Anger

11 Signs You Use Passive-Aggressiveness in Your Relationships

Acknowledging anger is a problem for you is the first step toward resolution.

Posted Feb 03, 2020

Big Stock Images
Source: Big Stock Images

How do you know if you use passive-aggressiveness in your relationship to express your hidden anger?

When you’ve hidden your anger from everyone, including yourself, it can be hard to see what’s really there. When you conceal your anger, the best indicator may be what is not seen or expressed.

Anger is a healthy and universal emotion, so one sign that you use passive-aggressive strategies to deal with anger is if you don’t feel or experience that emotion somewhat regularly. If your response to this is, “But it’s true! I never feel angry,” you should definitely consider the possibility that you fall into this group, and you should pay special attention to this article. To find out if you suffer from hidden anger, answer the following questions.

Consider if you:

  1. Withhold praise, attention, or positive feedback when your partner deserves or asks for it?
  2. Fail to follow through when your partner makes a request?
  3. Stall or procrastinate when there is an important issue that needs resolving?
  4. Withhold intimacy or affection as a way to punish?
  5. Engage in sabotaging behavior?
  6. Respond with minimal words during important discussions? (Examples of this include “Mm-hmm,” “I don’t know,” “Fine,” and “Whatever.”)
  7. Respond in sarcastic ways about life, yourself, your partner, or others?
  8. Often feel frustrated, disappointed, or irritable.
  9. View most situations negatively, even when many aspects of them are going well?
  10. Frequently make small, negative comments that seem to undermine your partner’s self-esteem?
  11. Never say no? (Or always say yes?)

If you answered “Yes” to one or more of these questions, this might be a sign that expressing anger is a problem for you.

Do not feel ashamed or guilty. Acknowledging that anger is a problem for you is the first step toward resolving passive-aggressive behavior. Dealing with your hidden anger in a healthy, non-passive-aggressive way will improve your relationship and make you a happier, healthier person overall. Awareness of a problem is absolutely necessary for changing it, and sometimes it is even half the battle. The goal right now is for you to start to become aware of your own anger.

I think most of us would say that holding onto our relationships is vital to us. However, the lengths you go to and the tactics you use to keep your relationship afloat might sometimes veer into the emotionally unhealthy. If you suffer from passive-aggressive behavior, you may suppress your anger and negative feelings to the point where you become a chronic victim. If something goes wrong, you’re quick to take the blame. And you would sooner jump off a cliff than say no. It is a recipe for resentment and self-loathing.

Some people feel that being the victim or martyr is the only way they can get attention. But, by doing everything your partner asks, rather than receive gratitude, you create reservoirs of guilt and eventually anger in your partner. In the meantime, your needs continue to be unmet. When you don’t ask for anything, you won’t receive what you need. Maybe you think your partner should know you well enough to understand what you need without having to vocalize it, but your partner can’t read your mind. Deep inside, your own reservoirs of anger and resentment grow. Nobody is truly happy in this situation. 

If this situation sounds familiar, you should know that it doesn’t have to be this way. To eliminate passive-aggressive strategies from your emotional toolbox, you have to begin by stopping the martyr-like behavior that leads to it. Start small. For example, next time your partner asks for a favor, however minor—like, “Can you make me a cup of coffee?”—make yourself take two deep breaths before you answer. You need to stop yourself from instinctively—and passive-aggressively—saying yes when you actually want to say no.

Take a moment to evaluate your partner’s requests and invitations before you answer. Ask yourself, Is this something I want to do? When you say yes when you want to say no, you might avoid a confrontation, but you’re hurting yourself, and you’re building an expectation in your partner that “yes” is what you’ll say all the time. You must set and respect your own boundaries. You can’t expect anyone else to do it for you.

People often do not understand that their passive-aggressive behavior is the source of their trouble. Now that you’ve learned a bit about the signs of passive-aggressiveness and how it can harm your relationships, I encourage you to read more about identifying passive-aggression in yourself and strategies for how to stop using it.  If you think your partner might use passive-aggression in your relationship, you can read tips on how to deal with passive-aggressiveness in others.

Facebook image: Roman Samborskyi/Shutterstock