How to heal a Passive Aggressive Marriage


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How to understand the main characteristics of passive aggressive relationships and how to survive and heal the damage.

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How to heal a Passive Aggressive Marriage

  1. 1. How to Heal a Passive Aggressive Marriage We all dream of happiness, right? When you dream of happiness, you tend to envision a relationship where there is a fair share of give and take. Mutual support is expected and welcomed. It is very easy to imagine and expect attention, care and permanent interest from a spouse. Whatever our past experiences, this is what everybody dreams... Why marry, otherwise? if both parties are grown ups, then they know what they need and expect from the most important life relationship, that is marriage. When the inevitable problems appear, if the two are mature enough they will know how to talk about their needs and then negotiate with the spouse a shared decision about possible solutions. This is, in a nutshell, what healthy marriages are up to: a search for solutions to solve both partners’ needs. Sometimes there is a break and this implicit contract never happens. If isolation and loneliness set in, intimacy disappears in utter silence, and the spouse is surprised, and shocked. This is not what was expected! Why one of them is withdrawing into himself? Perhaps it is easier to attribute this situation to the role learning process where both people need to adapt to their new role as spouses. The lessons of marriage are not just learned in the first month! Sometimes the situation keeps going on with long silences, and feelings not expressed. Frustration and resentment grow like a bad weed and the initial promise of marriage is seen as a cruel joke. What happened? Living together in the same space pushes both spouses to deal with previously ignored issues: how much proximity? Where are personal limits drawn? How to negotiate intimacy without feeling invaded or controlled? What we are doing, unconsciously, is to put into play the only rules we have learned in life: the ways in which our own parents did their marriage. We saw them, their distance or proximity; their ways of reflecting trust or satisfaction for being in each other's company. “Recovering from Passive Aggression” © Creative Conflict Resolutions, Inc.
  2. 2. Probably their lack of communication skills was painful: when there was a problem that needed a candid approach to be solved, they didn't know what to do. Retreating into silence and expecting the other to understand without words is one of the traps of marriage. In the "expecting to be magically understood by the other myth," there is a party who believes that the other side bears the responsibility for initiating contact, opening up issues and offering solutions. From their own side, they feel safe in silence and don't recognize the impact this silence has on the other, coming across as carelessness and callous indifference. If this "clamming up" is constant, and there are no bridges to rescue the intimacy, then one person in this couple is using passive aggressive behavior to send a message of frustration and resentment. You could be immersed in a long term relationship that brings you confusion, isolation or anger for ever without realizing that this kind of pain is a product of your partner's passive aggressive communication style. A passive aggressive intimate connection is a sad paradox. It is as if, in the middle of our constant search for love, companionship and support, we found instead a huge dark cloud that says: "My job is to drive you crazy with confusion and frustration. I will pervert and block all your steps towards reaching love in such a way that it will be impossible for you to discover who did it and how it was done...meanwhile I'm professing love and devotion to you." This is the challenge presented by the passive aggressive person's constant emotional sabotage, which has the objective of sustain a permanent resistance to any deep intimacy, trust and union. Why does this happen? It's difficult to accept, but some people are so scared of being deeply loved, that they will unconsciously frustrate all steps towards intimacy and connection. You need to consider this possibility, if you are confronted with undue isolation and rejection in your daily-married life. To be able to identify this behavior, you need to know the multiple ways in which this passive aggression will rear its ugly face. Perhaps if we review some of them, we can begin to offer you a strategy to understand how it happens and so reduce the damage. Let me count the ways... “Recovering from Passive Aggression” © Creative Conflict Resolutions, Inc.
  3. 3. 1.- IF you feel confused after attempting to clarify things with him: Probably you are fed a lot of contradictory messages. • On one level: He'll say his actions stem from good intentions; he wants to provide support; • On another level: He does "forget" his commitments and provides silly excuses. Your Response: This indicator is a good one, because your confusion is a real, valid signal of what is going on. Trust your brain, and recognize that you are living with a "confusion machine," and thus you can begin to protect yourself. Take your confusion seriously and fill your mind with clarity: • Write on your diary; • Go for a walk to think about your life goals; • Think on how do you want to feel; • Do your breathing exercises and feel whole inside; • Talk with a friend who admires you. 2.- IF he is always focused on the negative aspects of everything, his attitude is dampening your enthusiasm. Nothing of what you say can make him feel positive about shared projects. He will challenge your skills, abilities and resources. So you are forced to work twice in order to get his support and convince him that projects are doable. Meanwhile, where has all the joy of dreaming gone? Your Response: You need to be sure of your own merits and accomplishments, and be proud of them. Remind yourself constantly about your good qualities, before it's too late and you begin to accept your partner's misery framing as the mirror with which you perceive yourself. • Catch yourself when you begin to tell yourself that nothing is possible and tell yourself to stop! • Do some breathing exercises and tell yourself how good you are at what you do. • Keep your good friends around, so they can also remind you of your good qualities. 3.- Sabotaging your best projects: Because your partner will perceive your projects as threatening the amount of attention now “Recovering from Passive Aggression” © Creative Conflict Resolutions, Inc.
  4. 4. allocated to him, she/he will sabotage them. If you show enthusiasm and excitement for some personal project, it is sure that you will receive negative opinion, criticism and put down comments. Your Response: Don't expect or want anything important, fundamental, or vital from a PA partner, at least at the beginning. If you show enthusiasm and high expectations, your project will be nipped in the bud. If you can present the most fabulous ideas with a blank face, then you'll likely to get what you want. Learn to control any visible emotional connection or desire, while you move ahead with your projects simultaneously. 4.- Giving you the "Cold shoulder..." What is the cold shoulder? "Maintenance of aloof silence as an expression of one's anger or disapproval: a deliberate discourteous act." Are you getting the silent treatment, but you don't know why? He used to speak to you in a normal way, but now he is keeping conversations with you (not with his friends) to the bare minimum? This can be hurtful, frustrating and ends up destroying your self-esteem. Your Response: Think this reaction is his choice, because he could behave in a different way if he chooses, and that this behavior is not revealing or confirming anything about your value as a person. You are not responsible for his behavior, he is deciding to be cold and distant and controlling. It is not about anything you did! If he has a disagreement with your actions, he needs to tell you, speak up and resolve the issue; this is not the right behavior! Again, detaching yourself, having your own projects and friends, and managing your own sources of appreciation and recognition can help you protect your core from the isolation forced unjustly on you. When you feel stronger, perhaps you would try to confront him by explaining the impact that this behavior has on you, and on the future of your relationship. IN SHORT: Living with a person who relates in this way can induce pain, confusion and loneliness. Regardless of that, if his good qualities are what you appreciate in him, you might decide to focus only on his good aspects and try to make an effort to develop a stable and long term relationship within the limits of his responses. Accept what he can give; don't “Recovering from Passive Aggression” © Creative Conflict Resolutions, Inc.
  5. 5. expect what he can't and be in the lookout of alternative sources of support for your own self-esteem needs. Nora Femenia is a well known coach, conflict solver and trainer, and CEO of Creative Conflict Resolutions, Inc. If you are interested in learning how to live a better life, free from hidden aggression, we give you the tools to be happier! Being in a passive aggressive marriage is a tough challenge! To help navigate this difficult path, you have lots of help and support in the ebook: "Recovering from Passive Aggression." “Recovering from Passive Aggression"!... “Recovering from Passive Aggression” © Creative Conflict Resolutions, Inc.