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Passive-Aggressive Behavior in a Relationship: Symptoms and Examples


Aggressiveness is a foul human trait. But instead of openly confronting, some people might like to play mind games with you: their insults will be more on the implicit side.

Have you caught yourself thinking that you are upset with your significant other, but can’t explain why? Well, passive-aggression lies deep inside, and these mind games can continue for years. All of a sudden, you might feel guilty or furious just after a compliment. Ah, but with the compliments come emotions, some of which are intended to hurt you.

Passive-aggressiveness is not a coincidence. It’s a manipulative and sneaky tactic. Instead of openly talking about a problem, your beloved one can pull a “lock in a sock” trick on you. Are you tired of these emotional rollercoasters? Want to know how examples of passive-aggressive relationships look like? How to prevent and learn to alter this behavior? With this article, you’ll see a great depiction of passive-aggression and will be able to combat these tricks.

examples of passive aggressive

What Does It Mean to Be Passive-Aggressive?

First, we have to get down to the definition of passive-aggressive.

Being passive-aggressive means developing a skill of hurting people without hurting them physically. They have no evidence of being ridiculed, yet there is a feeling of something wrong deep inside. Although, there is more than one passive-aggressive definition.

Because passive-aggressiveness is very implicit and silent, a patient may suffer from this treatment for years without realizing they have been manipulated from the beginning. These techniques involve gaslighting, victim-blaming, silent treatment or ignoring.

Where Does It Come From?

People may learn how to be passive-aggressive from different sources.

Their family circle. If your mother says, “Go and play with Timmy, I’m sure we’ll finish the chores by tomorrow with your father,” there is a strong implicit message that you shouldn’t go outside, or your family will be upset. But on the surface, the phrase sounds quite encouraging! Due to parental mistakes, children learn passive-aggressiveness from them since it’s their way to cope with it.

Being a narcissist in a relationship. Narcissistic behavior is a disorder, so narcissists apply a whole bunch of tricks just to feel validated or get what they want. They may imply guilt, fake illnesses or pretend to be too tired just to make sure you feel the worst. It happens because they don’t see others suffering and are unable to detect emotions.

how to deal with passive aggressiveIntentional way to hurt a partner, manipulation for the sake of winning the situation. That is what we call “pettiness” in other words. Petty people will be salty and passive-aggressive just to have the last word in case you insulted them. They love revenge and love hurting people even a little, just for the sake of it.

Examples of Passive-Aggressive Behavior

So, if you visit a single ladies dating site and want to spot a passive-aggressor, how do you do that? It also implies if you often ask yourself, “Am I passive-aggressive?” These are the situations that may help you recognize a passive-aggressive personality so that you can understand this person’s portrait better.

1. Giving you double signals

What it looks like, “Oh, I’m sure you can go with Hannah since you love her so much!” What it means, “I dare you to go out with your co-worker! I will probably never talk to you again if you do this to me.” Things like that may drive a normal person insane. It is very hard to detect anger from a person who speaks in riddles and never confronts others. This behavior makes you scared and ready to learn your partner’s behavior in details to perfectly know what exactly will make them mad next time.

2. Silent treatment

What it looks like:

-Is everything okay with you?
-…

What it means, “I am pissed at you but completely unable to express anger. I will be pissed at you even more if you don’t try to guess or get to the root of the problem. If you forget about it or let it slide, I will think of you as of a thick-skinned idiot who never cares about me!”

Passive-aggressive manipulation often requires silent treatment, as staring at your partner uncomfortably and making a rotten face makes them feel guilty without even knowing the problem. Patients who have experienced silent treatments from their childhood grew up neurotic and paranoid about everything, scared to talk or do wrong. The silent treatment may lead to a loss of identity and learned helplessness.

3. Bringing up the past

What it looks like, “I am sure you will find the right way since the last time we got lost, we were late for my sister’s wedding!”

