Passive Aggressive Diaries

Understanding passive aggressive behavior in families, schools, and workplaces

4 Strategies to Effectively Confront Passive Aggressive Behavior in a Relationship

In relationships, passive aggressive behaviors are often used to avoid the direct confrontation of short-term conflict, but in the long-term, these dynamics can be even more destructive to marriage than outright aggression. Read More

Question regarding the silent

Question regarding the silent treatment, and sulking & withdrawal: how do you know when it's too much? I'm afraid I may be doing it but I don't know what else to do to protect myself. For example, there is someone I work with on a daily basis, who if I had the choice I would not see at all as they flirt inappropriately with me and treat women disrespectfully. Admittedly I got sucked in at the beginning with all the attention but recognized the player-ness before I got too far in. I do suffer from self-doubt and self-defeating thoughts when I hear about the newest "amazing" girl he's dating but outwardly so far I've been pretty strong.

I've been trying to treat him like everyone else and I even had a few conversations with him to try to let him know what I wanted him to stop doing. He will stop for a bit but then starts back up again when he stops seeing whichever girl of the month he is seeing and is needing attention again. Because of my desire for a relationship, I feel like I could get sucked in again so I try to keep my distance. If he approaches me and says hi or something I will respond with a hi and maybe another sentence but that is about it. I feel guilty not being more nice to him, mostly because everyone else loves him (even though even they say he's a player, he's charming and boy-ish) and I feel like I'm being horrible and a 5-letter b-word... Am I appropriately protecting myself or am I being passive aggressive?


I'm no psychologist but I think you already know the answer. You need to put yourself out there, don't ignore your own needs. To me it sounds that either you're unhappy in your current relationship or you're single.

Think about it like that(the way I'm sure he would think if in your shoes): Perhaps who knows you and him might eventually in the future have a fling or even something more, but in the meantime, you should be dating other people. Just like he is. And, completely forgetting about his very existence from time to time is ok, even healthy. Maybe it doesn't work for everybody but, I think that dating a lot is fun, and it's something everybody should do in my opinion. It gets us more realistic and less passively expecting of things that might never happen, more proactive towards what we need, more willing to change paths.

Better yet, you should break off this dynamics, being in a state of mind where you're behaving chiefly in passive reaction to his person(be that opposing or concurring) says you're emotionally attached to him somehow. It's your life, running out by the minute, later down the road you won't be able to blame anyone about succumbing to your self-doubt and self-defeating thoughts but yourself. Think about that.

As for this man, assuming your opinions aren't too much colored by your feelings, he sounds somewhat narcissistic to me. People like that take a lot and give too little, but boy, are they charming.
Of course everybody loves him(including you apparently), that doesn't necessarily make him someone who won't cause you pain.

Interesting...can you please

Interesting...can you please clarify your third paragraph? I know everyone wants me to "act like I don't care" but that feels so dishonest to me, and is really hard for me to keep up. (Is that what you mean?) Yep, I'm single. Always have been, due to past trauma I'm working through. A counselor even told me that he thinks I'm incredibly brave for trying to work through everything and that after what I've been through he's amazed I would even want a relationship...which either makes me incredibly brave or incredibly stupid, haha.

I think what you're getting at, and what I would agree with, is that if I were in another relationship or dating someone else I would not care one way or the other if this guy talked to me, and while I would still not seek out his company, I would be able to speak to him more freely. Of course that's exactly what he wants (I know because he said it). For me to forgive his not-so-thoughtful-to-me-ness and have fun again. In other words, he wants to be able to flirt with me when he wants. It's hard for me to see that as something good for me without seeing it as him trying to relieve his guilt, get what he wants, and control the situation. Every time I have tried to forgive him and do things his way, he has done something inconsiderate or inappropriate again.

This just tugs right at the part of me that says "you are not lovable and you will always be alone. You were mistreated because you deserved it." It's hard. I want a break from him/feeling like this which is why I try to distance myself as much as I can, since like I've said, it's unavoidable that I see him. I know there's a lesson I need to learn that I'm sure this situation is making me look at. I'm just trying to figure out how to not take things out on him and be fair to myself at the same time...

Thanks for the response :)

Rather Late Reply

I agree very much with what Cerulean said and I think you need to read this article on narcissism.

