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.


245 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.

    • Hi Deborah, I can’t even begin to tell you how helpful this article has helped me. I have seen therapists over the years and not one has ever put the spin on it that you have. There are a few issues I am struggling with re:this problem. You mentioned finding a good therapist which is easier said then done. Your insurance often plays a role in who you can see so they will pay. It is difficult to find a therapist who addresses the P/A relationship. I have remained committed to therapy but my husband will stick it out so long and then he is done. How so you find a good therapist ? I have so many times wanted to leave him but my children hang over my head that I will not be able to see our grandchildren. This stops me every time to leave him. Yes I have talked to them many times but they see the issues as mine and not their Dad’s. For the most part I am strong but their are times I want to jump off a bridge.So how do you find a good therapist besides trial and error ? It is so hard for me to understand and I believe 10 times harder for my children. Any feedback ?

      • Unfortunately looking at websites how to deal with a passive aggressive wife whom I’ve gone thru the aforementioned dance. I bought her a book for book signing, took
        care of my sick son all week all the while I am disabled. I paid for both of them to go to the movies dropping hints for intimacy all week. At 10:45procrastinaring all night asks me for $20 and goes outside to smoke. I returned book to library and got McDonalds for my son since she didn’t cook for days. I noticed her car was facing opposite direction. She was nonplused and searched for answers saying finally I had to go to the bank! Too cheap to get McDonald’s and fuming she asked for a $20!
        No way no intimacy and I bought her that pack of cigarettes I felt like a real chump! I asked her for the $20 back! Claims she not a mother be the easer.
        What a load of …!

  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.

      • avatar Jenn says:

        I’m amazed that your article touched on every part of my life with my husband.We are on fixed income but new we needed to talk to a therapist so we did. She was in her last stages before becoming a licensed therapist. We went 3 times, before I called it quits. She had no clue how to deal with our situation. He wanted to continue to go, it made him feel like he was doing something to help us, which he was in his heart but i only got more frustrated more confused. Your advice on how to handle him is what I have felt I needed to be doing. I’m thankful for coming across your article.
        Thank you

    • avatar Charles Weishaar says:

      I did not understand the article

  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.

    • avatar D says:

      Sounds like my life feel invisible in my own house and then end up leaving escaping myself and mine goes to gym for up to three hours and video games up to 5. Very little quality time and conversations from his end are confusing.

  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.

      • avatar felicia says:

        all i can say is, wow!!! i lived under hell for my whole life, first with my mother and then with my husband.
        it took a lot of my strength but somehow, strength grows the more one has the need to exercise it.
        as a person i am so totally whole.
        aftershock, though, continues possibly forever. one learns to circumvent devastation and grow yet stronger. it’s a journey and where it could have been sweeter, it’s just as wonderful to know with the bumps we find solutions, creative and vast.
        i love every day and learn newer strengths each moment.
        i can’t say i’m happy for having to have lived with what i did but i can say i love myself and know i am confident and competent more than anyone can imagine.
        i do wish the fallout on my children would be less difficult. i hope they can deal with the repercussions of having a household with a pa father and our ‘couplehood’ which was anything but a couple. i have 5 children and love them. that’s my only regret, not to have spared them that life.

  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

    • avatar Linds says:

      Which country? I live in the Middle East and face similar issues 🙁

  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.

    • avatar TiffanyBlue says:

      Oh my goodness, S – I know it’s been forever since you posted, but I wonder how you’re doing today. You seemed to describe my world so eloquently…”my world” not so much in specifics, but meaning you and I have the same overall issues at home and our alchemy creates a beautiful chaos we cannot seem to escape, nor do we want to, at least not entirely.
      Please give me a positive update and let me know all you’ve overcome since this post! (Which you wrote, ironically, a few months prior to my current separation & my waking up to the fact my family needs to finally face & clear the life issues we keep contending with once and for all.)
      I wish you all the best, S! I hope to hear back from you!! […]

  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.


    • I thought my wife was the champion. I’m always blamed for everything and made to feel that I too am the crazy one. Procrastination was an eye opener. It’s a battle who will
      take the kitchen trash out to the garbage. Always asking me to call
      her cell phone she misplaced and constantly did you see my keys question. My solution is to go on strike! But the house will look like hoarders! Disappears on errand fir three hours. I’ve got to stop taking her bait! You’re on point! She thrives on seeing me aggregated and knowing I’m up watching tv because I’m aggregated and frustrated. I too am about to throw in the towel. Also interestingly she is deceitful
      about money and racks up credit cards on junk!

  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!

    • avatar Natalie says:

      Hi Gillian. When I read your response to Dr. Deborah’s article, It seems like you are describing me and my now ex boyfriend. Those are exactly what i went through. The relationship is on his terms and that includes phone calls. He blames me for what happened and what did not happen if i happen to be the reason he missed it. He visits his mother almost everyday, talks to her about almost everything, and even wants to go on vacation with her. He is at his mother’s beck and call. I did overreact most of the time on the hurtful things that he said and he calls me I’m out of control, emotional jealous and crazy. He can very easily provoke me and everything that happened was new to me. I never experience this roller coaster.
      He doesn’t have any friend outside his family also. And I’m just like you, I have a well-rounded personality. I forgive and forget easily and just want to move on. I don’t hold grudges and he has the tendency to rehash. He one time said he said or did one thing because I did that to him also.
      Your situation now is what I was in before. And For my own sake and my sons I chose to walk away for my own health and sanity. I would really like to thank Dr. Deborah for this article. This has been the answer to my questions and prayers. I had been baffled, puzzled, confused and stressed.
      I hope and wish for the best for you Gillian.

  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.

      • avatar Kay Nepenthe says:

        this article is fantastic and I am appreciating the comments as well. I learned a decade ago “how to take away chances for him to control you through passive-aggressive inaction.”
        And I am so much better at it. I have grown emotionally in so many ways and have really exercised my “unconditional love muscle”
        But I’m tired. my children have watched their mother be treated without affection or appreciation their whole lives. My body and mind is so hungry for approval and affection and kindness. I learned 4 years ago that Men were not the missing soul food I needed. So within this confining relationship I began embracing social causes and female friends. Of course he does not champion anything Im engaged in and remains critical of all. He hugs me of his own free will less than 3 times a year (generous #) complements just have never occurred. I used to ask for them and just shower him with affection, hugs, kisses, while he remains hands at side and cold like ice. Sex was hot for 14 years although not consistent it was enough to make me not notice how unaffectionate he is. I am compassionate to his childhood wounding, but I have enabled him this entire time and created a monster and frankly I may be too tired to continue teaching him how to treat me. Im 42 now and wont be pretty for much longer. to just be sincerely outwardly appreciated seems like a respite my soul aches for. I must make this decision on my own, but might stay because God wants me to? the refinement and ability to love myself in the face of this has been an invaluable lesson thus far.

        • avatar Kay Nepenthe says:

          one last example. yesterday he finally after years of not lifting a finger on his home cleaned the heck out of the living room. It looks great. However In the dining room is a pile of every item of mine that was in the living room ie. lamp, frame, etc. (knick knacks are nonexistent, Im not a collector)
          in his heart of hearts i am the enemy to him. and when i mentioned how he removed all of my things, this weird smile crept upon his face. And although he works in retail, no smiles are saved for me.

        • avatar TiffanyBlue says:

          That’s so beautiful, and pretty close in many ways to where I’m at currently in my ‘relationship’. I still long for another child and won’t be young for much longer. I wish to be outwardly appreciated, maybe even called beautiful someday…so I just keep hoping by showing my sincere love for him and for myself, something good and permanent comes about soon. I’m grateful to have found this site & your post to help me out.

  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.

          • avatar nodmblnd says:

            Bunny, you are absolutely correct. So they had problems in childhood, blah-blah-blah- they know damn well what they’re doing, and they take great pleasure in creating chaos and then blaming you for it. Covert sadism- wow, you hit the nail on the head. Cruel, psychological games, Jekyll and Hyde every day- then he puts on a façade for the world-no one would believe what a cold, SOB he is in private. These types work very hard at crafting a great outward appearance to show the world, they cover their real self so well. I cannot believe I’m living in what is now a nightmare.

    • avatar nodmblnd says:

      New wife -I don’t know if you’ll read my rely, as it’s been 3 years since you posted your comment. But your story sounds like I could have written it myself. I’ve been living a nightmare for too long. Trying to deal with my husband’s P A behavior has drained me to the point of despair. I’m a hollow empty shell of my former happy, outgoing optimistic self. I disagree with Dr. Deborah -there is no redeeming qualities to these passive aggressive types. They are mean, conniving, heartless, soul less phonies masquerading as nice guys. I’m exhausted from trying to sidestep his hurtful games. Every single thing these PA’s do is a psychological game, and yes after years loving him, forgiving him, trying to believe he can’t possibly be this monster, the truth is; he is considers me the enemy. No affection, no compliments, no simple kindness. Not a tiny small word or act of kindness, ever. I’m always wrong, everything is my fault. It just never ends. I have friends, I’m involved in social causes, but my own home is a silent lonely nightmare. I wasted the best years of my life. I’ll be 60, and I cry every single day. Financially it is not an option to leave. But to anyone who is young , don’t wait -don’t walk- RUN as far as you can, because no matter what you tell yourself, it will NOT get better. You cannot fix these damaged minds and they will crush your self esteem and smile gleefully while they’re doing it- they take perverse pleasure in destroying your heart and soul. You will give, give, give and hope, hope, hope until you realize you have been a fool.

  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.

  82. avatar Paul says:

    Deborah, Like the many others, I found your article very informative and helpful. The recommendations were what i’ve been looking for since i realized my wife is PA. I have to say that while reading your article and while reading the so many replies too you, i completely broke down.
    I’ve been married to my wife for 13 years. She moved from another country to be with me and we have 1 daughter. Her PA behaviour has been around since we met, I just never realized what was happening until now. I just wanted to help her, as she always seemed to be going through a tough time. I do love her. The reason I’m writing you is because I fear i may have encouraged her behaviour to the point that it is irreversible. 4 years ago, because of the extreme loneliness and constant negativity from my wife, the way i feel right now, I met another women and started an affair. 2 years ago I was caught. As you can imagine, there was a lot of drama but in the end, after a emotional, honest heartfelt plea from my wife to stay with her and continue our marriage, i chose my wife. I never thought things would get better right away as I realized i neeed to build up the trust in our relationship. I felt that everything that was wrong with our marriage was my fault. 2 years later, she is back to treating me the way she did so many years ago. If i say nothing, im ignoring her, if i ask for help, i’m annoying and don’t care about her time, if i express my feelings, i’m attacking her. I have the same feelings I had when i met the other women and I feel like i’m loosing control of myself and will do something stupid again.( although i won’t cheat as I know how wrong it was and feel no matter what happens in my marriage that i will be trying to make up for it, forever)
    I take care of everything in the house, as well as trying to get a startup business off the ground. I have managed to have her accept house cleaning and laundry as her responsibility but otherwise she is in bed 16-18 hours a day. Even though my responsibilities are numerous whenever we argue, by the end, it is accepted fact that I need to do more for the family and be a better father. I even believe that for a day or two until reason starts to come back to me. A year I realized that criticizing her doesn’t work and started trying to tell her how I feel, which she takes as an attack at which point she starts criticizing me. I have started to not acknowledge her criticism and just say ” this is how I feel and I need you to consider my feelings” then when she continues with blame and criticism I end to talk and continue with my responsibilities. Doing this has stopped the marathon fights but seems to have pushed her farther from me.
    At this point, i see no hope for my marriage and am truely worried for my health as I always feel a huge pressure on my chest. Last night she berated me for not answering a text, when she knew it was impossible for me to do so(i was playing hockey), and I lost control of my words which will lead to “talk” today, whenever she wakes up. Since we decided to stay together, I told myself I would give everything I had to keep the marriage going and give my daughter a loving family but I never realized that i would ever feel like my life would need to be sacrificed. I don’t know what to do as I have tried numerous times to get her to go to therapy and she refuses. She takes meds for depression, which she now says i forced her to take and communication seems impossible.

