How To Cope With A Passive-Aggressive Mate

Once a psychiatric diagnostic label becomes part of our everyday language, it often loses specificity in meaning. Passive-aggression, like narcissism is one of these labels. One of the main misuses of this specific psychiatric label is attributing all communications meant to veil aggressive thoughts and feelings as passive-aggressive. Take for example, “You look so much better than you did yesterday.”  Indeed, this statement’s insult to how you looked yesterday speaks more strongly than its compliment. At least, some people would agree with me, here. But still,  it is not a real example of how passive-aggressive personalities express their hostility. We often mistake left-handed compliments, and the like, as a sign of passive-aggressive behavior. It’s understandable why you’d make this mistake, although it is wrong.

Veiled aggression, like backhanded compliments are not really hallmarks of the true passive-aggressive personality disorder. Rather, passive-aggressive behavior is subtler, harder to pinpoint, and thus more confusing to its recipient. Just ask people who live with passive-aggressive partners. By the time they get to therapy, they have had their fill of their partner’s behaviors that are meant to frustrate and impede their way.

Is It Just Plain Hostility That Drives Them?

Acting-out hostility toward others is not the main goal of passive-aggressive behavior. Although, if you’re on the receiving end of this type of behavior, it certainly can feel this way.

It’s fear rather than hostility alone that drives passive-aggressive behavior. Passive-aggressive people are fearful of being controlled by other people and of having their vulnerabilities exposed. They’ve learned to frustrate and obstruct people’s way, to get them to act out the frustration and anger that they themselves feel, but are fearful of expressing. 

A passive-aggressive behavior pattern is learned in childhood. The parents of passive-aggressive adults raised their children to be agreeable, polite, and willing to submerge their needs, thoughts, and feelings for the sake of cooperation. They viewed disagreement, conflict, and an open expression of needs and differences as impolite, disruptive, demanding, and at the extreme, out of control and crazy. Many of these parents were stressed and physically or emotionally incapable of dealing with their children’s needs. There may have been a family member who was labeled as “crazy” or “damaged”, which made them fearful of emotional expression. Or, perhaps, they are immigrants who over-valued agreeableness over a full-range of self-expression in their children, so that they are accepted into the new culture. Or, maybe their efforts to hide a family secret, like alcoholism, gambling, sexual abuse, or mental-illness makes them afraid to let their children speak their truth. Whichever is the circumstance, the children learn to submerge their true needs, thoughts, and feelings to get people’s approval.

Passive-aggressive people are not just hostile jerks who don’t have enough back bone to express their anger directly, rather, they are angry at being controlled; at not being allowed to speak their truth. Relationships that involve dependency, intimacy, and control are most apt to activate their passive-aggression, as they stimulate fears and behaviors from the past. Thus, coworkers, supervisors, friends, and especially spouses, beware; you are at risk for becoming the passive-aggressive person’s dancing partner, where he or she maneuvers you into acting out unbridled self-expression of which they can disapprove, reject, and withdraw from you as their parents once did.

An Act of Passive-Aggression Isn’t Complete Until You Fulfill It

You are most apt to be pulled into the dance of passive-aggression, when you least expect it. You may feel like you are being snared into a web of conflicted communications and interactions. Before you realize what is happening, you are caught up in a drama in which your passive-aggressive partner has cast you as the unreasonable, out-of-control, emotionally-volatile partner. The following are some of the dramas the passive-aggressive person maneuvers people into.

  • Procrastination: Passive-aggressive people obstruct you to control and get a rise out of you; procrastination is the way they do this. You can tell them till you are blue in the face what you need and want from them, and still, there will be a reason why they didn’t or couldn’t follow through. To get around this problem, you say to yourself, “I’ll give him or her a deadline or a schedule,” right? No. You’ve just given them something concrete that they can deny you. Moreover, you’ve set yourself up to act-out their anger for them. Yes, one of the hallmarks of passive-aggressive behavior is getting you to act-out their needs, wishes, and emotions that they cannot do for themselves. Recommendation: Do not give them schedules and deadlines. Let them decide when and how things should get done. Take away opportunities for them to control you through their inaction. I know this isn’t easy. You will have to choose your wars carefully, so to speak, so that you don’t end up handling all of the relationship matters. He may feel punished by you, but you are really giving him a chance to take responsibility for his behavior. If you want a dependable mate, you have to stop taking responsibility for his problems.
  • Forgetfulness: Forgetfulness is another way that they control and get a rise out of you. Forgetting isn’t a personal weakness, they say to themselves. True, everyone forgets things at times, although, it’s more than a pastime for passive-aggressive people. Forgetting to pay the bill, remembering your birthday, or sending the taxes in on time is simply a result of something that happened to them, like too much stress, or feeling ill. Nonetheless, overtime, you will increasingly distrust your partner’s ability to follow through on things, so that you take on a lot of the living responsibilities. Recommendation: You most likely won’t believe that I’m going to tell you this, but here it goes. You yourself fulfill these daily responsibilities. You’ll relieve yourself from a lot of stress. At the least, do this until your partner gets enough therapy to change.
  • Losing Things: Finally, losing things is another way to frustrate, control, and to get a rise out of you. These personalities constantly lose things. Rather than admit to this tendency in them, they tend to blame others for the loss. You moved it or distracted them. Blaming you is a way to get you to solve their problems but also a way to act aggressive toward their dependency upon you. You most likely are baffled right now by the complexity of their actions. Imagine what it’s like living with such persons. You have to be on your best game, so to speak, to cope with them. Recommendation: Above all else, do not accept blame for this tendency in them and do not engage in conflicted banter around it. Simply, let them know that you hope they find what they lost. And, go on to whatever it is that you were doing.
  • Blaming You and Playing the Victim: Passive-aggressive people do not want to recognize their faults or take responsibility for their behavior. They want to blame you. If you confront them about failing to do something, and even worse, if you do it with anger or emotional intensity, they will call you out-of-control, angry, crazy, or difficult and demanding, as they love to play the victim. Getting you to feel guilty is a passive expression of their aggression. Recommendation: Blaming them is like calling them impolite, disagreeable, recalcitrant, and out-of-control, like their parents did to them when they were children. As hard as this is, you must resist letting them maneuver you into guilt or extreme emotions and actions in response to their passive-aggression.
  • Rejecting and Withdrawing From You: If they cannot easily pull you into their passive-aggressive dance, they will reject and withdraw from you to make you feel insecurely attached to them. Remember, they had to act compliant and non-confronting to secure their parents love and approval. This is what they want from you. If you haven’t acted accordingly, they will give you the silent treatment, so that feel as insecurely attached to them, as they once did to their parents. Recommendation: Be mindful of your insecurities from your own past. Passive-aggressive people usually partner-up with people who felt rejected by one or both parents in their own childhood. Recognize that your partner’s silent treatment is stimulating insecurities from the past; don’t act these insecurities out. Own these feelings, contain them, and let them go.

Thus, above all else, do not become the passive-aggressive person’s dancing partner. This is the only way that you will get them to take responsibility for their problems and seek the therapy they need to cope healthily with their fears. Remember, they fear dependency and intimacy and will maneuver you into fulfilling their deepest fears. They need you to act irrational, angry, out-of-control, and emotionally intense, to keep the dance going and to detach enough from you to feel emotionally safe.

On your part, it takes a lot of insight and effort to resist being pulled into the dance of passive-aggression with your partner. But, this is what you have to do to continue a relationship with them. If you are getting the impression that you are the one who will have to change the most to have a less conflicted relationship with them, for the most part, you are right. You have to decide if you value the relationship and history between you enough to know if the relationship is worth continuing. I find that many couples find this is the case. Passive-aggressive personalities are difficult to live with, but they are also fine, likable people. Truly, I cannot think of one passive-aggressive patient who I didn’t really like. In fact, I liked them very much, especially, because I understood their motivations and fears. For the most part, they are fearful, rather than hostile jerks.

From the face of things, it’s you, rather than your passive-aggressive partner, who seems demanding, unreasonable, and difficult with which to live. It is because you have gotten into the dance of acting out your partner’s anger for him or her, rather than something that is true about you. You can find happiness living with a passive-aggressive person; you will just have to dedicate yourself to learning how to be mindful in the relationship so that you know what is your emotional baggage versus what is his or hers’.

Remember, we choose psychologically what we need, rather than what we want. So, there’s a reason why you chose a passive-aggressive personality with which to share your life. Most people who are attracted to passive-aggressive mates have been very wounded in the past and are used to taking responsibility for others’ problems and pain. For you, your passive-aggressive mate may be the parent from your past who rejected you or put you into the role of having to parent yourself. The anger you feel toward your mate is the anger you feel toward your own parent(s) for not being emotionally supportive of you. The partners of passive-aggressive people usually have a past similar to their partners. But, they coped with it by becoming emotionally-expressive, take-charge people.

Tips for Therapy

  • As the partner to a passive-aggressive mate, you will have to watch that you don’t get an unskilled therapist who doesn’t fully understand your hurt, pain, and anger. You are very wounded, and most likely at your wit’s end with regard to the relationship. It does not feel good to be at the receiving end of passive-aggression. Find a therapist who understands and has empathy for you and your mate and does not divide you both up into the good and bad partners. As strange as this sounds, it does happen, especially, if your therapist has unresolved issues him or herself with passive-aggressive tendencies.
  • Additionally, your therapist should provide the right therapy environment for lowering of defenses enough, so that he or she can intervene in the pattern of passive-aggressive behavior. Remember, all of our behavior patterns get stored as a fight-or-flight response to stress in the brain’s deepest structures. Your therapist has to convey on many levels comfort, to lower the defenses of the passive-aggressive person. Only then, can therapy help to loosen the nerve and motor wiring around this deeply ingrained personality pattern. Therapist attributes should include being mindfully present to him/herself, and to the needs of each partner, trustworthy, knowledgeable, on the sides of both partners, and the relationship as a whole, assertive and able to take control of the therapy, and a warm way of engaging that disarms aggression.
  • Therapists who have a very good knowledge of both the psychodynamic talk and couples and marital therapies are best with a passive-aggressive relationship dynamic. And, needless to say, given the nature of the problem, assertive therapists who are very capable of structuring the therapy are better here than ones who solely reflect and let the therapy go wherever it wants. More assertive therapists are willing to disrupt arguments and promote healthier interactions.

I hope today’s post helped you to understand passive-aggression better. Take what you need, from this post and others, to gain insight into yourself and loved ones, to make better living choices, and to live the best life possible. This is what I hope for you.

If you liked my post today, please say so by selecting the Like icon below. Please feel free to share your comments and wisdom with us about today’s topic matter. Warm regards, Deborah.


172 Responses to “How To Cope With A Passive-Aggressive Mate”

  1. avatar Deana says:

    Thank you, Deborah! This was a very informative and helpful article.

  2. avatar Maxy says:

    Deborah you are realy a great bahavioural scientist.

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Thank you so much for the compliment. And, thanks for visiting again and finding things you value in my posts. Have a wonderful day. Warmly, Deborah.

  3. avatar karen says:

    Thanks Deb – as you know you could have been writing about us! Thanks again for everything you do for my family. I feel so fortunate having you in our lives! What a blessing!

  4. avatar Annie says:

    Dear Deborah, thank you for this excellent article. Not only you are so extremely insightful, which not all specialists are, you are also deeply human! Specialists know a lot of things, good specialists know to do the best associations in their knowledge. Thank you so much from Germany, Annie

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Annie, I am touched by your words. Thank you. I’m so glad you found this article insightful and helpful. Your words into what makes a good specialist tells me you are a good therapist, yourself, or you are a natural specialist of human nature. Again, I’m touched by your words. They mean a lot to me, especially that you know how much I love to help people.

      Annie, from Germany, please come by again. I am always posting articles and videos on new topics for you and others. I hope all is well with you. Warmly, Deborah.

  5. avatar Emily says:

    Could you give more specific advice on dealing with avoidance? I’ve read a LOT about PA behaviour in the mast month. It’s always the same – diagnosing the situation.
    My partner was up until 3am last night playing video games. Up after noon today. I cleaned the house around him. He’s played 3 hours today. How does owning my feelings help with this situation? He is 100% checked out. Should I continue to live around him? It makes me so angry I want to scream at him or at least say snarky things to him. Am I supposed to blithely, sweetly live around someone so detached until they are good and ready to come out and be human? I’ve told him how his absence makes me feel. I’ve asked for limits on his gaming/sleeping and other absences. No change. My only other option is to shut him out, cut him off – live around him like he isn’t there – because screaming isn’t a useful option.

    A lot of PA advice runs as follows: present consequences for his actions. What consequence do I resent to him regarding his failure to get me a Christmas gift? (He “forgot” and it is “coming” on Jan 10) Seems like the only real consequence is – you can’t seem to take anything but your needs seriously – so I’d like to get out of this relationship.

    Concrete suggestions (beyond – sit him down and explain to him etc etc – been there) warmly welcomed.

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      You ask some very good and poignant questions. I do understand your frustration, Emily. The very hard thing about the situation, as you describe it here, is that he gives you no option. He’s not in the relationship from what you describe here. And, if he won’t get help, what can you do? There are no tricks or interventions for someone who behaves as you describe here. Even the best therapists cannot help someone who does not want to be helped. Of course, you are not supposed to sweetly go around him. That is not my point. My point is that yelling, giving him mandates, or whatever it is that you have don so far hasn’t worked too well. Am I right about this?

      I’ve treated people throughout the years in similar circumstances. What I find, often, is that the non-PA mate doesn’t want to leave the relationship but also doesn’t want to face that there’s nothing to be done if the PA mate makes no effort to change. I know you must be frustrated beyond words Emily. And I would love to be able to give you concrete suggestions here — but the only person, from what you say here, who is amenable to suggestion is YOU. May I suggest that you talk to someone professionally to explore your options, if you haven’t so far?

      Thank you for your comments. Warm regards to you Deborah.

  6. avatar Liz says:

    I’ve been marries to a PA man for 22 years. Throughout my marriage, I have always been made to feel like it was ” my fault” for any argument. I was made to look like a demanding, unhappy wife. I usually could n’t understand as I never asked help with the kids or around the house. I didn’t yell or nag, but was told I always did. I never could post a to do list. I am now at a breaking point, but feel so trapped. Years of hurt has built up as we can’t discuss issues. Financially, we are in a bad place. It’s so bad that I think I’d sometimes rather die than continue in the constant emotional pain!

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Dear Liz, I wish for you this coming 2013, peace. I understand what you are saying here. You are right, many of the spouses of passive-aggressive people are made to feel as if the problem is them. I hope that 2013 brings you a resolution. Have courage to do what you need to do to regain your faith and peace of mind. If you have not seen a therapist yet (for yourself), I suggest that you do see a person Liz. He or she will help you to articulate your suffering and desires so that you know what YOU want to do to live well once again. Happy New Year friend. I’m rooting for you Liz. Warmly Deborah.

  7. avatar Diane says:

    Deborah, your article on pa is by far the best explanation that I have found and I so wish that I had this info years ago.
    I have just now figured out that the emotional roller coaster that I have been on for 40 years has a name. I had no idea. It does help some that I now know why my husband acts this way and what I “should” do to not feed the monster. It isn’t easy and I am so resentful of wasting my life with this man. I know I have some blame in this because I always fell for it. Now I keep quiet and watch and listen for his “set-ups.” They are there and so obvious!!!!!! I guess I never realized a person like this ever existed little lone my husband. He was suppose to be my best friend. Huh? Where was I? I can tell he gets great joy from my reactions.

    Your line:
    The partners of passive-aggressive people usually have a past similar to their partners. But, they coped with it by becoming emotionally-expressive, take-charge people.

    That is me…the feeder of the monster.

    Don’t know what I am going to do but just wanted to let you know that your article is the best that I have found on explaining everything especially how pa could have started when we were children. Thank you!!

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hi Diane, thank you. Passive aggressive people engender so many feelings in us and responses that it is very hard to sort out what’s going on. And, often, we sort it out after there’s already been enough trauma to wear us down. Diane that you could put up with PA in your husband for 40 years speaks to your strength, but also to how much of yourself you had to submerge to just get a long with him. It is hard to stop feeding the pattern that you call monster. Indeed, it is monstrous in how much it wears down your self-esteem. Yes, listen for the set ups Diane and do not get involved. You were the feeder of the monster, because you are stronger and a care-taker. But, as you said, you don’t have to feed the monster anymore. This is your freedom.

      Also, the PA person does get joy from his mate acting out his aggression and upset. Then they can say; Ah Hah! You are the bad one! And, even if the PA person doesn’t consciously feel happy because they don’t know what’s really going on–it is a relief to have someone else act out the anger that they keep inside. Thank you Diane. I’m thinking of you and wishing you well. Let 2013 be your year of personal freedom from this destructive pattern. Warmly, Deborah.

  8. avatar CUTB says:

    Thank you, so refreshing to see the possible problems of the recipients background (me) but whilst still assuring me that I am not going completely mad.

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      You are welcome CUTB. Thank you for stopping by to read this post. No, you are not going completely mad. Hope you visit again. Warmly Deborah.

  9. avatar Claire says:

    This perfectly describes what I’m going through at the moment with my partner, I wish you could be our therapist! I realise now that I have to work on not allowing myself to be provoked…but it’s so difficult as I find the injustice of his remarks so hard to bear!

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Claire, welcome. Thank you for your kind words. I am sorry that you are going through this. It is hard on the self esteem. Even if just some of the times, you can avoid being provoked into the cycle of passive aggressive drama, it will help. Be kind too yourself, if you fail sometimes. This is easy to do as passive aggressive people know the buttons to push. You take good care Claire. Warmly Deborah.

  10. avatar S says:

    Thank you for this so much, I really wish there was a magic pill to make him better. I’m the immigrant in HIS country a place where passivity is paramount and actively encouraged. He’s pushed me to the brink of suicide with his behaviour and I’ve only held back so far because of our child, but my caring is fading. Finding a therapist who even speaks my language well enough to help us in a society where passive aggression seems to live in the native population like blood, is probably impossible so I’m finding there’s probably no hope. You sound like the person we NEED with all of your thourough eloquent knowledge here! ! I have DID on top of all the problems so that makes coping with his horse shit even more tiring and endlessly annoying when he can use the excuse “oh was that you earlier that said/did/got mad about this or that”. ( a pretty regular excuse for him is blaming my alters or my amnesia.)
    Your post was inspiring, i kmow I’m not just crazy, and there’s reasons why he acts the way he does.
    Thank you for this , so much

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello S! I know, especially with a passive-aggressive mate; a pill would surely be easier. No, you are not crazy; passive aggressive is crazy-making. I’m sorry your situation is so hard. You must feel alone in all of this. I’m sure. But, remember, you are right; there are reasons why he’s like this that have nothing to do with you S. You take good care of yourself. Warmly Deborah

  11. avatar S says:

    This is very hard for me, but the flood gate is about to open…..
    I have been married to my husband and best friend for 15 years now. We have almost 15 yr old daughter and 12 yr old son. Times are harder now than ever before. We needed to move back to my hometown after 10 years of being away- I wanted to give my husband a break from his high demand woodworking business and some time to explore his inspiration and to just mellow and continue homeschooling our children (since he is so very smart)and to connect with them ;- I went to work with my parent’s company. Hard thing for me to do- my folks are controlling, judgmental and even though I’ve been able to improve their outlook on our lifestyle, it’s still a struggle. I was a difficult child that just wanted acceptance for who I am from my parents. My spouse comes from a rough past> abuse, physical & mental > he stepped out of the situation when he was 14 to raise himself (graduated college and started a happy family). He has always been an intense person- meaning he really FEELS what he is saying and that can be misconstrued as him being a jerk. He is opinionated, interrupts constantly(which I have now begun to do). About 3 years ago he started having seizures (I think from stress) and almost a year after they began (an episode every 5 months) until 5 in one night & collapsed veins, did we decide for him to be chemically medicated with a very low dose of Keppra & he hasn’t had any more since. However, our relationship has been majorly shifted (I understand that we are ever changing/ evolving as humans) but this time NOT for good. The medication keeps him irritable and moody (pre meds he has had history of depression). I myself am a historically angry person that has worked very hard (my parents too) to help me control that anger. At this point in our marriage, I don’t know what to do… I don’t know if I am PA > if he is > my children as well. I know my parents are for certain & that within itself causes massive stress on my marriage. (they don’t really like my husband) We tend to have a better marriage when we do live in my hometown, but economically we cannot step away from the area again at this point in time. I know being here really sets my husband off very negatively. Our arguments have escalated into just awful and I have struck him when I lost control. I told him 5 years ago and then perhaps 6 more times since then that I hate him. I know this is not good to say to someone that has been abused and neglected, regected. (not a good thing to say in general) This past weekend was supposed to be a fun weekend that turned very sour even before we left. We should have called it off, but I thought camping was what we needed… and maybe it is, just not together. He was so upset the whole weekend because he kept losing things and thinking we moved them, (maybe someone in the group did- ?)…. He does this A LOT since the seizures, but also since my son has been taking things out of our personal spaces, losing them, breaking the items and then lying to avoid taking responsibility- our home security was breached from within. I keep seeing my anger in my son. I keep seeing my daughter loosing self confidence and yearning for the day she moves away from the boys in the house and is even getting sick of my imbalances ( I know she is teenage!!). This issue with husband & i & boy stealing has been really taxing on our homeschooling goals, efforts and needs. My son is “rebel without a cause”— does the opposite of what mama requests and generally disrespectful and unfocused. I don’t want to label him, but I am pretty sure he is ADHD- I myself was diagnosed ADD when I was 14, but unable to be prescribed anything due to a substance abuse problem I finally overcame and then my husband has really helped me> saved me> by helping me see I am strong enough to have self control everyday in all aspects of life.
    The fight really began with an unfortunate constant miscommunication and I don’t think I am listening anymore. He criticizes me – lets me know whenever he doesn’t like what I am doing down to how I put the pillow on the couch, but then himself will do the same behavior and I’ve learned it’s not good if I say something to him just to make my point he is being a hypocrite. The substance abuse I spoke of, I think has really diminished my memory, I truly forget a lot very often to the point that my kids use that to their advantage. Which ultimately causes trouble. I insult, name call my husband when he won’t stop lecturing ME & criticizing. I know I’m not perfect, but I wish I could be good enough for him to see my goodness and beauty. I think I misconstrue his true meaning, but I know I don’t like how I have been treated within the past few years…. Then I always have to remember that he is on this medication and did have brain injury that he personally struggles with accepting and has everyday challenges. He was massively brilliant before the seizures, I’ve been raised around & with highly educated individuals, and he was pretty up there…. The seizures “really dumbed me down” he’s said and I know that really is true and he really struggles with it. He has never been a positive person and the issue of pessimism has been the end to his relationships in the past. I love this man with all my heart and do not want him to leave our home> but I think he needs some personal head space to find himself, he is scared that he absolutely doesn’t like who he is- he is scared to look inside> but has not been able to change ( I began requesting he stops the critisisims years ago and very calmly, nicely like teaching a child the same lesson of compassion & self worth). I think he and I are possibly not good for each other or our children right now. I feel like we are messing them up with our own growing up. My son tells us to go back to 2nd grade when we fight like we did… This time was because I didn’t really listen to him when he was talking about something very positive taking us to a very special spot while were camping, or forgot that was this trip, because we have others lined up for this month next week is family reunion for a week that I have had to do the planning & our arrangments:{ and so we played in the river til evening & then he mentions he wanted to bring us there but “we” decided to do something differant… “just wanted to take us there before the bullsh about to come upon us with the family & I commented that I didn’t even know what he was talking about- which upset him greatly because he apparently extensivly told me of this place> and when he was upset about not being able to find his speacial spot anymore, even using maps, he apologizes in a sad voice, and I could tell his heart ached & i gently, calmly told him it was alright, I understand he wanted to bring us, to not be so hard on himself- and meant it> a few moments later he said ” if YOU all didn’t decide to play at the river then we would have had pleanty of time”. I’m taken aback by this and say ” waaaiiit a minute… you could have simply mentioned something to us this morning- and I am sure we would have totally been into that> but I totally forgot” And then he questioned how I could possibly have forgotten he wanted to this and next thing we are nitpicking and then yelling> then I’m screaming. And I’ve totally scarred him with my name calling, yelling—screaming, and unconscious- sort of) putting him down to feel like he has made me feel, because quite frankly, I do not want to feel like I am a child to him and I have even begun questioning my self-worth. I don’t know what to do. This segment of life has gotten complicated and insecure for him and I and I am sure the kids too. We don’t have the money for therapy and both husband & I have gone through our share when we were younger ( before we knew one another) & have opinions of what we experienced that may prevent us from seeking a counselor. Yet, here I am writing in vast length what I have been wanting to say and heal for quite some time. I am just lost on what to do, which direction would be the best for us all> after this past fight he let me into the fact that 5 years ago when I first told him I hated him ( which I did at that moment- but really love him so much – I’ve told him that)) but the damage was done- after the 3rd time he warned me I cannot continue saying that to him- he will only be able to bear it so much>> yesterday when we were fighting, he told me that I broke him, really damaged him long ago with that phrase to the point he has secretly had a bag packed in case I tell him to leave, because I have a handful of times throughout the past 5 years. He’s apologized for all the pain he’s caused & thinks it best he leaves. I don’t want him to leave, I would just like to not be criticized, not be shown my faults all the time, not feel like we are walking on eggshells around him… we have to or an argument will flare up or a 2 hour lecture. My life is too much of that crap and not enough happiness > or at least I am not feeling the gratitude, appreciation or respect I really think I deserve. (I’m really a sweet gal- always thank husband for his efforts & contributions> he thinks it’s become formulated. I thank a lot. And mean it. I am thankful for so much and try so hard to have my family focus on those blessings. Not being religious ( we are struggling-Taoists) – this is a particularly challenging thing because I know all situations hold positive & negative. I want to go towards the positive, but am set off by the pessimism in my husband. I want to help him love himself, but Im not doing a good job with calling names and feeling so hurt at this point in our relationship, that I hurt him back very deeply. I want to stop that, I want to hold my tongue, but even when I bite it hard enough to taste blood, I still open my mouth and argue.
    Sorry for the novel I am sending here, I am somehow finding it easier to talk to you, particularly after watching & reading some of what you are about & listening to your techniques. I just am not sure if all of us in the house are PA and then don’t know what to do to get us on the road of unity and personal healing. I don’t know if I messed it all up this past fight. I said awful, hurtful things I completely regret and simple can never take back. I see today I really have broken my man and I feel like a failure, cold hearted B, and now see that my son defiantly emulates me when angry… which is really not good. And I just worry about my daughter. She just wants peace and is always so concerned about what Dad will think about what she’s doing, down to the food she fixes from the kitchen. Please help…. I think I may type forever… I’ve got a lot to say.