You may feel bad about the way you treat this man, but trust me, if anything, you're being too kind to him. What I have learned and how I cope when love (or better yet being in-love) gets in your way (and by that I mean you know for sure nothing good will come of it but you just can't help it) is that when you're in-love you tend to idolize the person you're in-love with. You erase all his/hers flaws, you enhance all his/her qualities and basically in your mind you make this person perfect. What you must always remember is that there is no such thing as perfect and your mind is simply playing tricks on you because of the being in-love sensation. The one way I learned to counter it was to do the very opposite - focus on the persons flaws and make his/hers good qualities very poor at best.

It's the best way (that I know of) on how to tackle love that only gets you into a world of pain. And think about it ... every month he talks about a different girl (girl of the month as you call it) do you really see yourself having a stable, long-term relationship with him?

Read the article on narcissism which will tell you that it's not your fault and even if you were a wonder-woman, you couldn't make any difference. So really bite in and study every bit of that article to realise that the kind of person you're dealing with is a no-good-er, and sooner or later your mind should realise the same thing.

There are many usefull articles out there, I just hope my reply was helpful and that you will once find a man, that's good and honest - as oppose to charming and decietful.

What if I am the one who is passive agressive..?

I can admit that I am passive agressive towards my parents. I am 19 but my parents still feel the need to control me in every way possible down to how I am supposed to feel and when I should be hungry. I don't want to get into too many details, but the bottom line is if someone is passive agressive and they are avoiding confrontation, its probably because confrontation would not benefit them. In my case, my parents do not want me to argue or disobey them and if I do, then they do not rationally respond for longer than a minute. They simply impose their control by making threats like "Fine, you don't get this or that/ you're grounded". To avoid their total domination over me, I avoid arguing or directly counteracting their message and annoy them or act in a way that they do not like. For example, I would say I'm not hungry to ruin their dinner plans. I know thats evil but that's what they get for trying to control me. I can't help behaving this way because by abiding to their every wish, I would go mad. What can the passive agressive person do to get their message across more peacefully?

Rather Late Reply

Hey there, it's indeed a common problem you're facing. The best advice I can give to you is to seek the help of a certified adult (eg. counselor, psychotherapist, ...) because if your parents don't treat YOU seriously, then you need an adult they will take seriously to help you get out of this problem.

There should be many options to get in touch with someone like that, a help-phone or something where you ask how to get someone to help you on the matter, or a local psychiatric clinic and of course there should be a counselors office at the uni (or school or high-school).

I know your situation very well and I know just how frustrating it can be when you have to sacrifice yourself as much as you can just to avoid the no-win-situation conflict. So like I said, getting someone with merit on your side is the way to go.

I hope this helps,

Follow-up question

Great post, Ms. Whitson. Thanks!

I have a question about the last step: I don't understand how the approach of leaving the passive-aggressive party's (finally) expressed anger dangling and then moving on to the next topic or activity, will improve the overall relationship dynamic.

I know the article is geared toward toward helping the 'survivor' cope, rather than fixing the 'perpetrator', but I was thinking that in the case of a committed partnership or marriage, the motivation to correct or at least improve the behavior, rather than just getting through the day, would be high.

Is there a way (or would it be productive?) to somehow 'reward' the passive-aggressive person when they express their anger overtly, so they'll learn that when they choose honest expression over unproductive p.a. acts, they receive a better response, or at least one that leads to resolution/faster resolution, and thereby better relationships? This is a person you presumably love, so don't you, too, even as the one on the receiving end of this crud, which is really frustrating position to be in, want the person to adopt a better strategy for communicating?

Your post was helpful, informative, and thought-provoking, and I'm looking forward to your thoughts on the last step. Thank you very much!

Follow-up question

Great post, Ms. Whitson. Thanks!

I have a question about the last step: I don't understand how the approach of leaving the passive-aggressive party's (finally) expressed anger dangling and then moving on to the next topic or activity, will improve the overall relationship dynamic.

I know the article is geared toward toward helping the 'survivor' cope, rather than fixing the 'perpetrator', but I was thinking that in the case of a committed partnership or marriage, the motivation to correct or at least improve the behavior, rather than just getting through the day, would be high.

Is there a way (or would it be productive?) to somehow 'reward' the passive-aggressive person when they express their anger overtly, so they'll learn that when they choose honest expression over unproductive p.a. acts, they receive a better response, or at least one that leads to resolution/faster resolution, and thereby better relationships? This is a person you presumably love, so don't you, too, even as the one on the receiving end of this crud, which is really frustrating position to be in, want the person to adopt a better strategy for communicating?