  83. avatar vikki says:

    Hi Deborah, I am about to marry my partner of 7 years next year and of course with organising a wedding I knew there would be some issues. we had a nasty argument and were both hurt. I have constantly tried to reason with my partner, I know I am not perfect but he is the only partner I have ever got to the point of yelling because I am so frustrated. and yet to others he comes across as this easy going guy but to live with he isn’t so easy. so yes I look like the difficult one. all that you have said in the above article has ticked so many boxes with my partner but there is no way I would ever be able to get him to therapy. I will take on what you have mentioned to work with him because I do love him. are there any books you could recommend for me as I want a harmonious life. we do love each other it’s just when issues rise he does exactly what you wrote up top.

  84. avatar D says:

    Thank You!
    Feel I am going crazy sometimes and repeat myself like a parrot. Very difficult to communicate with my passive aggressive partner and he is the only person I know, who can push in my buttons with my level of patience as a teacher of special needs and at risk students. After 9 years my angry mode is back, as I often feel unloved, unheard and emotionally disconnected. Thanks for reminding me to avoid the dance and if that does not work I may have to dance on, life is to short.

  85. avatar Kagan says:

    I realize I’m very late to this thread, but, I’d like to ask about a situation that I face with my wife on a regular basis.

    Often, she will make comments designed to accuse in a roundabout way. ie: “so what have you done all day? Oh I see.” then leave.

    Or she will say something very argumentative, insulting or incredibly hurtful, but with a gentle voice, then just gaze at me. If I don’t respond immediately, she adds a little more salt to the wound. She just stands and watches my anger grow, and just as I start responding, she walks away. If I follow her, she’ll calmly tell me not to raise my voice, or to gain control of myself. She will interrupt every single word with a finger raised and say “lower your voice…lower your voice….lower your voice”. Even when I’m not yelling. She’ll say things like “don’t speak to me with that tone” etc. She won’t allow me to respond at all, and will accuse me of being abusive, then completely ignore my presence.

    To me, it’s always been her way of not fighting fair. She says what she wants and hurts me, then runs away and plays the victim. However, more and more I’m starting to think it’s passive-aggressive behavior. She sticks the knife in, then runs for cover. But the anger and frustration she’s causing me is her weapon. BY creating a situation that can only result in hurting or angering me, then not letting me vent that anger, she grows it exponentially. She knows she’s driving me crazy and that’s her aggression.

    Am I totally off base here?

  86. avatar Bad Guy says:

    Thanks for such a helpful article. I have just been labeled the “bad guy”; well actually the words were worse than that! Because I made a request, that was defensively excusable by the passive-aggressive person, after having too many similar occasions occur which had to be stopped. Then, I decided to stand up to or call out comparing events to justify my request, only to be unjustly accused of many things that were blown way out of proportion. I began searching for support, knowing that I am not an unreasonable person and just to shed light on this unfortunate situation. Already, I feel better, and know that I probably should not have gotten involved. But I did, because I feel I am being mistreated, abused and disrespected on a daily or at least weekly basis – for years. It was not the best thing because there was a blow out. But, the good news is that she actually revealed some of her true feelings, which hurt very much, but at least were expressed. I think I have concluded that not getting involved is the best way to get through this without damaging our relationship anymore. At least until she is on her own and we can live separate lives. Her father was the same way and I just have to stay out of his life to find peace in my own life.

  87. avatar nina says:

    hi Dr. Deborah.
    thankyou very much for the insight. I have a PA husband who seems to take bring out utter frustration and outburst in me. After realizing the “dance” and reading million articles i realised so. His childhood of narcissistic mom and alcoholic father explains it. He never ever talks about it . would NEVER GO to therapy, has cheated on me, has very poor self esteem and no friends.outwardly – very kind and charming for the world and to our kids. I tried to be patient with it all till i realised that i was drowning and my kids were suffering. I desperately want to keep my sanity and want to give this marriage a fair chance but i’m noticing that all that frustration is bringing in “long periods” of silence in me now. Im fed up of make up sex to jolt back the marriage to life every now and then. This is not me at all but i dont know where to start after getting tired with his mood swings and silent treatments. To maintain peace after outbursts now i engage in my own world and its of course comfy for him – he pretends as if all is well. This is affecting me. communication means a lot to me but im tired of “salvaging: the situation all the time. My question to you is : WHAT GOES INSIDE THE HEAD OF THE PA WHEN YOU RESORT TO COMPLETE SILENCE AND GO ABOUT YOUR LIFE NORMALLY? do they like it? want it to change? after all they thrive on drama and not silence right? does it other them at all? Funnily, he is not lazy at all – always on his toes, over working himself infact.
    pls help or point towards some self help. I want to make this as an opportunity to change myself.

  88. avatar nina says:

    By the way,
    i read each and every story in this article and thankyou all because very word of your story and the advise given by Dr. Deborah is so therapeutic….all those signs n syptoms is like learing from someone else’s tragic story. 10 years of pain for me too. Every time i have the “silent treatment” moment which is getting more frequent now, i go back to articles on PA and find solace and strength. I renew my vows to let this man’s misfortune not become my tragic end. It convinces me that i’m not the problem. I pray for my husband’s sickness but I cannot put in words how much the urgency it has created in my own head to fix my issues. I refuse to ‘dance’ with him anymore even though he may catch me unawares on odd occasions. I’M the yeller of the relationship and now i need to stop. I dont know where my marriage will end but i have to develop survival tools, have a long term plan that may or may not include him, get my self esteem up, get financially independant, get self help and stay strong for my 2 little children- alone or otherwise. Please pray for me and i send my prayers to all of you as well. Thankyou all for sharing your story but PLEASE DR. DEBORAH COULD YOU ANSWER MY EARLIER QUESTION…When i’m collecting my sanity whats going on inside a PS’S head?

  89. avatar Sheri says:

    I’ve been married 20 years and finally found the clarity I’ve been seeking. Life has been crazy for years but the downward spiral sped up over the past few. When I finally started getting the will to fight back, things only got worse. No matter how neutral or even positive I am, my husband becomes defensive and complains that i’ve done something wrong or the problem, even when there is no problem, is my fault. He complains about everything, then complains about people who complain. If he complains he has too much to do and I offer help, he gets angry or sarcastic or snippy about HOW I help. If I get upset at the way he talks to me, he gets upset at me being upset. He may ask me what is wrong and I stumble over my words because I know that no matter what I say, he gets angrier, but if I say nothing, that too makes him angry. I sometimes try to solve it by saying what’s on my mind, and he gets angrier. When I say nothing and tell him I’m fearful of speaking because he gets angry, he gets angry that I say I’m fearful. If I use a different word, he gets angry about the different word. If he takes something from me without my knowledge, and I later find out and get angry about that, he gets angry at me for being angry. I have learned to say as little as possible to him, but I’m often ready to explode, so I do let it out, and it never does any good. It’s a lose/lose situation. I know he is depressed and I wish I could help, but any help I offer seems to result in him being angry. Then of course he says he isn’t angry, as he slams a door or stomps around. I have thought of divorce, but I fear his reaction. He hasn’t had a regular job in years and even though he works nearly every day on projects that are intended to earn money, they don’t earn near what they cost, and we often run out of money for basic necessities. If I say anything about him getting a job or not spending money on these projects, he gets angry and goes on a rant about how everything sucks and he has no autonomy. I believe a divorce would be the end of him, and I fear what else he might do. The more isolated he gets, the more isolated he wants to be. His temper always worried me, but I never thought he’d hurt anyone else. I no longer trust in that because I also never thought he’d get this bad with his aggression and dismissiveness of my feelings. If he’s not overtly angry and mean, he guilts me and others. He has rare good days when I get a glimpse of what I think he used to be, but I now doubt even my memory. Did I block out the bad? Was there enough good that I could weather the bad? Our daughter told me the one thing that would make her proudest of him is if he got psychological help. She wants therapy too, but she said it’s mainly because of her dad, yet she does not want me to divorce him because she too is afraid of what he would do. I think almost nothing could convince him it’s necessary, except maybe that. But he is so overly sensitive to anything, I fear he would see that as a negative and find some way to blame me. Hell, I think he would blame me if the sky fell. Once I started to figure out the framework of P/A, all the craziness started making sense. Although I am heartbroken, I know how to avoid reacting, which is good for me, and possibly good for him. I used to think I could just make sense to him and he would understand, but that isn’t the case. What works is when I stay calm and resist letting him control me by throwing verbal daggers. I can’t always avoid it. Mostly I want to scream. But it’s getting better because I’m getting better. I don’t know if he will ever get better, and if not, at some point I will have to move on without him. He wasn’t always this extreme. The change came slowly. I do hope it can change again, soon enough to make a difference.

  90. avatar Kambiz says:

    Finally I understand…cause having been at the receiving end, for so long, one finally stops bashing ones head against the wall, and the stopping is a wonderful :=) relief.

    The insight you provide is spot on.

    The fact however is that, by the time the partner of a Passive Aggressive (PA) turns to Google for help, so much water has gone under the bridge (so to speak) that the mere thought of trying to salvage something after so many years, seems absolutely futile and would only dredge up pain, never mind the energy and time it would take to embark on a journey that at best MIGHT bear fruit.

    I am not saying I am a saint…far from it…but when you finally realise what is happening and therefore what has happened, you realise that you are in fact alone…I have for some time cut all responsibility dependency on my PA partner, in order to circumvent the failures…that I now know are either consciously or otherwise the result of PA behaivour.

    The only reason I am still in it, is because of our 2 year old.
    Otherwise, I would have already left…in fact, as I write, I am physically on a separate continent, having effectively run away from the situation.

    Thank you VERY much for you article I REALLY appreciate it; at least I now know that even though I am a flawed human being, my undying efforts for now 8 years, have not been because I have been seeing an apparition, but that in fact the cause i known and has roots in scientific knowledge.

  91. avatar Ana says:

    Dear Deborah

    Thanks for this article, it is very insightful. I recently entered a relationship only to realize that my boyfriend turned to passive aggressive mode as soon as we reached the emotional intimacy and control stage. Obviously so far i felt it was my fault and I was being needy and demanding or controlling because I was absolutely made to feel that way however your article has given so much clarity.
    My question to you now is that is there a way I can make aware passive aggressive boyfriend of his behavior? Its too early for me to suggest therapy and on the other hand I want to help him too. Would it do any good if he were to read your article himself and understand and come to the awareness of what he is doing and why he is doing it? I have often read articles and found them consistent with my behavior but simply the awareness has helped me address those issues.
    I am wondering if the same technique could be applied to him, that is by telling him what he is doing by making him read this and some more?
    Please advise if this a good idea and how it should be approached or if not this then whats the solution?