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello S. I can see how stressed you are. Stressed is an understatement right? You and your family have been going through so much stress right now that I’m not surprised by the escalation in arguments and what we call in our field regression in behavior (name calling, striking out, arguing). When a stressful situation poses new elements that we don’t know how to manage well–we don’t know how to cope with them. This is when we regress to behaviors that are in some ways like we are in “second-grade” again, as your son says.

      First, your husband’s seizures are a big change in your life, as you describe well. Anti seizure medications have many side effects, as you know, one of which is to make your husband more absent minded, not recalling or remembering things well, and feeling “dumbed down” as he says. This, being around your parents again and several of you having ADHD issues as well as depression is STRESSFUL.

      You know by my articles that I believe strongly that we need to treat stressful problems through a whole lifestyle approach. But, that being said, some of the problems that you mention here may require therapy and medication. I mention therapy for support and to help you to cope and problem solve. You sound sad and remorseful about the effect of your anger on your husband and family. I admire your ability to look at your contribution to the difficulties. But, as I said, you are under so much stress. I hope you are open to going to therapy. I think you need support and if you haven’t tried medication for your anger problem, this may be very helpful to you. I know you wish to be more in control of yourself. I don’t know because I’m not treating you if your mood problem can be managed through talk therapy alone of if there is a clinical biological contribution to your anger and depression. That’s why I’m recommending therapy.

      You haven’t said that you want a separation. You said you think he needs time and space. So I’m unsure what you would like to do, what is good for you, your spouse and your children.

      Your wisdom as to positivity and negativity being opposite poles of one phenomena is good. But, the amount of change in your life is not permitting you to respond to stresses as neither good nor bad; just is. Our biology can thwart our best efforts. S. this is what I suggest. From all you say here, it seems that the first order is to get some calm in your lives so you can problem solve. Again, I think individual or couple therapy can help all of you to assess what is needed to bring this calm about–then when everyone is thinking very clearly, you can take one problem at a time, so you can move forward.

      Thank you for writing me today. Will you let me know how it goes for you ( And, Happy Mother’s Day to you. Blessings for healing through 2013. Warmly Deborah.

  12. avatar Suz-q says:

    As many others have posted, this article is by far the best I have read on the subject. It felt good to read something that rang true. I have been married for 14 years to one of the best Passive Aggressive’s in the business. I too wanted to die at one point and was always made to feel I was the crazy one. I had my suspicions about him because people who knew him before I married him would tell me he was PA. He’s also a “People Pleaser” and thrives on approval from others, even at the expense of his own was only recently that I told him I wanted out of the relationship. It took a few months but he finally went to therapy. I saw a few changes so I took him back, but now he wants to quit therapy. We live and work in the same house. I think I need a therapist.
    thanks Deborah

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Suz-q, reading or hearing what we have been living with can be so healing. I’m glad that this post rang true with your experience. Passive aggressive people are very good at making others believe they are the wrong ones or the one with the problem. Just to start creating a boundary between what is his stuff versus your stuff will help you very much.

      Unfortunately, PA people usually have to be forced in therapy through an ultimatum, like the one you gave your husband. It’s good that you saw some behavior change in him. But, he should stick with the therapy because PA issues don’t change over night. It sounds like he went to therapy to “please” you–but he shouldn’t quit.

      Many times the mates of PA people are the first to get into therapy because of their mate’s crazy making behavior. It may be helpful for you to have that support and to be able to step away from the dramas that he creates. Let me know how it all goes. Look forward to seeing you again here soon Suz-q. Warmly Deborah.

      • avatar Suz-q says:

        Hi Deborah,
        My husband decided to stay in therapy after all. His PA explains so much since his family growing up was highly dis-functional especially his Dad who was borderline abusive and would stand over him when he was little and berate him. My husband said when this happened he would shut down and go into his own world. I asked him if he wouldn’t mind if I saw his therapist by myself to explain what I think is going on in our relationship now that I finally know for sure there is a name for a behavior. I want to do this because I don’t think he is telling he therapist the real story about me. (right now I’m the bad guy) Do you think that’s is a good idea?

        Also, through some counsel of a good friend I’ve decided to stop telling him what I “think” since he get’s so defensive, and start telling him more how I “feel” about any given situation. It seems to be helping. Also I’m planning to make an appointment for myself to see my own family and marriage therapist.

        Please let me know your thoughts.


  13. avatar Claire says:

    I came across PA articles by accident when looking for advice on how to deal with a very awkward team member. The more I read I began to realize I’ve been living with a PA man for the last 25 years.

    The arriving late to pick me up from work, without an apology or explanation, the forgotten birthdays, the unfinished jobs around the house, his weekends away planned weeks in advance, that I find out about on the day he’s leaving. Whenever I try to talk about our issues he just stonewalls me. Not knowing any better I put it down to thoughtlessness or selfishness on his part, the idea that it was more deliberate than that and intended to frustrate or anger me has left me reeling. On the other hand the explanation has provided some relief.

    Of course I’ve blamed myself thinking he didn’t want a scene about him going away, even though on reflection it was never about that, it was always the secret, that made me upset.

    At this point in time I don’t know whether to stick it out and see if by modifying my behavior I can change his or just to end the relationship and go our separate ways. We have had good times, although always on his terms.

    For the last few weeks I can only manage to be courteous to him which as I’m always the communicator means the silences are deafening. Sadly that seems better than putting myself in a position where I have to deal with him trying to bait me, now I’m more aware of the underlying cause.

    I am a strong person I just don’t know if I’m strong enough to cope with this any longer.

    Your article certainly gives me some glimmer of hope.

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Claire, I’m glad you came across my article and that the understanding made you feel a little hopeful. Yes, many spouses of PA people blame themselves, until they really understand what is happening in the relationship. It’s not easy to see all of the emotional dynamics involved in relating to a PA person, as the emotional maneuvers can be subtle. But, also, because the mates of PA persons tend to take the blame for things as a style of relating to the world. Claire, I usually recommend, if you haven’t already, that you talk to someone on your own, at least at first, so you can work through the feelings and get to know better what you want to do. WArm wishes to you Claire. Deborah.

  14. avatar Gillian says:

    Hello Dr. Deborah.
    I don’t know whether to cry or jump for joy at reading this article. There are so many things now that make sense to me about my partner (and myself).

    I will tell you a bit about my situation. I have been with my ‘partner’ for about 8 years. I can now describe him as a passive aggressive commitment-phobe.

    He is everything you describe above in your article including the fact that he is a very placid person. All my family think he is just wonderful – a lovely calm man. I’m sure I chose him as I came away from a slightly stormy marriage.

    I emigrated away from my birth home to S. Africa many years ago and returned after a 10 year marriage and divorced. Then I met then I met this lovely, placid, kind man. However, he is 47 and has never lived away from his parents.

    I thought when I met him he was after the same thing I wanted – a place of his own. But as time went on I ended up getting a place of my own and he visits me now and again and stays over at weekends.

    We had 1 split about 2 years ago when he said he had fallen out of love with me and after 6months wrote me a lovely letter saying how much he had ‘grown up’ and asking if there was any chance we could see each other again. He seemed to have suffered a great deal (as had I). I said that I would consider getting back with him as long as we would move forward with the relationship and not go back to where we had been before. 2 years later we are back to where we were before.

    I have cajoled him along and questioned in every way about sharing a property or even him just moving in with me into my place, until he has finally admitted that he ‘prefers things as they are’ – i.e. living with his parents and seeing me occasionally.

    But the passive aggressive thing is really only dawning on me since I read your article. He has this amazing ability to make me feel like I am the one with the problems. So much so that I have done a great deal of soul searching and even practice yoga now. Deep down I feel like I am the more well rounded personality with life experience and the ability to ‘work through things’, forgive and forget etc. If we have talked about serious emotional things he’s distinctly uncomfortable and would rather brush under the carpet. In the event of an ‘argument’ he will simply repeat and repeat and repeat (verbatim) his point and seems to have no ability to ‘reason’.

    He is particularly ‘close’ to his sister (a single teacher, 46) but they communicate in a very simple juvenile language, infantile even. His mother appears to be very dependent on him, as does his father but maybe not to the same extent as the mother – a very needy woman. But my partner ‘chooses’ to be needed – this is his way of life.

    Currently he has this new technique of getting under my skin – withdrawing altogether – not even texting. I asked him about this and he said that I did the same and that it didn’t bother him at all. We have never had the sort of relationship whereby I could just call him if I wanted. Things had to be arranged – by him.

    So at this moment I have not heard anything from him for 1 week. Of course this is torture for me but I seem strangely used to it now. Before now I have always been the one to ‘break the ice’ with a text but this is really stale mate as I feel I have lost face so many times before and that the whole relationship is on his terms alone.

    It would be nice to talk with someone (I have 2 sisters and that helps, but I mainly get a ‘poor man’ comment as everyone thinks that he is ‘stuck’ with looking after his elderly parents. He doesn’t have any friends outside his family and has had bad luck re jobs etc but thankfully he is employed again after working for 17 years in one company. He doesn’t really have a lot going for him so I do feel sorry for him but he is great to be with when we actually do hook up. When we are together he nearly ‘needs’ to hold my hand and is almost a little clingy. It’s all very confusing really and there’s so much more to all this. however ready your article, as I say, a lot of this makes more sense and thank you.

    I’d love you to give me your thoughts though and any advice on this relationship.

    Thanks again.

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Gillian. I know. YOu express well the conflicted feelings of being involved with a PA person. Cry or jump for joy is right. All of the emotions they evoke are polarized–they are kind, helpful and exceedingly gracious at times but also quite hostile in their passive thwarting of your goals and happiness. I like your insight that coming off of a stormy marriage made his calm and placid ways so appealing to you. Sounds right Gillian.

      His behavior sounds passive aggressive, at least, in how he interacts in relationship to you. All of what you describe are actually acts of hostility. Seems strange right? But you feel angry when he doesn’t follow through, stops texting you for a week, and blames you for the relationship problems. We have to examine how behavior makes us feel. Then, we can get to what the behavior is really all about. PA people have a lot of hostility (usually over dependency to parents) that they cannot openly express because of their psychological conflicts. And, I understand that you feel sorry for him. I’m sure some of your empathy is warranted given his circumstance. It’s hard to have never lived away from one’s parents at 47 years of age. I feel for any person whose psychological problems have not permitted them to grow and form healthy relationships in life. So I appreciate your empathy. And, I’m not surprised to hear you say that when you do get together, you enjoy him. Just because a person has psychological issues doesn’t mean they are not good people.

      Gillian, it sounds like a there are a lot of things going on here. I couldn’t say for sure because I’m not treating him. But, keep in mind that commitment phobic males are what we call hostile dependent. They can commit, superficially, but when they get too close they act very hostile–outright hostility. It sounds like your mate acts out his anger passively, which may point to his passive aggression.

      My thoughts for you, now. Gillian, reflect upon what you want and need more than his issues. It’s been 8 years now, and he still is not able to give you a healthy relationship. You could spend another 8 years more, and then another 8 years trying to understand him, while all the time forgetting that you have a life to unfold, to live. So my advice is more for you than him. 8 years gives us plenty of time to see the writing on the wall. What do you want? If you decide what you have with him right now is okay and can live with it, then, of course, this is up to you. But, stop hoping for him to change. You may be hoping away your youth. Thank you again for sharing your story with me. Take good care. And, remember, this is your life; use it well. Warmly Deborah!

  15. avatar Valerie says:

    Hi Deborah… I can’t believe I find myself revisiting reading about PA. I have been divorced for 3 years and PA hit it’s height at the peak of our marital struggles. At the time I had no idea what it was…. the more our marriage was on the rocks the more PA behavior came my way. The height of it was when I was trying to get him to follow up on divorce paperwork deadlines and he dragged his feet and threw more and more obstacles at the deadlines that really irritated me. This manifested in him having me arrested.. (I won’t get into the details) but it was then that my attorney brought up his behavior as PA. I didn’t know what that was and when I researched it it was spot on!!! We divorced but I am happy to report that not being married to him allowed us to actually have a better relationship with each other and our kids. I am not sure if you have seen cases like this where one of the options of dealing with PA is simply to get yourself out of the relationship. So now I can sniff out PA a mile away and have noticed that some friends of mine know the term but not what it is. Now here is different spin. Three years after my divorce I am considering the path to reconciliation with my ex because we have built a solid relationship. I am unsure if I should leave well enough alone or go down this path. He is a great father and over the last 3 years has been attentive to my needs but I also have not been holding him to any expectations like an intimate committed relationship requires. So I’m just not sure here. He is with a girlfriend at the moment which was his reaction when I had gone back with my former boyfriend. It’s funny but I am sniffing PA in some ways coming my way all over again already.. even though he has hoped we could get back together… now that I am really considering it.. he is not communicating well again… and rather than embrace me enthusiastically because I am meeting him where he wanted to be… he seems to be dragging his feet on communications. Do you think it is helpful or harmful to continue telilng him his behavior is PA? I mean I feel like it is helpful because then he knows I’m on to him.. I know I just have to be really sure I want to go down this path again.

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Valerie, oh, yes. I’m sure taking care of the practical matters of divorce became a nightmare for you. Oh, my goodness, having you arrested is such ill behavior. It symbolizes his unconscious attempt to isolate and harness his intolerable behavior that he has projected onto you. I’m sorry for all you went through Melanie. Thank goodness you are free of this situation and can heal. Well, if you are “sniffing” PA ways coming your way–then please take this intuitive red flag seriously. Melanie. I have no doubt that he’s a good father. PA individuals, as I said, can be very fine people, no matter how difficult they sound. Their problems are psychological and unfortunately the more intimate the relationship, the more these problems will appear. So unless he has had some serious psychotherapy and character change–remember, it is your distance that is making both of you able to relate in non-pathological ways. You take good care Valerie. Thanks for sharing. Warmly Deborah.

      • avatar lm says:

        “PA individuals, as I said, can be very fine people, no matter how difficult they sound. “

        This is the part that intrigues me (and obviously, I got to the page because I was researching how to deal with someone who behaves like this).

        I don’t know how it was for other people, but I got into relationship with this person precisely because he explicitly promised he would NOT behave like this.

        This is someone who at the beginning said “Communication is what I care for” and then later, when there was a problem precipitated by his behavior and/or failure to keep a promise he’d made to me, proceeded to stonewall me.

        This was someone who would say things like “I’m all in” and then cancel plans he had asked me to make (or, like someone else here on the thread, make plans far in advance of what he had asked for and then let me know they conflicted at the very last minute).

        This was someone who had said his past relationships ended when women would just drop out of sight without a word instead of telling him “I don’t want to talk to you anymore”… which was, down to the letter of the description, precisely the way he proceeded to behave toward me (after I’d apparently done things like have the temerity to point out that the events he’d cancelled on, or had conflicting obligations he’d failed to tell me about, were things he’d asked me to set up) at the apparent close of our relationship.

        (Most of these things – the things he said he didn’t like – were things I asked about when we first started talking, in the beginning of the relationship – because I want to treat the people well whom I want to get close to and I care about what upsets them.)

        This is someone who, when I told him at the outset that we should “go slowly” and try to be friends first – since it was my experience that a good friendship is the foundation of a good relationship – said to me “I don’t WANT to be friends” (isn’t there some movie where that happens?). And now, when I see the ads he posts looking for a new relationship – yes, you read that right; this is someone who thinks that because the relationship is not 100% of what he wants, the thing to do is replace the other person, not fix the dynamic – the ads say things like “Friends first” and “I’m looking for a relationship but I want to go slow”.

        (My guess is that there are so many ads up because he’s not getting any responses. I’m not going to be the one who tells him what’s wrong with those ads; I’m a good, kind, giving person, but I don’t have a martyr complex.)

        This is someone who’d basically lied to me about pretty much everything he was and then proceeded to do to me everything he said he hated having done to him.

        My question is … what precisely is so “fine” about a person who behaves like this?

        • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

          Absolutely nothing is fine about the behavior, Lm. But, unless the person is antisocial or a psychopath, they are not terrible, evil people, although their behavior is highly dysfunctional and difficult to be around. PA people fear criticism and rejection so that they often hide their true feelings. There’s a difference between an all out lie and lying that results from a person’s defenses. LM, when I read your comment, I wondered if the person you describe here is a true PA. Passive aggressive people don’t outright lie to get away with things. They defensively undermine our actions, which most definitely can feel like they are liars.

          I’m sorry about this painful experience. I know it’s very hard to date today because there are many people out there who lie to themselves, which ends up lying to us. You take good care. Warmly Deborah.

  16. avatar La Vida Loca says:

    Living with a P/A is like looking into a distorted mirror. The self looks to another for encouragement and confidence and when that other gives positive feed back then good self esteem is created in the self which boosts self confidence. When the other gives negative or crazy-making feed back then the self’s view or sense of self becomes distorted, self confidence plummets and anxiety and self loathing can result. At times one might realize one is really okay and are a good lovable person, yet, the continual living with a distorted mirror, a P/A, can warp one’s view of self and cause them to appear to be the crazy one.

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello La Vida Loca, that’s an interesting way to look at it. You are right–it is like looking in a distorted mirror. Passive aggressive behavior can be so subtle and hard to detect which if their or your behavior that it all gets very convoluted. And, true, people living with PA mates often enter therapy feeling very confused about what is happening in the relationship–unsure who or what is causing the relationship problems. Thank you for your insight. Warmly Deborah.

  17. avatar Sherri says:

    Hi Deborah,

    I have realized that my husband is a PA man for several years, although learning that has not entirely made living with him any easier. With all psychological issues – there is an acknowledgement followed by a myriad of emotional issues and personal behavioral changes. I think just recently I have realized that my reaction to His rage and anger if fueling his behavior. Your article is one that made me realize this. I have gotten to the point that I just “go off” on him louder and stronger than he is.
    My husband is a very big athletic man and is not so passive in his demeanor….although he has every PA trait. His father raged and was physical; he is not physical but rages.
    I have learned to see the signs and signals of the “dance” ensuing. I have learned that I cannot count on him to finish anything – I can count on him to intentionally frustrate me in every way possible. I have learned to take care of myself (this has been a long time coming)…Your words ring so true “Take away opportunities for them to control you through their inaction….You yourself fulfill these daily responsibilities. You’ll relieve yourself from a lot of stress…” Although you have to get over the anger and bitterness that it feels like you’re doing it all on your own with Him offering only obsticles.
    I have not found any suggestions about how to deal with the PA man and having children. I am strong – I can survive anything he can throw at me, but I see my young children suffering from our toxic relationship. My husband is 51, I am 46 and we have a 7 year old and a 4 year old. I see the kids behaving like us, and it’s not pretty. I fear that they are quickly becoming little PAs themselves with a defiant side (that would be from me).
    I was raised in a great Christian home – middle child with 3 brothers. I have never felt the need to be like others but have always been a helper to get others where they need to go. There is so much not said and I could go on forever – but my question is “What about the kids?” I have a heavy heart that these innocents are absorbing this venomous atmosphere and without leaving, how do you stop the game?
    I have made a conscious effort to make sure their world as secure and stable as possible…making sure they have structure – eat together (dad is usually absent).
    I do not trust him to be with the alone kids much because he has put them in life threatening danger in the past (ignorance or just plain lack of street smarts) – The first thing he does if they get hurt is to yell at them and accuse them.
    I do not want them to grow up to be dysfunctional adults. Any suggestions?

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Sherri, thank you for sharing your situation with me. I know it has not been easy on you and the children. Unfortunately, unless he got help for his problems, you don’t have much choice but to learn how to take away chances for him to control you through passive-aggressive inaction. Thus, yes, if you can don’t rise to his level of anger, as you already know, it does nothing to put a fire under him. But, it does upset your children, I”m sure. Your removing yourself from his crazy making behavior will be good for the children.

      Sherri, first, as I said, stop being pulled into his cycle. But, next, I recommend that you alone go talk to someone to see if you think the relationship can bring any level of fulfillment to you and the children. I understand that you would like to avoid divorcing if you can. I believe in marriage too Sherri but not at the extent of robbing you and your children of peace and fulfillment. But, only you can determine what’s involved in staying or leaving. There is a good book called Too Good To Leave, Too Bad to Stay by Kirschenbaum. Now, some of the examples she use are physical violence, but in general the book helps people to think through the value of staying in a hurtful marriage.

