Passive-aggressive people are frequently seen in estate litigation and family law matters.
People such as parents or partners who display passive-aggressive behavior have a hard time expressing their feelings verbally. This results in the suppression of any negative emotions they may experience. Instead of expressing negative emotions verbally, they project those feelings in their behaviors toward a spouse or child.
What Is Passive Aggression?
Passive aggression is behavior that is indirectly aggressive rather than directly aggressive. Passive-aggressive people regularly exhibit resistance to requests or demands from family and other individuals often by procrastinating, expressing sullenness, or acting stubborn.
Manifestations of Passive-Aggression
Passive-aggressive behavior won’t manifest in a punch to the face, but covert anger can cause you to feel as if you’ve been kicked in the gut. People who exhibit this behavior show their anger by withholding something they know you want, through procrastination, stubbornness, and obstructionism. “Passive-aggressive people act passive, but are covertly aggressive,”
When they reach a point where they no longer want to go along with the status quo that has been set over the years, they will become defiant in their own non-confrontational way. That is when the disconnection and loss of emotional intimacy is most felt by those married to a passive-aggressive spouse or parent.
Passive-aggressive people are pretty good at showing up and meeting needs during good times, but not so much during the bad times.
Their fear of conflict coupled with their fear of forming emotional connections keeps them from being a fully engaged partner. “Passive-aggressive people are generally codependent, and like codependents, suffer from shame and low self-esteem,”
They can form an intimate connection up to a certain point. They can be self-sacrificing within limits. They can make an emotional investment to a degree.
1. During an argument, a passive-aggressive person will claim that the other party is overreacting or too aggressive. In the heat of the moment, it is completely normal, healthy even, to be expressive and show emotions. These are traits that they themselves cannot understand, much less demonstrate. They may not see the exercise as a way to solve a problem—only to deepen one; some may even take it as a personal attack. Their refusal to engage in conflict leaves the other party feeling lonely and responsible for all the marital problems. “They don’t express their anger openly
2. The more expressive and emotional their partner/parent becomes, the calmer and more logical the passive-aggressive person appears to become. This is a mechanism to once again avoid conflict—the “logic” they employ is relative to the situation and does not reflect any mature emotional intelligence. .
3. The passive-aggressive person retreats completely and their partner/child is left to pick up the pieces. Nothing ever gets resolved, and such behavior sends a clear message that they are unwilling to meet halfway in the marriage. This feeling for the spouse or child is comparable to rejection, but the passive-aggressive partner/parent doesn’t see it that way. They still love their partner/parent , but will forget what that means when they begin to feel threatened, thus starting the chain reaction of conflict-avoidance, emotional distance, and long-term relationship woes.
There is a twisted logic at play behind someone’s need to remain calm and logical during times of conflict. They fear rejection, and by engaging and sharing their emotions during conflict, they feel this will trigger a rejection by someone they love. The thought of anyone being upset with them is unsettling, and when that person is their betrothed, they see it as emotional destruction.
The more they refuse to engage, the more effort their partner/child puts into their interactions together. In their mind, the more you try, the more you admire and love them, and so they will not see this situation as negative. Unfortunately, this leads to an emotional disconnect that cannot be bridged until their passive-aggressive behavior is addressed and amended.