    Thank you

  92. avatar Priya says:

    It is only 7 months since we got into a relationship. I have had cyclic depression and guilt syndrome for years. I was in touch with a therapist for 4 years. It really helped. I came out of the vicious toxic cycle I was in. 2014 was the best year of my life. I met this person who seemed to be most well mannered, polite, sweet, loving, caring and adorable person. He is brilliant and extremely disciplined. I was & still am madly in love with him. We have this amazing connection. I would just think, he would call. We are in long distance relationship. Right when I open the door or enter signal area, he would call. He treated me like a princess.I had nothing to complain about. It was December. It is during winter that I get into this cyclic depression. I thought I was out of it. But, the negative thought cycle was unbearable for me. I handled it very well. I did get stressed and got into sleepless days and some petty arguments and crying spells now and then. But then, one fine day. I lost it. It was end of our honey moon period and he got back to his disciplined mode and started feeling bad that he is not concentrating enough on the work. We both do the same work. We are in dearth of time but, I made time for him. It took too much effort for him to make time for me. He would do it, anyway. He is sweet and extremely loving. But, I am very analytical and I have the habit of confronting others directly. I kept telling him what I think he was doing. He got into defensive mode and this long spell of silence began. The silence is a trigger for me. It brings the worst out of me. January was bad. We met each other for few week in February and it got worse. Like I was banging on my head and crying every single day. I even tried to jump out of a vehicle. I was the perfect dancing partner. On the last day, he was so silent and I kept asking him a hundred times, “Whats wrong?” He didn’t tell at all. I lost it. I threw the phone, broke it, cried horribly the whole night and said, I am scared of him and that I am afraid that he would be satisfied only if I cried everyday. I noticed that he would be this passive aggressive until I break down. The moment I break down, he soothes me like an Angel. And, I forget for what we fought in the first place. But, now, its becoming a habit. It is affecting our work and health. I keep analyzing too much and confronting it too. In fact, I read this article, forwarded it to him and had a long discussion around this. I expected him to consider reading this and giving it a thought. Whenever I lost it, I was extremely harsh to him. My parents were/are extremely abusive. I had a very bitter childhood. My mom was depressed and dad was violent. I was both physically, mentally and emotionally abused every single day. I thought it was my own baggage that was getting on to me. I shared everything with him. Expected him to forgive me. My psycho-analyst always appreciated me for I have dealt with my problems. From the way I have come out of it in the past, I knew I can get over the recurring traces of it and live a clean life. I believe in the power of belief. But, I have started to question my choice off late. Are we right of each other? I am afraid that we both may make life even more difficult for each other. I was abusive in my previous relationships too. Only after reading your article did I realize, I have always had this inclination for passive aggressive friends and boy friends. My ex-boy friend got the worst out of me. He was the one who took me to the therapist and first thing she advised me is to break up with him. I know that the person I am seeing right now is a wonderful person, a beautiful soul. I really really love him. I actually like everything about him. Except his silence. He has been trying hard to over come in by searching for topics to talk about. It was quite sweet of him. I keep analyzing and keep asking and expecting things from him. He expects me to keep away from certain men and not to certain things like going out after dark or going alone in a bike for hundreds of kilometers. I want to travel. He doesn’t like travelling. We are actually opposites but, I like how he treated me. But, I don’t want to compromise on any freedom that I choose to have like travelling, meeting people, making movies or doing random things. I am very loyal to him. I have a feeling he doubts it because I don’t judge men who flirt. This could be my assumption. But then, given my past and the dreams I have for my future, is it a good choice for me to get married to this adorable conservative passive aggressive honey bun? I just finished fighting with him an hour back. I miss him already. But, I want to disengage for a while to get over this bad feeling. Also, get some advise on what I should actually be doing..

  93. avatar Donna D. says:

    Are you really serious with that “don’t give them deadlines” I don’t know what world you live in but my husband isn’t going to do it if he has no deadlines. Some things need to be done before hell freezes over. Have you ever lived with a passive aggressive man? The frustration frequently outweighs the likeability.

  94. avatar Soleie says:

    My husband of 5 plus years is a total PA, we went to therapy and the female therapist according to him took my side. So then I choose a male therapist and he was such a good manipulator that the therapist himself started asking me about my temper, what kind of a wife I am etc. I stopped attending that male therapist also. The last time I purchased the book Fireproof and we started working on it together but again it became about me and the problems that I have etc. sometimes I feel very excited because he seems like his going to change. And his good but then as soon as I try expressing myself, feelings how I feel etc it’s wrong, I have issues the he brings up my past (mind you he brings up stuff that has nothing to do with him). I’m currently working on my Masters in the SW field, and everyone I’ve ever met have told me I’m so great with people, positive, good listener etc. I’ve been in this field my entire life, this man has been the first person ever to tell me and I quote “your to unstable to become a social worker”. I just nodded my head but out of all the hurtful things he says this one hit me in the gut. I met him he had nothing, he has a job, a car, a credit card, a life all because of me. His family wanted nothing to do with him. His own family has forgiven him and they’ve told me it was because of me. I call his mother all the time he is not aware and she tells me to pray for him, that he would not be were he is without me. Right now i keep it simple, I don’t mention any big topics, I manage all of the finances, I keep it to the point. Thankfully he works 2nd shift so that time is peaceful for me. But the weekends come and its torture, I smile, joke I arrange “outings” things he likes to keep him busy. I also sign up to any class, course or training I can find on the weekends. The one thing I can say about him is that he loves my children. He does not have any children and he loves, nurtures them. I asked him one day, how come your so loving and amazing with the children? Why are you not like that with me? He said children are innocent, they don’t judge me, they understand, and they are pure, and they love and accept me. I just nodded my head, how selfish and narcissistic is that? Any and all advice would be appreciated, thank you.

  95. avatar Susanne says:

    Thank you very much. I’ve read a lot about this subject and it’s the first time that I absolutely agree. It’s an amazingly clear and accurate sum up of this complex disorder. <3

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Susanne, sorry for the delay in getting back to you. I’m so glad that my article helped you. You see from over 100 comments to this article how many people struggle to understand this difficult defensive style. Warm regards Susanne, Deborah.

  96. avatar Rebecca says:

    I have finally realized, after begging for 27 years that we see a marriage therapist, that I am going to have to seek help for myself. I have tried everything imaginable to address the issues in our marriage from crying to ultimatums. I am backed into a corner and decided a couple of months ago that it was divorce or suicide…my only two options because I can’t live like this anymore. When I typed those words into google, I discovered that wives of P-A husbands have also come to that final conclusion. I actually laughed out loud at this epiphany by way of google. It was then that I realized what I was dealing with and it all fell into place. Even though I now know that he is not going to change and all hope is lost in that respect, I do need to see someone to deal with it, the grief at the death of the hoped-for marriage. I live in the Nashville, TN area and have no idea where to start looking for someone. I am very sensitive right now and can’t imagine going to someone who might make things worse. By worse I mean that they might not understand and would make me feel even more alone than I do now. I have no support system here…we moved here for his career…please, give me some ideas about how to begin looking for a therapist. Thank you.

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hi Rebecca, you see by over 100 comments on this article how difficult dealing with a passive aggressive behavior pattern really is. Yes many people come to such ultimatums. But, hopefully, the suicide idea is merely saying how terrible this situation has been for you. I think it’s great that you want to find a therapist to support you at this time. Go to psychology They provide a very robust therapist list of therapists from almost every city and state in the U.S. They also a list of therapists who practice abroad. There’s also a wonderful website called: They provide an extensive list of therapists who practice and like psychology today, they also tell you their expertise.

      Good luck to you Rebecca, Warm regards Deborah.

  97. avatar Stin says:

    Hey, This thread is a bit … oh wow … overwhelming. Deborah, I see your point and experience concerning passive aggression and how your own behaviour can actually make things worse or it can make things … oh well … a bit more bearable. What leaves me breathless here, however, is the lack of self-respect I see in these answers and suggestions. I see people talk about loss of self-esteem, being half of what they were, suicide, destruction and psychological harm to children. I do understand that there is probably great differences between how bad these situations are and some might be manageable via reasonable effort. Yet at the same time all responses here already describe a situation that is really really really bad, to begin with. Why are people willing to go to such length for their passive aggressive spouses and partners? Why are they encouraged to take all the responsibility for the relationship and managing the lives of families? Doesn’t the beauty of a “nice, sympathetic person” slowly fade away with the pain and destruction that is being created in these relationships? This discussion is almost there to hint that abuse is better that living by yourself, or that staying in an abusive situation is better than leaving and opening up for the possibility of finding something solid and healthy? So I am asking: where’s the self-respect that people have for themselves in this discussion? Where’s the voice of reason? Where’s the healthy sense for a reasonable effort? Isn’t it a basic thing that relationships are based on reciprocity, a genuine connection, and security in attachment? What I’m also thinking is that if people have children together, then this sounds super unhealthy as an environment to grow up in. Isn’t it your responsibility, as the sensible person in the mess, to make sure not to create a hostile environment for children? Is there anyone here who thinks that staying might even be slightly irresponsible? Both in terms of self-respect and taking care of and protecting the ones who are only growing up.

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hi Stin, you ask a very good question (why do people stay in a relationship like the ones described in my article and in people’s comments?). It’s the same question they ask themselves. Stin, people in this kind of relationship have visited a few therapists during the life of the relationship. I’m sure therapists have talked with them about when it’s time to leave the relationship. And, how much sacrifice are they willing to take before they leave. They often hop therapists hoping that the next therapist has the answer because the drive to make something work is so much stronger than giving up on something (even if it’s wise to do so). If I’m the third, fourth therapist they come to, I already know, they stressed out mate of a PA is hoping, praying that I’ll be the one to help. Truly, my heart goes out to them because I am well aware that one reasonable option for some of them is to leave. But again, the drive in human beings is so strong to make something work. We hate failure – right? Also, there are almost always children. And, as I say in the article, PA people can be very likable and have some very good qualities when they are not acting out their passive aggression. PA people can have good relationships with the children but not the mate. So the partner says, “There are good things about him or her.” “I can’t break up the family.” “Maybe I can just put up with this until……” And, as if the case in many marriages, there may not be enough money to split.

      As you read in the comments, you see how many people are concerned about how the PA behavior and conflicts between them and their spouses will affect/damage their kids. It’s a tough situation because they often stay for the kids too.

      Perhaps the most potent reason why some people stay much longer in the conflict and abuse than they should is – their psychological makeup from the get go doesn’t feel good about themselves. For various reasons, caretakers did not give them the love and respect that they need and want. I have an article called Whose Choosing Our Mates Anyway? in which I talk about our subconscious often steering us to people who on the surface appear to be able to give us what we need and want but lo and behold – hoist the same old wounds upon us.

      Well, let me end this important discussion by saying what I always say to my patients Stin: “It takes courage to be happy.” We have to be ready to let go of whatever or whomever is keeping us there and trust in ourselves and in the future that life will be better o But that said, my heart goes out to the people struggling with these issues. It may not be easy to leave because of the reasons I cite here, but necessary all the same. And, as you wisely say, there are varying degrees of pain and suffering in the relationships so that one is more bearable than the other.

      Happy Thanksgiving Stin, Be Well Deborah

      • avatar Stin says:

        Hey there,

        Thanks a lot for your response. I appreciate that you took the time to go through my writing. I understand the reasoning and that leaving takes courage and emotional effort. At the same time, the very base of this reasoning is unrealistic – just like the passive aggressive person is very unrealistic in his character. Staying “for the sake of kids”, “for the sake of being too weak and too afraid” or “too dependant financially” will most of the times not help with the very same issues but actually make them worse! I doubt that the kids will get healthier or that the spouse will get stronger or become less afraid in life. Children need healthy and happy adults in their lives, and it is better to grow up with one somewhat stable parent than in a dynamic that is toxic and hurtful. I don’t think I’d need to provide evidence for that being alone is better than taking abuse. Also, if you hurt, so will your children, and the cycle between generations goes on and on and repeats itself. I also understand that people who have not gotten the love and presence and security from their parents are more likely to take bad behavior in their adult lives. They grow up confused about boundaries and think that they are fault when others are out of line. There is a habit of being too understanding and forgiving. I do not quite understand, however, why there is so much focus on “coping strategies” in this discussion and so little on drawing clear boundaries! I think that this article and discussion may reinforce this twisted sense for responsibility that spouses already have or that they have developed living with a passive aggressive person. I would shift the focus towards personal empowerment and boundaries, and yes, towards the option of taking off. Not only so that the spouse could possibly find someone better, but because they would be better off in any case – even being alone for the rest of their lives. So just to bring some balance into this discussion, please understand that leaving will be difficult at first and liberating and enjoyable very soon after :D. Live and love and open your eyes for beauty and peace in this life and between people. <3 <3 <3

  98. avatar Tami A. says:

    Thanks so much for the very clear description of PA. I’ve been puzzled for years over my boyfriend’s daughter’s behavior and now I see it for what it is. I do have a question though. In the beginning of your article, you mention what PA is not (the verbal jabs and snide remarks, etc.).Those are hallmarks of her behavior as well, and I’ve been a consistent target from day one, though she picks on other family members as well. A few examples – she brings up anecdotes that portray someone in a negative light, inviting others to join in, or she’ll make “jokes” – subtle digs, not directly to her target but well within earshot. She has been called on it, and has responded with feigned ignorance (who me, what are you talking about? I was only kidding), or has turned it around (I’m going through a really hard time, I don’t need this, why are you picking on me?), or she has cried, deflected and turned the focus away from her victimization of others to how difficult her life is (I turned 30 and didn’t make my first million, I still don’t own my own company)…She really did say that as she sobbed to her dad, who then spent the rest of the conversation consoling her. If that’s not PA, what is it, and what advice would you have on dealing with it? Also, what attracts such a person (what’s in MY background that has attracted her into my life, and why do my buttons get pushed so severely by her behavior)? Certain members of the family take turns getting into tussles with her, then things get smoothed over (swept under the rug). Other family members she leaves alone, but gossips about them, cutting them down behind their backs. The family chalks up her behavior by saying, “That’s just Rachel; That’s just her sense of humor”. I can’t stand being around her, and I’m not at all comfortable with marrying her dad and having her in my life. He is the closest to this daughter, even though he has been on the receiving end of her”jokes”, and I’ve pointed out the numerous times she has made digs at me. I’m seriously considering ending my relationship. When I’ve shared with him the incidents that occurred between she and I, he has gotten angry and accusatory, and has either told her directly, or told one of her sisters, with whom she’s extremely close. I don’t want our issues to become fodder for family gossip. The saying that you not only marry your partner but your partner’s family is especially concerning for me and I don’t know whether to go through with it. Sorry for the long winded back story, didn’t realize how much I wanted to very this off my chest. Thank you again!