      I wish I had other advice. But, I believe these two pieces will best help you in the long run. Thank you again Sherri. You take good care. And, that you have a strong interest in giving the children a peaceful, loving home to grow up in is wonderful and will lead you to the right decisions for everyone. Warmly Deborah.

      • avatar Liz says:

        I have been reading about PA spouses for a while now after I came upon the diagnosis a few years ago and immediately recognized what was wrong with us. Your article has been the best so far because it goes beyond the description of the situation and suggests specific coping strategies, which make sense to me, the non-PA but very angry spouse, who consequently constantly maneuvers herself into the role of the bad guy. I am trying to go by your suggestions and believe I am getting better at it. However, I do see a dilemma, too: it is not possible to live with a person under the same roof or indeed have any kind of close personal relationship without ever wanting anything of the other person, nor do I find it possible not to expect fulfillment of promises. How is that supposed to work?
        Thank you.

        • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

          Hello Liz, I’m sorry for the delay in getting back to you. Sometimes it takes a couple of weeks but I do respond to everyone. Thank you for taking the time to comment. I’m glad my post gave you some coping strategies that you can use. Oh, you got it right–the non PA spouse subconsciously maneuvers herself into the role of the bad guy, which deserves some speculation as to why would you want to be doing this?

          I’m so glad that you are trying to step out of the drama he creates. You raise a great question Liz: Can you still have a close relationship to the person now that you’ve let go of your expectations of him? How is that supposed to work–INDEED! Liz it only works if you have decided that there are things in your life with him that are good for you that make the relationship still viable. Also, when a PA person doesn’t feel pressured, the best of them does come out more. And, as I said in this post, PA are very charming, can be very smart and have many good things about them. It’s only in intimate relationships to lovers that you really see their deep seated problems. Liz, I wrote a post recently called Love is a Decision. Perhaps you read it. If you haven’t you may want to take a look at it ( ) I speak to what I say here that only we can decide somethings meaning to us and its worth. Let me know how it goes for you Liz. I’m rooting for you. Warmly Deborah.

  18. avatar newwife says:

    I feel like my husband is passive aggressive. He does hurtful things in our marriage on purpose because he looks at my needs and or wants as being told what to do not as fulfilling my wife’s needs or as being a loving supportive husband. The manipulation the constant feeling of not being secure with him. Its like a frienemy they act like they love you but you never know when they will turn on you and then blame you for it. Never talks when a situation arises just sits there wont engage at all. Make up things about you in his own head before you even get a chance to do anything its you would have done this or you would have done that, I didn’t want you to do this I knew you were go say or do this. It always your fault no matter what. He will make it you fault in his head you are the worst person on earth your crazy and wild and have no self control even when that’s not you at all. He will make up things like you curse me everyday knowing you never curse even when your expressing your concerns. He will create situations to make you uncomfortable then blame you for being uncomfortable for example keeping u out all day then get irritated because your hungry or want something to drink. or he will take you out with him only to ignore you or gawk at other women as to make you feel uncomfortable a punishment for wanting him to take you out. If you say anything its your fault because you feel that way its not important at all your petty. How dare you tell me how you feel about what I did. Your concerns mean nothing to me. then its the I’m going to get you back for trying to tell me what to do. because remember I’m not telling him my feelings and needs I’m telling him what to do. I don’t know if I can deal with this for the rest of my life. I am still young I think I should cut my losses. Its like a bad dream you can never wake up from. He is like Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde but worst. I’m to a point that I really seriously don’t think he loves me. I don’t even think he likes me. I cant even imagine doing this to someone I LOVE. I think I need to get out if I ever want to have a loving healthy relationship. I don’t know how to deal with his attitude? How is it possible to love someone but intentionally hurt them and find pleasure in that hurt and pain? Has anyone ever been cured of this? Torn don’t know what to do

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello NewWife–oh, I’m sorry to hear you are facing these problems as a new wife. You are describing very well how tough it is to do with this problem. You ask some very good questions. May I recommend that you see a counselor to discuss this situation? I recommend it for you because it seems that you have to understand this situation’s impact on you and if you want to live with a person who emotionally puts you down and gives you no options for relating to him. It’s not a good situation, as you know too well. I’m so sorry you are struggling and in this bad dream. Is it possible for you to see a counselor? I really think it is going to help you to decide what YOU need to live healthily. Remember, there is life after this relationship. What you describe here is not changed easily dear.

      Also, you ask a very good question: “Has anyone ever been cured of passive-aggression?” No one is cured of it but can learn to manage their negative reactions. But, this takes a lot of time and interest. I can tell you that most PA people do not see their problems so that they rarely come into therapy by themselves. Their spouses drag them in treatment and they go unwillingly. You may spend many years with him trying to get him to see what he does–and get very little back.

      You let me know how it goes–and I hope you take my advice here. Warmly Deborah.

      • avatar lm says:

        ” I can tell you that most PA people do not see their problems so that they rarely come into therapy by themselves.”

        This floors me.

        How can people look at the wreckage of relationship after relationship – at work, in their personal lives – and not at least perceive that maybe, just maybe, there might be a problem, and it’s one their behavior patterns are contributing to?

        We can see it here in each other’s stories, and we’re strangers on the internet who don’t know anything about each other. Seriously, Dr. Deborah, how can they not see this??

        If she hadn’t been married to him, I’d have sworn that New Wife and I were dating the same person.


        • avatar Bunny says:

          They can see it. They can see hills and trees and the curve in the road can’t they?
          We’re told they don’t know what they do because they have a mountain of people making excuses for them.
          Many of us would prefer to think of others as nice and misunderstood rather than enjoying a lazy life of excuses, blaming, vengeance and covert sadism.
          I’ve lived with one of these for 13 years and have never been treated so cruel and callously by anyone that I had actually done anything wrong to much less someone who was my best friend and loved me. For the first eight years of our marriage he made up outrageous scenarios – one where I was walking him covertly into store columns- just so he could build up a anger and rage against me.

          • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

            Hello Bunny,I understand what you say here and your pain of having to live with someone with these problems. You ask a good question. Are they really oblivious to their emotional difficulties? Not completely. You are right. But, what you have to understand is their problems are rooted in their personality development, so that it is hard to change without professional help. Understanding their problems in no way says make excuses for their very difficult behaviors. It is really for people like you to know the extent of their problems so you make decisions that are best for you. Warm regards to you Deborah.

  19. avatar joy says:

    My soon to be ex-husband Passive aggressive personality disorder destroyed our marriage and nearly destroy me, my self esteem, my happiness, my trust in others, and my positive outlook personality! I am on the road to recovery… I can really write a book on the subject I lived it and have researched and read countless books and articles on the subject!

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Joy, well, I see you found a solution. I understand Joy. PA can ruin a relationship and many people married to PA people do choose to leave. I’m sure you could write some good books on it from a first-hand perspective. One thing is for sure Joy–you have been there and done that so you never have to go there again. Warmly Deborah. **Oh, let me know when your book is out!

  20. avatar Bronze says:

    I can’t imagine any life worse then staying with a PA. I did do it – I did it all on my own because you sure can’t ask a PA to do anything. Why bother to manage their ridiculous immaturity? I have grown, I have worked on myself, I’m not perfect but I have navigated my life and three children with a recalcitrant lead weight strapped to me, never knowing what he was going to sabotage next. Having no expectations of the other adult in the house when you both have jobs, responsibilities and children creates too much drama to even be bothered with and yet bother with it we do. Why? Looking back, my advice would be to get rid of these losers and don’t bother waiting for change. Mine went to anger management and we went to marriage counselling and he got worse. I have nothing left but disrespect after a 20 year marriage dragging a dead weight around. I tried the nice, the polite, the just doing it on my own which incidentally was the only way to survive but when he upped the anti and started actually sabotaging our family life to making huge messes for me to clean up as well as manage everything else, I couldn’t cope. Not to mention his over the top rage episodes any time I asked him to do anything – even pick his own child up from school. His tantrums were phenomenal and his PA was just the rest of the time. Tantrum-PA-tantrum-PA and on and on. Exhausting. I couldn’t be sure he wouldn’t put the kids in danger on purpose just to get a reaction, which is what he has since done anyway. What is the actual purpose of having these people in our life if we have to have no expectations and do everything like a parent for them? Why bother, when there are so many healthy people to talk to who don’t twist your words, pretend you don’t exist and sabotage your efforts to move forward in your own life? The best advice is to cut them loose, let them run home to mumma and do what you’ve been doing anyway – all of it on your own, except now you don’t have to drag a man baby around with you and have the rug pulled from under you every few days. My life is so much better with just me and the kids. He spent so much time being PA and sulking in his room while he was here, that we don’t even miss him. And we sure don’t miss the massive tantrums he used to put on – sometimes we could hear him in his room on his own, having a tantrum while we were all upstairs having fun and talking like a normal family and we would just look at each other and shake our heads! And definitely don’t tell them how you feel, because that just gives them ammunition to hurt you. RUN.

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      We hear you Bronze. I’m glad that your life with just and the children is so much better. We have to trust in ourselves, our own wisdom about a situation, and do what is needed. You take good care and thank you very much for sharing your experience with us here. There will be others who feel they have to leave for survival too. and, you will give them strength. Warmly Deborah.

  21. avatar Crazy making says:

    I am married to a PA person for the past 2 1/2 years. Almost everyday, I ask myself, did I do something wrong? Was there something that I could have done to prevented that fight/argument? I have been seeing a counselor for the past 4 months. According to my husband, he was forced into seeing his own therapist, even though he brought up the idea by himself. But he quit after 1-2 months. I don’t know the exact time he quit, because he didn’t tell me when he quit. We have also been going to see a marriage counselor. I don’t feel like the marriage counseling is going well, because I feel like the counselor is always on his side! Everytime, when he does to not respond during session, which is almost 75% of the time, the marrigae counselor will step in and say “I sense you are feeling ….” Then my husband will just nod and that was it. Is this how marriage counseling is suppose to work? Everytime when I say something, it is always with no response. But if by chance he says something, the marriage counselor will say “yes, that is important.” I feel like what he says, which is almost nothing, is way more important. Everytime when he brings something up from like a year ago that happened, and he has been keeping it in and not expressing it, the marriage counselor jumps on it and wants me to defend my actions from a year ago. But when I point out something that he did that was completely crazy, the counselor doesn’t see the need to follow up on it.

    I guess I am totally frustrated by a PA husband and a possible counselor that I feel is taken in by my husband protraying himself as the victim.

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello, I hear and understand your frustration. You raise some very interesting therapy issues here. With a PA partner, the marriage therapist needs to be direct and active in the therapy sessions. A change in behavior is needed in this type of counseling rather than just an identification of feelings. If you feel that the therapist is unable to be partial as a therapist, you and your spouse may consider consulting another therapist to see how that goes for you. But, again, more than most couple therapies, therapy with a PA person requires a confident, active therapist who does more than just label feelings and use sessions as an airing of feelings. This is not what is required here. There is nothing wrong with getting a second opinion. And, any good counselor will understand.

      PA mates can portray themselves as the victim of the angry, out of control spouse. Therapists need to really understand this dynamic so that they do not align with either mate but with the partnership. So, I hear you; I do. Wishing the very best for you. Warmly Deborah.

      • avatar Crazy making says:

        Finally bought up divorce. He first said okay, then when we met with the lawyer, he said no, and then after awhile he said okay and the dance goes back and forth. My own therapist says he is jerking me around. He openly admitted to the lawyer that because he is suffering, he wants me to suffer too. He wants to punish me.

        He has free reign to visit with our daughter. All I ask is to please tell me when he wants to visit and when he is leaving. He refuses to do this because he wants to be able to come and go as he wants. However, he is always careful to let the babysitter know exactly when he is coming and going. But I don’t need to know. Even though it is in my apartment. He is forcing me to ask my own babysitter when he is coming and leaving my home.

        During one of the times that he was in my apartment without me knowing, he went through my stuff. I confronted him and he said the baby wanted to go through my stuff. I finally told him that he cannot come visit in my apartment anymore. He must take her to his home. He says that his home is dirty and that he promise me the baby will get sick. He said do I want the baby to get sick?

        I am so frustrated! I am so tired.

  22. avatar KT says:

    Hi Deborah-

    Im so grateful to ur site!! I’m going through this right now with the love of my life, who abruptly left me, in early May… I just this past week realized that he is passive aggressive.I have a few questions.. is he cycling through his anger?… and will he be back to me… his brother and other family members are the cause of his anger… NOT ME.. however his brother hurt me very deeply, and he is angry at his brother about it… his father has hurt him deeply, and now his boss…. I love him very much, but he has pushed me away and is being mean to me, ( in texts) i have learned to only respond to him nicely or positively… ( before i realized that he is PA) why is he being mean to me? and will we be able to work our way back to each other? I love the man he is when he isnt being PA… and we are a great couple…should I continue to not talk to him… but only answer if he texts?

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello KT, thank you. I’m sorry for the breakup. I wish I could give you an answer as to his return after he cycles through his anger. I really don’t know because I don’t know him. It sounds like he has a lot of things to work through emotionally in his life. I am sure you are right that it is not you but his issues. I say this because of how he abruptly broke it off with you. He sounds incapable of expressing everything he feels inside about his fears, issues and may have gone away simply because he doesn’t think he can psychologically manage a relationship. You see I have to speculate a lot because I don’t know him. But, I see that you are hurting KT. Trust in yourself; there’s little you can do if he doesn’t open the door an inch. So, yes, your intuition is correct. Wait, don’t contact him and see where it all goes. If it isn’t him; there will be love there for you in life.

      KT, I’ve seen so many people (who are hurt like you) keep the communication going because of their initiation alone. This just prolongs pain. If he doesn’t text or call you, then you have the answer. Don’t ever fear the answer–it allows you to go and find what is authentically best for you. You take good care. Warmly Deborah.

  23. avatar Betty says:

    I have to disagree that PA behavior is definitively learned in childhood. My boyfriend has amazing parents. He was a young adult when not one, but two of his girlfriends committed suicide right after he broke it off with them. That’s traumatizing. Subconsciously he wanted to punish himself for it so he attractive a woman with unwitnessed Borderline Personality Disorder into his life. Recipe for tremendous drama! Here is a man who feels unable to ever stand up for his feelings again without a tragic consequence in a relationship with an emotionally unmanageable woman. Fast forward 25 years and they’ve been married for 12, separated for almost five (she moved to another continent almost five years ago! And started a relationship for 3 years over there!) Enter me- I know the man is separated but he makes it sound like they are two sophisticated adults who simply amicably went their separate ways, and will get around to signing papers about it the “next time she’s around the states”. Oh! Ok! Well, 6 months into the relationship she does touch down in the US, and when she finds out about me, well, the gloves are off! So now I find myself embroiled in a dance that began long before I came along, on the hamster wheel of their making and while yes eventually the divorce papers will get signed, it’s not going to be easy with a guy who wants to be The Good Guy and the woman who knows how to emotionally manipulate him. What a mess. :(

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Betty, it’s okay to disagree. That’s interesting what you say. Past traumatic experience can definitely shape our behavior. I hope he has gotten into some therapy for all of what you say here. You may be the one to convince him of the need. I wish you well Betty. Keep me posted. Warmly Deborah.

  24. avatar Miami123 says:

    I thought it was all me until I found this site. My new wife (PA) of just 6 months really stepped up her game after the wedding. Makes sense as at that point she felt that our relationship was truly sanctified. We have been arguing and I began to feel that we just didn’t get along but I didn’t know why. According to her I was overly emotional and confrontational when I wanted to discuss feelings and issues. I have had therapy myself ( mother issues) so I know how to use “I” statements, etc. and I really do adore her so I would be as gentle as a lamb. Nevertheless she would come out fighting and even the slightest hint of anything to work on she attributed to an accusation of her shortcomings. She would twist my words and become verbally abusive. What would start out as me sharing my feelings would be turned around as an attack against her. Things can be going fine and then she zings me with a snide remark or outright put down. Everything is always my fault. She is always right and it is her way or the highway. My fault is that I have spoiled her. The more she became insecure about us the more I would prove to her how much I adored her. Gifts, money anything she needed of me including my time and putting my own needs last. I created a monster so to speak. Now I have woken up, read your article and want to take my dignity and self worth back. She has de-stabilized by self esteem and made me feel “out of control” and super insecure about our relationship. She has more than once threatened divorce. She fights unfair and goes for the jugular. I have asked her if we can establish some ground rules….places we won’t go when we argue like ” I am done with this relationship” but she said that she couldn’t promise me that.
    My reason for sticking it out is that I love her enormously and this is my 3rd marriage and I don’t want to have a failed one again. I am just turning 50 and want to end my days being in a happy marriage.
    She won’t go to therapy. See’s it as “somebody who doesn’t know you telling you what’s best for you when you can just do what you need to do ON YOUR OWN”. Although she says I need therapy! She is right I do, but not because she thinks I am crazy. I need it to cope with her. Nevertheless I cannot tell her I am going because she would see that as disloyal ( she told me that).
    I am between a rock and a hard place but I won’t let this woman ruin my life. I want to at least try to make this work though. Would you put a time limit on it? I am afraid to become financially entangled ( like put her on title to my house) because I have lost trust for her that she won’t divorce me.
    Please give me your thoughts. Thank you !

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello, first, I’m sorry for the troubles so early in the relationship. These troubles could be two people testing boundaries and establishing territory with each other. Or, they could be characteristic of what will come. It’s always wise to protect yourself until you feel you two will make it. This doesn’t mean that you do not love–it just means that you are 50 and have a need to take care of yourself too. This is called maturity and wisdom. As you know, it’s difficult for me to evaluate who a person is through another person’s writings. I do think it is good that you returned to therapy, to try to stay as grounded as possible at this time, so you can think through what is right for all concerned. She has put you in a very difficult, no win position. She won’t go for help with you and if you go you are disloyal. We call this a double-bind! Dammed if you do and dammed if you don’t. So, as you suspect–these are not the best signs.

      Remember, it’s okay to protect yourself at this time. I know you want this relationship to work out. I understand. Of course you want to move into this part of your life with a satisfying marriage. But, it does take two people. I wish you the very best. In the meantime, protecting your assets does not mean that you don’t love her or is not trying. Warm regards to you Deborah.

  25. avatar Reesa says:

    Thank you for such a helpful article! Your advice on dealing with the obstruction and procrastination is especially useful, and I have implemented it in my own 11 year marriage to my passive aggressive husband.

    The primary behavior my husband uses to punish me is withholding sex. Early in our relationship I told him I wanted to have sex more often. He responded by withholding even more, and by interrupting sex to make sure I was left unsatisfied. We’ve had no sex at all for over a year, and only 2-3 times a year before that. In the last 5 years we’ve been in therapy with two marriage counselors and two sex therapists. The harder I try to understand him, to improve my communication with him, and to create opportunities for intimacy, the worse it gets.

    It’s clear that what I’ve been doing doesn’t work. What should my response be to this rejection? Do I have any options left besides accepting this or ending the marriage?

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Reesa. I’m glad you found this article helpful. The situation you are in is difficult Reesa. Many people living with PA partners have gone to different therapists. The problem is that PA is so hard to treat–not the therapists. Reesa, I wish I had a great suggestion for you, but you see, he needs individual therapy to change. Yes, the spouses have to not be pulled into their passive-aggression. But, you have to ask yourself if you can live a lifetime having to find ways to deal with his rejection, procrastination and obstruction. Unfortunately, until he gets psychotherapy on his own there is little you can do Reesa besides trying to ignore his rejection, which may or may not work. But oh the energy you have to put into ignoring his rejecting behavior. It’s not fair to you. Or, you can leave him. Reesa, I don’t know if you went to therapy on your own. Perhaps you did. But if not, you may want to go to consider how you have been living and if you can go through a life time of this behavior. Best to you. Keep me posted. Warmly deborah.

      • avatar Reesa says:

        Thank you for your honest feedback. Yes, I have been to therapy on my own, which helps me cope, but doesn’t solve the problem. We are now at the point where the decision is on the table: fix the relationship or end it. My preference is to fix it, but it really isn’t up to me.

        How do we go about finding a psychotherapist who is experienced in working with someone with PA and is capable of remaining firm? This is our last chance.

        • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

          You are welcome Reesa. Reesa there is a website called ( who have an extensive list of therapists from around the world. They have their emails and phone numbers so that you can find out who is an expert in passive aggressive behavior. Also, search google for people who have written books on this topic or done research. You may find that one of them lives near to you.

          There is also an extensive therapist referral list at ( Also, go to and type in the search Passive Aggression and a list of professionals who are writing on the topic will appear there. Again you may find that one of these experts live near your area. Best to you. And, I do understand why you want to fix the relationship if you can. Warm regards to you. Deborah.

  26. avatar Debra R. says:

    So I have decided my lesbian partner of 10 years is a passive aggressive narcisstic person who has survived operating deep within a cocoon of post traumatic stress disorder. She is so frustrating and unreasonable in her anger. My partner’s opinion of herself is so over inflated and bloated. What is most eye opening is that at first I was so taken by her ability to give. She was a wonderful gift giver, then I began to realize she gives to make herself feel better and for the gift receiver to think of her as some mystical fantastic being! When she gets angry her anger is so over the top that I just sort sit back and am dumbfounded by her displays. When she is not angry she is exceeedingly melodramatic. I am now at my wits end but afriad of how to move forward. Need advice on finding therapist. Got any, none have been effective over last 10 years, as she ultimately accusetherapidt of twki g my side. Help!

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello, oh, you sound very frustrated with your partner. I can appreciate why from what you say here. I see you have already tried couple counseling. It certainly sounds like there are individual issues at play here. You cannot force her into individual treatment. In situations like this, I always recommend that the person (You here) who is at wits end go into individual treatment to help you to decide what you want to do. I know, after ten years, you’d like to make the relationship work. I admire this greatly. But, you have to find out if she is willing to see her roles in any relationship problems and if she is willing to change. Debra if she is not willing to see her part – then really there’s no therapist who can really help her to do this until she is ready for herself. Best to you. Warmly Deborah.

  27. avatar Travelbug says:

    You have no idea how this article has helped me. When we met he was reserved and seemed shy. As we fell in love I could sense he had a pretty passive personality. He told me he didn’t like conflict and I wish I had a more in depth conversation about his need to avoid conflict. He told me someone had borrowed a large sum of money from him and he didn’t want to approach them and that maybe they had “forgot”. I noticed that if issues would arise I would have to be the one to bring them up. I asked him to please let me know if I ever did or said anything to offend him. He said he would let me know. He also expressed to me that he knows his “laid back” personality sometimes frustrates people. He said that his exwife would get all in his face and scream and holler at him and he would just look at her. He expressed to me that his marriage (2x married) ended because his wife was a slut and a liar. He toook no responsibility at all for the demise of the marriage. He gave the impression that he was perfect almost. We never argued and he told a friend that he and I would “never” fight. I expressed that conflict is normal its just how people deal with it.

    Well I also come from a dysfunctional family and have been recovering from codependency. I’ve educated myself about my codependency and try to be more self aware.

    After a few months together, he was starting to be late picking me up. Then one time while he was late I told him we could get together another time. He didn’t like that so this was the first time he withdrew. I called him right back after texting and he wouldn’t answer the phone. I expressed to him that I won’t stay in a r with someone that shuts down and won’t talk to me. He said he wouldn’t do it since I didn’t like it.

    Well after 9 months together, I was grieving my dad’s death and was frustrated and shared with him that I wanted us to spend more time together and I didn’t like that I initiated many times we did spend. Well, he obviously did not like what I said. Mind you I didn’t scream, curse or yell. I was emotional and wish I had waited until I was calm to approach him but I didn’t. I didn’t hear from him for 2 weeks. After two weeks I ended the relationship by sending his things in the mail. I wanted to call him but I felt like I was being emotionally manipulated by his silence.