Your post was helpful, informative, and thought-provoking, and I'm looking forward to your thoughts on the last step. Thank you very much!

Rather Late Reply

Hi there camille.

I myself have witnessed the power that comes out of the 3rd step. In my case I was many time poorly treated and all I hod to thos to stop it is say "What have I ever done to you?" - I was astonished by the success of that simple question. In your case, however, it seems it's your partner you want to set straight.

The fourth step basically says you uncover the anger and then (if or when) the p.a. denies any anger, you let it be - you withdraw for the time being without pouring oil onto the fire with questions like "What do you mean you're not angry?" and the likes.

You leave your partner to think about his own anger and decide what to do with it (here I suggest that after some time - when you feel that your message got through (a day or two, maybe more) - you let him know that you're ready to talk about any unresolved issues and will accept whatever problems the partnership might be facing). You make it clear that you want to make the relationship last and that you're willing to listen and work out whatever problems threaten the bond ...

So in short it means to let your partner know you're there and that "you know" (sounds kinda' spooky but that's how it is I guess).

Now I'm no expert or anything, but this is what I made of it and what I suggest.

I hope this helps,

My untreated ADHD has earned

My untreated ADHD has earned me this label... and I have to say I don't like it very much. In fact, it hurts a lot.

Please consider addressing exactly how attention problems and sensory integration issues can mimic passive aggressive behavior.

This is an old post but needs

This is an old post but needs to be said. Blaming ADHD makes this person sound like a whiny child whose mommy always got them out of trouble because they are a "special snowflake".

It's pathetic, especially when people like this get into the workforce and can't perform because of "sensory issues" and expect special treatment because mommy taught them to blame their poor performance on a label.

Kids who are raised this way are intolerable as adults because their mantra is: "I'm not responsible for my behavior, because I'm special and different and you should pity me instead of asking me to act like an adult and own up to my bad behavior."

People like this need to grow up and realize that whatever "issues" they have are THEIR responsibility to deal with, and stop expecting others to treat them with kid gloves because of a label like ADHD. Whining that people shouldn't call you p/a because you "don't like it" is 100% immature and seriously entitled.

This person will have an ugly wake-up call someday when their boss sends them packing because they don't have time to coddle their "sensory issues" or deal with passive-aggressive behavior.

Do your research

Your comment demonstrates a lack of understanding of the disease ADHD. It appears to be more of an emotional response.

Unless you've done more stringent research than investigators who have conducted painstaking research into the root causes of ADHD--research that is recognized as valid by the CDC, the National Institutes of Mental Health, the World Health Organization, and the American Medical Association, you would benefit by looking into it further.

"...ADHD affects work performance even more than depression does..."It's more persistent and severe than many mental disorders, and it results in more sick days, more accidents, and more problems interacting with colleagues..."*
--Ron Kessler, professor of health care policy at Harvard Medical School and co-director of the WHO's World Mental Health Survey Consortium

CDC: Facts about ADHD (scroll halfway down for 'Causes' section)

National Institute of Mental Health/National Institutes of Health
(scroll down a bit for 'Causes')

National Research Center on ADHD (see 'Neurochemistry' section)


Glad my sensory issues have a

Glad my sensory issues have a legal and workable solution in the workplace, as they comprise a genuine disability. How do you manage your Raging A-hole Syndrome?


Nice to see this subject get a bit of exposure., especially since it's so much less apparent than the typical "hi-drama" types of aggression. I find perhaps the most insidious part of passive-aggression is this very "invisibility", where you may be totally unaware you're encountering it, while still trying your best... until "duh", it suddenly dawns on you that some of the difficulties in a relationship or situation may actually be "intentional"!

One of the most common passive-aggressive techniques I encounter working in the field of social services, where "responsibility" and "boundaries" issues are paramount, is the classic "stonewalling" and "I still don't understand" (even though you've left dozens of messages or explained something "8 ways to Sunday")!


k_lowen: I totally agree...the "invisibility" of this behavior is very insidious. It took me about 5 years to figure it out, but when I did I answered life-long questions about my mother and my upbringing was extremely enlightening and alleviating.