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Tami, Your description above is a sign of passive aggressive behavior. Especially, the jokes that are sarcastic, negative and then playing victim when confronted. When I said verbal jabs and snide remarks, I mean this alone is not enough to describe one’s behavior as PA. It may just be clearly aggressive. To know if a person defends against vulnerability, lack of control and feeling of inadequacy, we have to look also to behavior that doesn’t take responsibility for the aggression. You give me some clear examples of how your partner tries to deny the aggression, especially when she plays victim. Playing the victim can definitely be a sign of aggression. It’s passively hostile to deny others their right to be angry at how they are treated through victimization. I hope this clears up your question.

      Tami, I understand your concerns about a lifetime of this type of undermining behavior if you marry her father. Yes, I’m not surprised you have been a target of hers already, as she’s very close to her father. And, I’m sure that her father feels torn between you and his daughter. Some of the reason she gets away with her PA behavior is because he doesn’t confront her and allows her to manipulate other’s feelings. You are not being long winded. You are giving good consideration to conflicts in your mate’s family that can pull you into their dramas and can undermine the relationship between you and him.

      Tami, on another note, remember, his ambivalence and weakness in standing up to his daughter doesn’t mean he doesn’t love you. This may be how you feel at least temporarily during a conflict with all of them. This triangular relationship is tricky. It may be that overtime, she becomes less threatened by your relationship to him and her masked barbs lessen. If love is strong enough between you and him and there’s enough good things about the relationship to keep you together, even if he doesn’t confront her, over time, she’ll learn that she better give room for you because you are here to stay. But, don’t expect that he will rise to the occasion and put her in her place (I hope I’m very wrong here). This is a longstanding relational pattern that is not easy to change.

      I’m glad you got this off your chest. You may want a few therapy sessions to process how you feel about all of this further. Happy Thanksgiving Tami. Wishing you the best Deborah.

      • avatar Tony says:

        The “I’m only kidding” thing is a classic… and then you are portrayed as unfair and mean. Just can’t beat ’em !

  99. avatar Miranda says:

    Hi Deborah,
    Wonderful article. In the past two weeks I have “diagnosed” my husband with passive aggressive personality.

    I’ve been living in a bad relationship for 15 years. For so long I looked for reasons for why he didn’t want to be a team, why he would repeatedly be so careless with things that he knew were important to me, why he lied about money, why he would intentionally do the opposite of what I recommended. When I could trap him so that we could discuss what had happened (or might happen), why it was important to me, and explain that I had researched and/or put a lot of thought into my reason, and… “could he please not do it”, he would state that he would “try to remember”, and when it happened again that “he forgot”.

    I began purposefully over-reacting to make an impression on him that I was serious. After years and years of this back and forth, plus increasingly foolish, risky and plain selfish behavior by him, we are now a financially and emotionally broken family.

    We’ve had marriage counseling but he rarely attended. I have my own therapist, as do each of our kids. For years he threatened to leave, and three years ago when I finally said “Yes Please”, he decided that he WILL NOT leave–for the sake of the kids, he says. And for 3 years he has been sleeping in our son’s room (even though we have a finished room over the garage).

    About two years ago I decided to stop asking him for help, or complaining about all but the most egregious behavior. Recently, my therapist suggested that I start confronting my husband about his behavior toward me because the kids (14 & 11) have been seemingly copying him and are doing “promise and forget”, anger toward me for reminding/nagging them about homework, etc. My therapist thought this would help my self-esteem, too. Well, it backfired, and his mean acts toward me just intensified. (criticizing my housekeeping, belittling the amount of money I bring in, neglecting to put money in my debit card, breaking my things “by mistake”, not helping with the kids).

    Two weeks ago, I was really angry about something that he does so often despite knowing how much it upsets me and the kids (letting our dogs loose outside, because we live on a really busy street). When I asked him if he was trying to make me crazy, he naturally said that I already was crazy. I snapped and slapped him. Two hours later, when I was asleep, the police came to the house and arrested me, in front of the kids, because he called them and charged me with domestic abuse.

    Naturally, my life has turned upside down, and of course Child Services were called by the police. My husband is still here, acting as if nothing had happened. He seems to feel no remorse, and will not leave. This is the outcome of a marriage to a passive aggressive. I feel as though I have been playing a chess game with him, without knowing it, and it is now Checkmate.

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Miranda, oh my god, I can’t think of an assault worse than what he did to you. I am so sorry. Any person who has been on the end of this behavior and known first hand the maneuvers to get their mates to lose control will have empathy for you. Again, I am so sorry. Yes, you say it so well – a chess game and now checkmate. I’m thinking through all the people I’ve treated and talked to who live with PA people Miranda and how they are moved to behaviors uncommon to them. The aggressiveness of the mate varies. And your husband sounds definitely that he has a vicious side to him. I sure hope some professional appreciates your circumstance and helps you. Have you sought legal help Miranda?

      On another note, the PA behaviors you describe here are so classic. As you already know too well, right? The repeated forgetting and ignoring, your purposeful over reactions to try to get through to him, and the lowering of your self esteem through the years trying to cope with PA defenses. I understand your therapist having you confront your spouse. But as you learned, it doesn’t work well or if he changes for the better – it’s for a nanosecond. PA behaviors frustrate we therapists too Miranda. Truly, they are not easy to help – but surely, therapists really need to understand the depth a PA person will go to maintain control.

      I’m not surprised your husband said he wasn’t going to leave once he realized you no longer care. PA people are often dependent personalities who passively thwart to control, to make sure their mates never leave them. I’m hoping Miranda that the drama (he caused) that deeply impacted you and the children backfires on him. Are you motivated to leave him once and for all? It seems it’s time given the extent he will go to victimize you. But, of course, that is up to you. But how one get over this level of assault – I’m unsure.

      Miranda, I’m thinking of you and really hope you get some legal advice with a knowledgeable divorce attorney or other. Take care of yourself for YOU and your children. It doesn’t seem like it now but there is a light to all of this – probably the light that enters the door that you leave. Warm regards to you Miranda. Will you please let me know how it goes for you? Deborah.

  100. avatar Eliza says:


    Happened upon your site after coming to a realization very recently. Mine is likely not an unusual story and has many threads in common with the above posts (not all have I read, however). Essentially, I have been married for many years with young children (children later in life). Both of us are successful professionals. Both of us, however, came from very different backgrounds. I was raised in a one-parent home by someone who was diagnosed later in life with a notable psychiatric disorder. In retrospect, the diagnosis probably explained much of the volatility and emotional inconsistency throughout my childhood (never any physical abuse or substance abuse/addiction). My spouse was raised with 2 parents in a seemingly somewhat stereotypical (for the times) household where the father worked and mother did not. Again, no physical/substance abuse.

    When asked later in life (first trial at couples counseling) what attracted us to each other, I identified wit, intelligence, common hobbies, and extreme consistency and calm in the face of rather unremarkable misfortune (e.g., clean up spilled milk without worry instead of delivering a haranguing response to such a mistake) or stress. As possibly expected, however, my response to similar misfortunes was often to have an outburst – yes, even directed away from me, in a blaming fashion. I would have such a response even when my spouse did not, probably because I so expected it and felt the need to self-punish if nobody else did. Fast forward to present day when I can finally separate (most of the time) silly errors from more important ones and react accordingly (meaning there is FAR less yelling and blaming on my part). I still make mistakes but have come a long way. Trouble is, with all of our discord, we remain in a vicious defensive struggle with almost every conversation. I get asked for suggestions about how the other might respond differently and am then told that I am telling the other one to change and/or that the other is doing/saying the wrong thing. We have also had very clear conversations whereupon the outcome later was apparently not only perceived differently but actually HEARD differently (I am sure on a couple of instances that I apologized, for example and another when I most definitely did not raise my voice until doing so in response to a very angry tone posed to me – I know that was not useful on my part to respond in that way – OR know that my spouse remained utterly silent and yet later recalls having said out loud a somewhat thoughtful response). It becomes very difficult not to react defensively or really say much of anything at all because I am then classified as yelling/belittling/being demanding or not listening.

    Apart from trying to communicate differently and along with my strides at becoming less volatile, I have really asked that my spouse tell me when something is amiss and ask for conversation to follow. I have tried to initiate many such conversations but find that most end up with a response that reminds me that I do the same thing in reverse (which feels as though my statements are not really being heard). While that may be true at times, I never really feel heard. I really would just like to feel heard.

    After reaching a near breaking point recently, I decided to avoid much communication at all until our next couples session (not quite as difficult as one might think, given work schedules). When asked one question (day of our last couples appt) about whether or not I was going to answer the question that I’d left unanswered at the end of our last session, I responded that I would rather wait until our next session to respond. Interestingly, at our next session, I was somewhat scolded for withholding conversation because of how “rejected” spouse was made to feel and yet, apart from the one simple question asked the first night, NO conversation/discussion was ever initiated by my spouse.

    Wow – long missive. My apologies. Basically, we both have PA tendencies but my prior volatility seems to be getting the most focus and almost responsibility for my spouse’s seemingly PA tendencies. Quite maddening, really. Why do I stay? For the love of my wonderful children and the knowledge that I know I am a better role model now than I ever had and want them to grow up with at least one parent who allows them to be expressive of their feelings and truly listens to their concerns.

    Obviously, we are engaged in therapy and need to both find new ways of approaching each other. However, since I can really impact only myself, am open to any suggestions as I am running out of ideas and interest in staying together as a result.

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Eliza, first, don’t apologize – there’s a lot to get off your chest, after living many years with a PA mate. You describe a PA mate, and the kind of drama that comes with it very well. Wish you didn’t have enough experience to be able to do so right?

      Of course, through the years, it becomes very difficult not to react defensively or withdraw because of the chronic “classified” behavior he attributes to you (yelling/belittling/being demanding or not listening). Withdrawing emotionally from the behavior is self protection – as well as yelling at times (what you call emotional volatility). It’s normal to defend ourselves against assaults on our being ~ on our self-esteem. Yes, it seems your background does set you up to almost expect that your needs will not be met. But we learn quickly that what is normal doesn’t fly with the PA person. Also, Eliza, I’m unsure that I would label your emotional volatility as PA behavior or just a response to PA behavior. Of course, I haven’t treated you, so I can’t say this with certainty.