    Now I’m at a point where I wouldn’t mind resuming the r because we do love each other. My thing is I don’t know if he can change his pattern of withdrawing and going silent. Which are things that would be dealbreakers for me.

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello again, I’m sorry about the loss of your father. Remember something– a person who is emotionally healthy would never be made at you for verbalizing your feelings, especially after losing your father. There’s nothing wrong with what you said. Trust your feelings. You feel emotionally manipulated by his silence–because this is what PA people do. Again, stay calm and know that the right person will come along for you. You don’t want several years of interactions like what you describe to me here, do you?

      You take good care of yourself. Warmly Deborah.

  28. avatar Travelbug says:

    I also want to add that he is angry with me because 6 months ago I abruptly ended the r without discussion. I feel like he ended the r when he stopped communicating with me for two weeks. I wanted to reach out to him at that time but I was afraid he would ignore me again. I feel like I was maneuvered into breaking up but I also felt like I needed to establish a boundary and I know I can’t set a boundary and take care of someones feelings at the same time. I know that hurt him but I felt abandoned and duped. Recently, I text him and we expressed that we still loved each other. I told him that I wanted to try again and he said he would think about it. That was a week ago. I know with a passive aggressive you can’t force them to make a decision. Anyway we met at a place that we both frequent and enjoy. I don’t wanna have to stop going to this place because of him but you know what everyone says about “no contact”. So I don’t want to go there now because I don’t want him to think I’m pressuring him to make a decision about the r. I’m confused about how to proceed.

    Do you offer phone therapy??

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Travelbug, first, I don’t do phone therapy. But thank you for the confidence. I don’t do Skype or phone therapy because I like to have the person sitting right in front of me so I can get to know them and form a good therapeutic relationship. I don’t know where you live, but there are good therapists out there. Unfortunately, sometimes, we have to try a few out before we feel a good connection.

      I can understand why you ended the relationship with no discussion. You didn’t want to get into the madness of arguing with a PA person. It goes no where. So, I appreciate why you did this, even if he doesn’t. Travelbug,if you really believe the person is PA you may want to think again — why you want to restart this so much, again.

      I always think, be calm and wait to see what he does. Don’t try to make something happen that may not be meant to be. Have you heard the saying, “Don’t wish too hard for something, because you may get it?” Remember, if he isn’t the right person–the right love will come along. Warmly deborah.

      • avatar Travelbug says:

        You’re right. What’s wrong with me that I want someone like this? He did get back to me last night and said that the way the breakup happened has affected him and its best that he does not commit to a r at this time. I told him I understood. Why do I feel bad for breaking up with someone who wasn’t treating me right? Id like to think that I’m fairly healthy but obviously not.

        Thank you so much. I’m moving on and I won’t contact him again.

  29. avatar Lucy says:

    Thank you for a great article.

    I think I may be in a relationship with a PA man. It seems as though there should be no problems between us. We are both good people with good jobs, hobbies, and seemingly successful in life, and a lot of the time we have great fun together. I think we seem, from the outside, like a wonderful couple. And we could be. But there is some basic underlying problem that I can’t fully wrap my head around. I am constantly frustrated with him for not cooperating with me to move our lives forward. We have been dating for almost 6 years (with a few intermittent breakups that he initiated because he just “couldn’t handle it” – yes that’s usually the extend of the communication I get). He doesn’t like any sort of communication about the relationship, or about what my needs or expectations from him are. He sees this as me trying to control him or “run his life”, and when i initiate these conversations, even in yhe most gentle loving way, he either A) shuts down completely with this painful and angry look on his face, B) yells with a boom that he doesn’t want to talk and sometimes throws something violently at the wall (never at me), or C) breaks up with me or threatens to. I can’t seem to get him to just have a loving conversation with me. An example of a request I might have of him would be: could we please spend one weekend day together instead of you going to play sports half the day Saturday and Sunday. He sees this as me trying to control his life. Is he right? Am I the problem or being too controlling? (I just want to spend time with him, and even more, I want him to WANT to spend time with me.) Or is he PA?

    The bigger picture problem we have is that I want to get married, have children, etc, and I just turned 30 last month. (He is 5 yrs older than me). We have been talking about it for over 2 years…. He even started looking at rings 2 years ago. We have general conversation about it all the time when things are jovial between us, such as “where should we live for the best place to raise kids?”, etc, so I know this is something he wants. But when I try to have a “hey, I really want this soon, can we talk about this, and actually move forward / make progress towards this in life” conversation, he feels sooo pressured and goes back to the A,B,or C reactions listed above and just keeps repeating that “he’s not ready” without any explanation of when he would be or what that would take or why. His other line is “he doesn’t know if marriage is right for him” or its just “a gut feeling its not the right thing to do”. Every step forward in our relationship has been at my insisting (exchanging keys, spending xmas together, moving in together, etc), and often after I have to throw a huge fit of frustration after reaching my limits. And with this whole marriage topic, I can hardly believe this is where I am…. The same breaking point. Instead of the ideal scenario in which my significant other would value our relationship, and actually proactively initiate these things in life. Sometimes I wonder, if I had just played it cool and never mentioned marriage was important to me, would we then already be married? I think maybe he is just withholding it because he knows its what I want most! (He denies that theory when I suggested it to him).

    So my questions for you are:

    1) from what I’ve told you, does it sound like my boyfriend is PA?

    2) I am considering just leaving, now while I can, instead of dealing with this constant frustration from his lack of communication and cooperation to save myself a lifetime of hassle and fights, which I imagine would only be worse with kids and more responsibility… This will/would be very hard for me, and I don’t want to regret it down the road. What do you think? How do I work up the nerve to leave? I fear it will break my heart – badly… It feels easier just to stay.

    3) from what I’ve told you, is this partially my fault for pressuring him? Or expecting too much? Does it sound like I’m controlling him? Is there anything I could have or can do differently? Things are sooo good with us when he doesn’t feel “pressured” for anything, but I don’t want to live without being able to ask for something, or knowing that if I ask I will not receive.

    4) how do I avoid attracting another PA man next?

    Thank you!

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Lucy, You are so welcome. Lucy, it’s been amazing to me how many people have commented on this article on passive aggression (PA). It speaks to how many people struggle with lovers, friends, family members, and coworkers who exhibit such destructive relationship behaviors. I will try to answer the questions you ask me here :)
      1. He may indeed be PA, but he also sounds commitment phobic (read my post on intimacy fears; http:// I wrote another post on Relationship Sabateurs. You may want to read this one too if you have not already (
      PA people can certainly frustrate plans and sabotage efforts to do things, like move the relationship forward. But, they don’t necessarily fear emotional commitment. In fact, they tend to get dependently involved with people and then act out their hostility about the dependence. Whereas persons who have intimacy fears exhibit more of a narcissistic anger when they are emotionally and relationally challenged. Throwing cups at you, yelling to shut you down and breaking up sound like narcissistic anger/rage. And, one of the hallmarks of persons who have great commitment/intimacy fears always feel like any need or desire is an attempt to control their lives. Oh, it’s very very hard to be in a relationship like this because you have to do all of the compromise. I can understand why you think he is PA because this applies to PA people too–you have to do all the emotional twisting and bending to adjust to their psychological issues. Lucy, research differences in PA and intimacy fears more. But regardless of what you come up with–they are both very difficult people to be in relationship with for many of the reasons that you describe here.
      2. You may want to go to a counselor/psychologist to support you in your decision to leave, if you should decide to do so. I say this because you need to have your reality supported during this stressful time so your partner’s pleas or anger against you doesn’t sway you from your decision. Lucy, only you can decide if six years is enough to wait for a commitment. Many people would say, “heh, girlfriend get out now, don’t waste more time with him!” But, you have to decide if the wonderful things between you are enough for you. But, don’t get me wrong here, the way he acts when you ask for a need or desire to be met is completely unreasonable from what you say here. No one can be in a healthy relationship with these types of behaviors. It takes two mature people to forge a healthy communicative, give and take relationship. Throwing things, sabotaging your communications and efforts are immature responses to coping with stressful interactions. There will be a number of stressful interactions that come your way in life. If he doesn’t change is this what you want full time? I know it feels easier to stay. Because the loss, pain and grieving is tough. But, remember, it takes courage to be authentically happy Lucy. Never forget this. I believe the pain and grieving is less than a lifetime of what you describe here. But, this is really up to you.
      3. RESOUNDLINGLY NO!!!! Don’t do this to yourself Lucy. You have been with this man six years. If he were truly unhappy, he would have left the relationship. His behaviors in dealing with stress are very immature. How could this have to do with you? This is why I think you should go to a counselor to sort out the relationship in you heart and mind and to make decisions as to what feels right for you.
      4. Well, I’m a going to answer this question as: How do I avoid attracting another PA or commitment phobic (CP) man? What a great question. Thank you for thinking about what about the relationship speaks to issues in you. Whether he is PA or CP — he distances himself in relationship through anger that is either openly or passively expressed. You may have intimacy fears of your own. Ask yourself, “What would it feel like to have a person honor my needs and feelings?” “Am I scared of this?” “Am I subconsciously seeking out romantic partners who play out the child in me asking for my parents to hear me, to be present to my needs and desires, to consider that the relationship is not all about them?” Go back to your childhood. The acorn (and apple) doesn’t fall too far from the tree. :) The difference is you are emotionally healthier than your partner from what you say here. You are trying to understand–trying to be heard, to be seen as a being with needs. But, you have to have courage to go get the mate (healthier parent) who can give this to you.

      Warm regards to you. Let me know how it goes. Deborah!

      • avatar Lucy says:

        Oh wow, yes I do believe you are right about him being a CP. I believe we would be very happy ever after if I never mentioned anything about the relationship’s future. Come to think of it, he also will never commit to plans more than a day or two in advance (with anyone, or for anything), which used to be a huge problem dating in the beginning. Now that’s resolved because we live together so we just each show up at home then figure out what to do each night, no advanced planning required. I have totally adjusted because this is totally opposite my plan-ahead, ducks-in-a-row personality. But it is still very hard when my friends invite us somewhere together. I either have to commit alone (in advance, which is what I believe is polite), or if I want him to come, which I usually do, I have to act flakey to my friends (“Um, yes let’s wait and see, I’ll touch base and let you know Friday whether or now we’re coming to your party Friday night”) which is totally rude! And I hate that I am now forced to be a rude person to my friends because of this. Another example of his CP (i could go on forever), is it took him an entire, and very stressful / painful, YEAR to pick out and buy a new car. Can you imagine? So no wonder he’s struggling so much with whether or not to make me his wife. I can see myself now as a 50 year old “girlfriend”. Argh!
        Thank you for helping me to identify this as CP: I can’t believe I couldn’t figure that out. I always thought of it as a rebellion against whatever it is that I happen to want. Maybe it’s both, who knows.
        If you don’t mind (I really appreciate your help so far!!!), could you help answer these?:
        1) With this new understanding, I am again wondering if its something that can be overcome? Or should I still get out before its too late? I don’t want a partnership to be this difficult… If we were to get married, would this issue end there, kind of like he wakes up realizing the fight is over so he might as well enjoy it, or will it manifest in other ways? Like whether or not to buy a new house, move, have children, etc?
        2) I’ve started to think about the reasons I don’t want to leave him (and there’s quite a list). Here are the top 3. How can I overcome these ?
        A). I am afraid I will never find anyone better, and will end up with even less than what I have now
        B). I am afraid he will be happier without me (possibly meet someone better, and marry them instantly), proving that the real problem is I wasn’t good enough for him, and that’s the reason he wouldn’t marry me.
        C). I believe that his life is better with me in it, and I add happiness and strength to his life, and I would feel guilty abandoning him.

  30. avatar Lucy says:

    Oh, two more, sorry.
    D) I feel this potential break-up will make me look like even-more-of-a-failure-than-I-already-do to my friends and family. Yes, all the ones having babies right now that look at me like an alien when they ask “what’s wrong with you? Don’t you want to get married?”, and I have to respond with “yes I do, it’s just obviously my boyfriend doesn’t value me enough – I’m just a big reject I guess”.
    E) and this one kind of goes without saying: I would miss him terribly, and feel like nobody else could replace him in my heart.

    • avatar Kelly says:

      Lucy, I’m actually a little bit freaked out reading your description of your boyfriend because you just described my boyfriend to a T. I’ve only been with mine for a year and a bit, but your situation sounds like his relationship with his ex. I’ve always had this weird irrational paranoia that he never broke up with his ex because he’s never introduced me to his family or friends. So please forgive me for asking this weird, weird question, but since this thought popped into my mind, I need to ask you: Your boyfriends initials aren’t PP, right?
      I apologize again for this weird question. I’m sure the answer is no. But I know I’ll dwell on this like a crazy person if I don’t ask.

    • avatar mila says:

      Hi Lucy
      I just want to let you know that I am currently going the exact same thing. Our stories are so similar. I even feel the same way when it comes to the reasons why you want to stay. I am still debatting on whether I should stay or leave, but deep down I feel like this is something I can live with. How are things now if you dont mind me asking?

      • avatar Lucy says:

        Hi Mila,
        Unfortunately not much has changed. Well, maybe my tolerance of all this is decreasing. I feel I’m between a rock and a hard place, and am hoping to soon build up the courage to leave him, unless a miracle happens soon. It’s so hard because there is so much good that I would be leaving behind. But the bottom line is: I really want a partner who will give me things that I want. It’s truly a tragic situation, because I believe he will learn his lesson when I leave, but by then it will be too late.

  31. avatar Kelly says:


    Until I read your article just now, I never would have called my boyfriend passive aggressive. In fact, when I try to communicate with him calmly, rationally, and delicately to avoid an argument, he accuses ME of being passive aggressive.

    You have already answered most of my questions in your replies to others’ comments. But I’m curious; do you think having trust issues on top of the passive aggressiveness is just too much for a relationship to survive? The main source of my lack of trust is his fear of commitment; never introducing me to his friends or family. Refusing to call me his girlfriend to other people. Once in a while when I’m thinking too long about him, I think “what if I’m just being completely played and he’s still with his ex and that’s why I’m not being properly introduced to anyone?” I’m 24 so I’m not in a massive rush for a ring or anything. If I knew things would pan out well for us, I would be absolutely willing to put the effort in making the relationship work. He’s like a little baby deer; if I make the smallest movement toward him, he runs off scared. I know I need to let him come to me. When I’m laid back, happy and keeping it light, he’s always asking me to hang out, coming over and cuddling with me on my couch. Our chemistry is great and we thoroughly enjoy each other’s company. The romantic in me thinks we’re perfect for each other. He’s my best friend. I’m a classic middle child, and very independent, but he’s the only person I’ve ever let myself NEED. I think he’s a great person with a huge heart, and I know he has a few issues and I’m ok with it. I just get scared that I’ve given my heart to someone who just isn’t stable enough, or properly equipped to be trusted with it.

    That’s why I’m curious… Are passive aggressive commitment-phobes more prone to shady behaviour and deceit?

    Thanks for such a great article; I’ve been telling him that he’s only projecting his pre-conceived notions of me being “crazy” and then making himself see it. But I had no idea what the bigger picture was. I feel like you just solved a big portion of the puzzle that is my boyfriend.

  32. avatar mila says:

    I am so glad I found this site, finally for the first time in many years I do not feel alone regarding the subject of being with PA. Six years ago I met this calm and sweet guy. He was so nice and caring that I instantly fell for him. While we were getting to know each other he told me that when he gets mad he would not speak to anaybody for weeks. I thought he was joking. I remember 4 weeks into dating he went missing on me and I felt it was odd, so I called him up and said we needed to end our relationship. He apologized saying he was in the funk and that it had nothing to do with me. He was so charming that I fell for carrying on the relationship. About 9 months into dating he did it again, he stopped talking to me, would not respond to my texts. Two weeks went by, this time I sent him an email where I explained to him that I truly felt like I wasn`t a part of his life and that we should end things. He called me right after and apologized. Again I forgave him and all was well again. A couple of months later I might have said something he didn`t like and bang he went missing on me again. I have been going through silent treatements every 6 months the past six years. It breaks my hearth, one minute we are planning our future and the next minute I said something/ suggested something/ or acted in a way that he did not like and I get punished for that. I get punished for things like the tone I used when I ask him to do something to me asking about our wedding plans. What I dont understand is how can he go from being so loving and caring to withdrawing emotionally. Sometimes I wonder if he even loves me? Why is he with me then? I dont get it. Any advice?

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Mila, I’m sorry for the delay in responding to you. It does help so much that other people really do understand what we are going through. As you know silent treatments can be confusing and painful to the person who is getting the cold shoulder. You are right, this is very passive-aggressive behavior.

      Mila, I don’t know him, but in general, silent treatment and punishments that give a person a reason in his mind to push you away is to punish you, but also to give him the distance he needs when he feels threatened. It’s no fun, I know this. He can be so loving when he doesn’t feel threatened. Mila, it’s interesting but some of what you describe sounds like a fear of intimacy (see my post on this if you haven’t already). But, people who have these fears either push people away aggressively or do it passive aggressively. It depends upon how he learned to deal with his anger.

      I don’t know if you have been to therapy with him or alone. You might want to get some premarital therapy with a couple’s counselor who understands the dynamics of passive aggressive people very well. The other advice I say in this article. But, you are not married yet. Maybe you want to think through if you could live a life time with the behaviors you describe, if things don’t get better.

      You take good care Mila. Warmly Deborah.

  33. avatar Stella says:

    Extremely insightful & helpful article & Deborah. I also appreciate all the personal experiences others have shared and the thoughtful consideration & time you have given to respond.

    I have been exploring PA behavior to find out if that is what my partner has.

    I don’t need to write to you my questions, give examples of his odd behavior, or explain how his actions make me feel. You have cleared my head on some of my confusion. It appears he has a mild (if that is possible) form of PA.

    I look forward to applying the techniques & approaches you and other professionals recommend to help us through the rough spots PA creates in our relationship. Plus, as you point out to others, I will continue to build in our life and especially mine the elements, experiences & relationships that bring value & joy.

    Regards and thank you for all the good work you have done for so many people.


    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Stella. Thank you. Stella, I have so many people commenting on this article that it let me know how many people actually have painful experiences with PA. Yes, I see you have read all of them. Helpful, most certainly. I continue to learn from everyone too.

      I look forward to hearing how it all goes for you. Keep in touch Stella. Warmly Deborah.

  34. avatar Kelly says:

    I have been married to a PA man for 22 years. We were separated for two years a few years ago, and although I didn’t realize it until now, even though I missed him, that was one period of time where I became healthy, and not subject to his behavior. He actually didn’t speak to his own children during a year of that, and almost did not go to our sons high school graduation. Only to hurt me. I believe he began to notice that over time, with the help of great friends, he was no longer hurting me as badly. We reconciled after two years, and during that period, but before he moved back home he seemed to have changed. (I was being careful…we have three beautiful children!) But now I see he had lost his effect on me as I was no longer his PA dance partner. Now I am again, and to make matters worse, he has stage four cancer. (Lung cancer, 43 years old, non smoker!) So his sulking phase is now an easy one for him. I call that coming down the home stretch, last 200 meters of the PA race! And, I am a horrible cancer wife if I react any way but pure support. I want to thank you for your research into this, and for this article. I may feel stuck here, but I can choose to sit out during his next dance. I can choose not to let him manipulate me. I am so tires of being angry, and seriously resentful that I am a cog in his crazy-wheel. I am generally positive, work in an encouragement ministry, and some days I am so sad and confused I have trouble being the upbeat ministry girl. I appreciate the sharing under this article. It all sounds familiar. Last year he forgot to tell me about a trip (common!) but also forgot to tell me it was just him and one female coworker. I told him that was something he could have share with me, I’d rather know this and keep things in the open. He said, “you couldn’t have handled the truth .” So see, his omission was actually my fault. Twisted.

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Kelly, true to living with a passive aggressive mate, you have been on an emotional roller coaster with him. It is surprising and yet at the same time revealing that your spouse did not see your children during your separation from each other. It does speak volumes about his ability to withdraw and control. I love your example of how they turn the tables on you (you could not handle the truth). Ah, the convoluted web they can weave, right?

      The tough thing about living with a PA person is that it’s not always bad, so that many people living with PA mates take their mates back, as you did. I’m sorry to hear about his lung cancer. I can imagine that his PA behavior is very active right now as he does not feel well and cannot cope with his anger and fear. I can understand how you are being drawn by into this dance. So, let me say that because of the graveness of his illness— be kind to yourself. If you dance today and resist the dance tomorrow, it is so understandable. You are under a lot of stress. I’m glad you have your faith and ministries. But, at least for me, being an upbeat ministry girl is not necessary. Just let your faith and religion support your confusion and pain and get you through one day at a time.

      I hear your strength and wisdom in your words Kelly. Even the strongest and wisest of us have days of sadness, confusion and pain. Remember that! Take good care. Warm regards to you Deborah.

  35. avatar lonely and abondoned says:


    What a great article! It has taken me 7 long years to realize that I’m in a relationship and in love with a PA female. We are a lesbian couple and so the dynamic, I believe, is even more difficult.

    I’m going to cut to the chase and go ahead and acknowledge that all of these factors you outline are so true! I have past similar hurts as hers and act out my frustrations and anger demonstratively. She is the fragile, wounded young girl who still gets protection from her overly protective/attached mother and she recoils whenever I express upset, or my needs to her. She get immediately defensive and doesn’t hear me. She only see my frustration and upset.

    I would love a response today, if at all possible, because she is sitting alone with our cat in the office, with the door closed, refusing to initiate any kind of ‘real’ conversation with me. And, we have a social engagement to attend this evening that I truly want to go to and do not want to excuse myself from like so many times before. She didn’t want/let me sleep in our bed with her last night and she seems to not want me to go to this social event with her.

    I’m embarrassed because we’ve missed things like this in the past because of similar situations. Should I oblige her and go do my own thing tonight, begging off and paying the money that is already owed for the event, continue to ignore her sullenness and us go together in the same care ( because unless she just refuses to go herself, she won’t ask that I not ride with her, she will just go with me and act angry and sulky), or go in my own vehicle and show up separately and take the consequences of our friends wondering what the hell is going on???

    I’m so confused. I make lots of mistakes in this relationship. I lose my temper far too often. But, I am so at a loss of how to get her to take control of initiation ‘healing’ conversations or to initiate real, tangible lists or actions that we can take to stop repeating this behavior. But, if I don’t initiate, then we just sit in silence in our home and I feel adrift on a lonely island. Life is too short! NOTE: I do love my partner and want to work this out, but I am at witts end. We’ve had this dynamic since shortly after we began dating.

    Thank you in advance for attention to this email. P.S. another example, she would get extremely angry and hurt if she knew I was writing this post. Although, it seems fine for her to call out my anger and ‘supposed’ abusive verbal behavior. I, on the other hand, would be ecstatic if I knew she were taking the time to do something like this to better understand our relationship and each other. Her passive nature about most things is killing me. I will make an arrangment with friends that we’ve agreed on, then she will ask me to make sure she’s included on all correspondences. Everything seems to be left up to others in her mind. So frustrated!!

  36. avatar lonely and abondoned says:

    I might also mention that we’ve been to therapy a couple of times. The first one was simply not right for us. The last one begged off, saying that her primary full-time job, was not allowing for anymore private sessions. I think, personally, she was upset with some of the seemingly futile nature of our arguments, saw something deeper pathologically, or just got too frustrated with our dynamic to continue. My partner doesn’t seem to see that at all. She seems to always think the better of others with her sweet, caring nature. But, then holds my feet to the fire for infractions that simply happen at times in long-term relationships. I want the ability to be civil even in times of upset, but she seems to have more of a need to stonewall me.