I moved in to help my brother financially in 2008 because he claimed that his recent girlfriend had cost him so much money that his home-based business was about to go under. What I learned recently though is that this too is a very common PA approach loved ones or family members for financial help who are either doing much better than they are, or who may be succeeding in areas where the PA could have failed.

I contacted that ex-girlfriend of his recently, and naturally the story is totally false and backwards. He cost her thousands, which leads me to yet another major PA trait: Psychological Projection, where they will blame others of the very actions in which they are themselves guilty in order to divert attention away from them, and to gain sympathy (or in my case money). A PA will always play the blame game's never their fault.

So I was lured to help him out financially under false pretenses, and because of his home-based business it cost me about $300 more per month to live there, which now translates to almost $22,000 I did not have to spend, and all to help him out (with absolutely no gratitude for my efforts I might add). I was at that time working out of town so I didn't really see him much right away (I would come home for visits on long-weekends until that contract job expired), but his behavior was starting to become suspect right away. I just attributed it to our mutually bad upbringing, which now I know he was counting on me to do.

It turns out that his passive aggressive behavior was turned on me the day I moved in. After moving in he told me this story about how he was behind about 8 years in tax filing, but there was no way I could have helped him out financially with that...he was also very ambiguous about what he actually owed. I just assumed that he could start to pay that back with the money I was now saving him in rent.

After talking to his ex-girlfriend a week ago I learned that he came to her with the exact same story a year earlier (before she kicked him out of her house). At that time she gave him a few thousand dollars to help him, whereas I did not. When I came home for my first visit after moving in, I could not find my my brand new vacuum cleaner. So I asked him where it was, and he replied, "Oh, I gave it away". What? Why? His reply was that we didn't need it because he already have one. I know now that this is a very typical PA reaction. He could have just as easily put it in our storage locker too, which is why I suspect that he sold it to get even with me for not offering him thousands of dollars to cover his back taxes, which everyone now suspects was never an issue anyway. Who knows what else he was doing when I wasn't around? PA's are always punishing those around's a given. They loathe competition and cannot stand seeing anyone around them doing better than they are, and will go to great lengths to make life difficult for you in an effort to bring you down to their level. My mother was exactly the same way; hence, we know where he learned it. At one point I did think that I was the same way, but after some research I determined that because I was always the rebellious one constantly questioning my mother's behavior, getting very angry at her (and my dad), this is probably what saved me. PA's typically have a history of repressed anger...mine was never repressed :-). I have always despised and stood up to bullies, and my mother was definitely no exception. This is not to say I was not affected by her abuse, and I would have done much better had I gone to therapy years ago. But I now feel that I have overcome her abuse. The cure? I have not spoken to her in years and hence have not bee subjected to her abuse.

This story about back taxes started about a year before his ex-girlfriend kicked him out of her house because he was simply a financial drain on her (in 2007). She estimated that he cost her about $30,000 over 8 years, which stands about right considering that he cost me about $22,000 without paying him extra for those taxes over 6 years. Then as soon as I gave him my first rent check in Sept 2008 he suddenly goes out and buys a new car. He probably had enough to buy a new car before I started sharing his financial burden, but it would have been too much of a burden on him to be broke and having to pay the high I got suckered to come in and pay for that. His ex-girlfriend though now has to live with the fact that she basically paid for his new car, all the while there was never any truth about his tax issue. That would certainly explain why he was spending so much time hiding that car every time he parked it at the house :-). Even though she didn't know that he had purchased a new car he was still quite paranoid that she would eventually learn.

And this is how PA's treat family and loved ones. I can't imagine what it's like living and working with one who is not related? :-). And yet so many of us are probably associating with them every day and just go home every day totally frustrated without knowing why. But as soon as one does learn why they become totally empowered, and the threat is diminished. There is so much information about PA's on-line, and web sites such as these are incredibly helpful.

Crossing this bridge

It has taken some time but I now know that my hubsand is PA. I plan to utilize these steps today and in the near future. I now hear my husband and what I now hear crushes me.

Learning that your husband is PA is heartbreaking, but

Learning that your husband is heartbreaking, but it is also very freeing. All those years spent with him blaming you for every wrong, you blaming yourself for every wrong are now clarified by knowing that it's HIM who has an issue, not you. All the anger you had was really HIS anger manifesting itself through you. Realizing that he cannot emotionally connect with anyone and that he only loves himself is a very important step to start the healing of his emotional abuse to you. Once I realized this with my PA husband it was like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders. It's NOT me. It's HIM! He's the problem in the marriage and always has been. His lack of love and support for me is astounding.