      Many people ask me >”Why do I stay?” And, children is most often the answer. I”m glad you are in therapy with your spouse. You are right, changing ourselves in most situations is what we have to do. Some people find this aspect of my article hard – because they wonder why they are doing all of the change. The answer is because with a PA behavior, it’s easier to change ourselves than our PA mates.

      Eliza does your therapist have your mate say “I hear you” when you verbalize a need or feeling? I’m hoping so because the best therapy for a couple who is dealing with PA behavior is to get the therapist to model the behavior that is healthy. I am a very direct therapist when I’m treating a PA couple. Subtleties don’t work with such treatment. So my suggestion to you is to first make sure the things you want, need and deserve are taught to him in therapy. The therapist should not move forward in dialogue until he says, for example, I hear you, so there’s one place for him where he can’t get out of doing what is psychologically healthy for him and for you. Yes, your mate won’t like this but will exhibit better behavior in front of the therapist. The goal is if he fakes it – he will eventually make it. If at least therapy can stop him from withholding, rejecting, and controlling behaviors, it slowly wears away these PA defenses. But, of course, as you know, this can take some time. Well, I hope this helps some Eliza. Warm regards and Happy Holidays, Deborah.

  101. avatar Annie says:


    Relating to Procrastination – I do everything – I will only ask his help when I cant cope or too heavy for me too carry. Yet – after waiting for the whole day – what I will get is yelling – slamming door – saying things like I am expecting everything perfect, throwing stuff and followed by cold shoulder.

    When I ask his help (which I should not because it is our job and our job) but somehow house chores became mine despite I travel far to work and earning better. If I told him I am tired and need him too help – his answer will be something that is not practical like “You value your work more than relationship”, “You only goof at work but not at home”, “since you getting tired, should move nearer”. But then as he work nearby home he will be complaining on traffic. He knows we cant move nearer to work as it means I have sacrifice seeing my daughter everyday being taken care off my mum. I am so confused. Is he PA?

    He even once so angry throws his phone and it hit 8 months old daughter.

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Oh boy Annie, he is hard on you – as you know too well. He does sound like some of his behaviors are PA and sometimes he’s downright aggressive. He also sounds like he has anger problems. Yes, all PA people have anger problems. But, things like throwing things that can have devastating consequences and slamming doors is outright aggressive. It does sound like you are the target of his bad behavior. He definitely makes an effort to lower your self-esteem and to make you unhappy. By what you describe to me here, it sounds like he’s treating you more like hired help. But, it’s much easier for hired help to fire back, as they don’t have to put up with this behavior. But, you don’t either Annie. I just wrote a response to Miranda regarding her situation. Please read this – because you’ll the extent of how this behavior can impact a spouse and the family. I don’t know how long you are married and if you have considered leaving or a separation. But, if his behavior doesn’t get better, I’m sure this is not too far off in the future. Annie have you sought professional help? This would be a good first step in getting the support and information that you need to make good decisions for the future. Warm regards to you Annie. Please take good care. Deborah.

  102. avatar D says:

    Dear Dr. Khoshaba,

    Most of the comments I’ve read here are from people who have been in relationships with a PA person for decades. I just started dating someone who I now realize is PA. He is a wonderful person with a good heart, but I feel like he is a prime subject for passive aggression.

    I am about to start using the recommendations you gave in this article, but I would like to ask for some additional information:

    1. How do we express our assertiveness without pushing our partner to withdraw more?

    2. Will giving them consequences actually work? Or will they just suffer the consequence? Like allow us to break up with them, which hurts just us much for us as it will for them.

    3. Will their passive aggressiveness ever change if we follow the advice without having to go to therapy? Or is therapy absolutely necessary? I mean, is there a way for this to resolve without needing therapy? We just started dating and this doesn’t seem like an option he’d be open to.

    Thank you for any information you can give. My boyfriend is a good man and I’m hoping I won’t wake up after 10 years and realize that nothing I did worked for our relationship. Also, I am fully aware that he needs to do his part. I just want to know what it is exactly I can do on my end to help him develop into a person without passive aggressive tendencies.

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello D, it is great that you are beginning the relationship and working to establish communications that do not excite, stimulate passive aggression. But, that being said, please remember, not to lose yourself in this process. Let me address your questions one-by-one.

      1. The most important thing to take away from this article is ~ resist rising to your partner’s passive aggressive behaviors through screaming or demanding ultimatums. Doesn’t seem fair – I know. Desires and needs expressed through anger (especially excessive anger) only makes them more PA. We think – they will hear us now and do something different. NO – they only get the red light to be PA and to blame the partner for treating them unfairly. Also, and perhaps this is the most important advice is to stay confident in yourself and what you want and need. Over time, PA people are extremely good at getting their mates to doubt themselves. This is the gist of PA behavior (It’s YOU not ME who is angry).

      2. Will the consequences work or will they just suffer them? Consequences that came about through ultimatums don’t work. Let me suggest that you practice a style of asking for your desires and needs to be met engaging the PA person in timelines. Dates a mate establishes rarely work. Give options and then let the PA mate choose the timeline of a needed action or whatever it is that you need and want. We have to make them responsible for the consequence. You see where I’m going here?

      D the last thing your PA partner wants is a breakup. One of their great fears is being left. Who will play out the other side of their passive aggression? So threatening a breakup doesn’t work long term. You may definitely get them to do what you want for a short time – you’ll pay a price down the road with their PA behaviors. So, try try try never to give ultimatums especially the deadly breakup.

      3. I wish I could give you better news about PA people changing. They can change somewhat with better self understanding but they resist insight into their own behaviors. Therapy is always needed D. Down the road, it’s usually couple’s therapy and therapy for each partner. A very expensive and time consuming enterprise right?

      The best thing to do is change yourself if you decide to move this relationship forward. Some people live their lives in a committed relationship with a PA partner. Not all of it is bad and there are usually many factors, like children or finances that make people stay together. Partner’s of PA people learn after a time to emotionally detach, which permits the longevity of the relationship. But that being said, let me suggest the unthinkable at this point. If you really think he is PA, you can give this relationship a little time to see if your worse fears are confirmed. But, don’t spend a lifetime searching for the therapist who can turn this behavior around. I often say PA behavior doesn’t change but it can be managed with a lot of psychotherapy and both partners engaging in behaviors that do not inflame PA.

      Happy Holidays D. Warm regards to you and thanks for visiting me here today. Deborah.

  103. avatar Tarren Modjeski says:

    I am blown away. I never knew what was going on with my boyfriend until I just read your article. It puts everything into perspective. I have been living terrified and so confused until now. Now I know his problem. I am going to sit down and talk with him tonight. This article explains him to a T. I cannot thank you enough for supplying me with this knowledge.

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Tarren. You are very welcome, although I’m sorry that you are dealing with this tough relationship challenge. As they say, knowledge is power; I’m pleased you are searching out understandings of the PA issues you are facing. Warm regards, Deborah.

  104. avatar Georgia says:

    Wow, what a lot of pain and insight. It feels strangely good to know that I am not alone. I am also in a relationship with a passive-aggressive man. However, he is a very responsible person and has excellent work ethic. In other aspects he is very strongly passive-aggressive. He was married in the past but will not discuss- so I an not certain how long he was in this union, when it ended or if the marriage was arranged. All I know is that it ended very badly.

    We have been dating for two years but I always feel unbalanced with him. He can be very affectionate and loving but will never admit we have a relationship. He always says “why do we have to label everything?”. He has told me that he will never say that he loves me,and I will have to figure it out for myself and judge by the way he treats me.

    Usually he treats me very well. He is intelligent, observant, funny, dynamic and interesting. He is generous and gracious and slightly old-fashioned. Our sex life is extremely good. It is not just sex, and he always tells me that he couldn’t be sexually attracted to someone unless they were smart, funny, kind and beautiful (qualities he sees in me). He will not let me touch him below his navel or kiss him down below. He says that he respects me too much to let me do that. He said only whores and slaves perform that act. I can’t convince him otherwise. However, the rules are not the same for him and he loves to kiss me down there. When we have sex he is almost able to withhold his orgasm. It isn’t about trying to prolong sex, he just does not want to lose control. If he does orgasm he is angry with himself. He has very conflicted ideas about sex- he says he want sex all the time with me but he often turns me down. He doesn’t believe that women enjoy sex and he thinks I am pretending just to keep his interest. I cannot convince him otherwise.

    He doesn’t often give gifts but he loves to cook for me- I find cooking for someone else IS a beautiful gift. He is terrible at receiving gifts and it takes months before he will accept anything other than food. The fact that he cannot receive gifts indicates to me that he fears that it will obligate him in some way to the gift giver. In the same way that he is generous with sex but does not like to receive pleasure in return. It makes our sex life feel very one-sided as giving someone you love pleasure is just as good as receiving but he can’t seem to grasp this concept.

    We live in the same building, on the same floor. It took 13 months before he let me into his “inner sanctum”. I was the first woman he had ever let into his private space (other than his wife, of course). His bed was a “virgin” before me. His wife and him rarely had sex- she constantly denied him so he didn’t have a lot of experience at all (he was 40).

    He will suddenly and without any warning employ Silent Treatment. There is no argument or disagreement that precedes these silences. I have no idea why or how long the periods will last. They are agonizing. After the fist terrible experience I began to keep a detailed journal of our dates. At this time, I had not defined Silent Treatment or heard of Passive-aggressive behaviour. It was during a desperate night of trying to figure out what was wrong with him that I stumbled across these terms and it was an epiphany! The journal was helpful. From what I can deduce, the episodes of silent treatment correlate to times when our relationship is going really well. I let my guard down and he builds his up. It is like he WANTS to be happy but won’t let himself. He wants to trust me but he won’t,

    My friend is very afraid of any kind of commitment, yet without any doubt I am his closest friend. He is not close to his family and they live overseas. He speaks to his parents just a few times a year. He goes out occasionally with co-workers but has no friends other than myself. He sometimes confides in me, though not often.

    We spend a lot of time together-he loves to cook and i love to eat ethnic foods. We have many, many common interests and share most activities. But despite that fact that we rarely disagree, never argue,he still doesn’t fully trust me. He has a pervasive fear of conflict- he will avoid at any cost.

    He sometimes says really bizarre or inappropriate things when we are sitting in restaurants or public places. He often goes on holidays without any warning- he will just be one for a couple weeks without any notice. When he returns he won’t say where he has been or show any photos. I am sure he is no longer married but I am not sure if he has children. he has said no, but it explains going away and not talking to me.

    We had our first really open talk Saturday and he said that he is aware of the Silent treatments – he calls it being “derailed”. Just recently he told me that I never have to worry, he will always be back. He told me how afraid he is that if our relationship does progress that all the small things that may be only passingly annoying will build up and one day we will yell. I said that I never let small things build up- that I am easy going and pick my battles. This is true, actually. But there are some things that are boundaries- like fidelity. He said he has never slept or even kissed another woman since he has met me. I totally believe him. He admitted that other than his mother, he has never felt closer to anyone but me. He admitted that our relationship has nbeen a sanctuary for him as he hates his job and it is VERY stressful. He said that he knows how awesome our sex life is. Then he said that, despite knowing how great everything is between us, our friendship, sex etc.. that he will never be sure unless he tries out a couple more girls. He asked if I would step aside and WAIT for him and that he would come back to me (this may have just been to test his boundaries). He said that I could date someone else, then he said if he ever saw me with someone else it would break his heart and he might get violent. I said, no way, if we are together monogamy is a must. Honestly? I think that is what he WANTED to hear. I told him he should have done his “experimenting” in his 20’s, not now, when he has something very good. I think his PA is really conflicted about this. He WANTS me but his brain says RUN at the same time. Our deal is that we will never live together but will always be friends, neighbours and monogamous lovers. It is ideal for both of us as neither of us wants to share a space and we both need our personal time. Anyways, he wouldn’t let it go. He knows that monogamy can be a touchy subject with me- I don’t usually bring it up but I was engaged twice in that past and both men were carrying on affairs while asking me to marry them. I don’t carry a huge weight around but I am a bit touchy about this in my relationships.