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello, oh, I’m sorry I couldn’t get to your email to respond about the evening event. It’s very easy to get upset at passive aggressive behavior. And, as you know, you may not even realize what is going on until you explode and act out your partner’s anger. It’s difficult to say exactly what is happening as I’m not directly treating you and your partner. But, I can say that from your description it does sound like you are struggling with the a good cop bad cop scenario in some ways. When you express needs and desires that she doesn’t like, she goes to the good cop (her mother) for approval and confirmation of her feelings. It’s hard when a mate has one foot (developmentally) still in a parent’s home.

      It’s probably a bad message to your mate to let her withdrawing and pouting behaviors disrupt the plans you have together. It’s like you are enabling her passive aggressive behavior. But, I also know that you don’t like attending social outings without her.

      I know you have both been to couple’s therapy. Couple’s therapy can be problematic when one or both clients have individual developmental work to do first. I recommend that you keep trying to find a good therapist who knows how to help you both communicate better needs and desires and to solve problems more healthily. You take good care. Warm regards Deborah.

  37. avatar Mike says:

    Dear Dr.Deborah
    My wife is passive aggressive. I have only really discovered the PA syndrome & understood it recently after 37 years of marriage. (The kids are grown up & doing well).
    I have learnt to put up with the silence & lack of intimacy as I now know that my wife was sexually abused by her father, her mother fell off a horse in front of her & died & then her guardian (her elder brother) crashed into a fallen tree & died – all in a short time frame when she was a young teen. Terrible.
    Recently I met an old flame and the ease of our love making made me realize that I am not impotent after all but rather sort of immobilized in a no-mans land (abetted by anti depressants).
    I feel I have a duty towards my wife. She has been an awesome mother. She is very bright & artistic. She doesn’t deserve to be ditched by some SOB just because only now, with my increased understanding of her & my own codependence, I realize we would have been better off if we had seperated before now. Just like the children advised.
    When she is able to communicate and come out from behind her protective shell I enjoy her company & acerbic sense of humour enormously. Then I feel so happy that I can hold her & stroke her even if our lovemaking has gone out the window. In fact I find the silent accusatory withdrawal (“silent treatment” some call it) the hardest to deal with. Maybe I should just keep up with my old flame but I saw the damage that attitude did to my my mum & dad’s marriage. Dammit I think I am “jodido” as they say in spanish!
    Please opine and don’t pull any punches as I am probably missing something entirely….

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Mike, thank you for sharing this sensitive challenge in your life. I don’t know if you’ve been told this before, but I can hear your thought process by what you say here. All good.

      Well, I will not pull any punches, promise! Okay, first, I want to say that spending our lives with someone and raising children and owning homes, paying bills and learning about what we love and hate about each other is just so darn poignant. There’s something exquisitely beautiful in this sharing. I know, I have been married for 25 years now.

      What hits me the most by your words is that despite your feeling deprived of her emotionally and sexually, you have respect for her and understanding of her defenses against intimate relating. Well, isn’t this what love is all about? But, then, of course there is YOU who has genuine needs that are not being met. How do two people find meanings that will keep them together despite that each person is hurting and feeling deprived? The challenge is that only you can decide what this meaning is Mike? How do you characterize the rest of your life story? Yes, it’s true that infidelity can ruin many relationships. Now, I do not know what your wife expects. Does she expect that you should put your intimacy needs aside because of her personal problems? That you should not be interested in sexually anymore after 37 years? I don’t know.

      But, I do know that you have to decide how you want the rest of your life to look like. If infidelity will ruin or break up your marriage, then you have to think through if you can live with this. After all, at the end of our lives we are faced with our decisions, the meaning we created and if we are okay with the life we have lived. The issue here is less about morality as it is about being very clear about what you want and how much you can sacrifice in that pursuit. If that pursuit is to stay in your marriage and to work issues of manhood, sexuality, aging (all of the issues that we face in life), then of course, you sacrifice the ease of the relationship with the old flame. And, if you choose otherwise, then YOU have decided that you will be okay with the sacrifices that may come with this choice.

      I wrote several articles on love and one of them relays a story about a man I treated many years ago who had a similar dilemma. I’m posting these links for you here.

      These articles speak to the dilemma that you have right now. I haven’t held anything back, as what you decide upon can only really come from deep inside of you. Thank you Mike. Let me know how it goes. Warm regards Deborah.

  38. avatar Ina says:

    My, passive aggressive men act the same. I have never believed in psychology before because I believe in taking personal responsibility. But after 36 years of marriage, I have changed my mind, there are dysfunctional people around and woe to the one who ends up married to them. Now my trust is shattered, my hope and self-esteem shot down and happiness lost since the day I married this guy. As soon as we got married, he forgot how to dance but before he was beating any man who came around me. The lack of intimacy is cruel, the lack of meaningful conversation is painful and everything I say/suggest/ask, has been torpedoed. Because we are supposed to be a Christian family, no divorce.

    But I changed my mind and don’t really care what the church will say, when he accused me of being greedy about money (he instructed me to deposit the sale a house to my name because he was worrying about taxes – linked to our joint account, anyway) and when he was reminded of it, he got really angry and would hit me with a clinched fist. He only stopped when I told him to go ahead and I will have him in jail. He does not know how to apologise, to him when he says sorry – take it or leave it – now. He let his mother lied about me,humiliated me in public and almost slapped me on the face, only I grabbed a pair of scissors and told her -go ahead and you are dead. Passive aggressive escalates to physical. We are living apart. 36 years of loneliness and emptiness, not being appreciated not being respected. I can not cry anymore, I am so done.

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Ina. I like what you say but remember even a dysfunctional person has to come to take responsibility for his or her behavior. The thing is that you don’t have to suffer because of it or makeup for their problems and limitations. It’s so freeing when we realize that we can support and love without having to act for the person, make up for their limitations or sufferings. And, that we can leave a relationship if we are being abused or our self esteem is being torn down. Yes, the lack of intimacy and meaningful conversation feels cruel. We all want to be heard, understand and to have the chance to return that to our friends and lovers. Sadly, some people have emotional problems that do not permit for this kind of healthy exchange.

      I hear you Ina. Although I’m sad for you that you had to go through so much; but you faced head on that you are done. Some people never face this and live another 30 something years in such misery. Ina, I hope that you went or go to a little counseling just to have someone to work through your pain and to think clearly about how to proceed with whatever decision you make regarding him. You take good care of yourself. Warm regards Deborah.

  39. avatar Mimi says:

    My husband of 14 years fits the PA personality.In the begining he was all sweet, caring , gentle, polite etc but after one year with twin babies ,his true colors began to show.I didnt know that he was intentionally forgetting , being mean ,losing temper and then becoming calm, sweet loving again.The one thing that I see different in myself is that I never doubted myself ( still dont ).I always knew that he had low self-esteem and tried my best to praise, encourage and motivate him but everything back fired.I guess when he started finding faults in whatever I did and me knowing that I did right,that I stopped trying to help him.

    Years passed with this on/off mood swings and I coped. I have recently taken up a strategy with little but encouraging results but I would like to know if I continue , will it reap slow but positive results for longer periods ?

    My husband ‘ forgets ‘ : I have started putting notes on walls,bedside pedestal ,as reminders for him, to the list of chores that he needs to do over the w/end.He hates them and how do I know that? He has started leaving things around the house for me tidy up.I dont tidy after him.I used to but not anymore.I used to get frustrated to see an untidy house,not any more.If he leaves his plate behind, I leave mine too.They stay on table for 2-3 days ,I dont ask him to pick them up but since he has to run the dishwasher, he picks the plates and keeps them in. This has been going on for last 3 months now but it has taken every little thread of me to come up with this strength .
    He couldnt hold on the frustration any longer and exploded last night.He became violent.He hit me, then broke things in the house,all the time shouting , screaming and blaming me for everything that I have done / not done.I stayed calm , didnt react.He continued for 2-3 hours but I didnt react.It was awfully difficult.

    Today he is mumbling,threatening,shouting again but I’m still not reacting , staying calm but I am scared to death as what he would do if I dont give-in to his desire to put me down, become his dummy on whom he can shout/scream and in the end become successful in making me the crazy one.I am very scared but I have chosen to stay calm but i’m scared of his anger and turning violent.

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Mimi. I’m sorry for the delay in responding to your comment. As you see by the many responses to this article, you are not alone. It is very difficult to cope long term with the forgetting and other passive aggressive behaviors you describe here. I know you’ve tried everything; most people living with PA people do, and like you, the strategies do not work all that well. I know it’s hard not to feed into the drama he creates, but this way you do not become a participant to his undermining ways.

      Have you seen a therapist? I think this is very important, seeing as he hit you and broke things in the house. Yes, it’s the ultimate in a temper tantrum, but you don’t want to take any risks. I hope you do get some counseling for yourself so you can think this situation through and get clear as to the best approach to this difficult situation. From what you describe, he doesn’t seem like he has a lot of insight into his behavior. I don’t know if he would eventually go into therapy for himself or into couple’s counseling with you. But, if he will, it would be good to get him into treatment.

      I think therapy is the best approach for you Mimi. You take good care and let me know how it goes for you. Warm regards Deborah.

  40. avatar Mimi says:

    After reading more comments here , I figure the approach that I have started taking now is the passive one. If he leaves things around,I do the same.If he leaves something unfinished,I do that too.If he forgets what I requested, I forget something what he asked me to. Is that right ? I have been doing this for last 3 months as well so I understand his anger.But I have taken this step after trying to sit with him and do all the feelings talk, changing the way I talk — ‘I’, Me, instead of ‘ you’.

    I have to stay put up as I have invested financially a lot.

    Sorry for not writing everything in one post.

  41. avatar john says:

    Dear Deborah, I have seen many articles about PA behaviour, but none as well defined as yours.

    I am a 47 yr old man, divorced, with 10 yr old child, involved after 5 years with a 32 yr old woman, divorced with 7 yr child. We live very busy lives in the arts, speak different languages and come from different countries. We love each other, but the PA tendencies from her past and present are manifest in her behaviour. After reading your article I have 3 questions which I hope you can answer:

    1. Most articles are about PA men. But both her mother, father and my partner express many of these behaviours. However, I think there is something more. She is not only passive, but will get extremely aggressive, outwardly so, emotional, and even violent with herself, when her needs are not met. She is not only passive, detached, forgetful. In fact, sometimes she can be the opposite. This up and down, inconsistency, sometimes being mindful and mature, other times not, creates a very volatile dynamic between us. Is this also PA behaviour? It is confusing to be with her-not always doing what she says, very direct with her needs and emotions and other times very passive and covert, and very often reacting to every little word making into a hysterical drama (yes she was rejected by her parents as a child).

    2. I believe I too may possess some of these PA behaviours but I am more aware of the present moment and able to let go of attachments. But the fear of dependency and intimacy are real in me and we seem to bring out the worst as well as the best in each other. Are there such things are two PA people in a couple? This is a dance that seems a vicious circle…

    3. We went through imago couple therapy. The problem is I feel she uses the tools of availability, reframing, mirroring as weapons in her PA behaviour. How do we get past this?

    4. We are always on the brink of disaster, but she refuses to ever consider breaking up. I did once, and the result was near suicide for her. It creates an unhealthy feeling of being held hostage to the relationship, especially since we live together. Her ex-husband is a couple/marital therapist who is quite a narcissist himself. I don’t know where we can go for therapy at this point. Do you have suggestions?

    Please advise and thank you for your discretion.


    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello good to see you here. I did not know how to write you back earlier and keeping your anonymity. Here are my responses to your questions.
      1. Most articles are about PA men. But both her mother, father and my partner express many of these behaviours. However, I think there is something more. She is not only passive, but will get extremely aggressive, outwardly so, emotional, and even violent with herself, when her needs are not met. She is not only passive, detached, forgetful. In fact, sometimes she can be the opposite. This up and down, inconsistency, sometimes being mindful and mature, other times not, creates a very volatile dynamic between us. Is this also PA behaviour? It is confusing to be with her-not always doing what she says, very direct with her needs and emotions and other times very passive and covert, and very often reacting to every little word making into a hysterical drama (yes she was rejected by her parents as a child).


      2. I believe I too may possess some of these PA behaviours but I am more aware of the present moment and able to let go of attachments. But the fear of dependency and intimacy are real in me and we seem to bring out the worst as well as the best in each other. Are there such things are two PA people in a couple? This is a dance that seems a vicious circle…


      4. We are always on the brink of disaster, but she refuses to ever consider breaking up. I did once, and the result was near suicide for her. It creates an unhealthy feeling of being held hostage to the relationship, especially since we live together. Her ex-husband is a couple/marital therapist who is quite a narcissist himself. I don’t know where we can go for therapy at this point. Do you have suggestions? ISN’T THAT INTERESTING ABOUT HER EX. I’M NOT SURPRISED BY WHAT YOU SAY HERE. NARCISSISTIC PEOPLE (AND THERE ARE INDEED THERAPISTS WHO HAVE THIS DIAGNOSIS) ATTRACT MORE EXPLOSIVE TYPES OF PERSONALITIES. IT’S A MATCH MADE IN HEAVEN AND ALSO IN HELL.


  42. avatar Mrembo says:

    Hi Deborah,

    Thank you so much for your article. I just realized that am married to a PA in the last two weeks. I have been reading like crazy, and your article is the first one I feel truly puts it as it is.

    Am Kenyan and the traditions here are that marriages are not meant to make life easy for the wife. So If I was to tell anyone that I would want to leave my husband yet he does not beat me, provides for us, comes home every day, is funny charming and really good, nobody would understand. I did not understand if for the ten years we have been together either.

    Now that I figured it out, I had to identify my own co-dependency issues. I started seeing all the times I would make excuses for him, how he would frustrate me, sabotage, vagueness, lack of commitment etc.

    But even with all the knowledge, I still love him and would love to work out a more positive marriage. Am applying what am learning, and I can see him easing his defenses when I approach him in a non confrontational manner.

    Am working on healing my childhood wounds, reclaiming my boundaries and choosing my battles with my husband. I love him but am not sure he would be willing to go to therapy. Do you have ideas how I can show him how he is a PA without him erecting his defensive walls?

    Thanks a lot,

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Mrembo, you say so well the problem here. So many PA spouses are really socially great people (funny, charming, good persons) and as you say, he doesn’t beat you and provides. So what’s the problem? The PA behaviors and one has to be living with these behaviors to truly grasp how troublesome they can be to the partner of the person. Yes, you are very right. Often people who have codependency issues find PA partners and vice versa.

      You sound like such a thoughtful, psychological person. I admire the work you are doing understanding the relationship problems and also the wounds that you yourself bring into the relationship. If you can get him to couple’s therapy with you, that would be great. But, if you cannot, you may want to go yourself, so you can get some good strategies to change some of the ways you deal with his PA, to bring you some relief.

      What a pleasure dialoguing with you today, Mrembo. Let me know how it goes for you. Warmly Deborah.

      • avatar Mrembo says:

        Dear Deborah,

        Thank you so much for your response. Am following up on therapy on my own, since he is adamant he will not go for any help. I had one session and will follow up after this season is over.

        I have pulled back in the last one month, and realized that if I do not make any decisions on the emotional front, things are left undone. He has remarked twice that am changing, and he reckons he is going to have to adjust to the new me. I have noted very minute changes………….like finally buying a Christmas tree after two years of the kids asking for it and him ‘forgetting’. It is not a very common practice here, but he volunteered to do it three years ago, and forgot two years in a row.

        Am tired of feeling like a victim, and I getting to do more fun things and meeting new people. I still catch myself falling back and falling for his games, but am now alert and do not let it go far.

        Am loving my life, and feeling less stuck. I have enjoyed learning all these things, and maybe I should pursue something on psychology…………………..after am through with re-acquainting myself with me.

        Thank you so much for this blog, it is really helpful.


  43. avatar Tamara says:

    It finally dawned on me today, after 10 years, that my husband is passive-aggressive. For years now I’ve had this vague feeling that something was wrong, something amiss, something deprived of me, but I always ultimately dismissed it because he is so complimentary and giving, at times anyway. But I also realized after one too many failed attempts at conversations about pressing issues like money, kids, insurance, and even marital therapy that my emotional needs are not met. Promises are broken or “forgotten.” He asks me what I want, I tell him, he agrees to do it, and then guess what? Never does it. EVER. Moreover, any conversation always turns back on me and how I’m failing at everything or how I’m being mean and attacking him. Sigh … I’ve taken to choosing my words so carefully that I actually clam up and can’t even finish a statement anymore or just avoid it altogether until I get the nerve to just leave. One thing that I’ve also noticed is that he apologizes for everything. Everything I say, no matter how innocent, no matter if it has to do with me, him, my family, the dogs, the cat, whatever, it’s “I’m sorry.” So then I feel like I’ve been mean again somehow, even when I replay the conversation or innocuous statement inside my head over and over and for the life of me cannot figure out what I said that was a request for him to take the blame. Not only that, but he has occasionally slipped up and revealed vengeful things that he has done, some to me, some to others to the point that it scares me. No matter what he says I don’t think he has my back. Recently he said he was moving out, then he changed his mind, all of it my fail and a big old mess left for me to clean up. He’s not all bad of course. When he wants, he can be really understanding and helpful. But the other stuff that comes with it, not just pa stuff, but there are other, bigger problems, are just exhausting. I used to think being married would be so fulfilling. Now I think being on my own, while scary and maybe lonely, would at least be peaceful and I wouldn’t be flying into panics all the time.

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello, thank you for your comment and sharing your situation with me. But, I know by your words that the ten years have frustrating, confusing and exhausting. PA people do this. And, as you know well, the difficulty is they can be so nice and helpful and it’s authentic that you struggle between this part of him and his PA ways. The chronic I’m sorry that you describe here is a defense to make you feel guilty but also truly the only way he knows how to cope with problems.

      You may want to go to couple’s therapy with him, to see if this helps to at least implement some strategies for you to get more of what you need from him. Therapy can’t promise to change him into a non-PA person, but it can help both of you to sidestep some of the PA behaviors that trouble you most.

      Of, if you have not already, you may want to talk to someone to think through if there is enough in the relationship to stay. Perhaps, you already know the answer to this. But, it sounds like you have to either make peace with a desire to be on your own or with your decision to stay in the relationship despite the difficulties you describe here.

      Take good care of yourself. Happy Holidays. Warm regards Deborah.

  44. avatar Diane says:

    Dr. Deborah, you wrote:

    “They’ve learned to frustrate and obstruct people’s way, to get them to act out the frustration and anger that they themselves feel, but are fearful of expressing.”

    OK, so I have a melt down. He accomplished what he wanted to do but I don’t understand what this gets him. He says absolutely nothing during or after my craziness. Sometimes I think that he has this mental scoreboard in his head and he does a high 5 every time he succeeds in making me react. I guess I just don’t get what the end result for him is. So I react…what is he feeling at this point?
    I am getting really good at seeing the set ups and am so much better at not getting sucked in. What happens to the PA when no one will play his game? There is just him and I…no family and certainly no friends and we are retired so together most of the time. He has no one else to subject his PA on but me. What happens when I get so good that he can’t succeed with me any more?

    Thanks for any thoughts on this. Diane

  45. avatar Geoff says:

    Hi, sorry.

    I am in a new marriage and have been aware of the pa ‘push/pull’ and that normally makes me notice and really step back to observe. My life has been to support and protect my wife-she has lost her job twice in 2013, and she had no money.

    Lately the alcohol has increased and the ‘fight or flight’ increases in frequency…and this normally happens when I am away (I work in mines for three weeks straight). Mentally coping with this behaviour is depressing and destroying.

    Long story short, without word-she packed a few things and left…I had an idea she was at parents (as you know the instigators of this behaviour). Devastated I got to the door, the entire family was there, and I did exactly what you described…I got angry at the situation…I reacted exactly the way she wanted…

    My main aim was to highlight the behaviour (and she has tried suicide on a number of occasions), but also to let them know that she lies…I know this sounds weird; but for her to get the attention, she makes up stories…to play the victim. Manipulates the people around her. At last count she has included at least 10-15 people in the latest debacle…telling each and every one a different story. I know this because one was a ‘friend’ of mine that she contacted in a drunk state to tell of the failing marriage…

    Sorry for the novel also, I am just at wits end and am sick of defending myself when I can back up my side…but when I come back there is no one here to hear my side…the blindly believe the lies and deception…

    So, after she left, and I told her parents that “I am here and I am telling you that she is having a breakdown, and the like…” I walked away: her dad wouldn’t listen to a word I said; as it was all different to his daughters version…

    It is a family of affairs, of being in the same house whist being with others…the never have agreed on anything; they will not communicate.

    The highlighting section of all of this: I do not want to ruin her reputation nor do anything but the best…and I verbalized this to her father.

    Since she left, she texts with random text, and then will ask for a councillor…

    The texting thing seems cowardly and I’ve asked her to speak; not text.

    I am so confused that after a couple of days alone and not being attacked I feel normal…I feel that I should walk away. I know it sounds cowardly; yet I’ve had my heart torn out; she packed and left with no work or note…doing it before Xmas and a day after I came home from two weeks away…

    I haven’t responded as I asked for this Sunday and it never happened (I forgot / you told me not to jump into this).

    I don’t know how to respond as the councillors before have zero ability and reasoning with PA.

    The session gets sidetracked and more volatile…and I value my life far more.


    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Geoff: Oh, this is a very difficult situation, as you know because you are living it. Geoff from what you describe, indeed, she needs psychological help independently. You did not make her alcoholic, or codependent on her family and other relationships, or the problems she brought into the marriage. I am not blaming her; please know that this is not about that. It is more that by your description, she has some mental health issues going on that couple counseling will not help.

      I know this is a new relationship, but so far, she has done much to prevent a deep bond from forming between you two. Geoff, sometimes people bond out of trauma and chaos–making it hard to leave. But. this doesn’t mean that the turmoil you feel is love. Yes, I’m sure you loved her to marry her and probably love her still now. But. who we love and what is loving and what we need for a stable, healthy relationship and good mental health long term are very different things (as you know).

      Also, her difficulties are not cut out to handle your work that takes you away 3 weeks at a time. This is not your problem. This is your job and how you provide for yourself and her. But, her codependency issues and fears cannot handle this. Drinking excessively is a way for her to cope with a type of abandonment feeling that your three weeks away stirs in her.

      Well, I don’t want to say more about her. But, let you know to trust yourself Geoff and to know that this type of turmoil so early or late in a relationship is not a good sign. Geoff, there’s a great book by author Kirschenbaum that is called Too Good to Stay or Too bad to Leave. You might get it. Also, I wrote an article on this topic. Take a look on it if you have not already. Warm regards, wishing you a healthy resolution in 2014; you deserve less chaos and happiness. Deborah.

      Here is the link to that post:

  46. avatar Gillian says:

    I have been with a PA man now for 8 years. We have been married for seven of those years, and have a 6 year old son. In the beginning, my PA guy distrusted me, so he used to give me the silent treatment, act sullen, say nasty sarcastic things, and treat me with contempt. My PA guy, has gotten better in some ways, as he’s not as much of an emotional abuser as he used to be.