I am sick to death of my PA husband. I want a divorce, but with young kids I feel I need to do what's best for them. I have gotten to the point where when he starts his PA behavior I tell him I'm onto his mental issues, I know what's going on and I walk away from him. I stay away from him as much as possible and talk to him only when necessary.

He truly is a loser because he married a very warm, loving, affectionate woman and has returned none of that. Yes, we have children, but getting them was an "act", not love. I will never love him again, nor will I ever trust him again. I try to look to the future and keep hoping that one day I will find a man who isn't PA and can share a wonderful relationship with me.

Stop! That's Crazy-Making!

Thank you so much for those wonderful advises but I think this book by Dr. Rhoberta Shaler will help the reader to identify passive aggressive behaviour in relationships and offers strategies on coping with those behaviours.

which you can find in PDF format at and in Kindle/Nook format at

Is it the Silent Treatment (PA), or Emotional Survival?

Good article. I would like to add something to the discussion and consideration, however. A classic form of passive aggression is what is called the "silent treatment." A friend of mine, divorced after a long-term relationship in which there were elements of verbal and emotional abuse, shared reasons why she became more silent, as it were, over time. For her, it was emotional survival, not passive aggression. I think what she has to say is very important and is not heard often. I share it here:

Silent Treatment vs Emotional Survival

I do agree with you that there is s difference between “silences” here. However, I think they can be differentiated by “intent”. A PA will use “the silent treatment” as punishment, by not validating their victim. A person such as yourself is using silence as a defensive mechanism for self-preservation. Your intent seems to be that you are simply trying to avoid further verbal abuse, but you are not going out of your way to hurt your spouse. A PA will always go out of their way to hurt their victims…it’s the nature of the beast…they are always punishing people.

Couple thoughts on this topic

I'm married to a PA woman and I have battled long (15 yrs) and hard to understand and manage her PA behaviors. The most effective tool I have used is to reverse the situation. When she comes home and immediately acts frustrated, picks fights, and tells me that I "never" do anything around the house (trigger: dishes in the sink), I say, "I agree, I failed to do the dishes. Now tell me what I did do? You need to focus on praising my accomplishments, not point out my failures" Reversing the direction of the conversation to force her to think about the positives. This also works well whe she hides her agenda and expects me to guess the right answer. Her: "Where do you want to go for dinner? Me: how about Mexican. Her: no, I'm not in the mood for Mexican. Me: Chinese? Her: no. And on"... And when this happens, after my second suggestion, or third, I say, "we'll those are my choices. You can either pick one or come up with your own. Usually she will make a choice. And usually she will follow that with, "or, we could go to..." Which puts the act of making the choice back in my court. I usually ask which she prefers? Usually she sticks with the first choice. Note this typically happens while we are driving.

I have all the symptoms, but I'm not angry, just really stressed

I have read this passive-aggressive article and find all signs fitting me, except the aggressive part. I'm not aggressive, do not have any anger or recentment. None, nada! I'm stressed from a lot of work, so I just don't get things done at home. I don't have the time. I forget things, procrastinate. Even now, make up excuses... But honestly, I think the PA-label could pretty easily be put on anyone working a lot (excuse?).
The last three months I've worked more than 100 hours a week, me procrastinating, when I think about it, is a mere question of survival. Yes, I promised to not sleep in in the mornings, I had to work until 3 am and get up at 7 am all week and the baby woke my up at 5 for 30 minutes. It's not excuses, it's a matter of physiology. I'm not trying to passively hurt anyone. I just needed to sleep (Excuse?)

But then again, was surfing a lot to find out if something was wrong with me/her this after a big argument, I found my wife had symptoms fitting an emotional abusive person. That follows the circle: Abuse->guilt->excuse->Normal behavior->Fantasy->Set-up->Abuse....
I don't see the anger from my wife comming ("normal behavior" ->-> "setup"), strikes out of the blue (abuse), it's massive, dragging past errors, present faults and the things I've forgot to do...a monologue, I can't say anything, it feels bad in my stomach, if I say anything, explain myself, I get the "Excuses, excuses!"-reply. If something is out of my hands, third person did something that corrupted my work, how is that an excuse? Excuse, is to my something I personally is to blame for. Sure, I take the responsibillity when I mess up, that's when I can excuse. The other thing is an explanation! Out of my hands!

