By Nora Femenia
How does your passive aggressive husband need you?
A most frustrating aspect of living with a passive aggressive man is that he has perfected the art of not following through on his agreements and promises.
He takes on big projects but never finishes them, then tends to feel put upon or hostile if someone else tries to finish it. He then often ignores the constant reality of his irresponsibility and withdrawal, as perceived by you, his frustrated wife.
Does he see your frustration? Of course, not. He needs to ignore the evidence you present, while he distorts and lies to make his version of reality seem logical. Now, the question is…why is he doing all this theatre? What is the purpose of this warped communication destined to frustrate you, the person near to him?
We all have human needs; basically here we look at both spouses’ needs for love and connection…At the least, we all need to engage in some kind of relationship with others. The man with passive aggressive behavior is trying to satisfy his need for love and connection…but in his case he needs someone to be there, with him, as the object of his hidden hostility.
As he developed a toxic image of what a relationship was while growing up, he is now trying to duplicate the kind of relationship he learned before, this time with another grown up, with himself playing the controlling role. He needs to pick up a woman who will agree to be on the receiving end of his disowned anger, so he can play out the dynamics of his childhood…
He needs a good, intelligent adversary to provide him with expectations and demands he will then resist and warp, as he plays the interpersonal routine he learned with his first family.
He then needs to frustrate you a little bit every day, building up in you a pattern of frustration so high that eventually you get to express the anger that he has been repressing all his life.
How is he doing all this behavior?
It’s useful to know that inconsistency and ambiguity in language are his tools of choice. He often gives double messages and expects his partner to read his mind and meet his needs saying “She should have known how it is.”
He withholds information you need to make better decisions, so forcing you to wait for his yes or not decision, and thus you has to follow his hidden agenda. When confronted about his inability to live up to his promises, obligations or responsibilities, he uses silence to hide and protect himself from being accountable. If cornered, then he can resort to put the blame on his partner’s shoulders so he doesn’t have to take it and accuses you of having the problem: “Why are you so angry?”
His script is “Be here for me, but don’t come too close and if you do, expect that I will have my pleasure shooting down your needs or expectations.”
Why is he doing all this toxic linking?
He has needs of love and connection as anybody else, but due to his growing up inhibiting his anger, he can’t learn how to connect in a healthier way. At the same time he needs to be loved, he is managing strong fears of intimacy buried deep in his unconscious mind forcing him to set barriers up to prevent a deep emotional connection.
He craves and fear intimacy, so he needs to invite you, -his wife- to be near and then tune you out when you are near him by changing the subject. The closeness and intimacy provided by sex make him feel vulnerable again, by bringing forth his deepest fears of dependency of a woman. This inner battle ends up warping any healthy sense of being sexually potent and forcing him to withdraw sexually to feel safe again.
What is the deeper reason forcing him to avoid becoming emotionally involved?
Due to the wounds from his childhood, he is unable to trust that he is safe within a relationship. He fears revealing himself and can not share feelings with you. His refusal to express feelings keeps him from experiencing his own sense of insecurity and vulnerability. He often denies feelings like love, that if experienced might trap him into true connection with you, the human being at his side.
He pushes you away first so he won’t be rejected. As he doesn’t trust that you will love him as he is, he is feeling always some degree of frustration and uses this low-level hostility to create distance at home. He is at the time both a victim and a keeper of his hidden anger…a useful shield that blocks him from engaging in a true relationship.
FINALLY, why are you here in this passive aggressive relationship?
BECAUSE YOU NEED TO BE NEEDED! You grew up in a home where you were relegated and not appreciated…always in a little corner. When you wanted to be seen, someone stole the focus off you. So, here and now, with this difficult man, you believe that this is your opportunity to rescue him by offering him so much love he would not be able to resist.
This kind of relationship becomes a constant exercise on keeping you -his partner- at bay while occasionally seducing you to keep you somewhat interested. When you receive little bones of appreciation, you tend to confirm again that he is a prisoner of his shield but able and willing to come out and play with you. He needs you!!!
So, you keep waiting years and years for him to come out of his shell and play!
Even when he sets up experiences to get you to reject or deprive him, (so then he can blame you for his dissatisfaction), you prefer to play along. The alternative is to be lonely again, and that is something you reject; you are not able yet to be happy with your own company. So, is better to keep waiting on him. The sad truth is that he can’t accept or enjoy any of the intimacy and affection you bring. As long as you can not be happy with yourself, you are condemned to wait for him to love you. Tragically, this is the piece he can never give you, because it would threaten his security and make him vulnerable to love.
Accepting this fact can take you from feeling lonely and depressed in this marriage, to angry at him. The more he feels threatened and withdraws, the more you get angry. When you get angry, then he withdraws more and the unresolved conflict boomerangs. It’s a seesaw of search for connection and withdrawal.
Why is this seesaw between anger and depression functional to you? Do you still need to be needed by somebody else who can also frustrate you? Are you set up also to repeat a childhood scenario where people would entice you with affection only to reject you later? Is permanent frustration of your emotional needs your childhood script, needing someone like your passive aggressive husband to frustrate you here and now?
In repetitive scenes from this script, you can see your self-esteem reduced to zero as your frustration and anger turn to rage when you feel again unable to attract a direct commitment from a loving man. Needing to repeat your childhood story does not have to push you to a string of relationships where you get again frustrated. Perhaps raising your self-esteem would stop this cycle and make you less needy and more worthy of self- respect and appreciation by any partner.
Nora Femenia, Ph.D. is a well known coach, conflict solver and trainer, and CEO of Creative Conflict Resolutions, Inc. Her innovative and compassionate conflict solutions are offered as ebooks, articles and life-changing coaching sessions, from her blog:
http://www.creativeconflicts.com She has written postings about happy, healthy marriages and how to enhance marital happiness.