    However, he has held up my immigration here in Canada, by not providing me with required information I need from him in order for him to sponsor me, and this isn’t like the “bills” or taxes, it is NOT something that I can do for him. He has repeatedly not followed through on promises. He got me to move back to a place temporarily that I didn’t want to move back to at all, even temporarily. We talked about it, and we discussed my feelings, and he agreed to certain terms if I agreed to go back. NONE of those terms were ever met. None. And, to add a real slap in the face, he treats me like I am a total bitch nag when I bring it up.

    After last summer we separated after I asked him why he so often treated me as if he resented me. His answer started out very strange. He said, “It was his “weaknes”” When I pressed for more information, he said, “He only married me because he felt sorry for me.” Later, he back pedaled and said that he “married me to help me out.” Seriously? Months later, he wanted to get back together. I wanted to try to salvage the marriage, so I agreed, but I asked him to go the doctor for his ED, (we have 0 sex, unless were breaking up.) Go to counseling, and agree to get couples counseling. It is 5 months later, and it goes with out saying that non of this is happening. As if all this weren’t enough, he disappeared while we were out on our Aniversery–we went to the local pub after a nice dinner, and he went home with out even telling me.

    When I finally asked him why he thinks it’s O.K to make promises when he was getting back together with me and then not follow through on any of it, his response was “I guess I’m not interested enough in the relationship to try and make it work.” O.K, I’ve had enough of this game.

    Seriously, this isn’t a marriage! How much of this kind of crap is a person supposed to take? I am seriously not supposed to get angry?????I have exactly the background you suggest that a woman who falls for this kind of crap would have. I’m also ADHD, and can get loud and angry and thrown stuff at his head. Seriously, my insecurities and anger problems aside, my husband would try the patience of an old Tibetan Monk. I am NOT a saint. Am I really, really, not supposed to get angry at him for any of this?????????????

    I AM FURIOUS. I AM HURT. WHAT ABOUT ME? WHAT THE F’ING HELL ABOUT ME??? I have tried, so, so hard. I can’t try anymore. I look at my precious son and I feel so, so terrible and feel…such deep and abiding sadness.

    I am sorry for my rant. I am pretty much losing it here.

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello, oh, I hear your pain, deep anger and hurt. Please don’t apologize; you are not ranting, you are letting out years of frustration and feeling like you have no options.
      Yes, what about you? Gillian, my post on this very popular topic (as you can see by all the comments) is not to say in any way that people should stay quiet, put up with, and suppress their upset, frustration, and everything else that passive aggressive behavior does to them. This article is more to let people know that voicing feelings isn’t going to motivate or change a PA person. Now, it may temporarily help you to blow off steam and even get him to straighten up for a day or two. But, PA behavior (as you know too well) is based in one’s character development.

      The partners of a PA person often bring their mates to therapy with the hope that therapy will make the PA behaviors go away forever. Indeed, with this personality problem, it’s less a matter of completely getting rid of the PA behavior and more about helping to understand and better manage PA behavior patterns, this is especially true if you want to stay in this marriage. Gillian, believe me, I understand why you are angry. And, of course, you shouldn’t suppress your anger. But, it will not change him.

      May I suggest something? It would help you a lot to have a professional person to talk to, to consider what you are getting from the marriage that is healthy for YOU and your child. And, to help you to decide if you want to stay in the marriage, and if so, then why. You need clarity right now so you can begin to problem solve around this very difficult situation. Thank you for taking the time to comment. You take good care. Warm regards to you Gillian. Deborah.

  47. avatar carol says:

    Hi. I have just recently found out that my husband is a P.A. person. We are seeing a therapist together. But she never calls out what he’s doing wrong. Nor does she say that he’s exhibiting passive aggressive behavior. It bothers me, because, to me, it seems like if you tell him what he’s doing, he’ll want to change it or at least acknowledge it. If she doesn’t tell him what’s going on, I feel like telling him myself – while we’re both in therapy. I will even list the symptoms (forgetfulness, etc.) Is this a bad idea?


    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Carol, Most definitely, PA behavior has to be brought out into the open to bring the patterns that are undermining the relationship between you two, out into the open. Also, of course, you should say what you think and feel in therapy (in a constructive way). I don’t want to comment on your therapist or therapy. But, let me just say that couple’s therapy is different from individual therapy. The therapist needs to be much more directive, active and instructive to help. Also, for you, remember, your spouse may become more aware of his PA behavior, but PA behavior is not easy to change and a PA person doesn’t acknowledge the behavior so readily. Just remember, this so you don’t expect something that you may not get very quickly. Warm regards to you Carol. I hope all goes well for you and your husband. Deborah.

  48. avatar Jenny McGrath says:

    This article changed my life.

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Jenny. I’m so glad. What a nice comment but most importantly because it helped you. Looking forward to seeing you here again. Warm regards to you Deborah.

  49. avatar max says:

    I have been dating a PA alcoholic for 2years. He acts like a child even though he is a grown man. My family says that they used to see his love for me a mile away, but now he doesn’t seem as committed.
    He says hell do things then doesn’t, he gets drunk and puts himself and others health at risk. A few times when he`s been drunk I’ve refused to give him his keys to his car for his safety, and he has then tried to physically wrestle them off me. If I tell him how I feel he says I demand too much of him and that he is trying , but the truth is that he just doesn’t care.

    I love him beyond belief and have put up with being dumped countless times and even being taken to prison because he insulted an officer (RSA police force is a bit twisted).

    I want to be with him but I feel like he doesn’t want me and I tried the ultimatum but was left disappointed and going back on my own word.

    I know I can’t make him grow up and get help with his issues, but I also can’t sit around and wait forever.

    He wants me to move in but both myself and I will not be comfortable with that unless we are engaged. Now he says that he won’t get engaged because he doesn’t want me to feel like he is being forced to do it.

    I’m young, but I am very ambitious, I don’t want to end up divorced if he does step up..

    What do I do in this situation?

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Max, you are in a tough situation, as his addiction will make it very difficult to keep your emotional attachment to him healthy and vice versa. You don’t want to enable these behaviors. Max, I recently wrote an article on the behaviors that weak our emotional attachment to lovers. If you haven’t rad it yet, will you take a look at it? Here’s the link. The thing I can recommend is that you give great thought to the extent of which the behaviors you describe here will cause you trouble in the future. If your friend hasn’t gone into psychotherapy, it sounds like he should. You don’t want a lifetime of dramas, right? So far, he’s given you a lot of them. I also understand that you feel love for him. But, remember, sometimes our love and attraction is actually made greater by the rejection. If this is the case for you, you have to evaluate why his behaviors keep you involved. Let me know how it goes. Remember, to take care and love yourself. Warm regards Deborah.

  50. avatar Crazy making says:

    Has there been any studies linking passive aggressive personality with vulnerable narcissism? I find the two very similar.

    I am in the process of filing for divorce and am trying to figure what went wrong?


  51. avatar Married...but lonely says:

    Deborah, Just how do you detach emotionally from your PA spouse? If I don’t talk to my husband, it gets very quiet in the house…he ignores me and acts like I don’t exist.
    Then when he does talk to me it’s in front of our boys and he asks questions that he knows I don’t want to talk about in front of our children…just so I look like the bad person for not responding in the right way…so much so that our youngest son gets really anxious…He’s 14 and is in counseling for OCD.
    The OCD became very apparent about a year ago, after it came out that my husband had an emotional affair, and I became very upset over that.
    Since then, I’ve realized that my husband is PA…we’ve tried counseling twice…he quit each time after 4-5 sessions. I myself went to counseling for several months, after realizing I’m codependent.
    I feel my marriage of 28 yrs is over. I want out. He won’t change, I can see that now, and I won’t live like this the rest of my life, especially now that I’ve seen what it’s done to my son.
    My two older boys who live at home have urged me to separate from their father.

    So until I can leave, or get him to leave, HOW do I detach from him? Does that mean not sleeping in the same bedroom? Not doing things a wife normally does for her husband? Laundry, fixing his lunch for work the next day, not going out to dinner where he’s funny and charming, etc….I’ve always done these things, even after hours or days of silence on his part…But I’m tired of playing this game…so I want to stop it, once and for all!!

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Oh, hello married but lonely. Thank you for sharing your situation with me. You ask a good question (How can I emotionally detach?). I want to first say that what you are asking is unnatural in a marriage. This is why you are having a hard time emotionally detaching. You live with him, raised children, shared a home for 28 years, and have had the types of conflict that actually strengthen the emotional attachment, although it’s not always a good ones. I just want to say to easy on yourself. It’s not easy to emotionally detach from this situation.

      But, that being said, let me help you think through this problem for a moment. You say you’d like to stop playing the game. Is the game playing “the good wife”? I think what you said is very important. It’s unhealthy to have to play at a role that isn’t authentic for us. Think through the things you mention here with regard to the game. If you had to choose just one activity to stop doing that would bring you the most relief, and emotional detachment from him, which one would it be? I’d choose this one thing and see where it leads you.

      Thank you for taking the time to comment today. Let me know how it goes. Warmly Deborah.

  52. avatar mimi says:

    Hi Deborah,

    Some life changing event made me see a therapist ( wont go into detail ,to stay anonymous).I figure,the worst news/incident of my life has become a miracle in transforming my entire life.

    After a month of therapy sessions ( twice ,sometimes thrice a week because of my mental state ) , my attention focused on my husband and what he does.My therapist, an elderly guy, said to me,without even meeting my husband,that he is being PA.

    I wasnt thrilled but rather got confused. ( Fingers crossed) , he told me that he will make me strong.He gave me strategies and said he will support me,no matter what.He has,so far.

    My husband has also started seeing him but I feel he is telling lies to the therapist and at this stage, I’m not ready for couple’s therapy as my own childhood issues are coming forward which I dont want to discuss in front of my husband.

    To say its very difficult to live with a PA husband doesnt do justice.Its a life of hell,crazy making behavior.I know that I’m not mad and also know that I dont want to become mad.The strategies my T gave me are very difficult to act upon.It takes entire strength out of me,emotionally and mentally but I feel I am not going to give up upon myself. I dont want to change him because I know I cant but like my therapist has said, if I dont accept his behavior, he will be forced to change himself.

    I’m keeping faith in my therapist.It costs a fortune ( even though in the 30 minute session he speaks only for 1-2 minutes ,rest is all ‘me’ time !) but its helping me.Its an investment in me,which is important than anything in the world.

    My worst fear for doing couples therapy is that my husband is going to sit there as a victim and project me as the bad guy.Will my therapist be able to understand this ? Will he believe me or my husband ? So far, I feel he believes me.

    Can a therapist really make a PA person realize how they are wrong , all the while me staying protected?I have taken a strong stand that I’m not going to accept this but will patience / strategies have long term/permanent results?

    Thanks for hearing me out !

  53. avatar Lorraine says:

    My question is, can you truly be happy in a relationship with a PA man? From this wonderful article I felt hopeful, and the truth is we can never get all our needs met by another person, but from the comments it seems that happiness in this sort of relationship is impossible. Therapy for the PA person is probably unlikely, but with the work a non-PA person can do, can both people find happiness together? I am dating someone who I now realize withdraws when things are difficult, and has been able to get me to feel crazy and desperately needy. But I feel like maybe I need to understand MY motivations for feeling this way, accept him and work on myself, within this relationship.

    Because, I do love this man and if I do I must love all sides to him, understand him and take care of myself.

    Or is this just a situation doomed from the very beginning?

    Deborah, do you really have success stories where people were able to find happiness in a PA relationship?

    Thank you,

  54. avatar Michelle says:


    I came across this post while searching for articles on why my husband won’t apologize. Long story short that led me here, one of many examples, he took my brand new car, without asking and someone hit it. Also, he accidently spilled bleach on the front carpet. I told him, I understood that accidents happen, but he could at least show empathy for damage to something I had worked so hard for(traveling 2.0 hrs each way to new job), he yelled it wasn’t his fault it happened. I could name so many other examples. For instance, I recently found my first grey hair at 38, and expressed my feelings of distraught to him, his response, “What do you expect, you’re old!”. I can’t even express how hurtful that was to me, but recognize, I allowed that opening. This post makes me feel like I am not the “crazy” person I thought I was, I recognize both his behavior patterns, and some of my own personal issues that have led me to partner with him. We have been married for 11 years, and I have suggested that we need help, but he always responds, “I am fine, YOU need the help.” Would therapy for me help in anyway? I am thinking about leaving but we have kids, so I don’t want to leave. I find myself counting down until they are in college, but what about years of lost happiness in between?

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Michelle, ouch–wow, he certainly is insensitive–actually beyond it. This is how PA people and also narcissists respond–they project their emotional problems unto their mates, coworkers and family. Let me recommend that you talk to a counselor just to sort out your feelings and what you want. Yes, it’s a very difficult situation when you have children. No easy answer for sure.

      But, you have to evaluate if your staying signals to them more a weakness than your strength. And, if the situation between you and your husband leaks out enough into the home to wear down the children as well. I know you will come to this answer. So, yes to can therapy help, it can help you at the very least in sorting through these questions you have and finding to the strength to make a decisions whatever it is. Warm regards, Take care. Deborah.

  55. avatar kkb says:

    well im almorst 18 and i have been with my boyfriend for 2 years and a half now
    for what i have read here it seams like he’s a passive aggressive person ,
    i have been managing so far
    but after we broke up a few months ago for 4 days and then got back together he has been acting strange
    as for he slightly beats me to tell me he misses me (we cant hug nor hold hands at school ) so he sais that he teases me like that to show me how much he misses me
    and then a few days ago after midnight he was sleepy so i told him to go sleep and he refused
    a few minutes later he started saying there creepy things about sewing my mouth so that it burns as i move it
    and cutting my cheeks out and damaging my nose and stuff like that
    and it go repeated today too
    so it really freaked me out
    and it made me think that it’s a reaction for the breakup ( i broke up with him )
    can u please help me understand were this behavior came from and what should i do ?
    ( P.S : we cuddle and talk and we have plans about maybe getting married and having kids we have a normal relationship beside these convos )
    thank you for your help
    waiting for your reply ..

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Almost 18 :)
      Well, when you say slightly beats you–you mean beats your self-esteem or deprives you of affection or do you mean he actually physically hits you and also deprives you of rejection and lowers your self-esteem? Physically or emotionally beating you down is not good. It doesn’t matter what it is–it’s not a good sign Karen.

      The things you say here are not passive-aggressive; they are aggressive and sadistic.Also, he may appear like he’s kidding, but these sadistic comments represent his fantasy that is more than creepy—scary (sew your mouth, cut your cheeks, damage your nose). Trust your gut, your heart and mind is telling you that something is very wrong with this and that you should protect yourself.

      Karen, I don’t’ know him, but he sounds like he has tremendous anger at women (yes–maybe mother or some other woman). Is it possible that you could talk to a professional counselor to run this by him or her? I want you to hear this from someone beside me. thank you for checking this all out for yourself. TRUST YOURSELF HUN. You take good care now. Warmly Deborah.

  56. avatar Elaine says:

    Thank you so much, Deborah, for your profoundly clarifying description of a passive aggressive mate. My partner fits the bill uncannily. I’m hugely relieved to know finally, that the behaviour I’ve been dealing with for over a decade is a known psychological condition. To see my experience described with such clarity and precision was deeply validating.

    My partner can be unusually kind, loving and affectionate and yet, at other times, unbelievably self centred, selfish, and inconsiderate. This dichotomy has been crazy making for me because no matter what I’d say to him to explain my distress, no matter how I’d express myself or how many times I’d reiterate my concerns, there has never been any true understanding, remorse or resolution. No change at all.

    Your comment that they can be fine, likeable people and that you’ve liked all your PA clients has now dispelled the confusion I’ve experienced all these years. I couldn’t understand how genuine loving kindness and blind self-centredness could co-exist in one person. But that has been my reality. I’ve been left feeling utterly helpless and powerless thousands of times simply because I have been unable to effectively communicate what I’m experiencing to him. He simply doesn’t get it and has made me out to be an emotionally reactive crazy woman. So as you say, he’s got me to act out his anger and rage. I recognised that years ago but have never been able to find any reliable external validation for my interpretation.

    What you say is motivating the PA mate makes perfect sense, and so does your description of the reaction of the partner on the receiving end. Because my partner is very intelligent and also very sensitive, I’ve believed all these years that I just needed to find a way to get through to him and that when he understood he would change. This has been a wishful fantasy. I have failed over and over again to make myself understood. This has left me feeling utterly powerless, and perhaps this, more than anything, has caused me the greatest suffering.

    I now know that as much as I love him I can’t live with him. I don’t want to take all the responsibility in the relationship. I don’t want to put up with his lack of consideration, unreliability, failure to follow through, forgetfulness, withdrawal, blaming, and playing the victim. It’s like living with a covertly rebellious adolescent at times! And because the aggression is covert and probably not even conscious in him, it’s impossible for me to make it obvious to him. Any attempt to do that just perpetuates the impossible dance.

    I can’t express how grateful I am to you for so skilfully clarifying the nature of passive aggression in a partner. I also want to say how much I appreciate the warm, caring, openhearted and balanced responses you’ve given to people who’ve written in.

    Thank you so much.

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Elaine, thank you for your kind words. By your words and description here I can see how intelligent and thoughtful you are. And, your efforts to understand, help and try to get through to him speak to your capability of loving and being there for a person. But, as you describe well here, with a PA person, this doesn’t help because their character problems are so deeply ingrained in them. It’s interesting but I’ve known many PA people who are intelligent and very sensitive like your spouse. This can make it even harder to reconcile (for ourselves) the PA behavior in them. We’d think that they have sufficient intellect to learn and go beyond their difficulties, right? But, the PA defenses are so teflon-proof that intellect isn’t enough to get through them at times.

      It’s not easy to reconcile the reality that changing a PA person is an arduous task. You most likely want to say to yourself–“Accept it; this is who he is, and he won’t change.” But, the normal, healthy part of you doesn’t understand, because it’s normal to want to understand, make better, support and be there for people we love. This is one of the reasons it is so hard to be in love with a PA person. Facing that we most likely can’t change this behavior (at least on our own) or might have to leave goes against everything we are taught.

      Thank you again Elaine for your kind words. I have been so amazed by the number of comments on this article that tells me just how many people are struggling with a PA mate. You take good care. Let me know how you are doing. Warm regards, Deborah.

  57. avatar Phoenix says:


    I recently realized that my partner has PA personality and never in last 7 years of our relationship,I could make this out.While my boyfriend loves me immensely he did always complain that I don’t understand him enough or at all absolutely.After we had a breakup just now which i never ever wanted I got into reading about human behaviors and was amazed/shocked to know how much PA resonated with my partner.
    We aren’t married but we have been there for last 7 years since college and it is our first relationship for both of us.
    He always wanted me understand him but I couldn’t.
    I recently walked off a restaurant when he said only hatred is left between us and that he is ashamed of me.I got paranoid and cursed him and accused him of ruining my life.I never wished bad for him but in anger and frustration i said all that what a beloved wouldn’t tell his boyfriend.
    I’m not getting what to do to restore back my relationship because I really love him even if his personality type is PA.

    Pls suggest ASAP.

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Phoenix, it is shocking and enlightening to get an answer to what you have been feeling for a long time. I’m sorry about the recent breakup. I know this hurts. But, take some time and think again before you try to make the relationship work out again. PA people are lovable. But, if you have to do all the changing and adapting just to keep him, this is not psychologically healthy for you. Phoenix, sometimes, if we don’t react and let time show us what is right, we move more freely into the right direction of our lives. Have faith and trust and wait and see if this relationship is really the right thing for you. warmly Deborah.

  58. avatar Sue says:

    Hello Deborah. The shared stories and replies here have had quite a profound affect on me and have given me context to my past 5 years as for the past 5 years I have shared my life with a man unable to follow through on promises and unable to commit to a future with ‘us’. 6 months ago he walked from our relationship muttering “I am out of here” that was it. I helped him walk out by opening the door for him. Over this 6 months I must have texted him 1000 times and received the occasional reply. The replies have usually been around non-relationship topics. Last week he sent a text to say he walked because I ****d up. Now for 5 years this man stayed at my house usually 6 out of 7 nights. We enjoyed good organic food, good coffee, pay tv, outings,etc which for the best part supplied by me. I spent many hours lovingly sourcing the best local food and hours cooking the best meals to share with him. I also got to clean up afterwards. I cleaned my house after us, and created all the magic behind the scenes to create a perfect setting for our relationship to happen. For that I also got to do the outside chores including mowing the lawns and taking out the rubbishetc. Never received a cent towards electricity or gas costs, further, I got “sexually transmitted debt” and ended up having to secure a second job which I am still having to work. Throughout the 5 years I would periodically point out the gaps in the relationship and would point out my needs. Some “needs” he met for a short time, other needs he promised to meet but didn’t with never another word spoken. Further to his PA behaviour I have a strong belief he was gambling the entire time. I never clearly raised this with him through the relationship but I would oftentimes try to raise my concerns but too passively to be affective. I would ask him how he spent his Saturday afternoon for example, I could always read from his body language he was lying and knew he had been gambling. I could paint a bigger picture here but this story would evolve to epic proportions. He is now 52 years old and I believed he has gambled most of his life. He has earnt very good money yet 5 years ago he had nothing and living in government housing and still is. On my encouragement he acquired a good vehicle as I refused to get back into the beat up old car he had when we met. He has no other assets and is still paying for that car. He has made comments that money means nothing to him yet he has and we shared aspirations that of course would take $$ to pull off. On top of all this I strongly believe he also has depression as he can be quite lethargic. Moreover his son who’s is 18 has major depression and probably has had it for many years. His brother is also a diagnosed depressive and medicated (though I don’t see that the medication is helping). He is very artistic as is his family, but he seems not to pay any regard to this gift on a day to day basis though occasionally will show off his ability. Throughout the 5 years following “my talks” (for he would say very little though his body language told me he was engaged), he would always show signs of having heard me and respond with appropriate actions/behaviours but this was never on-going, just short term, but he did show repeated attempts of trying. I had never applied the term passive/aggressive to his behaviour until now and it fits like a glove. The turning up late, unfulfilled promises, not texting to communicate his where-abouts, never verbally engaging in conversations, the silences, never asking if I am ok, even after I had been victim to an armed robbery while working my second job. Now having said all of the above we enjoyed all the same activities and music we shared together. I think the reason why he thinks I ****d up is because during the past 3 months of the relationship I believe I succumbed to depression too and I no longer desired nor had the strength to talk with him about the relationship again. I stopped ” doing the dance” and he still never enquired if I was ok. He wasn’t ever outwardly aggressive but his silences spoke volumes. The night he got up and walked out he had even asked me “where are you going” as I got up off MY COUCH in MY HOUSE, and that is why I held open the door for him to leave. Anyway having said all the above it still paints a scant picture of our relationship. And like others in the comments above I believed he would change, I believed he loved me, I believe he wanted our relationship, I believe he regrets walking out and I believed for the past 6 months I could help him. Through all my communications (letters and texts) over the past 6 months he has’nt budged an inch. A recent text from him wished me goodluck in trying to find another man as easy going as he. I am tired and giving up on him even though I still love him. Not even sure what my message is trying to convey or ask for but I do now accept that his behaviours are firmly engrained, a way of life for him. And I just wish he could see past himself. That was another thing, I truly believe he has no empathy. I am smart, kind, generous and loving so not unlike most women yet when it came down to this relationship my brains seem fried! The one thing I find intriguing is that this guy seems to be totally absent of self-awareness Deborah is this possible. Surely in his quite and alone times he surely must reflect on his behaviour?

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Sue, he sounds PA in his deflecting of his psychological problems on you. But, he also has some narcissism it seems. You describe him as using you in many ways. No matter all that is in play here, Sue, it sounds that you were right to open the door and show him the way out although I know this isn’t easy and never feels good. And, I’m sure there were some good qualities that kept you there this whole time and makes you miss him. Oh, the human being is so complex. We can be quite a mixture of psychological forces that operate in us.

