By Nora Femenia
In the glow of a new love relationship, our expectations of bonding, sharing and connecting with each other are very high… and this high feeling corresponds with the satisfaction of our human need for love and connection.
We are all programmed by evolution to search and find another human being to develop attachment to. There is a need to have someone to depend on, a loved one who can offer reliable emotional connection and comfort. In this search, we involve everything we have: hormones, our emotions and our personal life planning, given the importance of finding a good life companion.
Only afterwards, through painful disconnection experiences, we can begin to get painfully familiar with the little gaps and misunderstandings that bring us back into the loneliness of our individual situation, back from the unity.
This is part of the process, the step by step learning to share life with another person, which becomes a permanent task with its own rewards.
What happens when the other person, the person you have chosen to be your safe emotional connection, is not understanding the nature of developing a relationship? What happens when the other person involves himself into a cocoon of isolation and secrecy? And gives you only empty responses?
You begin to feel little by little pushed into a painful loneliness… most women talk about being stuck in a “lonely marriage,” where they can’t connect with their spouse. Usually, they complain about long periods of silence, secrecy, and in general an attitude of not sharing anything personal with them.
Even being involved in a good fight, their spouses would appear to handle conflict in a calm, detached way, but then later react in an uncaring or wounding manner to a calm, non-conflict situation, seemingly “out of the blue.”
This response further damages the relationship because it causes confusion and pain to the receiving person and she cannot respond the way she needs to because she doesn’t know what provoked such a reaction to begin with. And requests for explanations go unanswered… or can provoke long silence periods.
Why is this response happening? why do some husbands distort normal communication in this way? Basically, to protect themselves from what they perceive as an intrusion or an attack by their wives, misinterpreting a request for a deeper connection as a threat.
Passive aggressive behavior often stems from a deep feeling of insecurity in a relationship and the expectancy of rejection from the most important person in one’s life. This perception of always being in an insecure attachment develops in early childhood, and persists as an unconscious expectation about relationships in general for the rest of our lives.
Attachments in general are seen as threatening inner balance, demanding impossible tradeoffs and exacting a high price… is a mostly negative expectation that transforms any little incident in a reason to withdraw emotionally and hide from the other side.
A person often develops this behavior as a defense mechanism, however ineffective, because needing to recover a sense of both protection and strength. Passive Aggression is protective because it shields the emotional world of the person in a silence cocoon, severing connections and preserving a sense of isolation.
It can be used not only as a protection from the assumed intrusions of the spouse, but also provides a way to retaliate against their real or perceived emotional threats. Long silences can drive the punished spouse crazy, without having a reason or a cause that can be improved or solved… simply, there is no explanation for the silence, but the excluded partner feels a terrible isolation and wonders why is the punishment delivered. Again, no explanation given, or a calm smile, or a “nothing is wrong” comment reinforces the isolation of the excluded partner.
Unfortunately, this type of behavior backfires because is most often used within close or loving relationships, those which present for this kind of immature partner with the biggest risk of loss, of hurt, of disappointment.
Because of this, passive aggression becomes a double edged sword because it turns the imaginary rejection risk into a reality as the hurt loved one eventually pulls away, reinforcing the fear and the secretive behavior in the person using passive aggression.
Still unsure about understanding what passive aggressive behavior is? Some more common terms that people use to describe someone using passive aggression are “backstabbing,” “under-handed,” or even “cruel.”
Do these words pop into your mind when thinking of your husband or loved one? Or do people use them to describe you? If so, it’s time to start learning more about why and how these behaviors happen, how to help someone with passive aggression, or get help yourself trying to survive a passive aggressive marriage.
Take steps towards helping your loved one, and helping yourself; do some reading, enlist the help of a relationship coach, get the support of your friends. There are resources available to you, and you need to understand this situation in order to be able to trust and love again.
Dr. Nora Femenia, CEO of Creative Conflict Resolutions, Inc teaches conflict courses at FloridaInternationalUniversity as well as offering personal coaching and training on the topic of Passive Aggression. To further understand passive aggressive behavior, see Dr. Femenia’s ebooks at http://norafemenia.com/books/how-to-spot-a-passive-aggressive-partner/