What it means, “I just want to remind you of all of your wrongdoings before I have the chance to confront you. If I prevent it by making this remark, you may think twice before making the wrong decision. I also put the pressure on you and remind you things you have already regretted and cussed yourself for.”

People bring up your mistakes just to hurt you a little bit more. It is not okay and in some cases, you may have to ask not to recite a recent situation when it’s beneficial just to let you down.

4. Not wanting to communicate with your circle

What it looks like, “I can’t go with your friends because of this sudden meeting. But the meeting is very important.”

What it means, “I am scared to meet your friends and some of them I despise. I just don’t want to seem like a bad person by confronting the issue, that’s why I’m going to disappear and flake on them because it does not make me an even worse person.” Things like sudden illnesses, urgent meetings, and fake excuses will only make it worse.

5. Deliberately forgetting to tell you stuff

What it looks like, “I didn’t tell you that the car was broken! What? You always know better, of course!”

What it means, “I can’t stand you pretending to be perfect so I am waiting for you to mess up big time.” Examples of passive-aggressive forgetfulness can be different, but be sure that this person remembers it all, it’s just beneficial for them to ridicule you by not telling you some information.

6. Comparing

What it looks like, “Sarah’s boyfriend has recently proposed! What a good man!”

What it means, “I can’t believe you still didn’t propose me so I want to make you feel inferior to this man I’ve just complimented, so you could move faster, driven by your sense of competitiveness!” Comparing is low and awful passive-aggressive behavior.

passive aggressive personality7. Faking illnesses, bad mood, etc.

What it looks like, “My back hurts so much from carrying all of these bags…”

What it means, “I can’t believe you didn’t help me carry those bags! I will pretend to be sick all day so that you will understand your mistake!” It is a thing a passive-aggressive woman would do to make her man feel sorry for not caring enough.

How to Confront Passive-Aggressive Manipulation?

Now that we saw passive-aggressive signs, let’s learn how to deal with passive-aggressive behavior.

1. Don’t take it personally. Remember that it’s not your fault that a person can’t properly express their emotions. It’s too soon to feel guilty. Don’t be angry because they are trying to get on your nerves. Instead, stay calm and realize it’s just their behavioral patterns that are trying to hurt you.

2. Don’t try to answer aggression with aggression. Answering your partner negatively will only worsen the situation. Instead, try to remove your masks and get them a direct conflict, “I understand that you don’t want me to go. Can you tell me why?”

3. Stay positive or resilient. If you don’t react to a pinpoint, you will never be the victim. They can try to let you down as many times as they want (if it doesn’t insult you). React it similarly as to a child’s behavior, stubborn and obvious, with good words.

4. Make them see you understand the point. Don’t act as you don’t notice anything. Cut to the core and ask what makes them so upset. Try to end the situation before silent treatment starts. If you can’t do things their way, explain why you don’t agree even if your partner is silent.

5. Don’t try to save a pathological passive-aggressor. If it affects your mental health, and you’ve tried to be a good cop, but it doesn’t seem to work, leave this toxic environment. Maybe it’s how they are – irritated and unable to start a conflict. You are not a doctor.

Am I Passive-Aggressive?

But what if you think YOU are the one who’s always passive-aggressive? There are some signs to find out:

  • You’ve been called passive-aggressive.
  • You think it’s a good idea to flake on a person who insulted you, without explanation.
  • You think your partner is always unfair, but you never talked about it.
  • You think it’s easier to disappear from an uncomfortable situation rather than confront those people/deal with those factors.
  • You like drama and revenge.
  • You subtweet or send cryptic messages about your SO on social media just to let everyone know they abuse you, but don’t make it sound too obvious.

Remember that passive-aggression is no joke. It is considered a form of abuse, so if you think that your closest person does some silent harm to you, try to persuade them to visit a therapist’s office. But if it doesn’t happen often, just note situations when that happens and try to prevent the cause by turning passive-aggression to active aggression, and then to peace.

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