10 Examples of Passive Aggressive Behavior in a Relationship

It happens in everyday life that we are attacked, but we don't immediately identify that. These are always grumbling, dissatisfied, offended people, scolding everything from the weather to the government, and "well-wishers" who give advice and show "care." Psychologists call such behavior latent, or passive aggression. It causes a natural internal protest, although, at the logical level, it is often difficult for you to explain to yourself what happened and what hit you so much. You may encounter this not only in public places but also in the company of close people.

Let’s figure out what passive aggression is, see the passive-aggressive definition, where it comes from, where it hides, and what to do when you encounter it in everyday life.

passive aggressive personality

Definition of Passive-Aggressive Behavior

So, what’s the definition of passive-aggressive? One can easily hear something like this in the locker room of a fitness club, “You see, I’m out of luck, he turned out to be a passive aggressor.” This expression is often used without an accurate idea of what is hidden behind it. The term itself was proposed during World War II by an American military psychiatrist, Colonel William Menninger. He noticed that some soldiers refuse to obey orders: not rebelling against them openly, they drag on time, grumble, act inefficiently, that is, engage in passive-aggressive behavior (sabotage their orders).

Subsequently, passive-aggressive personality disorders were included in the famous DSM, a Diagnostic and Statistical Handbook of Mental Disorders, compiled by the influential American Psychiatric Association. And then removed from it in 1994, when the fourth edition was published: their clinical description seemed to be vague the compilers.

Although the term was deleted from the psychiatric classification, it did not disappear, but gradually penetrated into everyday speech. Many experts also continue to use it and even believe that there are more and more personalities of this type. “In Freud’s time, sexual repression contributed to hysteria or obsession,” says psychoanalyst Marie-José Lacroix. “In our era, with its narcissism and uncertainty about the future, we are seeing an increase in the number of addictions, depressions, as well as borderline and passive-aggressive disorders.”

Reasons for Passive-Aggressiveness

The human psyche consists of two main parts: aggressive and sexual. The aggressive part is our driving force, all of the things we can give, energy to achieve and get what we want. And the main emotion associated with this part is anger, which in itself is a completely positive emotion that helps us survive. But if the anger does not find a way out, does not manifest itself in any way, but is in every way restrained and suppressed, then the energy is directed inward and carries grave consequences for the psyche. The skill to suppress one's anger comes from childhood. A child cannot challenge their parents, cannot get angry with them, defeat them with words or actions, therefore, they often have to obey, and keep their emotions inside. In this sense, girls are more "broken," requiring them to be good, obedient, quiet, boys are usually more allowed to show their aggression.

Suppressing anger in oneself is an interrupted reaction of the body. Any emotion can be decomposed into a spectrum of certain hormones that trigger a physiological reaction of the body. In the case of anger, these are clenched jaws and fists, heart palpitations, high blood pressure. This reaction is not controlled by the mind; it arises instinctively. When there is a verbal or physical threat, the chain of reflexes starts automatically and irrevocably.

definition of passive aggressiveChildren, at the bodily level, experience the whole spectrum of reactions, but they cannot resist and express it - there is a parental ban on doing so. And then, over time, they get used to suppressing these kinds of emotions, which in adulthood manifests itself in two ways.

The first one is when a person who suffers for a long time, is silent, and then all the accumulated negativity erupts through an uncontrolled outbreak.

The second one is when a person loses contact with their anger and ceases to notice it, which develops into a certain style of behavior and thinking. Such people are grumbling, always dissatisfied, constantly scandalizing, for them everything around is bad, etc.

Such "background" suppressed anger turns into a habit, and people even stop noticing it. But it is very noticeable to others and manifests itself in several forms, which I will discuss right now.

10 Examples of Passive-Aggressive Behavior

Passive-aggressive behavior does not mean that you are a bad person. On the contrary, often people behave this way precisely because they try to look good, not offend anyone, or quarrel with someone they love. But in fact, they lack the confidence to openly express anger, irritation, resentment. They learned from childhood that this is unsafe. Here are 10 examples of passive-aggressive behavior.

1. Criticism in relationships under the guise of compliments

Am I passive-aggressive? You seem to be sweet and gracious, but in your words, you can guess the subtext, humiliating for the interlocutor. For example, your friend finally bought a car that they have been saving for a long time, but now they have no money for a vacation with you. You are angry and say something like, “Oh, cool, a car. At least you’ll get to work on it.” If you are offended that the presentation of the company was assigned to another employee, you say, “What beautiful colors you used. I like it! But aren't they too flashy? After all, we still are an accounting company.”

2. You often complain about the problems

Instead of saying that you are not comfortable with the situation, accepting responsibility for its change, you prefer to complain.

