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Dealing with a Passive aggressive personality?

By April 16, 2008 Blog

As I told you yesterday, I finalized my divorce after 3 long years. The supposedly ‘amicable’ event took a horrible turn about one year after our separation. I asked for the separation, I had been married for 21 years at that point and it had become so challenging I barely could stand to be in the same house. We did not yell, or fight…. he is a passive aggressive person. It is bizarre, if you have ever experienced, (and realized it) being with a passive aggressive person.

Hale Dwoskin at the sedona method says: “People who are passive-aggressive appear on the outside to agree and get along with others. In reality, however, they passively resist them, and become increasingly hostile and angry in the process.” This is exactly what I experienced. He always wanted to appear like the “good guy”, and pointed it out all the time.

The strange thing is you really think you are nuts sometimes. They never think anyone ever treats them well and are always saying “look at all I do for you”, yet you feel the true resentment coming out of them. It took me years and years to figure out that he was depressed and passive aggressive. I would constantly try to make him happy, lift him up and carry the mood. If you have ever tried to please other people, it is exhausting. I had done this with my parents for most of my life as well. It is never good enough, never. You aren’t here to please others, and you can never do it.

Hale goes on to explain: “Because someone who is passive-aggressive is internally angry, but hides it on the outside, it can be very challenging to overcome in a relationship.” Yes, indeed. No matter how many times I asked what is wrong, I never got an honest answer.

“Someone who is passive-aggressive is often acting covertly to act out their resistance and anger — and this makes it more difficult for them and others to deal with.” Hale continues.

So my “Inspired Action” for today is: Stop trying to please other people. Do not change who you are for them and do not take responsibility for their emotions. It was interesting that when he finally agreed to go to counseling, the counselor would ask me (in our one on one sessions) “why don’t you tell him how you feel?”. I told him I never wanted to do anything to make him more angry so I walked around “on eggshells” for years. Even though his anger was passive, it always felt like he was throwing daggers at me from his solar plexus as I crossed the room. He would intentionally not do things if he knew I wanted or needed it. I bought curtains that sat there waiting for him to put them up for 3 years!

What was the therapists answer? “Well you just have to let him react any way he is going to react, that is his choice, but it should never stop you from honestly expressing yourself”.

I say the same to you now. Let go of feeling responsible for others feelings and reactions, and give yourself permission to express yourself honestly and authentically. Know you have to be true to you, and act in a manner that expresses your true inner beauty. You are responsible for yourself, so take back your power.

“If you are in a relationship with someone who is always resisting your desires or needs in this way, you should decide whether the relationship is worth keeping.” Hale Dwoskin.

It took me many long years to realize what I was in, and what to do about it. It took more years to legally get out of the relationship. I wish I knew then what I know now. If I had valued myself more, if I had taken responsibility only for my emotions and not others, I would have changed my life much sooner. You can, do it now.

Finally Hale says: “…let go of the anger it brings up inside of you. You should also draw up your own boundaries — such as only meeting with them when absolutely necessary — and not allow the person to cross them or draw you in to a fight.”

Believe you are worth positive, uplifting, loving relationships, and you can do whatever you need to do to change your current situation. Try “Joyful Creating”…and create what you really want from your real power, the power inside of you. Choose love, joy and bliss. Since all possibilities are all around us at all times, it is a matter of believing you desreve it, and choosing to allow it in. You can do it. Let me know how I can help.


  • James says:

    Wonderful, I really enjoyed this! Thanks so much for this. I was trampled upon growing up by similar types (without really realizing it – just accepted it as ‘normality’), and just quite recently I’ve noticed how my ill feelings of self-worth have created a vicious cycle of not-so-good relationships and more ill self-worth. I’ve been more assertive of myself, and my happiness, through my relationships. It’s been a definite change in being for me, but it’s nice 🙂

  • Nan says:

    I am so pleased this was helpful for you. I cannot tell you how long it took me to figure this out and how clear it seems to me now. My life continues to change for the better everyday knowing this. I never think blaming others or feeling like a victim is useful, however understanding why you feel like you do, why you cannot figure out some things allows you to be able to really make conscious changes for yourself.
    I wish I could find a way to touch every person who has lack of self esteem and open their hearts and minds to the knowing that when you love, value and respect yourself first above all, your life and the people in it imporve by drastic amounts.
    Most of us being taught or shown through society, family or religion, that being self confident, self loving and putting our needs first is bad, is so incredibly damaging and causes more pain, hurt, bad relationships, even war. It sounds dramatic, but when we do not put our needs and likes first, we cannot be the fullest expression of our potential, fully love and share, and that is what expands the world and the beauty in it.
    Keep moving forward and laove yourself, I stillhave challenges that arise and as I realize it and process and release it, I become more peaceful and loving and happy!
    To your power and joy!