    He kept making mean, provoking comments like “O, I will have to vacuum in here if I am going to have other girls over” and (we were playing board games) “O look. 2 to 4 players. I can have three girls over tomorrow night” etc… it went on and on.

    We had a huge fight- I lost it and yelled at for the very first time in 2 years. I said that 80% of our relationship was great but 20% of the time he acted like a douche, I said that reason his marriage broke up was that his fault- that he stopped talking to her just like he does to me and she left because she finally couldn’t bear it, I said he acted like a child holding their breath until they pass out to get their own way, I said ” you need a psychiatrist”. All of this was yelling. Just like I said I would not do. I regretted it right away, and tried to immediately apologize. I apologized over and over. He went fetal, hugging a pillow for hours. At first he let me hold him then he moved away and would not be in the same room. I realize how much damage I have done. He has not spoken to me in days and I even saw him in the hall and he pretended I was not in existence.
    What happens when you really hurt a PA? Since I AM his only friend and source of comfort I realize he is very, very hurt and angry but has nowhere to go. I am deeply sorry but how do I convey this. Can someone with a very strong PA personality ever forgive? I need to know how to make him realize that some of what I said was true but my delivery was horrid and I am sorry. Do you have any advice? I am on day 6 of silent treatment- he has my beloved budgies birds in his suite. I left them there to help him heal but fear I may never see them again.

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Georgia, you said it so well – what a lot of pain. I continue to be touched deeply by people’s responses here. One thing is for sure that living with a passive aggressive person is not only not easy but also very painful. And yes, it does feel strangely good to know you are, indeed, in good company.

      Now that being said, you described the situation so well that what keeps coming up for me is that he has a major fear of intimacy. He can be intimate in some ways but has so many rules about the relationship – especially the intimate part of the relationship to keep him at a safe distance. The thing is Georgia that passive aggression is a defensive style that comes along with several personality issues. So yes, he shows passive aggressive defenses, such in taking off on vacations without telling you and then coming back and withholding where he went. He does certainly withhold a lot of himself for you. It must be so confusing because the other side of him can be intimate. Now add into the mix his ideas about what women should and should not do as part of sexual intimacy makes things very interesting – but most upsetting, I know.

      He sounds so fearful of true intimacy – especially that he needs to try two or more other women to know that you indeed are the one for him. Wow, what he puts between you to feel emotionally safe.

      Georgia, be easy on yourself. How could you not yell at some of the things he’s handed to you. You are a real woman not a saint. There are some strange behaviors that need clarification. I can’t think of too many people – man and woman who would not feel suspicious of his sudden departures and strange requirements for the relationship. You must care for him deeply. You know you are right; he does need to seek psychological help for the issues you describe here. Also, consider for a moment – you Georgia. You finally let out what any of us would do and you end up caretaking him and being punished for your true feelings.

      I hear how worried you are that he may never get over what you said. YOU did nothing wrong. He’s a very emotionally fragile person. But I know there are things that you value about him. I do have advice in the form of two questions for you.

      1. The odd things about him, the PA defense style and fears of intimacy seem to outweigh the good things about him. That said, why do you persist in a romantic relationship in which you have to walk on eggshells to be emotionally heard and honored.
      2. Along with question 1, where are YOU in this relationship? You know Georgia a healthy romantic relationship honors authenticity in both people.

      So you see, I think you need to go easy on yourself and strongly think about the serious issues this man may have. Love is hard, I know. I wish you well Georgia. Let me know how it goes and stay strong in yourself — let your gut tell you what is best for YOU to do to have a truly healthy romantic relationship. Warm regards, Deborah.

  105. avatar Tony says:

    Thank you so much for your explanation of P/A. We have been married for 40 years and could never understand why I was such a bad person ! Unfortunately our oldest daughter has learned the technique. You have helped me understand what I am dealing with. Your discussion of immigrants rang so true as she came from Poland at 12 y/o. Sex, as you might guess, is non-existent, probably because of the control issue. I am “fascinated” by her ability to be friendly and social with others but I am always told can’t go here can’t go there, time to go home, thats not a good idea…

    Please know that you have helped me so much.

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Tony. Sorry for the delay in responding to you. As you can imagine, I started writing this blog to help people understand themselves and situations much better. So, I am very pleased that this article was so helpful to you Tony. I hope you see now that you are not a bad person. You just learned to develop defenses to reduce your fears and to keep control of a situation that felt threatening to you.

      My parents came to this country over 30 years ago. I understand how as children we are taught to be good and to not rock the boat, as they say, often at the expense of personal exploration of who we are. Well, thank you again. Hope to see you here again soon. Warm regards, Deborah.

  106. avatar S says:


    I am a stay at home mom of a young boy who is currently being assessed for his sensory processing and communication problems, that could result into a diagnosis of autism. This puts a huge amount of stress on my relationship with my husband, which, actually, I realise now, wasn’t healthy in the first place, as, almost from the beginning of our marriage, he has had a well defined passive-aggressive personality. I remember, for example, when I was 7 weeks pregnant, he forced me to stay for one full hour in a church full of furniture polishing fumes, while I was extremely nauseous, saying that he did not feel any smell and that it was all in my head. On the second night in hospital after giving birth, he forbade me to comfort my newborn baby who was crying, and for whom I had been waiting for 4 years to hold in my arms. While on holiday abroad, he reduced me to tears of shame while telling me off for not going to confession, while in a cathedral, so loud that people were turning their heads and staring. These days, cutting the grass, painting a room, doing venial jobs… all these I have to do myself, because he just ‘forgets’ constantly to do it, despite my repeated requests. Everything is a hurdle. Everything ends in him shaming me for overreacting and denying me any feelings or of any say I might have in a matter. In his eyes, all my pains are my fault, all my problems are only in my head, and I am utterly unreasonable and ungrateful. To everything I say, he either snaps or answers with sentences starting with ‘yes, but’. It is never, never simply ‘yes’. And if I do have to convince him of anything, for child’s well-being mostly, that is seen as ‘barging’ and he sees himself as very tolerant and good for accepting my requests. It was like this almost from the very beginning, but only now everything came to a head and I see it much more clearly. Because now, that we have a child, he can use him as a pawn or as a method to emotionally outdo me whenever he wants. He knows that my son is my light and that he would destroy me using him against me. It is horrible. Absolutely horrible.

    Still, I did not know anything about how bad PA personality can get until last year when, taking his friends’ advice, he complained to our little boy’s health visitor about me. He mentioned postnatal depression and that I don’t go places and take the baby out as often as he would have liked and asked for a psychiatrist to have me assessed for PD. Now, as a older than average first time mother, c-sectioned, severely overweight after having a baby, with hip and back problems, shattered by sleepless nights, it was very difficult to find so easily the energy and stamina to be as active as my husband expected. It happened, but slowly. It all counted against me. A lot of distorted truths and humiliating details were said by him in front of HV, with no thought that he might simply hurt my right to privacy, my dignity as a human being. I realise now, that his conduct had nothing to do with the matter in hand. But at that time I was too terrified and embarrassed to react in any way. The health visitor involved the social services too, but after a couple of weeks they all dropped the case, stating that nobody was at risk. The assessment never happened, although I was keen on it, for proving that nothing was wrong with me, apart from the lack of time and the sheer exhaustion, having to look after my son mostly alone, as my husband cannot be relied on with any type of help, from the least to the most important. The health visitor and social workers, therefore, never had a clue under what amount of pressure I was under and treated my husband as ‘the victim’, giving him advice to watch me in case that I do display any PD. The thought of being put under your abuser’s ‘watch and care’ is both hilarious and tragic, but I did have to experience it while actually struggling to make sense of everything and trying to be the good mum my son needed.

    The first months of motherhood were a struggle and, while my son was well looked after, I had no real help, but only emotional harassment from my husband in almost all regards. Many times I had to repeatedly phone my husband to ask him for food items that were not in the house for the baby. These were the first months of me being a mother. A struggle to see myself as a good parent, despite spending 24/7 for my boy to be well looked after, despite him looking happy and healthy, as all the professionals who saw him said. My husband’s lack of help with a young baby, doubled by constant criticism that I don’t accept help (!) and finding fault in my mothering skills put so much strain on me that, at times, we fought, me trying to get him to hear my need of understanding and meaningful help, also of space to breath, and him keeping accusing me of over-reacting. All resulted in the incident mentioned above, where he said he had enough and needed to bring people in to show me how wrong I was. The public humiliation and the fear of losing my son, though, brought the real symptoms of depression and made me feel a deep sense of despair, understanding who the man I married was, that the only way he sees the resolution of our difficulties from now on would be to humiliate me publicly for the purpose of ‘disciplining me’ (he even believed that his action would make our relationship better, because this is what his friends said, and he relies a lot on other people’s opinions when it comes to our private life). I just wanted those visitations to stop, for my husband to stop treating me so patronisingly in front of strangers, which brought down on my knees, as in all this time he was playing the ‘poor me’ role in front of them, perfect acting, no crack, and the truth about what was actually going on was not being really told. I never felt more hurt and traumatised in my entire life, and it made me completely lost my faith and trust in my husband. While under the social services assessment, he kept saying to me that I must be careful what I tell him (about how low and shocked I was feeling, mainly) because he can’t make any promisses that he will keep untold to the social workers even about that sheer need of communication I was attempting with him. It made me lose not only my trust in him, but struggling to have any trust in myself too. I felt alone, betrayed, abused, silenced, threatened, seen as an object without rights. But I had a baby, that was my only strength, and for his love I had to man up and carry on. For the immense love for him, I had to resist.

    This time, months later, though, it is much worse. The fear to talk to the the same health professionals, to ask help, makes me feel cornered and with nobody to express things in confidence, as they truly believed my husband’s version. If I am to tell them that, in fact, I am an abused woman and mother, would only lead to a lot of confusion.

    Now, that there is a possibility that my son might have autism, my husband restarted his string of accusations about me not doing the right stuff for him, tauntings, obsessive and tense behaviours around the house. He says he is worried and that now he has to take charge to help his son. ‘Charge’ for him means telling me what I am not doing and scaring the boy with his uneven bursts of affection and tears, which he calls ‘interaction with his dad’. He became very stressed and completely lost the ability to relate emotionally to the baby and me in a balanced way. Lately he has been popping in from work up to 5 times a day to see his son and to check if I am on track with his routine. Also, he dropped all housework help and I would have had to beg/argue for each inch of support. I simply cannot manage on my own anymore. All he is willing to do when he is at home is literally ‘to stay’ with his son, while I continue do all the work. Work is secondary, as he says, and argues for everything I ask him to do, saying it is not necessary. And, on the other hand, accusing me that I don’t accept help. It can become so much for me that I have to work cleaning and doing dishes and laundry late in night, as the little man throws up a lot because of his sensory problems. Plus the rest of the basic chores, or, if I don’t do them, next day everything would be a chaos.