3. You are doing something "for the show"

You agree to do what you don’t want to do, for example, attend an event. But you are just there - you do not communicate with anyone and count the minutes until the moment when you can go home. Staying at an event seems ridiculous to you. But wasn’t it ridiculous not to say “no” right away? If all of the drama of your daily life makes you sad and depressed, you can’t stand the actions of your partner – then you have to remember that you don’t have to cling on to them, you will have many more relationships with women in the future. And while you may end up encountering a passive-aggressive woman in the future, remember that we are all prone to it, and it can be fixed, it is just anger that needs to find a way out.

4. You agree to do something but procrastinate

You are asked to bring the documents at a specific time. You are so angry with the person who imposed this business on you that you come at the very last moment.

5. You intentionally perform difficult tasks in such a way as to avoid them in the future

At heart, you want to slightly “punish” a person who asked to do something that you don’t want. You do the work somehow so that in the future, you are not addressed with such requests.

6. You "forget" about unpleasant things

You do not want to go to a party with your friends because they, without asking you, called your ex there. The next morning you send them a message that you completely forgot about the invitation. Or "forgot" about helping a colleague who asked you to rate and edit their resume.

7. You never truly forget

A friend forgot to wish you a happy birthday - you don’t tell them anything, but next time you don’t invite them to your party. A colleague drank the Coke that you left in the office refrigerator, you seem to not notice it, but, when no one sees you, you eat the last piece of chocolate lying on her table.

8. You ignore letters, messages, and conversations

Noticing that you have a frustrated look, your sister asks what happened. You walk away from the conversation, saying, "Nothing, everything is just fine," leaving her to be lost in conjecture. A text irritates you, and you remain silent or answer after a while, but talk about something completely different.

9. You do harm in the little things

This behavior is often difficult to admit to oneself since it is a matter of minor things. Nevertheless, you want to at least hurt another person that makes you angry. For example, you do not remind your colleague about the upcoming planning meeting, munch cookies in the presence of a dieter, and so on.

passive aggressive personality10. You make other people feel guilty

The last of the passive-aggressive signs is very important and very damaging to the people around a person that likes to use passive-aggressive manipulation. Your friend unexpectedly gets a ticket to a concert of their favorite band. But this means that they will not be able to come to your dinner, although you have agreed on this a long time ago. You say, "I am very happy for you, of course, go and do not worry about me, I’m already used to spending Friday nights alone." Your partner went with friends to the exhibition, forgetting that they promised to take you with them. Your reaction, “It's okay, I need to moderate my expectations.”

Now that we are done with examples of passive-aggressive behavior, let’s find out the ways of dealing with passive-aggressive in relationships.

Dealing with Passive-Aggressive Personality in Relationships

The most important thing in such situations is to maintain composure. It is important to act like an adult. For example, in the case of grandmother, this will be a polite yet stoic answer, “This is my child, and I decide what is best for them. Thanks for work." And even if the attack goes on, do not enter into conflict, do not attack in return, but hold on to the defense firmly. Do not get involved in an aggressor game. Such people unknowingly want to pour on you that anger that has been accumulating for years and most often has nothing to do with you.

1. Ask direct and frank questions

How to deal with passive-aggressive behavior? Let’s say that you are being constantly compared to your neighbor by your partner with a passive-aggressive personality, say something on the lines of, “Let's be frank. Do you like our neighbors? You say she's more attractive than me. Or do you just want me to take less care of my child and spend more time with you? Tell me honestly, I want to know what you want."

2. Talk about your feelings in a confident tone, act like an adult

Let’s say that you don’t appreciate your passive-aggressive relationships, and your partner always keeps bringing up something that you don’t like, even if only “by accident.” For example, “Such conversations in my presence are unpleasant for me, and I don’t want you discussing them in my presence, please, discuss them when I go out.” Show no feelings when encountered with the information you don’t like. Talk about your feelings, but be direct, be stoic, be short. Leave no information to cling on to, you have your own opinion on any given matter, and you will not tolerate passive-aggressiveness.

3. Set clear boundaries

If you notice manifestations of passive aggression - endure it for a long time, keep silent, and then pour it out (often not on the addressee, but on someone weaker), grumble or feel envy and want to get rid of it, then you should learn to translate your aggression from negative to positive, that is, direct it into action. Set boundaries, express your opinion, be angry. Certain training or work with a psychologist will help you with that. Act in real life, do not spend your life energy on envy, gossip, and anger.

To some extent, passive-aggressive behavior is not alien to anyone. But if you realize that you are manifesting this form of aggression quite often, it makes sense to read literature on this topic and work on yourself and your own behavior. If it complicates your life, you should seek the help of specialists. Psychodynamic and cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy works especially well in such cases.

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