  • […] Comments Nan on Dealing with a Passive aggressive personality?James on Dealing with a Passive aggressive personality?Nan on illusions, problems and giftsAre you […]

  • JC says:

    Nan, thank you for this inspiring article and sharing your story. Your point of exercising full self-expression is well taken. I, however, have something to ask you because I find it hard to appreciate one aspect of what you said. This may be due to my lack of proper understanding of our rights to say whatever we want without concerns for other people’s feelings.

    You advised that we should let go of feeling responsible for others’ feelings and reactions, and give yourself permission to express yourself honestly and authentically. I disagree here because our expression is a powerful medium. It can do good, and it can do very bad things if we are not careful.

    To illustrate, I had once asked my co-worker for instructions on how to embed rich media in email newsletters. This is something that is not in my work responsibilities. Yet a friend asked me how to do it, I did not know, so I went to my co-worker whom I thought would know the answer. My co-worker responded by saying, “it cannot be done . . . why do you ask? Are you working on your own stuff?” with our boss standing at the desk next to mine. I was taken aback by his manner of expression. Yet, I casually replied that the information was not for myself, but a friend wanted to know. This co-worker responded with this, “who wants to know? This person must not be well-informed.” At this I was thoroughly upset by, again, his manner of expression.

    I later had a chat with him and told him of my feelings. And sure enough, he was unaware of the impact of his manner of expression. I advised him that he should be more careful of what he says, lest he could inadvertently get people into trouble or insult the people he does not even know. He replied that he believes he should be able to say whatever that is in his mind!

    Well, Nan, what do you think about that? I feel that it is *totally* selfish of us to embody the kind of attitude my co-worker has. I always endeavor to consider my communications very carefully because I don’t want to offend or hurt other people. I am not trying to please everybody, yet I do not want to hurt or anger people either.

  • Nan says:

    JC Thanks so much for sharing! I appreciate what you say, it is a strange and often fine line when you get into understanding these things.
    I see you look at this other person and you feel they were rude and acted inappropriately. Look at it as your ego responding to what he said and did, and it had nothing to do with you! Most of the time, how others act has nothing to do with you or anyone but themselves. The myth is that most of us think everyone is doing stuff because of us, no it is only because of them, just as we act from our perspective. Being the “nice” person only means you have decided to put yourself behind others, and that never works no matter how long you do it.
    What that person did and said, has nothing to do with you, and it is only you (your ego/personality/identity part of you) that is reacting to it, feeling it is inappropriate.
    Being yourself and tuning into who you are, is abut being true to yourself, and then communicating honestly with those in your life, It is not about letting your ego run rampant and step on others, or about letting others egos step on you. It is about empowering yourself to be who you are and realize NOTHING what anyone else does has anything to do with you, can’t effect you and has no power (unless you decide to empower it).
    Realize you have a choice and you don’t make choices for them only you and your choices, about what you feel think, see and act, are up to you, but you have no control over anyone else.
    The more energy you give to they did this or that…”, the less energy you have to build your own world.
    By being nice to others , but in the meantime lying, not expressing how you really feel, you honor no one. However the alternative, is not being rude. You can choose what you express, and you can do it from an empowered place, not a “you should/should not…” place. Anytime you try to change or control other, no matter what they have done, you are off track. Ans stop acting like you think you should, being ‘nice’ to them makes no difference, being true to yourself does.. and you can do it with grace!

  • I really liked what you had to say, however, what if you are the one who has become increasingly passive-aggressive? Recently, within the last month approx., I have become extremely passive-aggressive towards family and friends, and my husband has said what a strain it has become on the relationship. I hear myself talking, and I can feel the anger building up inside just like you stated, built up resentment, but I can’t seem to stop my reaction, it almost seems like someone else has taken over. Many people have told me that my behavior is completely out of character for me lately, and I’m not sure what to do. My husband suggested counseling, and we’re looking into it, but is there anything else I can do in the meantime to hide the anger?

  • Nan says:

