Dr. Seth Meyers, Clinical Psychologist

Dr. Seth Meyers, Clinical Psychologist

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Passive-Aggressiveness: The Relationship Cancer

You probably don’t have to think long or hard to recall an experience in which someone said or did something passive-aggressive with you. In the couples therapy that I do in my practice, I have found that this communication tactic is one of the most risky to use in a romantic relationship. Why? I find that the one on the receiving end of the passive-aggressiveness – man or woman - often leaves the relationship if the problem persists.

What you really want in a relationship is someone to love you, trust you, and to be honest with you. When your partner is angry with you, you want to know he or she is angry, and you want to know why. You may not like what you hear, but I'm sure you would rather that your partner tell you directly than act out or shut you out in any number of ways.

When couples don’t handle conflicts in the moment in a healthy manner, the original problem snowballs and each member of the couple reverts even further to his or her own corner. What happens next? They stop talking to each other and avoid each other altogether.

If you are guilty of the occasional passive-aggressive tactic, you must give up this tactic completely. If you are in a relationship with someone who is guilty of this behavior, you must confront the situation head-on. Ask your partner to sit down with you and explain what’s bothering him or her, explain how the passive-aggressive behavior makes you feel, and ask that your partner not do it again. Give your partner some time to change the problem behavior, but if the behavior doesn’t change in the long run, it might be time to make a big decision.

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