Right now I've even got an e-mail with an excuse: Sorry, yelled, but something needs to be done with your getting up in the morning". Again typically abusive, "it was your fault I yelled..."

I guess my point is, I don't believe that my behavioral pattern cannot just be symptoms of stress. And the same goes for my wifes behavior.


Based on your comment I don't see PA behavior. I do see a lot of stress and anxiety, but under the circumstances that you described I would think that this is explainable and quite normal. We are all guilty of one or two passive aggressive traits from time to time, but those who exhibit all of the traits all of the time are the ones with the big problem. If you exhibit ALL of the traits in the reduced list below continually, then you might be a PA. Try to visualize these behaviors from someone with a smile :-):

• Ambiguity: Think of the proverb, “Actions speak louder than words” when it comes to the passive aggressive individual and how ambiguous they can be. They rarely mean what they say or say what they mean. They are always hiding their true feelings and anger.

• Forgetfulness: The passive aggressive individual will usually and conveniently avoid responsibility by “forgetting.” There is no easier way to punish someone than by forgetting that lunch date or your birthday or, better yet, an anniversary, or to simply not remember what they have said. This can be applied to all of their actions too though.

• Blaming: The passive aggressive individual never (or rarely) feels responsible for their own actions or behavior.

• Lack of overt Anger: The passive aggressive individual may also never express anger, at least on the surface. There are some passive aggressive people who are overtly happy with whatever you want, but covertly it is a much different story! The passive aggressive person may have been taught, as a child, that anger is unacceptable; hence they go through life stuffing their anger, being accommodating and then continually “sticking it to you” or coworkers in an under-handed way.

• Fear of Dependency: Scott Wetlzer, author of Living with the Passive Aggressive Man, stated: “Unsure of his autonomy and afraid of being alone, he fights his needs of dependency, usually by trying to control you. He wants you to think he doesn’t depend on you, but he will usually bind himself closer to that dependency than he will ever care to admit”. The passive aggressive individual will also never acknowledge that anyone has ever done anything for them for fear of yielding control. They will never admit reliance on anyone for anything in an effort to deflect any sort of notion of dependency on that person.

• Fear of Intimacy: In addition to acting out anger, this also happens because the passive aggressive individual often can’t trust (and why they are usually quite untrustworthy themselves); hence, they are guarded against intimate attachments.

• Obstructionism: Do you want something from your passive aggressive family member or spouse? If so, get ready to wait for it or maybe never even get it. It is important to the passive aggressive person that you do not get your way. They will act as if giving you what you want is important to them but rarely will they follow through with giving it. Obstructionism can also come in the form of reneging on agreements. You may enter into an agreement with a passive-aggressive, but they will ultimately withhold information from you, and then pretend that no such agreements with you ever existed.

• Fear of Competition: Feeling inadequate, the passive aggressive individual is typically unable to compete with others in work and love. They may operate either as a self-sabotaging wimp with a pattern of failure, or they could be the tyrant, setting themselves up as being unassailable and perfect (i.e. always right, never wrong), feeling the need to eliminate any threat to their power. Because they fear those around them who are construed as “competitors”, they have an inclination to constantly psychologically project their own negative behaviors on to these people. They will also try as much as possible to get under the skin of their competitors, to bring them down to their level by constantly putting them down, in an effort to demean them and to show the world that they are not as good as themselves.

• Victimization: The passive aggressive individual usually feels they are treated unfairly. If you get upset because he or she is constantly late, they take offense because, in their mind, it was someone else’s fault that they were late. They are always the innocent victim of someone else’s unreasonable expectations. In fact this is what the passive aggressive person will always try to project; that whatever they did that was wrong is actually your fault, always turning the tables of guilt on to someone else.

• Procrastination: The passive aggressive person believes that deadlines are for everyone but them. They do things on their own time schedule and be damned anyone who expects differently from them. It’s almost like they possess an aura of superiority, and allowing others to make demands of them is beneath their dignity. This can also be needlessly and intentionally delaying or postponing something that is usually important to someone else, or perhaps even key to someone else’s success; hence, more selfish behavior.

