Andrea Harrn Counselling Services

7 things you can’t ignore: passive aggressive relationships


the silent treatment

Silent treatment – passive aggressive

Relationships that are passive aggressive are difficult to manoeuvre.  Here are 7 important things to know  and by the way the PA is probably having just as bad a time as you are.

1   Understand why its happening

People that are passive aggressive find it incredibly hard to talk about their emotions.  Rather than owning up to their feelings they behave in such a way that it is hard to confront them about what is really going on.

2   What the silent treatment is saying

When the PA feels emotionally vulnerable they shut down, hide and withdraw.  The shutters go down and the locks are engaged.  This is a defence mechanism* to a situation that is very hard to handle.  The problem with shutting down is the negative impact this has on others.  They are  cutting off a potential source of help, love and acceptance.  This flight response leaves the other person feeling responsible for solving the problem.

3    Check your reactions

Its important to understand your thoughts and  feelings.  What are the most common emotions you feel? Do you feel responsible for fixing things?  Do you blame yourself for creating this problem.  The difficulty of being in a relationship with a PA is the constant thought that things can change if the boat is rocked.  It’s normally you that is steering the boat.  What happens to your needs, your opinions and your voice?  What is going on inside you?

4   How you collude with it

This might be hard to accept but each and every time you hold back on communication because of fear of outcome you are colluding.  When you don’t challenge you are enabling the behaviour to continue.  If you are constantly propping up your PA partner, making excuses for them and not establishing rules, you are a BIG part of the problem.

5    Personal boundaries

Personal boundaries can either be explicit in terms of what is and is NOT acceptable behaviour.  Alternatively on an energetic level if can be the protected space around yourself which does not allow emotional abuse or manipulation to take hold of you, seep into your soul and drain your energy.  Do you have boundaries?  What are they?   How do you cope energetically when you are in the worst throes of PA abuse.

6   Codependency

A codependent response would be to control the PA by trying to heal the divide, even when that means taking the blame and apologising when they have NOT caused the problem.  This anxious type of holding on means the PA gets off “scott-free” without facing up to the issues and the CD can breathe a sigh of relief.  The rational side of the CD will know this is wrong but the emotional side will tell them its ok, it doesn’t matter.  The CD is diminishing their own sense of value by giving in until the next time.

7  Taking personal care

When the PA turns the tables on you, blames you, attacks you, ignores you and manipulates you how do you hold on to your sense of reality?  When you try to tell them how you feel you might as well talk to a wall, only a wall does not fight back.  Try asking them to repeat what they are saying and then check back with them.  Did you mean X or Y.  Tell them you want to understand them so they need to be more precise.  Let them know you have heard what they have said but you do not agree.  Then leave the room.  Do not try to persuade them otherwise.  Their twisted sense of reality in this moment will not allow them to be wrong.  Empathy is in short supply.

Go take a bubble bath, walk in the forest, meditate, visit a friend, watch a movie or whatever helps you to feel calm, relaxed and happy.  Please share other suggestions for self-care in the comments box below.

To break free of passive aggressive behaviour in your relationship .  CLICK HERE

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2 thoughts on “7 things you can’t ignore: passive aggressive relationships

  1. Samantha Selin

    Thank you so much for being so honest and writing these articles for us. My goodness who are you and where have you been my whole life? I wish I had learned about pa and cd sooner. My partner is the pa and I am the cd although we both have both characteristics, lucky us double winners.
    A few years ago I found you I wanted to do your course, I just couldn’t come up with the financial means to do so. I regret this.
    I chose to ask my husband to attend marriage Counceling which we did begin, I should of ditched that and done your course. He doesn’t know he’s passive aggressive butt I sure do. I didn’t know there was a word for it but I did know his actions where weird. Finally finding you describe his behaviors and seeing a word pa attached to it helped me understand what I was dealing with.
    I was so unhappy, had lost myself, and couldn’t stay above water. I was drowning in a pool of codependency and passive aggressive behaviors from the both of us. Our therapist said, “ I’ve never had a couple work so hard at trying to be great in a relationship “. She said she usually sees one or the other couple trying and the other not. She said you both are trying to like out do each other, not in a bad way but just sort of over the top way. I did not understand her at the time but now looking back I clearly see we are both very sick.
    We come from alcoholics, dysfunction and abandonment. Our issues run very deep and complex. I was working very dillegently on myself and trying to repair my past and crest healthy future . My husband was not.
    After 6 months in Councling I finally become honest enough with myself to ask for my !!!!!! Needs to be met. I asked for a separation.
    This devastated the both of us because we love each other deeply. We’ve been together for 15 years and have 3 incredible children 23,8&9. Asking for my needs to be met wasn’t something I did. Although much of our relationship revolved around me and the children. Jeremy list himself. Never doing for him. He had no friends, no hobbies, no life. He was consumed only with me and work and providing. He is a stand up man whom I love very very much . No abuse or neglect or hate or ugliness. Just two people lost in past issues that never were treated. I tried for years to “ make “ make him happy but just couldn’t. I got tired, I felt like a failure and not good enough. I was so co dependent I couldn’t ask for my needs to be met I lost my voice and become submissive.
    I finally realized I was becoming a shell of a woman. I was sad. I felt a huge!!!! Disconnect in my marriage.
    He complained of his life was just work , bills, and chores. He was obviously unhappy. I could not make him happy and finally!!!! Realized that’s not my job. No matter how good of a girl I am or how incredible of a wife I am not responsible for his happiness only he can be responsible for his happiness.
    Sometimes love just is not enough.
    We had and have no shortage of love.
    So it’s been 3 months now almost 4 since our separations. He is still crushed, fighting to get me back.
    I am happy working on myself, starting to build myself back into a healthy enough place to begin trying to repair some of my very deep issues . I am finally speaking my mind, asking for my needs and setting boundaries.
    I am thankful I found you then, and thankful to have found you know. One day I do want to take your course I think it would change my life and my Childrens lives.
    I will set a goal to try to save every little bit so I can do this for myself.
    But for today I’m feeling very blessed for you Andrea , thank you for sharing yourself with me and so many of us who don’t have a voice yet. With your help and wisdom I will find it once again. At least I’ve taken the first step. I am very determined and will never abandon me.
    Thank you for being the light at the end of my tunnel.
    God bless you and thank you for being you.
    With joy, love, and serenity

    1. Andrea Harrn Post author

      Samantha, thank you for your story. I’m sure it will inspire others that are also going through difficult times in their relationships. A lot of what I share also comes from first hand experience as well as from client experience. Much love, joy and serenity to you too. Andrea

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