      I think you write to get it out of you and to put some organization to all the feelings here. How healthy and understandable this is. You are still trying to make sense of it. But, also, it’s hard to wrap our minds around people who just seem to not get it psychologically. They may be smart intellectually and concrete and empty, psychologically. So, YES–sadly, there are people who are clueless in self-awareness. Their self-image and defensive nature is such that nothing penetrates their awareness. They are teflon in this sense. Yes, people reflect but if they lack true understanding into themselves–their reflections are on the facts of what has happened more than their role in creating experiences. We are using reflection to mean psychological understanding into oneself. But, some people reflect only on the facts of circumstances and the ways in which they have been wronged. Remember something as you struggle with this Sue, his declaration alone that you “****d up” reveals everything about his problems and nothing about you. These all or nothing, me or you, black or white declarations reveal more the lack of his understanding and emotional difficulties.

      I’m so glad the comments in this post helped you. Thank you for sharing with me. You take good care. Warmly Deborah.

      • avatar Sue says:

        Thank you so much for taking the time to reply Deborah, so much appreciate your insights and time, regards Sue

  59. avatar Renee says:

    Hello Dr. Khoshaba,

    If you have the time, I would like a little advice on how to deal with my passive-aggressive live-in boyfriend. I am a mostly stay at home home mom of two children. My 10yo is from a previous relationship, and I have a 2yo with BF. First, he keeps me on a ridiculously tight budget. He pays mortgage, utilities, car payments, insurance, and his student loan. He gives me $400/month for everything else. I am to acquire food, gas, toiletries, cleaning supplies, clothing, etc. for four people. I have a part time job and I make about $200/mo, this goes to fleshing out what he gives me so I can’t save anything up or pay my student loan. When I brought up the fact that I didn’t have enough money, he told me I “piss it away on unneccssary shit”, so I stopped buying food like snacks, juice, and anything else that wasn’t absolutely needed. I got bitched at because “there is never any food in the house”. Thus, $50+ of my $400 goes to supplying him with oj, ice tea, lemonade, and chips. The kids and I drink milk or water, and we really don’t eat any junk food. I buy store brands, sale items, and bulk. I make from scratch as much as possible to save money. I buy virtually nothing for myself, and have spent less than $200 on clothing for myself in almost 3 years. Because of the kids, I have limited work availability, and have been informed that he will not pay for daycare. I have also been informed that if I get a new job, “tell them you can work 3 nights a week”. I replied that if I get the job, I will work as much as I want. This resulted in a week of “The Silent Treatment”. That brings me to the next issue: withholding sex and affection. I myself am not a particularly affectionate person, not in what can be considered the traditional sense. I don’t like to cuddle or hold hands, but I show my love and appreciation in other ways; silly notes, preparing a favorite meal, and things as such. I make a point to say “thank you” to him for providing for our family regularly in this way. We have been intimate once since Christmas, and before that, it was early November 2013. I had stopped asking on a regular basis over last summer because I found having to beg for sex rather degrading. I always initiate/ask if he’s in the mood. He will say “maybe”, claim to be tired, or just ignore me. The first few times I had brought it up was a few months after our son was born; he unloaded on me about everything from the house being a mess, dinner not being ready at 6:30 (didn’t know it was an issue, I had a new baby who didn’t sleep through the night till 6mo, it was hard to keep house) that I had INSISTED on a NEW car when we bought our family car, (completely untrue!) and a whole bunch of stuff I never knew was a problem. Subsequent “discussions” have included my “refusal to get a job”, “pissing his money away”, implying that that I got pregnant deliberately to get a free ride on his dollar, and other bizzare things that leave me bewildered and have even given me a good laugh. (Like spending HIS money on scratch off tickets, I bought myself 1 for my birthday last June, I have no idea where that one came from). Naturally, I have gotten upset and cried, his reaction: “you act like you have it SO tough!”. I also get blamed when things break. Thus far, none of it has been anything I’ve actually broken, and half of it wasn’t even broke. He rarely apologizes for blaming me unfairly.
    When I try to engage him in conversation, I get one word answers. I have had to play “20Questions” to find out how his day at work went. When I brought up that me never talks to me any more, he got nasty and said “what do you want me to say? The house is a shithole and you won’t get a job?” I stopped trying to talk to him. I have not received a compliment in over a year. I am an attractive, intelligent woman. I did some local modeling in my teens, I had a 4.0 in colllege (family emergency forced me to drop out) and have had a job/paid my own way since I was 16. It is incredibly demeaning for me to have to be reliant on some one else to provide for myself and my children. He turns everything into an argument about money. ME: “How come you don’t say yes please/no thank you when I offer you something?” HIM: “The same reason you don’t say thank you every time I pay a bill”. That one left me absolutely stunned. It was via text message while I was out shopping, and had asked if he needed anything. It was innocuously intended on my end, I wasn’t trying to be nasty or pick a fight, but he rarely uses please/thank you with me. Perhaps it could be interpreted as passive aggressiveness on my part, but I have been subject to a pattern of behavior that deliberately ignores, demeans, and dismisses any contributions I make to the family. As in I don’t need to be acknowledged or thanked for raising kids, cleaning house, making meals etc. because that’s what I’m supposed to do, but God forbid I neglect to recognize everything HE does. The resentment I sense from him is like a poison that is making me ill. I am a person who picks up on moods and emotions, and his behavior has made me very depressed. It has gotten to the point where I do t want to do anything, like shower or shop for groceries. I have asked him in the past how to fix it, and did what he said, nothing changed. I have had an “Ah-Ha!” Moment and now recognize the pattern of behavior as being passive-aggressive. As I am a person who loathes arguing, I prefer to discuss things rationally when I am no longer angry. He seethes, allows things to fester, and makes me guess what’s wrong till we end up fighting, then he unloads on me about everything I’ve done wrong and how I’m taking advantage of him. It’s bullshit, and I’m sick of it. It’s a childish game to assuage his own insecurities. I do love him and I want my life to be with him. I love his sense of humour, find him physically attractive, and greatly enjoy when we are intimate. He can be very thoughtful, has a knack for always getting me and the kids the perfect gift, and (when he’s not being an a**hole) compliments my personality in way that makes us stronger together than apart. I don’t want to lose what’s good about our relationship so I really hope you can help me! I do understand how hard it can be to be the sole breadwinner, I get how tough it was to go from bachelor to head of family of four, but I feel sometimes like he does these things to rub in my face that he ALWAYS does EVERYTHING the HE’s supposed to do because he’s SUPPOSED to do it. It feels like he doesn’t do things out of love, but to reinforce the resentment he feels toward me. Some background on him: oldest of four boys, and ten years older than the next brother, 15 years older than the youngest. Parents went through a nasty divorce when youngest was a toddler. Mom married then divorced another guy with whom BF had a mutual dislike. One brother was a closet opium addict who OD and died last year. BF wracked with guilt that he wasn’t closer to him and didn’t look out for brothers during divorce. BF is a cop, thus felt he should have done more to prevent OD, but didn’t even know. Takes Paxil, but has not told me why; I found out accidentally while cleaning. He is 39, I am 33.

    Thank you for your time! I very much hope you can help us!

  60. avatar Rachel says:

    Dr. Khoshaba,
    I read this article last night, and thought more deeply about where my husband is coming from in regards to his PA behavior. After thinking about how to bring this issue up with him in a secure and loving atmosphere while still being true to my own feelings, I brought this article up in a discussion of ours today. As we read it together, it brought up points of discussion for both of us that were very valuable, and I think we were able to really hear one another. I think having access to this type of information is validating for not just partners of people who sometimes exhibit this behavior, but for those who need help acknowledging parts of themselves. Thanks for providing us with a tool for introspection and growth, and for writing it in such a way that does not shame or condemn the person enacting the behavior.

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Rachel, wow, truly, I am very impressed as to the constructive way that you approached this sensitive issue and also his constructive response. There must be a lot of good things between both of you. Please let me know how it goes. Wishing both of you the best. From what I can see here if there are any two people who can work through such issues through reflection and growth, both of you can. Warm regards to you Rachel (and your mate too). Deborah.

  61. avatar Elizabeth says:

    I really found some great info in your article. Thank you, so much for writing it!! I’ve known my husband was a PA man for several years. But I’m finding that, lately, I’m allowing myself to be dragged into the “PA dance” and trying to disengage is getting harder and harder. For instance, I’ve put on weight due to stress at work and not getting enough exercise. I know this and am trying to combat it. But coincidentally, (not really, lol) my extremely athletic husband has become a health nut over the past few months and while he doesn’t say anything about my weight, he has started buying only the reduced fat food brands that I don’t like and getting after our daughter in front of me for what he perceives as poor food habits like drinking Gatorade on days when she’s not engaged in a sporting activity (despite her having played in a tournament in triple digit weather the previous day). I try to avoid calling him out on this stuff in front of our 13yo daughter, but I just end up ignoring it because by the time we’re alone to talk about it, it doesn’t seem worth the effort. But my biggest fear is that this is going to impact our daughter. I have to start calling out the problems, but trying to do so with a budding teenager around is damn hard. And he has a tendency to do and say things that force her to “pick a side”. He’ll decide to drive to one of her sporting events, separately, and ask her to choose which parent she wants to ride with. Or he’ll say, “Let’s go for a family hike!”, when I’ve just gotten through explaining how much I need to get done that afternoon. Are there things I can say or do to mitigate the impact on her? How should I go about stopping the PA dance, when she’s present? I don’t want to do or say things that come across as undermining him. Is there a book you can recommend that would help me raise an emotionally healthy daughter who has a PA dad (and a mom that’s feeling pretty emotionally handicapped, as well)?

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Elizabeth, wow, I’m late in responding to you. Sorry. Thank you for taking the time in sharing with us today.

      It’s so hard not to be dragged into the PA dance. Sometimes it’s easier than others right, depending upon just how tired you are of it. Elizabeth, I think you can and are a model for your daughter. Keep honoring your healthy self so she can honor hers too. When he challenges her, puts her in the middle or makes her doubt herself — I would say, “What is it that you really want? Do what is right for you?” She will hear this Elizabeth. Even if at times you feel you are not reaching her and he is influencing her more — just those words will resonate with her and she will act on them someday.

      You take good care of yourself and her. Thanks again for writing me. Warmly Deborah.

  62. avatar Lisa says:

    Hello Deborah,
    I want to thank you so much. I have been trying for 8 years to figure out what was going on in my relationship. I’ve confronted my husband multiple times about why he agrees to things and then blatantly refuses to follow through, knowing that he’s hurting me. I reached a point of frustration and confusion so great that it’s affected my daily life because I didn’t know what to do to fix it. Trying to understand behavior like this and dealing with the hurt of feeling repeatedly rejected by your spouse is unbelievably draining. After months of searching for answers and advice, I stumbled across this article. I literally broke down in tears reading this because it explains EVERYTHING that is my relationship. The relief I felt from finally having an answer as to why this is happening is literally overwhelming. Now that I finally have a “diagnosis”, I can move forward to finding the help that we need. Words can’t thank you enough for posting this so that we as well as others who are living this can finally realize that they aren’t crazy and there is a real, identifiable problem that exists.

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Lisa, it is “unbelievably draining” as you say. The cycle of passive aggression is endless until the person gets help for himself. I’m glad that the article gave voice to all that you were feelings, although sad that you have had to endure it. And, I know that you love him and want help. Go to and also Both of these sites have a list of therapists in every state and city and they put their area of expertise in their bios. But, mostly, I’d search articles on Passive Aggression for example in Psychology Today and see who is writing a lot about it and where they practice. You are wise to want to go to someone who has experience treating couples and couples who have this problem. It does require a person who works with interaction problems between couples. Make sure the therapist treats couples and uses some of the therapies, like emotionally-focused behavior therapy to help couples with interaction problems. I hope this helps for now Lisa. Good luck. Let me know how it goes. Warm regards, Deborah.

  63. avatar Lisa says:

    And, may I also ask what the best way is to go about finding a local therapist who has enough knowledge about passive aggressive behaviors in order to be helpful to us? Thank you again.

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Oh hello again Lisa. I’m so sorry for the delay in getting back to you. You are right in wanting to find a person who really understands Passive Aggression and is skilled in treating couples as well as individuals. Let me recommend that you go to There’s a list of therapists in every state and I think also shares their expertise. You can also go to They too have a list of therapists (internationally) who share a bio that has their expertise. Best to you. Warm regards Deborah.

  64. avatar Marcin says:

    Thank you for posting this – this helped me a lot to realise some of the things going on in my relationship with my boyfriend of 4 years. He is the person you describe to a T, and I’m on the other hand very planned/organised/”controlling” person – so we used to (and still sometimes do) go through these cycles where we would plan/agree something, then he would delay/procrastinate/be late, I would blow up, then feel guilty, then apologise etc.

    It took me a while to realise he is not doing this to hurt me or because he doesn’t care about our relationship – and I am very glad you present ways of coping with a partner who is like this rather than offering a “run for the hills” advice many people do.

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Marcin you are very welcome. Yes, PA people often attract very organized, responsible persons to pick up the slack so to speak. Oh, I know it’s difficult feeling guilty for your upset and anger at being chronically disappointed. I’m glad you came to the understanding that he isn’t doing this to purposely hurt or undermine you. You take good care. Warm regards Deborah.

      • avatar Micki Rowlette says:

        Hello Dr. Khoshaba, I have been with my PA for 23 years. I am also in therapy. I want to comment on your statement “he isn’t doing this to purposely hurt or undermine you”. My question is, “isn’t he”? If you let someone know their behavior, action or inaction is hurtful and they continue it anyway. That’s a conscious choice. And by doing this, you gave your PA ammunition to use against you. I’m curious as to what you think about this. There were red flags when we married and when we bought our house. But, I also know that I trigger the behavior. I’m not passive and tend to say what’s on my mind without much thought. I’m working on that for myself but he is still the same. Looking forward to your reply.

        • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

          Hello Micki. I understand your question, truly, I do. It does feel like it. And, perhaps, what I should have said is that the intentions behind the PA behavior are complex and mixed. Micki, yes, it seems that when we tell a rational adult how they hurt us and what they can do to be better, they will learn. Well, with this type of defensive pathology—they may rationally take in what you say, but the pathological defenses are so deeply rooted that doing what they know they should do goes out the window.

          I find often that the mates of PA people work a lot on themselves to try to cope with the tough situation but the PA person isn’t changing as much as quickly enough. I think the best you can do (especially if your mate doesn’t change very much) is to not fuel the conflicted interactions with your behavior so you have more peace and comfort. Reducing PA dramas through your change may not change your mate–but will at least give you peace that YOU indeed are not the one causing this behavior. You take good care Micki. Warmly Deborah.

  65. avatar Sue says:

    Empathetic, caring, giving, knowledgeable, authentic, sharing, encompassing, tireless, magnanimous you, you are awesome Deborah, thank you for simply being!

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Sue: THANK YOU. I am very touched and honored by your description. Blessings dear Sue. xo Deborah.

  66. avatar wanda says:

    Dear Dr. Deborah,

    I am a girl who has boyfriend with PA personality, every time he doesn’t agree or doesn’t like what I did to him, he pulled his self away from me, silent treating me for a long time.

    Me, as his girlfriend, just keep texting and calling him just to make sure that he will contact me again. But he silent treated me by did not answering my call or did not text me back.

    I am a typical of girl that I want to solve our problem asap and talk about it together rather than not talking to each other and keep the problem there.

    Sometimes I let him in his “silent treatment cave” for a day or two just to make sure to him that I don”t wanna disturb you or let him find his distant from me for a while. and to make sure that I am not that clingy.

    But I’m getting fed up to these over and over again and I’m very anxiety and insecure when he did silent treat to me. I really stressful and sometimes I was crying because I don’t understand what should I do to make him realize that this PA kills me.

    what should I do? please help me..

    thank you.

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Wanda, oh the silent treatment can be harder sometimes than arguing right? At least trying to communicate differences has somewhere to go. But, the silent treatment passively denies solution. You are very correct in identifying this behavior as passive aggressive. Wanda, you have to try to not call or text repeatedly when he does this to you. This is what he wants—you to be manipulated by the silence. Why don’t you try to not do anything. You will see that he will learn that his silence doesn’t work. I know you have tried the silent treatment cave for a couple of days. I like the way you describe it :) But, it is more an attitude you have to maintain that will register to him that you can’t be manipulated by his passive aggressive ways.

      Oh, I know how tired you must be of this behavior. I’m sorry that you have to deal with this. And, yes, you are right again, passive aggression can make one very insecure and feeling like there’s something wrong with you rather than his behavior. Stay strong dear and know that passive aggression is making you feel this way.

      The best way I can help you Wanda is to say don’t get pulled into his manipulative silent ways. If he doesn’t come back then you know he most likely isn’t the right one for you. Ask yourself, “Can I live a lifetime of this behavior?” I hope your answer is NO. So, if he doesn’t come back and shape up, then you can tell yourself that you are free of a lifetime of this behavior, even though you will certainly miss him and feel the loss for a time. Best to you dear Wanda. Warmly Deborah.

  67. avatar Elizabeth says:

    Hello Dr. Deborah,
    I too recently realized my BF of almost 4 yrs is PA. When I did or said something (usually taking a stand against being treated poorly), I would get the silent treatment and would not hear from him for 2 days, always he would come back and his first words would be *I am not mad*, (like I care if HE is mad or not), not wanting to add fuel to the fire I would hear him out, then make him hear ME out. Usually this worked and the offense was never repeated as I usually added that the behavior was a deal breaker.
    However, since I have moved in with him things have defiantly progressed to a point I don’t know if I can handle it any more. The subtle comments about other woman to try to get me to act out jealously. The making plans and *forgetting* to tell me. This usually involved being around his adults kids who make it perfectly clear they do not like me (though this wasn’t the case in the beginning, it didn’t become blatant until they realized their father was serious with me…defiantly more PA from them as well). I try taking the high road when dealing with them because I do love their father, but when you said PA’s like to create uncomfortable situations for us, the non PA partner, I really got it. The newest thing is that his ex who he claims to hate is now invited to all events his adult kids have. She also gets her digs in and I feel why is he putting me in this position instead of begging off the invite instead of making me sit thru an afternoon or holiday where I am no longer enjoying myself? My family all love him and would NEVER think of treating him they way HE ALLOWS his family to treat me.
    But the worst part of all is the fact, back in the beginning, I had told him marriage would eventually be very important to me and I didn’t want to get involved with anyone who wasn’t on board with investing in a relationship that would eventually lead to marriage. He assured me that yes we would date a while, live together a while, then take it from there. He came right out and said yes he would marry me, he was *open* to marriage. So imagine my surprise after dating 2 yrs and then living together for almost 2 yrs he turned around and told me he was NEVER getting married again.
    I am hurt and feel deceived and lied to. I watched as he lied to others to not get into a confrontation, but he always assured me he would never do that to me. Guess what…another lie. I am preparing myself to leave and I think he knows something is up because he is all of a sudden no longer speaking to me with his (just for me trademark) sarcasm, he is no longer barking at me, he has for the last few weekends become a little more attentive..(yes I have also experienced the withholding of sex and affection, although he seems to have plenty of smiles and good will feelings to go around for other people, just never me). We could be in a room full of people and he is laughing and smiling and joking and if I say something the smile would wipe right off his face. He could be bitching in the car about something for 20 mins, but when we walk into a restaurant he is all smiles and flirty with the waitress, after we leave back in the car its back to Mr miserable, I asked one time why he saves his best for other people and he told me it was a *facade*, an act. So the miserable dud is what I get and everyone else gets *Mr like me, love me, aren’t I just the greatest, happiest guy you know?*
    I guess it should come as no surprise that after living together for just over the 1 yr mark, we got into a (I thought) small argument and I was told this is who he is, he isn’t going to change and if I didn’t like it pack my shit and get the F*** out. I think that is when I perked up a bit and went on high alert. I have since heard this phrase 2 more times the last being just recently with *I don’t feel like getting married and if you don’t like it leave, get the F*** out*. Needless to say I am working on it
    I am so happy now we didn’t marry. I am making my plans to leave, though I haven’t told him I think he suspects. He does owe me a lot of money and he is dribbling the payments to me. He already said he felt as though if he paid me off I would leave. I told him then maybe he should give me a reason to stay. I haven’t left yet because I am still working on lining up those damn ducks.(plus I need the money he owes me).
    I am hurt, disillusioned, feel duped and lied to, and of course he is in back pedal mode and trying to do all the things he should have been doing right along and I am not biting.

    Do they ever see they are about to lose something really good and change on their own? EVER???

    • avatar Dr. Deborah says:

      Hello Elizabeth, you raise an additional issue with PA people that I have also seen in treatment. They often have difficulty negotiating relationships and can use children from other marriages as a way to frustrate the current romantic partner. This is very frustrating (I know you know this well) because you do feel unsupported, betrayed and disregarded. PA people’s negative behaviors get us to feel how they felt in the past. Nonetheless, even this insight doesn’t make us feel better.

      Elizabeth, it certainly sounds from your description that your mate hasn’t learned how to negotiate relationships in a healthy way. He also sounds very self-centered, which can be the result of PA behavior. I’m sure you are happy you didn’t marry. Sometimes, the immediate pain is there to say–heh, this isn’t right for you. YOU heard, which is good. But, I do hope you take care of yourself emotionally, as you are still there. There may be a time that the debt he owes you doesn’t matter and you leave.

      My advice (if it’s okay with you) is let the money dribble in. Yes, he’s doing it to try to control your feelings and responses from afar. But, don’t let this happen. Of course you feel hurt, disillusioned and perhaps used. But, remember, he is going to do this to anyone he gets involved with in the future. It’s personal because it happened to you. But, to him, it’s everyday interactional protocol. You take good care Elizabeth. We are supporting you in spirit. Warmly Deborah.

  68. avatar Pauline says:

    Dear Deborah,
    Thank you for your wonderful blog. I’ve reached a point with my PA husband where I’m always filled with a burning anger and bitterness. I’ve also detached from him emotionally. I want to work on the relationship but the “we” always turns on to be “I” and I feel like I’m going off to battle by myself. I just don’t have the energy for it anymore. I of course have discussed all of this with him ad nauseum. Our discussions about our relationship involve me talking and him either refusing to talk with a blank stare or less often, him defending his behaviors as I’m so “tough on him”.

    We’ve been married 16 years and have 3 children together. A twist in our relationship is that he’s foreign and I met him while I was living in his country. I had chalked his PA behaviors as cultural differences for years, until I started reading about passive aggression about two years ago. The fact that he’s not in his own country give him all kinds of excuses why he “didn’t know” how to do whatever, or that his English is not good enough so I need to take over a certain responsibility. He’s very hard-working and works two jobs. But I feel he hides behind work and his many community activities involving his home country. He always has a group of buddies that are always more important than his family. While he insists we are the most important in his life, his actions say otherwise.

    I now think he married me because I’m a take charge person and I can take of the all of the unpleasant details of life while he has time to “shine” out in the world. I work full-time, have three children and I feel depleted. But he always spins it that I have it easier because he works two jobs and I only work one. He insinuates that I should be grateful for a husband who works and is so dedicated. My household is filled with unfinished projects and undone repairs (which he is capable of doing, by the way). When the kids were younger he always made promises about how everything was going to great when he made more money, or finished a certain project. He was going to take them places, be there for them, etc. Now I see these were all empty promises.

