We all have frustrations periodically with our spouse, but what is the best way to deal with. We hope you enjoy this article from Dr. Les and Leslie Parrott.
Imagine that you come home from work, and the garbage can is full. Your spouse is milling around the kitchen, slamming drawers and pot lids. As you attempt to wind down from the work day, you can’t help but notice that they’re really making a lot of noise. So, you head into the kitchen to find out what’s going on.
“Honey, are you all right?”
“I’m fine,” they say…but the dishes keep rattling.
You’re distinctly aware that something isn’t right, but you can’t put your finger on what, exactly, it is. And if they won’t tell you what’s happening, how are you going to help solve the problem? You suspect they might want you to take out the trash, but it would be nice if they’d just say so.
If this scenario sounds familiar, your spouse might be passive-aggressive. So what does that look like?
Passive aggression comes in many forms, but it’s important to be able to identify, particularly in your closest relationships. Generally speaking, it’s a way for someone to express resentment without actually addressing and resolving the issue at hand.
Passive-aggressive behavior is always harmful, but it’s especially hurtful when it happens between spouses. If you’re not sure what kinds of behavior constitute passive aggression, here are some examples:
A spouse who behaves passive-aggressively causes their husband or wife to walk on eggshells all the time. If you find yourself trying to keep your spouse happy to avoid these behaviors, you might be dealing with passive aggression.
It’s possible there’s a reason behind your spouse’s passive-aggressive behavior…and it likely has nothing to do with you. In some cases, it can be helpful to understand why this behavior is occurring.
Don’t try to rationalize or justify your spouse’s behavior, even after you understand where it might be coming from. Regardless of the reasons, passive aggressive behavior is harmful to both you and your spouse.
In some cases, there are loving ways to help your spouse raise their self-awareness and begin to address why they may be behaving this way. Addressing the behavior could also give you a chance to find out what’s bothering them, so that maybe you can tackle it together.
If you have the opportunity to gently confront your spouse, then do so. Opening communication about what has been happening could certainly help you both overcome the problem.
Be clear about your boundaries, and what behaviors are and are not acceptable to you. If you are able, talk with your spouse about the behavior patterns you’ve observed. Consider going to therapy with a licensed counselor if you can.
In many cases, though, we can’t stop others from being passive aggressive. If this sounds familiar, you will need to work to accept the situation for what it is. Then, decide on what your boundaries should be in order to navigate these interactions with your spouse in the future.
Take a look at the book, High Maintenance Relationships, as a starting point for navigating challenging relationship dynamics. If you’re creating boundaries to protect yourself from passive-aggressive behavior, then we recommend that you work with a therapist to help you put these in place.
Contact our MFL team for marriage support anytime.
Your Marriage, Family and Life Team