• Stubbornness: It cannot be stressed enough that the passive aggressive individual is typically an extremely selfish person; only thinking of themselves or their own well-being. They are also rarely willing to admit that their behavior may be wrong, or yield to anyone else’s way of thinking; hence, this is the key reason why few passive-aggressives ever seek psychological help. The only time they will typically consider how others may feel or think is when that feeling or thinking will benefit them. This can also lead many passive aggressive people to be resentful of useful suggestions from others (see competition above), and in most cases even take actions against those individuals; hence, yet another reason why one should never trust a passive aggressive individual, particularly as a partner of any kind.

• Negativity: Although negativity can certainly be a characteristic of a non-passive aggressive person, it is a very common characteristic with those who are afflicted with passive aggressive behavior problems. In fact, the typical passive aggressive individual is probably the most negative person a non-passive aggressive person will ever meet. They are characteristically very cynical, pessimistic, suspicious (even paranoid) and distrustful people, and although they may never say anything to you personally, behind your back they will usually continue with negative dialogue about you to others. Keep in mind that they will typically put on a positive and optimistic “show” at first, but prolonged interaction with them will usually reveal very negative attitudes.

• Argumentative, sulky, and hostile: This attitude is also one that is evident toward authority figures and those over whom the passive-aggressive has little, or no control. This is very apparent to those who bring the passive aggressive person’s bad behavior to their attention. Passive aggressive individuals do not like being scrutinized, and are usually more sensitive to observations about their personal traits than normal people. For this reason they are typically offended when they realize they are being observed, and will revert to childish behaviors such as anger, seclusion, withdraw from contact, pretend that they can no longer speak to you, and of course, gossip behind your back.

My husband of 9 years is

My husband of 9 years is really rude to my family. They have just been to stay and he completely ignored my brother in law and niece and only spoke when spoken to by my sister. He spent most of the weekend in our bedroom and did not greet them when they arrived. He refused to allow them to have his favourite ice cream and ate it all in front of them! He displays this behaviour every time family comes over. He was repulsive to me on the days leading up to their visit, shoving past me pretending it was an accident and being very rude with name calling. He was embarrassing me in public by making our dog run ahead while I was walking him so it looked like I had no control of him. This is all the most recent behaviour amongst other games. He has never told me I look nice or that i'm beautiful even on our wedding day. He doesn't like my friends coming round and he doesn't like me going out. He is a very hard worker and is doing really well in his job, at home he is withdrawn and unhelpful with the home, our dog and 2 small children. I am on antidepressants and I know that I would be better off without him but I am trapped as I am financially reliant on him. I love him and feel sorry for him but I am buckling under the weight of his control. Any advice would be appreciated.

I feel your pain, and I can help you, I think.

The only way to deal with him is to go rabid chimpanzee on him and verbally rip his face off. Do it without mercy because he has none for you. If he has a kernel of love for you inside, he will slowly begin to come around but only after you stomp a figurative "mud hole" into him. In your case, he sounds like he has the potential for physical abuse, so I would stomp the mud hole over the phone. Make sure he can't get to you or the kids, and GET A GUN. After re reading your message, I would leave his shitty ass only after carefully arranging all the details. You are dependent on him? Clean out that bank account BEFORE he knows you're gone. I know many women who have marriages like you describe. Their husbands have crushed them so thoroughly, they can't think anymore. Let me tell you a secret: he's the weak one. If he was strong, he wouldn't be a pissy little coward when it comes to your family, and he wouldn't derive such pleasure grinding his wife into a sad little heap. Is he very vain and secretive? He might have a girlfriend. Most men like this do. Did he take out a big life insurance policy on you? Find out. I've seen that scenario many times. You've got a lot to think about. Be absolutely cold and logical about this. What he does to you, your children will see. He might start on them. They might see what he does to you and treat you the same way. Go to church. Ask God to guide you through this. He will. Don't let anyone tell you that a Christian woman should put up with this rather than divorce him. That is a lie. If you don't want to officially divorce. File for an official separation. It will give you time to sort things out, and leave you the ability to reconcile, should he turn his life around. Remember: your children come first. Do everything you can to set them up to be safe and financially secure. Get a merciless lawyer that will get you enough alimony. This probably wasn't what you wanted to hear, but I've heard your story countless times. If you follow my advice, you'll do alright. P.S. If you have even the slightest idea that he would harm you. Get a restraining order or a non contact order, and let him know that if you see him, you will shoot to kill first and call the cops later. God bless.


