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How to reveal the power games in passive aggression

manipulative controlling behaviour

Wolf in Sheeps clothing – manipulative power games

The power games of passive aggressive relationships can sometimes make you forget the past.  Your partner has managed to get you back on side and you are in an almost blissful state of happiness.  Your relationship is back on track.  They cannot do enough for you and you want to believe it will last.  However, something inside you doesn’t allow you to relax.  It’s an intuitive voice based on past experiences and it will not go away.  It feels like your partner holds the power and YOUR behaviour might just change things.  What are the power games being played?


In general manipulative people have poor boundaries and can be relentless in getting what they want without consideration of others.  In relationships it is about control of the other.  It can include what you say, how you say it, who you see and what you wear.  It might be a subtle knowing of having to behave in a certain way to get the approval of your partner.  For example, if you know they don’t like your best friend (for whatever reason) you might not want to tell them that you’ve spoken or met up.  If you do then you will suffer in some way.  This behaviour stems from insecurity.  Do you tell them or are you quiet and secretive to keep peace?


Can involve belittling and putting you down by making little digs at you to play down what you do or the value of what you bring to the relationship.  You make the dinner (meat pie) that you know your partner likes.  He doesn’t eat it, walks out the room telling you that he had a proper meal for lunch.  He then says he told you last week he doesn’t want to eat red meat anymore.  You don’t recall this conversation at all.  If you question him about it he accuses you of not communicating properly and then he walks out the room and stops talking to you altogether.  Part of you is totally confused and the other blames yourself in some way for either not paying attention or not apologising.


Another form of manipulation often referred to in connection with narcissistic personality disorder.  The aim of gaslighting is to distort the truth in order to sow seeds of doubt in your memory or perception of how you remember an event.  When it is used persistently or in relation to certain circumstances it can begin to make you doubt yourself and your sanity.  It involves contradiction, denial and outright lies.  The term is taken from the 1938 play and 1944 film Gas Light.  The term is often used by psychologists and in clinical research.

All three of the above are emotionally abusive behaviours and very damaging to the soul.  If you recognise this happening within your relationship then power games are taking place.  Learn as much as you can to take control.  This will also involve you understanding your own behaviour and responses and the reasons you are in this situation.  Unfortunately we cannot change others, only ourselves.



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2 thoughts on “How to reveal the power games in passive aggression

  1. Diane

    I have been living in this situation for 43 years. I have reached my limit and have filed for divorce. My husband is completely bewildered because he is losing control.
    Thank you for your support. I am so looking forward to be liberated from all this. I will have a new life.

    1. Andrea Harrn Post author

      Dear Diane, thank you for your response. I am so happy to have supported you with this article. I am very interested in this too because I experienced it myself for many years. I needed to work it out because of its complexity which is leading to an online course on this subject for partners of PA’s – its nearly ready. It may be of interest to you, so you don’t repeat the patterns. Be free now and well done for making the decision.

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