    Heather, thanks for your openness and willingness to look at how you feel. I know how it feels, because the last 2 years in my divorce i had a lot of resentment and anger came up too.
    That is what is going on for you, you have suppressed how you feel over something(s) and until you let them out, they will ‘leak’ out the way you describe.
    When we do not express ourselves, for any reason, we suppress the feelings and they come out another way, in stinging comments, or in our body in some way of getting sick.
    If you meditate or sit quietly, you can ask yourself and wait for an answer. Ask something like what am I angry about, or who am I frustrated with, or why am I being passive aggressive. Most of us try to be ‘nice’, not upset those around us and often keep our true feelings from even ourselves because it feels uncomfortable to express how we feel. When you step out of worrying what others think as much, it is easier to see that you have the right to express yourself, and you can find a way to do it that clearly communicates how you feel without making others wrong.
    I usually use “I have been feeling….” and this way I am not attacking someone else.
    Let me know if there is more I can do to help. You can try a coaching session, we will definitely get to the bottom of it in that!Also be sure you are on my newsletter list, because I am designing a class with a relationship expert about “Unleashing your inner bitch”…we are not sure of the title, by essentially it is about showing women how to be more aware of their needs and how to express them. Obviously it is not about being a nasty bitch, but about caring enough about yourself to communicate how you feel.
    Counseling may help, but realize this, you have to be true to yourself, your inner self will not let go until you are. If you go to counseling with the intent of making others happy you may only get more resentment. My guess is if it is coming out at your hubby, it is an issue there, and it may be a bigger picture too… like general dissatisfaction with some area of your life that you feel others keep you from having or being fulfilled.
    Look within! Also you can get my Intuition Accelerator class really cheap right now, and that will help you find and hear and interpret your inner voice!GO here http://www.intuitionaccelerator.com and use COUPON CODE MAGIC08 to buy, it will be like only $34
    Happy New Year!

  • Alexis says:

    Nan, I just found your site and I have to tell you that think everyone is so courageous of all of you to express yourselvesn in this manner. I don’t really know what to say as I found this site while researching behavioral symptoms for this Passive-aggressive type. This is great, I am in a situation with my husband. I am just learning to identify with these symptoms as real characteristics. For the longest time, I was starting to think that there really was something wrong with me.. I tried to seek counsel from my pastor and could hardly express the “things” that my husband was doing to upset me…I really thought that I was going crazy or that I really was a “bad guy” in our home…
    I First identified the symptoms in “cycles”. Kind of like his behavior was cyclical…After I have had enough of the isolation vs withdrawl, the double-edged sword, the ambiguous comments, “nice, insulting” reassurances, indirect accusations, his lack of initiative to complete tasks that I really needed him to do like:
    1. Allowing the lights to be turned off so I could pay the bill.
    2. Although my half of the rent is due, he would wait until after I pay the electric bill and have the service restored; he’d turn around and pay the some of the next due on the light bill and then demand that I pay the late fees for the rent! When I didn’t have it, he’d told the rental company that I didn’t pay all of my portion, but he didn’t know why!
    3. I was working at one hospital where I was really unhappy because the morale was so low…I couldn’t see how any of the nurses were clinically successfully with such a high level of “BLEH” all the time…I told my husband that I was interested in leaving this job..although he didn’t debate, he asked me to continue my employment there even though he could visibly see that I was THOROUGHLY unhappy. Ultimately, I got a new supervisor who was with the “IN” crowd and was placed on leave without pay because I did not attend a class that I was not scheduled for…the long and the short, he accused me of asking for it and that I should have cooperated more…”..but you know, you are a nurse. You’ll never have trouble finding a job right? Then he goes on to give me a list of the times that HE thinks that I should work. Did I mention that the times were all convenient for him. I am a cardiac nurse and I ususally work three, twelve hour shifts weekly. He wanted me to work five, eight hour days during the hours of 3 pm to 11 pm. I never saw my children. I did that for six weeks before I received the long awaited call from the heart center and was offered the position. When I hesitantly, but happily broke the news, he reassured me that he was happy if I was, and he’d do whatever to help make my transition a smooth one. The next day, while I was filling out forms for work, he asked me what time would I be able to pick our daughter up from school. I set up after school care after the falling out when one of the school officials called my job for me to pick her up. Our son lacerated his leg before the holidays and was ordered by the pediatrician ordered him to stay off of his leg for three weeks. When he saw that our son had crutches, he inquired how they would get to school. Later, while I worked until 8 pm, he cooked a large meal every night I was off and stopped buying groceries and said I needed to get more food for him to prepare the children’s dinner; after all, RN’s get paid more in the hospital right?
    I am not as kind as others. I cannot sit around and try to compromise with this nut…and that is the bottom line. I left him six years ago and was dumb enough to return after my mom died because I was lonely and didn’t want to try to meet someone else when I was still married. Understand, it was never physical violence..only subtle, hurtful things that he did or failed to do that were either finacially catastrophic or emotionally draining.
    I have decided to cut my losses and move on. My husband is nearly fifty and isn’t going to change. It is sad, but I am glad that I am mature enough now to recognize the symptoms, help my children and get help for myself. He will never change. Whether dependent or independent…if this kind of guy doesn’t own and accept his problems, then he will never change.. And besides, I am NURSE…not a psychiatrist. Thanks,

  • […] If you think you are dealing with a Passive Aggressive Personality, you will want to read this. I did for 26 years and didn’t know it till the last 4. It is […]

  • baidu says:

    Thanks a ton! That was really helpful, I just bookmarked your website url.