I found it a bit odd that one of the advises when dealing with the passive aggressive perpetrator was to avoid yelling or sarcasm. Sarcasm is itself an obvious passive aggressive behaviour because the anger is disguised as humour.

Often it takes two to tango!

I note also that on the internet there is a clear tendency to paint the man as the perpetrator. In an earlier age the suffering in silence hen pecked husband was perhaps better known? Is the same man now the passive aggressive bad guy??

2 to Tango

I can relate to your point but passive aggressive behavior is a little more pervasive than just one or two traits. From what I understand there are at least 13 main traits of passive aggressive behavior, and if they are in play all of the time I would then say that the person is passive aggressive. Sarcasm may be a part of one passive aggressive trait, but by itself it is probably just a sign of a slightly different problem. Suffice it to say that living or associating with someone who suffers from passive aggressive behavior disorder is insidious, burdensome, abusive and extremely frustrating. It's akin to subtle and even silent abuse. The passive aggressive is always working against you, doing things behind your back to try and hurt you (i.e. punish you) in some way, shape, or form. Once the victim realizes what is going on it is usually very shocking at first, and then they typically feel a great burden being lifted as they come to realize that none of the problems they have experienced in that relationship were ever their fault.

"The skill of recognizing

"The skill of recognizing passive aggressive behaviors at face value allows you to be forewarned and to make a choice not to become entangled in a no-win power struggle. When you sense these destructive dynamics coming into play, manage your own emotions through such self-talk statements as:

"He is being passive aggressive and I will not participate in this routine."

"I will not yell or become sarcastic because this behavior will only escalate the conflict."

This helped me. Thank you. But what do I do with the anger I feel that they are going to "win" because I am not responding to their behavior? I hate it when the PA person in my life is snide, condescending, or belittling and my only response to it has to be "I'm not getting involved." Just this morning I've found myself coming up with numerous sarcastic and nasty responses to a little piece of passive-aggression they put up on Facebook in the form of a meme.

"The skill of recognizing

"The skill of recognizing passive aggressive behaviors at face value allows you to be forewarned and to make a choice not to become entangled in a no-win power struggle. When you sense these destructive dynamics coming into play, manage your own emotions through such self-talk statements as:

"He is being passive aggressive and I will not participate in this routine."

"I will not yell or become sarcastic because this behavior will only escalate the conflict."

This helped me. Thank you. But what do I do with the anger I feel that they are going to "win" because I am not responding to their behavior? I hate it when the PA person in my life is snide, condescending, or belittling and my only response to it has to be "I'm not getting involved." Just this morning I've found myself coming up with numerous sarcastic and nasty responses to a little piece of passive-aggression they put up on Facebook in the form of a meme.

The skill of recognizing

I can certainly understand your pain and frustration. I went through the same thing, and can see your point that they might win if you don't take any action. However, fighting back with anger will escalate the problem; fighting back using their own tactics though can work. They loathe competition, and loathe even more someone who is better at their own behavior :-). So when they give you "the silent treatment", you do the same.

Having said all of that, keep in mind that fighting back using their own tactics is probably only a temporary reprieve and will eventually just cause you more stress (in the long run). As mentioned, a PA loathes competition; they do not like seeing someone else succeeding where they have failed. So the best way to get back at a PA is to simply leave and get as far away as you possibly can (i.e. avoid all contact - don't give them the pleasure of using their typical PA BS on you).

Then, once you are no longer in their life and out of their reach, you let them know through other channels that you are succeeding where you know they have failed (probably through happiness, love and positive thinking)....and then take great pride with the knowledge that you know you will cause them great stress and anxiety whenever they learn of this about you :-).

They will typically talk behind your back and badmouth you to anyone who will listen. This is because they are also typically very cowardly, weak and could never say anything overtly and to you personally. All you can do is succeed, be happy and positive, and continue to live your life the way you choose, enjoy that life, and forget that you ever knew them. To a PA who was once abusing you emotionally and psychologically this will cause them great pain....and then you win ;-).

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Signe Whitson is a licensed social worker and co-author of The Angry Smile: The Psychology of Passive Aggressive Behavior in Families, Schools, and Workplaces, 2nd ed.


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