    I find it ironic that the reasons I fell for him were his sensitivity and compassion, but he mainly reserves this for other people. Our children are now adolescents and are also wise to his games, so they’ve also pulled away. I try to not talk badly about him to the kids but they are old enough to see through him. I could go for days, but does this sound like passive aggression or are there other factors going on? Thank you for your assistance.

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Pauline, you describe well what happens to the mate of a PA person. First you talk, discuss till you are exhausted, get angry and then withdraw for self-protection. “The battlefield” alone is a nice way to describe it. But, nothing really changes and this is frustrating in itself. You are also right than many times PA people partner up with people who are take charge, highly responsible people. You have much insight into the problem but I know that these insights don’t change the difficult time you are having with him.

      Pauline when you ask me if this sounds like PA, are you speaking about the behaviors you describe about him or your withdrawing from him? Let me answer both. First a resounding YES to do you describe a PA person. YES, you describe it extremely well (unfinished projects, undone repairs, sensitivity and compassion reserved for other people, frustrating and angering loved ones, rationalizing away his PA behaviors). You’ll see by my responses to the 100’s of comments on this article that I often recommend to the mate of a PA to do what is needed to take care of yourself. A PA person doesn’t change unless they have serious, individual psychotherapy and couple’s therapy is often needed in addition to it. Your withdrawing is self-protection. I can’t say you are wrong or PA yourself here. You are engaging in self-protection which is understandable and also needed in this circumstance. Sadly, the expectation that he will change is always there somewhere small in us, right? That’s okay. Just don’t let this expectation get away from you. YOU must make yourself happy, as much as you can in this situation. I wish I had more specifics for you. Pauline, you may want to talk to a counselor just to process your feelings and to keep focused on continuing to find ways not to buy into his passive aggression. Warm regards to you Pauline. Deborah.

  69. avatar Marisa says:

    Hi Dr. Khoshaba,

    I have finally had it with my PA boyfriend. Thank you for your article. It’s been 4 years of PA behavior and I’m finally at the end of my rope. We’ve broken up and gotten back together so many times. He uses his grown daughter to frustrate me just like you said. He withdraws from me and becomes overly affectionate with her to “punish” me I’m sure to the point it’s sick. He also has mommy issues. Big time. And alcoholism. I got him to quit drinking 9 month ago and it’s like he resents me for it every day or something. I’m so tired of the constant arguing and the blame and the emotional abuse. He has never once laughed at one of my jokes and I used to be a really humorous person although I’ve lost that too. It’s like it was “giving me too much” to laugh. I don’t understand it. Problem is I signed a lease with this person 3 months ago. I don’t know what to do I can’t afford the rent on my own. I have no life left no fun no happiness anymore. He was an immigrant like you mentioned and his mom was abusive. I feel completely disrespected. I’m so ready to move on and find someone who truly appreciates me. I feel like I’m finally starting to love myself and give myself what I deserve. I let him treat me like I was a bad person for yelling and becoming angry when he was orchestrating all of it. I would tell him all along that he wanted me to yell so he could play the victim. And he loves to play the victim. All of his friends and family hate me because he has trash talked me and he gets sympathy for it. I want out.

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Marisa, I’m sorry for such a long delay in getting back to you. PA people can systematically lower our self worth through rejection (“giving me too much to laugh”) and blame. I’m sorry that you experienced this. Marisa, it does sound like he is very PA and, if there’s no hope in sight for a behavior change in him, then you should get out. I don’t know if you’ve been able to do so thus far. You might get legal advice. Just an hour might give you more options with regard to the lease then you think you have right now. It may be worth the fee to free yourself from him. I’m rooting for you. Warm regards Deborah.

  70. avatar Jess says:

    Okay, I know this is an old post, but I think ive only just realized after 4 years that my partner is passive aggressive? Does this sound like it to you?
    stays out late on the rare occasions he goes out drinking, but when he does, i msg him to ask when he’ll be home(not being clingy, just want to know if he is ok or not!) and he says “on way now”. Then doesnt turn up till the next day, he may say hes on the way home multiple times and of course not be. One moment he may be happy and sweet and bring me breakfast and coffee, a couple hours later he may be moody and depressed. I ask him whats wrong and its always ‘nothings wrong’.He always looses things, including a very expensive gift i bought him. Not sure if PA or related to his drinking (very bad in intensity but luckily not frequency) If i ever even remotely complain about something he gets very angry about it. e.g last minute he asks me for $50 to go towards a gift for his Dad, I say I can do it this time but give me notice next time as I am a student on the poverty line and he gets quietly angry at me and acts like im being a bitch. Rare days off we have together he acts mopey and its sucking the life out of me!Even something simple like dinner he says ill eat anything. Thing is its not true,he’ll act very unhappy if we get something and he doesnt like it. He makes problems that dont exist. I realize this post just sounds like normal relationship crap but its hard to explain. I feel like he is an emotional baby and I have to try and be nice not too hurt his feelings, and if i ever try to bring something up in a calm way about something that pisses me off he just turns it back onto me. even regular conversations are painful sometimes. He just switches off, when we didnt live together he would not talk to me for ages and id have to chase after him feeling like i was an asshole for some reason. Its such a shame because he is so sweet really and has a pure heart but at the same time he is sucking the life out of me. He is just not fun to be around, and no its not depression i know because I have a history of it and Im very patient and understanding of such things. What you said in your article seems spot on. Things arent done out of hostility, he felt like he had a lacking parental relationship with his father in childhood. I just dont know what to do anymore. I dont like being a part of this PA dance as you call it.

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Jess, sorry for the delay in getting back to you. I always respond to comments, even if the post is old. And, as you see by everyone’s comments, PA behavior is a very popular topic because many people struggle with the behavior themselves or in family members or friends.

      Jess by your description it sounds like he has some fairly serious emotional issues that are not just passive aggressive. I don’t like to diagnose people I haven’t met, as you can understand. But, problems from his past has definitely contributed to a moody, unpredictable personality. Binge drinking, getting moody and angry at the drop of a hat point to the possibility of a mood disorder that of course is caused or exacerbated by past emotional issues. Jess, the best way I can help you is to let you know that he may not change until he gets some emotional help. Of course, I hope I’m wrong. I’m going off your description.

      Remember, take good care of yourself. Don’t put up with abuse. Thank you for writing me today Warmly Deborah.

  71. avatar Laura says:

    I came across your posting this morning, looking for some answers. Although I am not married to a PA I believe I live with one. A friend of many years needed a place to go and pick up his life. He is now 8 months living with me and all we do is argue. He says that I am the difficult one, I am the one that is disrespectful when all he does is call me names and is down right hurtful. I have asked him to leave many times and says the only way he will leave is if I call the police. I am at my wits ends. I tried to be a good friend and this is what I get. Silent treatments and nastiness IN MY OWN HOME when all i tried to be was a good friend.

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hi Laura, yes, we don’t have to be married to a PA person. They can be our friends or family members and coworkers too. Also, yes, blaming the other person is a characteristic. Laura, it is passive aggressive but also aggressive not leaving when you asked him to. Are you worried? You own the home right? Is there a lease? You may have to get some legal advice to help. The silent treatments and nastiness is very very stressful. Take good care of yourself Laura. I think you need to get some advice as to the proper steps to remove him if this is what you want and is needed. Warm regards Deborah.

  72. avatar Anthony says:

    Hi Deborah, Is it possible for PA to admit they are a PA if shown they’re faults and hurtful ways are passive aggressive and they then look it up? I can see my faults by reading this, those being the way I deal with the person, but can they?

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello, yes, I think it is. In fact, a man comments here around the date of your comment where he acknowledged he had some PA behaviors that he was going to work on. It is great that you are open to seeing some of your behaviors in the description here. But you are right– PA behavior has a strong interactional element to it. It takes two as they say. So, yes, it’s important for the mate to change his or her behaviors as well. But, that being said, your insights into some of the PA behavior — gives you a chance to choose more positive interaction behaviors in the future. Thank you for sharing with us today Anthony. Take good care. Warm regards Deborah.

  73. avatar Brian says:

    Hi Dr. K,
    I just wanted to say thank you for the article and all the comments from the other contributors to your site. I was doing some research on PA because of a family member that is driving me crazy, but after discovering and reading your description, I realized that I was guilty of several of the behaviors common in people who are PA. I think my wife would attest to my procrastination and playing the victim. Much of what I’ve read about PA seems to say that the behavior is meant to “get a rise” out of your partner or control them. I think my issues stem from laziness and not liking being told what to do. I think I do sometimes want to get a rise out of my wife, but mostly its when I want her to be more aggressive and not shut down and disengage. Regardless of the reason, I know my behavior is not healthy and I just wanted to say thank you for opening my eyes to this. I didn’t see a lot of comments from men or folks that realized they were the ones that were PA on the thread so I felt compelled to write in.

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello, you are very welcome. You see there are so many people who either have this issue themselves or find it in a friend or family member. You are right about the issues you describe as related to PA behavior. Not liking being told what to do is as you know an issue of feeling controlled that underlies PA behavior. It sounds like you have really thought about the behavior and interactions with your wife. I think that’s so good. This article opened your eyes because you were ready. Again, I think that is wonderful.

      Your comments will be very helpful to people and goes to show that the behavior can be addressed and changed when the person is ready. Best to you. Warm regards Deborah.

  74. avatar PATTY says:

    My boyfriend & I are
    working on 3years being together I’ve known him since grade school he is 58 and I 53. He started blaming me for him always leaving first days now weeks always saying I’m having affairs while he’s at work.Noe his elderly parents ate in need of help I’m first to support that issue it being I’m a health provider. Now he says its best we part it being taking CARE of his mother will be full time he will keep in touch from time to time take care he said I told him I support you and I will be here but that wasn’t what I meant to break up now he’s saying I should read right instead of causing him more stress ITS BEST I LET GO RIGHT ITS JUST HES BEEN THE LOVE OF MY LIFE FOR 39 YRS HELP PLEASE

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Patty, sorry for the delay in getting back to you. It does sound like something more is going on than he says. Patty when someone suddenly starts blaming the mate for everything and the complaints sound unreasonable (as his do) there is something else going on. I can’t say what it is Patty. But, the idea that he has to leave the relationship to care for his mother just doesn’t make sense. This is why you are asking for help. Because, I’m sure it doesn’t make sense to you too.

      Have you tried to talk to him, ask him about what he really feels and wants because you feel confused? I bet you have. But, if not, please do. Pardon me for asking, but is it possible he’s addicted to alcohol, drugs, gambling or something? What would take him out of the home for days?

      Patty, let me suggest you either talk to a counselor to help you to appreciate better what might be going on here. He does sound like he’s trying to withdraw from the relationship but not really telling you why. I’m thinking a counselor will help you to problem solve with regard to this difficult situation. You take good care Patty. Wishing you well. Deborah.

  75. avatar Salla says:

    Thank you for this great article! It made me see that I am not the only problem in our family. My husband is in many ways a wonderful partner and father. I have seen a change for the worse in my own behaviour and mental wellbeing for a few years now. I have my own problems and I am in therapy which is doing wonders but I haven’t had the chance to discuss our marriage in detail yet.

    Suddenly, with this article, I realized that my past of neglect and abuse does not sit well the idea of me being the “difficult” one. I have taken the part that my husband needs me to play as I did in my childhood when it was my only way to survive.

    I am not an aggressive or mean person, I am just highly adaptive and have no real sense of my rights. The situation in our home is not the worst possible, there is also a lot of genuine love, but I am not strong enough to care for my husbands emotional problems.

    Perhaps it’s not just that I am so deeply damaged that I can’t handle everyday life and parenting. Perhaps my husband is also weighing me down. After all, I am the one with the severe trauma. I am the one with the higher education and making more money with longer hours. I am the one that does most of the chores and keeps track of all of the finances etc. Perhaps its time to stop nagging and really put the blame where it belongs even if it’s the hardest thing I can imagine.

    So thank you again and sorry for any possible language errors, I am not a native English speaker.

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Salla, sorry for the delay in getting back to you. I’m glad you saw that the problem involves two people. I see by what you say here that you have a lot of insight – you are so psychologically capable. It’s wonderful that you are using psychotherapy so well to your benefit. I love what you say about being highly adaptive. It’s your gift and curse right? The gift is your sensitivity to respond to what another projects on you — the basis for empathy. But, as you know too, it can be also the vehicle for playing out roles from our past with our partners and friends.

      Also, I get what you are saying about being labeled the difficult one relative to your past of neglect and abuse. This makes so much sense. The label must make you feel like you don’t have a right to ask for your needs being met without being labeled difficult. I respect that you are trying to sort out which needs are reasonable to have your partner meet and which needs come from past issues that have more to do with your caretakers than your husband.

      Salla, it does sound like you handle a lot in the relationship, so that handling your husband’s emotional needs is just another task for you. You have a lot of responsibilities in the marriage that probably stresses you to the point of nagging him. So in your self-evaluation, be careful not to take on the whole burden for some of the relationship problems.

      Again, you are so deeply thoughtful. I admire your search for understanding, Salla. You take good care and thank you for reading my posts and taking the time to comment today. Warm regards to you Deborah.

  76. avatar Peter says:

    Wow…. thank you for writing this article. This could potentially save my marriage.

    Married to a PA/manipulative woman for 18 years and have two wonderful kids. I really love my wife dearly but for years we’ve done the PA dance over and over. She was raised by alcoholic (in private) parents and I was raised by very aggressive yellers and screamers. I tend to be very direct when confronting (whether it benefits me or not).

    PA’s must be masters of subtilties and nuance and only now can I recognize it for what it is. I really didn’t understand my own frustrations for years but would see these very nuanced actions that would show my wife’s unhappiness with me. Clues so small they could and were being dismissed as nothing. But, after a while I started to look at her actions instead of listening to what she said. That’s when I noticed a mismatch. Of course she’d never admit it. Of course though… I must be the reason she feels the need to be passive aggressive anyway. And I’ll have to change how I approach conflict.

    I feel like that frog in the frying pan.

    PS. Funny thing. A couple months ago I suggested to my wife we go to MC because I felt our marriage was in bad shape. Her response was “well…. if YOU think we need to” Like this was a surprise. Maybe I’ll go by myself to change how I can deal with this situation.

    Thanks for listening.

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      You are so welcome Peter. I’m very sorry for the delay in getting back to you. It is a dance as you say well as PA people find their opposites, which is the playground for acting their unresolved issues out. I love that you started to look at her behavior rather than pay attention only to her words. If more of us would do this, we’d sidestep a lot of pain. Peter, you are right; if she doesn’t go to marital counseling with you, then you go yourself to learn how to deal best with her behavior. Thank you again for taking the time to comment and for your insights. Warm regards Deborah.

  77. avatar julie says:

    I didnt know i was marrying a PA .. he showed no sign of being this for the 3 yrs we dated, we didnt live together until we were married and its like a switch being turned off. No more compliments, no more fun, no more conversation, no more time spent together.. I feel robbed and very decieved, i would never have married a man like that. Hes tells me hes married me so he doesnt need to say anything nice about me. I run my own business can my average week is between 50 and 60 hrs a week, he works up to 30 hrs but causes drama when i ask him to help in the house. The simplist of things can have him being PA ..if i ask a question he answers with a question, he tells lies all the time, he withholds affection and sex, and gives me the silent treatment on a regular basis. when i dont respond he buys flowers or sends a txt saying sorry or just comes in expecting a hug with a stupid grin on his face, like im some toy hes decided he wants to play with again. I used to offer help but he used to throw it in my face saying hes not a child.If he upsets me by his behaviouHe r and i say something he used to say how rubbish i am and it used to upset me , now i get in there first saying’oh i know im rubbish, but whose really stupid? you chose to marry me’ and he stomps off. yet infront of other ppl hes the so called perfect husband, intoducing me as his beautiful wife. Hes currently ignoring me after his latest onslaught of 3 days. I had one day off to go shopping so asked if we could go when he finished work, he then lied about finishing work, blaming his rota, which is on our fridge and not the same as what he says. he got abusive on the phone said were not joined at the hip so go alone. I dont drive and nearest shops are 45 minute bus journey away. so i hour later he started texting me saying im sick in the head and need help. i rang him and asked why he was still carrying on he tried being nasty so i just told him to grow up. he tracked me down in the centree and acted like nothing had happened. That night i went to bed, he started fumbling in my knickers, and grabbing my breasts hard and when i said im tired he starting ranting and went to sleep downstairs. It was the first timwe i ever said no to him and we have only had sex 17 times since we got married in may 2013, but i didnt want sex i felt no connection between us. since then hes been rude, nasty saying all the time he comes home he has a miserable wife so i replied if you were a better husband i wouldnt be miserable so he walked out, came back hrs later , didnt speak to me, hoovered the floors , mopped the floors then went out, came back at some point and went straight to bed.i dread him coming home. i hate the games he plays, im a straight open honest person and would never off married this type nor would i even have been interested in him being any part of my life.

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Julie, sorry for the delay in my response to you. Oh the PA person can have many ways to undermine their mates. I’m sorry for how hurtful he has been to you. Julie, I wrote to another person above that some of the defensive PA behaviors actually fit a psychological defense we call gas lighting. Like saying you are sick in the head because you voiced a difference or need. Gas lighting comes from the movie and it is when a person denies our reality through rejecting and abusive behaviors. Narcissists do this a lot. But, some of the PA behaviors do it too.

      Julie forgive yourself if you haven’t already for marrying a PA person. It’s not easy to see, as many of their over compliance, sociable ways are often things we culturally value, right? It takes therapists some time to see this pattern of behavior in their clients. Remember, passive aggression is a behavior pattern that can show up in many personality disorders. Well, I don’t know how you’ve decided to manage this. It’s excellent that you are going to articles and such to learn more about the behavior so you can see it’s not YOU! But that being said, I do hope you will get counseling to help support you and any decisions you want to make with regard to this situation. warm regards to you Julie. Deborah.

  78. avatar Kim says:

    Dear Dr. D:
    Your article has allowed me to see who I am living with and why I chose him. After 15 years, I have decided to leave my PA husband. How do I best handle this so as not to initiate a “hostility cycle?” He can be wonderful for several months and then flip into a “hostility cycle” that lasts for 3-4 months. At present we are in a “happy cycle”. What minefields should I be aware of? How do I frame the conversation so as to get us to an amicable departure?

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Kim, it is always my hope that my posts will bring awareness and clarity to situations people are facing. I’m sorry though that you have struggled, suffered through living with a PA mate. Not an easy task, as you see by the hundreds of comments on this article. You describe well the hostility versus the happy cycles. Kim, the hostility cycles are usually after a period when the PA feels safe. But remember they feel whether it’s true or not that they have put their needs on the back burner and after awhile they can’t keep up the “happy” cycle as you say, which is really nothing more than a false compliance. Then, the PA behaviors begin and they push the envelope until threats of leaving them or some other threat to their security brings about another compliant cycle. This is fatiguing, emotionally draining especially to the mate of the PA person. Wishing you well if you leave or stay Kim. The most important thing is that you don’t lose your sense of self and get better and better at not stepping into his dramas. You take good care. Warm regards Deborah.

  79. avatar Luther says:

    My p/a wife and i are divorcing after18 years. During the last 5 years she managed to destroy my self control, and at the end managed to convince everyone i had anger and mental illness issues. Its taken a long time to realize all the provocation.

    My question is how do i make sure my 14 year old daughter doesnt continue the cycle?

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Luther first, sorry about the divorce. No matter the good or bad times, separating is never easy. Luther you can model for your daughter healthy psychological behavior by always encouraging her to be direct about her thoughts and feelings and you being there to listen non judgmentally. This way she will not be afraid to be her true self, which is the opposite of PA defensive behaviors. You ask a great question. Good luck my friend. Warm regards Deborah.

  80. avatar Leann says:

    Thank you for the article.I believe I am married to a passive aggressive who controls me with money also. He is lazy and if anybody in the house exhibits the same behavior he does, he loses it. However, if you say anything about his behavior than you are overreacting or nagging. He does not seem to want to insult me directly so he has done it on facebook in a subtle manner, for all to see, to the point where I have had to restrict him from seeing almost anything on my page. It’s so childish! He smokes on the front porch and instead of putting his butts in a flower pot that I have left for him, he throws them on the steps and they pile up until I get sick of waiting and clean them up. He refuses to have almost anything to do with the 2 older children and then spoils the youngest and will try to goad them all into making fun of me. He gets them to take awful pictures of me and then they all sit around and laugh at them together or joke about how fat I am, which I am not. He claims not to remember almost anything I tell him and will try to goad me into fights, I think so he can call me crazy and out of control. I feel like I have to do everything I can to avoid him becoming angry, being uncomfortable, not being well taken care of because if he feels any of these things, he withholds money and is mean to our oldest to get back at me. Reading this has given me some hope that leaving when the youngest, the only one he has a relationship with, is out of high school is the right thing to do. I do not think it will get any better and his behavior seems more hostile as he gets older, plus now he wants constant sympathy for minor aches and pains, which if he does not get, he pouts over. I can’t live with this forever. It’s not even something I can fight, because I am ALWAYS in the wrong and he knows that I can’t leave with the kids. I can’t make enough money to support them and he has threatened to quit his job and work under the table so I won’t get a penny. It’s a relief to know that people actually function this way and that I am not crazy and that I can try to work around his behaviors to keep things as smooth as possible for my children.

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Oh yes Leana, the I don’t recall you telling me that is another defense PA people use. It’s crazy making. Some of the PA defenses border very closely to a psychological manipulation we call Gaslighting. This is when one’s reality is constantly denied in some way, just like the famous movie Gaslighting with Ingrid Bergman. I mention this here because this is crazy making. Frequently, as mentioned in the article, the spouses of PA people feel like they are the problem until they can step back from this crazy behavior and see it for what it is. Yes, it is a relief to know that this is a psychological problem that many people have and many people are victims of. You take good care Leana. Warm regards Deborah.

  81. avatar PJA says:

    I’m a bit late to this party, but at least I finally got here! Thank you for the most concise and cogent article about passive aggressive behavior I have ever read, it was truly enlightening.

    My wife consistently exhibits the first four traits in your above bullets, however not the fifth. Regarding procrastination you comment, “Let them decide when and how things should get done. Take away opportunities for them to control you through their inaction. I know this isn’t easy. You will have to choose your wars carefully, so to speak, so that you don’t end up handling all of the relationship matters. He may feel punished by you, but you are really giving him a chance to take responsibility for his behavior. If you want a dependable mate, you have to stop taking responsibility for his problems.” My specific issue is that nothing ever gets done unless I do it. That is not an exaggeration. My wife does some volunteer work, has a work project that takes two weeks every four months, and takes one class – so she has plenty of time (we have no children). I have a demanding full time job and just don’t have the time to do everything. I can’t even depend on her to do the one load of laundry a week I ask of her. So what am I supposed to do? We’ve been married 3.5 years, after a very short courtship. There are other issues she has (she has depression, is isolated due to no outside employment, chronic back pain). She is highly intelligent and educated. She won’t go to therapy. I am somewhat of a type A, high-energy person (successful CPA/businessman, run marathons, etc.) which I know can be tough on less energetic people but I’m kind of going nuts here. Help!

    thank you.

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello PJA, you are very welcome. You can see by the numerous comments for this article that you are in understanding company. PJA the best thing truly is that you try to get her to some marital counseling with you, so the therapist can address some of the issues you describe here. Not doing things until you do it is a defense of PA people. I won’t do it that manipulates the spouse into doing it, especially because as these situations often involve finance and household tasks that have to be taken care of. I hope you can get her to therapy. Wishing you well PJA. Warm regards Deborah.


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