive husband.
Wife- “Why did I marry you!?”
Husband- “You the one agreed to get married!”
You can imagine this would bring on an explosive barrage of insults on my part and him leaving the room, or even the house on his part. We were getting no where. Everything I tried wasn’t working. Why not? I’m a reasonable inteligent woman. There had to be something I could do, but what?
What could I do? Get out! That’s what! I didn’t sign on for this foolishness and to stay married to this idiot was wrecking my sanity. I am soooo angry at my husband for being a PA and not handling life better so I could have a great marriage. And secondly, at myself for not seeing the beginning of the relationship for what it was, not a fairytale, but the beginning of a journey that will blend and merge two people into one. He didn’t want to be a Passive Aggressive just as much as I didn’t want him to be. But he didn’t have a clue what I was screaming about nor any idea he has a personality disorder. Passive aggressive? What’s that; a rock band?
In spite of all my anger, I took my marriage vows seriously. I didn’t want to divorce, but what choice did I have? I made those vows to my husband, a crowd of witnesses, but more importantly, to God. But God didn’t want me to put up with this, right? That’s not what he was calling me to do. That’s not what I promised, was it? Let’s take a look…
Do you take this man to be your husband – to live together after God’s ordinance – in the holy estate of matrimony? Will you love him, comfort him, honor and keep him, in sickness and in health, for richer, for poorer, for better, for worse, in sadness and in joy, to cherish and continually bestow upon him your heart’s deepest devotion, forsaking all others, keep yourself only unto him as long as you both shall live? ”
Okay God, how am I supposed to stay in this situation? You’re not really going to hold me to this covenant. I need a “Get out of Jail Free” card. Well, God didn’t give me a pass, but what He did give was more valuable then I could have imagined; a joyful and contented life. These are the steps God revealed to me overtime to keep me emotionally stable and to help me begin to build a healthy marriage. Not a perfect marriage, but a meaningful relationship within the parameters of marriage.
Top Ten Ideas that have moved my marriage in a more positive direction.
Keep my covenant with God and remember my vows. God honors those who honor Him.
Look at the positives in your husband. Yes, there are some. ie, sense of humor, helpful, sees the big picture, industrious. You have to push past the negatives in the PA personality and remember those good qualities.
Don’t hide the fact that you can identify the PA’s tactics. Address them openly and honestly so the PA can began to take note of those behaviors. This has to be done in a respectful and timely manner. Not coming on too strong or in anger. You don’t want it to appear as a character assassination.
Remain calm. Becoming angry is the excuse they need to continue to withdraw. Anger increases fear in a PA and will shut down the flow of communication or explode the conversation out of control.
Don’t blame yourself. Remember, the PA personality trait is learned over time. In my husband’s case, he developed these social skills long before he met me.
Focus on yourself. Get some hobbies and goals. Making the PA your entire world is a set-up for disappointment. When they pull away on purpose just to prove a point, you have a base and structure to “support” you.
Don’t complete or take on the tasks that are the PA’s responsibility. From as simple as cleaning up or to as important as paying the electric bill. His favorite statement, “I forgot” or the non-verbal, “I’m pouting right now” is not a reason for me to pull double duty. When the electricity was shut off, the entire house was dark, not just the room I was in. I made my point.
Develop your personal relationships. God, family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, church, etc. Building a balanced circle of peers will allow you to maintain stability in your life as you grow and develop. This will send two messages: 1. To your spouse. His blatant overtures in punishment from lack of intimacy are lost on you. And 2. To yourself. You will not melt into the floor on the days when the PA personality is in overdrive. You have a life that includes him, but is not totally dependent on him. Whether you work outside the home or a stay at home Mom, you have daily opportunities to build relationships that will nuture and give your life balance. No one person can meet all your needs.
Be understanding and remind yourself that your passive aggressive husband learned this behavior as a protection from fear brought on by emotional stresses; abandonment, failure, competition, loneliness, disappointment, etc. Keeping this in mind helps you to see him as a human with flaws and not a two-headed monster that is out to destroy your happiness.
Recognize you hold the power in the relationship. The PA personality does not have the social skills to build and maintain a healthy relationship. You do. Be gracious and loving. Be consistent in how you communicate your thoughts and feelings and over time your husband can learn those skills from you. Mirroring the very behaviors needed to have a healthy marriage.
The time it takes for healing process to run its course will be determined by how deep the PA personality traits are entrenched in your spouse. My spouse’s biggest fear is the thing he craved the most. Intimacy. And what is marriage, if not intimacy in its purest form. So practicing these ten key steps have helped us in rebuilding our marriage. Improving communication, which is key in maintain intimacy in any relationship. The change is not overnight and very well may take the entire marriage. But you have to be in for the long haul to promote and experience a lasting change.
Why I stayed? The answer is simple. I wanted a good solid marriage for myself, my husband, and my children. I believe in marriage and the positives that can bless lives for generations to come. But the work it takes to achieve my dreams is self-sacrificing, challenging, and continuous. I work daily to stay focused on the end product; a healthy and loving marriage where my family will grow and flourish.
Veronica is an experienced business professional with over 20 years in contract administration and procurement. Married, full-time mother, and working from home. She writes from what she knows the way people need to hear it; in true Veronica style.