    Still, after I discovered that my husband might be a passive aggressive, I tried to read about how to keep the level of disruption to a minimum and I started to implement the solutions found in those books, such as not responding to his provocations, focusing on facts and not on emotions in our communication, using sense of humour to deflect tensions, setting boundaries. Unfortunately, the success I had was very small, as he is a master in crossing borders. If I don’t fight and walk out from the room, he follows me continuing to say things to try to escalate the conflict. He seems to thrive on this type of dysfunction. I usually end up in tears, asking ‘please, have mercy on me and stop it’, while he smiles victoriously, saying “You see? You need mental help.” He also snaps at me a lot in front of the child and I repeatedly asked him to stop that habit and to try to use some anger management techniques to keep it under control. Many times he made the baby cry by raising the voice to me while in his room, but, then, never acknowledging that he did it and saying that it’s all in my head, that I am hypersensitive and that it is me who ‘has problems’, not him. He also refuses to even consider to see a counsellor for whatever issues he might have experiencing. This too makes me feel extremely low and fearful for both the present and the future, because, if he doesn’t try to help himself before helping his son, he will end up doing more damage to him than good. I try to tip-toe, to stay physically away from him, but the success is very limited, given his blunt refuse to give me space to work normally as a mother and his failure to respect some ground rules in the house. I only want to protect my son, and have had countless sitting down discussions with my husband, away from my son’s ears, about what is going on with me and with us and how we have to behave for our son’s benefit. Sometimes such discussions led to the brink of fights and I had to stop them, as he refuses to think that he made or makes any mistake. Other times, he promised to be more sensitive, which worked for one or two days maximum. I am in the phase where I stopped asking him anything, and I feel so down seeing how our relationship is so ill, now, when our son needs us most. I am extremely exhausted from almost continuously working around the house,trying to do some intense interaction and play and some therapy with my son (as I have trained myself by reading a lot of books on the procedure of the ABA), plus having to think all time ahead to plan my actions and words for protecting my son from witnessing more conflict and tension. I feel scared, sad, drained, I feel my husband doesn’t give me any right to feel hurt and to receive appropriate help from him. He has no clue, really, how bad things are in my soul. I cannot open up at all to him, because he shuts down, fights with me or gets suddenly ‘very busy’ with his phone while I am talking to him. I do not know where to turn for help. Who can help me and how? I asked help from my mum on the phone, but she lives abroad (I am an immigrant in the UK) and it’s hard to bring her over. We talked a lot lately and she is so supportive, while very worried for me. To provoke her so much sorrow is another heartbreak of mine, as I love her so much. She was my emotional support all my life. I find a lot of comfort talking to her, but my husband said, a few days ago, that he thinks she is interfering in our marriage (she is not, really) and he will never let my parents lay their eyes on my son or have him visiting my country. This means that I will never see my parents again? Because I could not leave this country without my son, who is completely dependent on me at this stage and who knows for how long. How much worse than this can it get?

    All his behaviour is happening while he is also putting pressure on me to have another child because, as he hints, this one has ‘a problem’. I love my boy more than words can express and I would never ever consider to treat him as ‘defect’ and therefore to want another baby. I want to understand his challenges better and help him overcome them and all my time and energy are going now into this purpose – reading and applying different behavioural techniques. As I told my half that we cannot bring another child into the world while we are in such a bad way as a couple, and me so drained all time, he was left fuming, accusing me of selfishness, not doing my duty, and wrong approach to marriage, and, I am afraid, created a platform for more bullying and blackmails in the future.

    The feeling of fear, humiliation, harassment, exhaustion, loss of who I actually am, isolation, lack of hope, that I am experiencing now are beyond words. Please, Deborah, please, help me. Almost all the weight I had lost after birth, is now back on, because of my irregular and poor eating, dictated by stress. I sleep badly too, mainly because of the worry of what will happen with us. Also, I sleep badly because I sleep now on a sofa in the sitting room, as my husband likes to take work in bed where he stays very late, and many attempts of mine to ask him to allow me to rest ended up in dismissing words and me having to leave the room, ultimately, to sleep on the sofa. My health deteriorated a lot lately, heart is constantly racing and aching, from fear and stress, and I never had heart problems before this. I am worried for myself, as I want and need to stay well and healthy for my boy. He needs me, and he would need his daddy too, if only he wasn’t so distressing and scary to us. I purely want to focus on my boy’s problems and I want to be doing more ABA therapy with him, to see him progress and snap out from his challenges. But, at the moment, I am so tired and scared of my husband, of his erratic behaviour. It is so hard to juggle all this in one mind and in one body only, and with no help.

    I do occasionally feel good, back to the confident happy me, when, rarely, we have a good day, or when he is abroad for work purposes. I can then relax a bit and think clearly about myself and I am even more efficient in juggling work and childcare. So I’ve come to see that the problem is not that I am so depressed that I cannot snap out of it. I am not what my husband forces me to believe that I am. It takes peace in the house and a non-assuming or accusing husband for me to be able to function normally. Unfortunately, these occasions are quite rare and I realise more and more every day that I need help while is not too late, I don’t want me or my son to be damaged forever by this atmosphere. But I don’t know what type of help would really work. To go and get counseling, seems to do more harm to me, as, on mentioning that to him and asking money for it, makes him constantly say that he is glad to see me acknowledging that I am crazy; his body language is so mocking at that point that I end up in tears and I lose my trust in him even more, if that is somehow possible. The idea of going bullied and mocked into therapy, knowing that my husband will use it as a platform to justify his accusations to me, hurts me so much and leaves me wondering, more and more, what am I to do. How to save myself and is there any hope left for my marriage?

    I feel very alone and fearful. I have nobody in this country. No relative. Nobody who could really help. To walk out and stop any contact with this man would be the best, but, in reality, it is not feasible at all, as my husband threatens that I will lose my son if I did that. I don’t know what methods he would employ to do it, but I know him able to do harm, so I believe him. I also have no money, as he is the bread winner of the house, and my son needs now and will need, most likely, a lot of investment in his care and help with his issues. I also don’t even know very well my rights in the UK. I am stuck and I am taking now each day waiting for another and yet another blow. But for how long?

    Please help me. Advice me what to do. Thank you.

    A desperate mother.

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Violeta. First, I’m very sorry about all of the stress of your relationship to your spouse. This in addition to raising a child, especially one who might be autistic is very, very stressful. From your description, he does sound very abusive. The best way I can help you is to recommend that you see a social worker or therapist who can help you. I know that you don’t want to see the same health professionals that visited your home. I understand this. Is it possible for you to see someone else, a person who you go out to see so that you don’t have to see them when your husband is there? I know you feel desperate. The best way for me to help you is to strongly suggest you see a therapist who is not part of the HV you saw in the past.

      Warm regards to you Violetta. You take good care. Deborah.

  107. avatar Olga says:

    I was married during 20 years to a male whom I thought to be a severe PA man.
    I experienced myself a dysfunctional childhood and, while I’ve now been working on myself for 4 years, still suffer from co-dependency.
    I must confess I was happy for the 8 first years of my marriage. he was quite passive, would not been keen on intimate conversations, but was kind and a good provider.
    He had a dominant mother and sister and a very weak father, he would impose that we spent every Saturday lunch with them, which I did not like, but accepted it.
    We had 3 children in 5 years and he was a great father. When we married, we told ourselves we wanted a large family of 4-5 children.
    After I gave birth to my third child, his behaviour started changing.
    He suddenly blamed me for having a poor sex life, started withholding, sulking a lot and advised me that he would never have another child with me again.
    I started feeling very lonely, would try to talk to him, but he would reject me.
    I decided to have a child even if he did not agree to it, thinking he would change his mind when having the child. I thought he might sulk at the beginning, and the, everything would be back to normal.
    I was wrong.
    When I announced him I was pregnant, he told me our marriage might never be the same.
    From this day, he withheld all affection, and we never had sex again. No kiss, no touch, nothing.
    Several times, I begged him, he would answer he could not help it.
    Several times, we had a romantic dinner, he would be in a good mood and I would try to kiss him. He would reject him.
    During years, as I felt guilty, I accepted his treatment.
    Twice, I felt so depressed that I told him I could not bear it anymore and would leave. He would tell me that I was selfish and would destroy our children. Again I felt so guilty and would stay.
    Finally, 4 years ago, I finally was brave enough to leave him as I thought I would commit suicide otherwise. This decision was made after he offered me a ring for our 20 years marriage birthday. I asked him if it meant our marriage would change. He told me it was not within his control.
    I left him and this time, he did not try to make me stay. After I packed all my staff, I was crying and asked him if he thought we were right to split. He told me it was my decision so could not comment.
    For now 4 years, I’ve been trying to recover for 10 years of emotional abuse. I feel stronger but I am single and have not dated anyone.
    For 2 months though, I feel again very bad.
    I have just discovered that he has been dating a woman for 2 years now.
    He had told my children (grown up) to hide it to me and their young sister.
    My children now keep telling me that he so affectionate and in love with this woman – nothing to do with he behaviour he had with me.
    I feel so bad. On top, this way, he managed to create a gap between my children and me. And he belittles me.
    My question is as follows:
    Could it be that finally he is not PA?
    Could it be that he was PA only with me?
    When I left him, I did not know what PA meant. Only recently I discovered this trait and felt relieved that finally I was not to blame.
    But his behaviour with his new girlfriend make me doubt.
    What do you think?
    Many thanks

  108. avatar kim says:

    WOW! I have been reading articles for 8 months and your article just hit like a brick against my head. I have been married for 39 years to my husband and have been trying to figure out why i have stayed married to him so long. I have put up with his procrastination (I will get around to it), his hostile humor (just like everyone in his family), doing things in a halfway manner instead of doing it right the first time, lying about big and little things, always forgetting my birthday,losing everything and blamong me a when he can’t find it (surely I moved it, out it away or did something with it), telling people he doesn’t mind doing something and then complaining incessantly until I do it, saying whatever when I try to have a discussion with him or walking away or staring blankly at me or calling me crazy and twirling his finger in front of his ear and NEVER EVER taking any responsibility for anything. His father had a terrible temper and his mother was a mouse who never let the children express any emotion or opinion for fear that it would upset dad. My husband has very little self confidence and has never had any ambition at work and in fact has worked for 11 years with only one .75 percent raise while the costs of his benefits have more than doubled. The company he works for has been sold several times, gone bankruptcy twice (he lost all but 1 percent of his pension and profit sharing during this name change, worked doing a particular job for the same pay and never fought to have his job title changed thru human resources so the next time the company sold he came onboard at the lower paying job title (his response-well what can he do?) he was promised a large bonus every year for the past 4 years thru the last company. But hasn’t gotten one bonus and now is being told too bad the company is being sold again. His response? Oh well better luck next time. My husband also says hurtful and unforgiveable things. About me when I try to talk to him about this problem. Usually I end up apologizing for provoking him but not the last time. The things he said are unforgiveable and I can’t seem to let it go this time. I have tried to get him to go to counseling but he says I am the one with the problem not him. I may end going by myself so maybe I can repair myself. I always wondered why he picked me and why I stayed with him but your article helped me understand that. My father was an abusive alcoholic and my mother was a manic depressive who never allowed us to ever tell anyone what went on at home. I was the happy, always smiling, cheerful, forgiving peace maker in the family. My mother was molest as a child by both my grandfather and grandfather so I understand some now why she married my father and put up with his abuse and why her children are the way they are. (All 3 of my siblings are drunks or drug addicts and I went to the other and am a teetotaler. WOW! Nobody realizes what exactly they are passing down to their kids. My husbands father and mother recently passed away and they left him out of the will because they didn’t like me so as you can imagine he has oh so nicely been making my life he’ll. Just wanted to say thanks for the enlightening article! Sincerely, Kim

  109. avatar kim says:

    Amazing. Here is my story to the world on how i got my love back and saved my marriage. I really love James so much that i can not even do without. I was married for 7years with 2kids and we lived happily until things started getting ugly and we had fight and argument almost every time… it got worse at a point that he filed for divorce… I tried my best to make him change his mind & stay with me because i love him with all my heart and didn’t want to lose him but everything just proved abortive… He moved out of the house and still went ahead to file for divorce… I pleaded, cried and tried everything but still nothing worked. The breakthrough came when someone introduced me to this wonderful man who eventually helped me out with spell… I have never done things like this before but just decided to try reluctantly because I was desperate and left with no choice… He did special prayers and used herbs… Within two days james called me and was sorry for all the emotional trauma he had cost me, moved back to the house and we continue to live happily, the kids are happy too and we are expecting our third child. I have introduced him to a lot of couples with problems across the world and they have had good news… Just thought I should spread my experience cause I strongly believe someone out there needs it. You can email DR Thomas via (drthomasherbalhome21@gmail. com) Don’t give up just yet, the different between “Ordinary” & “Extra-Ordinary” is the “Extra” so make extra effort to save your marriage/relationship if it’s truly worth it.

