NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Psychotherapy Blog: How to Recognize Passive Aggressive Behavior in Your Relationship

Learning to recognize passive aggressive behavior in your relationship is the start of not only becoming aware of this behavior but also the first stage in changing it before it ruins your relationship.

How to Recognize Passive Aggressive Behavior in Your Relationship

Whether you're the one who is being passive aggressive or it's your partner/spouse, engaging in this behavior usually compounds whatever problems there are in the relationship.

What is Passive Aggressive Behavior?
Passive aggressive behavior is a passive resistance to whatever is going on between you and your partner.  It can be expressed in a variety of habitual behavior including:
  • procrastination
  • forgetfulness
  • obstructive resistance
  • stubbornness
  • irritability
  • caustic comments
  • petty complaints
  • vacillation/ambivalence
  • grumbling
  • sabotaging behavior
  • hostile comments
  • veiled hostile comments
  • resentfulness
  • sarcasm
  • belittling comments
  • covert belittling
Anyone can have a bad day and engage in one or more of the behaviors above, so please note that I have italicized the word "habitual" with regard to the list of behaviors.

The following scenario, which is a fictionalized account of passive aggressive behavior in a relationship, illustrates how this behavior can play out in a relationship:

Sue and Mark:
Sue and Mark had been married for 10 years.  They tended to argue whenever Sue asked Mark to do something that he really didn't want to do but that he would not directly address.  Instead, he would engage in passive aggressive behavior.

How to Recognize Passive Aggressive Behavior in Your Relationship

They considered couples counseling for several years because they would argue about Mark's passive aggressive behavior.  But their last argument, when Mark's procrastination in taking care of a simple plumbing job at home worsened the problem and resulted in an expensive plumbing bill with a licensed plumber, was the last straw.  After talking it over, Sue made the appointment for them to get help in couples counseling.

Sue arrived first and she waited in the reception area for Mark to arrive.  About five minutes before the session was scheduled to start, Mark called her to let her know that he took a nap, forgot to set the alarm, and now there would be no way for him to get to the appointment before the appointment time was over.  They would have to reschedule.

Sue was fuming as she rescheduled the appointment and said, "This is just one example of many of Mark's passive aggressive behavior."

During the second scheduled appointment, Mark arrived on time, but he forgot his checkbook, so he was unable to write a check for the session.  Once again, Sue was fuming because they had agreed in advance that Mark would bring his checkbook and pay for this session.  Instead, they spent several minutes at the end of the session going through whatever cash they had so they could pay for the session.

A future article will continue will illustrate how this problem can be overcome in couples counseling.

Getting Help
People who engage in passive aggressive behavior are often unaware that they are doing this, especially if it is longstanding, ingrained behavior, but they can learn to recognize the signs of this behavior and they can also learn to change it.

A licensed mental health practitioner, who has expertise in this area, can help you to determine if individual or couples therapy is best.

If the scenario above is familiar to you, you owe it to yourself, your partner and your relationship to get help.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist who works with individuals and couples.

I have helped many individuals and couples to change negative ways of interacting so they could have happier relationships.

To find out more about me, visit my website:  Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.