  110. avatar Layne says:

    Fascinating article and comments. i have been married for 6 years to a very PA woman, questions are met with questions, marriage she says was just to help me, for her blood family is everything but truly building one’s own with me (although we have a child) she has no interest in, constant silent treatment, butthurt with everything, manipulation to get me to overreact and finally get angry etc etc… Textbook PA… We have been separated for more than a year now but regularly things get difficult if I ever make a suggestion or have a question about my child, silent treatment ensues, hypersensitivity, glass ballerina behavior, being needlessly offended etc…
    Now, I know that nothing works and nothing ever will, talking about PA itself is equivalent to immediate silent treatment and simply makes things worse, as true PA does : doomed if you do, doomed if you don’t, there is no solution.
    So my question actually is, who am I, who are the people who get together with PA persons, you said in your article that they are kids who did not get any attention from parents and it is true, do we have a name or are we just the passive aggressive people’s partners? Are we the “codependents”? What are we? Do we have a label like PA people have? i am not interested in having a relationship with that woman or even in her getting better, I only want to start understanding why I attracted her and make sure it never happens again by healing myself. So who are we, us, the PA partners?

  111. avatar Bambi says:

    Best article yet! I gave me hope and made me cry; which must have hit a cord as to why I’m partnered up with a passive aggressive.
    I am just out of a 28 yr marriage with a NPD.
    Now a partner with PA. But this man has a heart!! And I really love him and want our relationship to grow and be healthy. I would love to have more from Deborah help heal our wounds together!

  112. avatar Christy says:

    Hi this is all new to me well PA prior to my second marriage I was physically abused and emotionally as well as verbally then I met my husband and for two and a half years he was amazing to me made me feel
    Unlike I have never felt before and now all of a sudden after four years he starts this behavior is that typical ….. to wait that long before this comes out in a person …?

  113. avatar Marie says:

    Your article stunned me. You described my husband. It’s past midnight and I’m sleepless in a hotel where I am trying to make sense oh my marriage and those exhausting cycles. Married 12 years and four children. Absolutely exhausted and defeated.
    I was the second oldest of a very large family with a mom who was depressed, narcissist, anorexic, distant and abusive. I became proactive and brave, and took charge of the household in my late teens. My husband comes from a Polynesian immigrant family, with a submissive white American mother, and an abusive, controlling, mean father.
    And of course, we fell in love.
    When we got engaged, I blamed his distancing and selfishness on his difficult job training ( medical). Everyone else was telling me what a great guy he was. I did noticed how he would get kicked out of his soccer games because of aggression.
    On our wedding day, I got blamed for some minor issues, given the silence treatment, for ed to have sex on the floor, and told I was annoying. Weeks followed and he decided I was now his enemy. He told me he wasn’t interested in getting to know me more at this point and that
    I didn’t have the best personality. Meanwhile, we had great sex and lots of sweet moments. I couldn’t bring up any isssues without his anger flying. I soon was told that I was crazy and needed therapy. I was confused but brave. Years passed, children came, his manipulation increased, arguments too, physical violence, and isolation for me. I came to believe I was insane and started therapy. I never told anyone about the situation because who would believe me? He was so charming and smart, so capable of communicating with whomever wasn’t family. I realized all his silence and stonewalling were due to his fear of emotional intimacy and his very low self esteem. I learned to take charge of everything in the house, except for finances: he has been secretive and absolutely controlling of money. Yet, he lost his wallet countless times, and his keys, and coats. There isn’t one area in our life that hasn’t been the target of his childish demanding behavior. If he doesn’t get sex regularly, he will not sleep, leave the bedroom, slam the door and come back yelling at me for not guessing he needed sex. The argument is demanding and violent and I end up crying of guilt and pain. When he has sex, he says he is so lucky. Our children have grown in a loud and angry environment. My husband is so demanding with them and berates them all day. When he is mad, he repeats the same sentence to them 10 to 15 times in a row, just as he does in our arguments. He drives me insane. And yet, he is very present for them and doing his best.
    I don’t have much of a say in their schedule or activities, or on so many other aspects of child rearing. He tells me that because I’m a woman and a foreigner, I don’t understand what matters most in an American boys life. I had to pick my increasing list of battles, and I am feel that I have no voice and am not allowed to fully be their mother. Well, this is just a glimpse of the never ending contradictions and issues in our family. We have been briefly to therapy together, and I have been to therapy now ever since I got married. I am very stressed and have acquired some of his traits. I have lost any self esteem. I love him, but he is destroying my children’s emotional health. I have been sitting and watching them fade and struggle. I am also loosing my mind and health. I am afraid of his anger if I want to separate. He will probably be the victim and turn the children against me. The less I dance his dance, the more work I have to do. The moment I express my feelings, the more I either get childish dramas, bullied, or temporary empty promises. What is better for my children?
    A disfunctional father and marriage? An ugly divorce but healthy mother?

    • avatar Fran says:

      Is your health and life worth it? Yes it is. Go through the ugly divorce and be a healthy mother. Stop the abuse cycle with your children. You’re children will applaud and admire you. You will give them back their identity and self esteem. Isn’t that what you want as a mother?

      It is hard to take the first step, but by each day you will become stronger and stronger. Take it one day at a time no matter how difficult.

      • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

        Hi Fran. It does take courage. But many persons do regret that they did not leave. Thanks for your good comment.

  114. avatar Brooke says:

    Wow…I wish that I’d stumbled across this article about a year ago. There is a distinct lack of such clear, helpful information on the ‘net with regards to PA behaviors. In a nutshell, most articles offer similar advice, but this both explains the behavior and the fix wonderfully!

  115. avatar Amy says:

    I have been married to my PA husband for 39 years. He had many issues through out the years beginning with alcoholism. He stopped drinking about seven years into our marriage but then took a slow decent into compulsive gambling. Entertwined through out the years I clearly noticed that he procrastinated and was forgetful regarding his obligations. Fortunately I have maintained decent self esteem but he has always been very quick to find fault with most everything I do and of course enjoys putting me on the spot in front of others. He never physically hurt me and rarely did he ever yell at me. He worked productively for almost 40 years until he had a catastrophic illness earlier this year. He could have continued to work after his recovery according to his physician but he chose retirement. It’s been a very unfortunate life with him because he gambled away all of his retirement money and the only income we have for the most part is his social security. We even have to buy our own health insurance so this is also a financial drain. I am also a college graduate and I worked in my profession for over 25 years but it required lengthy travel so I decided to take my retirement money and buy a business. The business is working out okay but now he is slowly involving himself in it along with our daughter. To my horror, I have discovered that my daughter is almost identical to her father! I know she is also PA and what is even more concerning is that she and my husband team up with one another and I am becoming both of their targets. Examples: We will agree on an issue that we need to resolve with my employees but when we take it a step further and have a staff meeting with the employees then suddenly they both both disagree with me. And, of course this happens smack dab in front of the staff and I am left standing alone. Another example is how they are very quick to team up with each other. It is easy to tell that they take great joy in explaining why they are correct and I am not. I know I am not always correct — who is? However, I know exactly what I am up against with the two of them. My daughter does a very poor job at work yet my husband sticks up for her. In turn, I end up doing her work and I am literally falling a part both mentally and physically while he skates off with her being the “good daddy.” One could say, ‘Why did you buy a business and allow them to become part of it?’ First, I honestly did not see my daughters true personality until after I bought it. It’s enlightening what you learn about someone when you suddenly work with them on a daily basis! As for my husband, I fell for the line that he said he would stay out of my new business but as mentioned, he has now edged his way in. At one point I told him to stay out but then my duaghter played her undermining game of hostility towards me and brought him back into my business. My question is this: I am trying to decide if I should fire them both and risk severing both relationships for good? I am not too concerned about damanging my future relationship with my husband because we really don’t have one anymore but my concern is my daughter. She is the mother of my granddaughter and I can easily predict that she may quite possibly not allow me to see my granddaughter anymore. Or, should I simply sell my business and ease out and every body could go their own way?

  116. avatar Anna Q. says:

    This is a fantastic article. Thank you so much for sharing it.

  117. avatar Fran says:

    This article is excellent. I wish I read it 20 years ago in the early years of my marriage. It has been 5 years since I divorced my PA husband. This article is a mini-series of my relationship with my ex. One of the comments I made to my mom and best friend about my ex- before I filed for divorce was that he was “sucking the life out of me.” And he was -physically and emotionally. We did go through therapy both independently and sessions together. He stopped seeing his therapist and made the same comment as one of the other readers that his therapist was against him and on my side. My only concern now is that our daughter is now the target of his PA behavior. I have already started her in therapy with my therapist. I do not want him to blame me for ‘poisoning’ her. This doctor knows her father’s background, behavior and has met him. I do not want her father to have any effect on her self esteem or emotional development. I try to be very supportive and listen to her but not make any statements about her dad. It is sad, but her father will never go back to therapy to be treated for this debilitating neurotic behavior and everyone who interacts with him is affected.

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hi again. Thank you for sharing with me and others your experience. It helps so many people to see themselves here and to gain courage either to cope or to leave. Warm regards Deborah

  118. avatar Karine says:

    Hi Dr.

    I hope I will receive some advice from you. I am a divorced mother of two. My daughter is about to get married and my son is still living with me because of finances. I met a christian gentleman online about a year and half ago and we have been going out. When we are together, we are very affectionate and loving towards one another and by the way he is also divorced with two children who are both married.
    There have been at least 5 major occasions of frustration that I am beginning to think this gentleman is a passive aggressive personality.
    I need help dealing with him efficiently. We live two hours away from one another, near our work places. His actions deliberately makes our relationship insecure. For example, he was working in San Francisco for the last month and was sent back to work from his local work place, this weekend.

    He called on Thursday suggesting that he comes down to see me then go home because he needs to be at a different location on Monday morning, he also suggested “shall I go home and see to my chores then come see you on Sunday?!. I suggested that he goes home to see to his chores and give me a chance to see my responsibilities then come down on Sunday.

    He surprised me about working yesterday from 2 – 12 midnight around 12.30 in the afternoon and this morning after saying good morning around 10 am he surprises me about working today not to mention the length I went into carring out my responsibilities so that we could have fun together. I even made his favorite dish and I thought I would surprise him.
    He sent me a text saying, good morning, “I lust, I mean I love you”. I was hurt that he is indirectly telling me that he feels no love towards me after being away for such a long time, granted, he did purchase a ticket for me to visit him in SF for 5 days. I sent him exact same message and I added, “now go to work”, he texted, “now send me a sexy picture of yourself” and of course, that is insulting because when we first met he was talking about marriage and in my opinion, you don’t ask for a sexy picture of the one you would want to marry one day.
    I didn’t play into his game, I texted “sorry, rushing, meeting a friend for lunch”.
    I am frustrated with this relationship, I don’t really need another person’s baggage. He messed up my plans of having my family over for Thanksgiving and we ended up alone in a Chinese restaurant in SF. He his now telling me that he won’t be around for xmas. Throughout our relationship, I’ve often felt that he was playing the jerk so I would dump him and he has actually mentioned it a couple of times that he’s waiting for my to dump him. Please advise. What do I do with this relationship.

  119. avatar Josh says:


    I am definitely a passive aggressive partner and I am driving my partner insane. We have been together for 5 years and she is on her way out. Your article has been the best I have read yet and I need help to change this cycle. We are both seeing therapists and most of my sessions are working on my self esteem issues and how to be in touch with my emotions. I have only recently become truly aware of my passive aggressive tendencies and though I am trying to find ways to remedy this I continue to do things that hurt my partner. She has agreed to work with me on our relationship for at least a couple more months to a year but I am still consistantly hurting her and I am afraid it won’t last that long. Do you have any suggestions about what I should specifically work on in therapy as well as with my partner? You seem to have described me perfectly as well as our dynamic. Any help you can offer would be thoroughly appreciated. thank you.

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Josh. First it takes courage to look at aspects of ourselves that are problematic to us and our relationships. In therapy focus on first identifying how you truly feel and expressing it clearly. As you know PA behavior arises from a fear of speaking our truth as we fear others won’t like us or even leave us. The more you see your fears are unfounded, the less you will rely on PA behaviors to express difference or dissatisfaction. Warm regards Josh. Best of luck to you


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