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Passive Aggressive Relationships:
Who's Guilty?


he term "passive-aggressive" can be a clinical diagnosis, but in this article on passive aggressive relationships we'll use the term in a non-clinical sense, since most times you hear someone refer to passive aggressive relationships, it will be a woman grumbling about her man's supposed faults.

In a less uptight world, the term "passive-aggressive" would be an oxymoron since passiveness and aggressiveness are polar opposites.

passive aggressive relationships aren't fun for either party
Passive aggressive relationships
aren't fun for either party

So let's look at the layman's definition. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines "passive-aggressive" as meaning: "being, marked by, or displaying behavior characterized by the expression of negative feelings, resentment and aggression in an unassertive, passive way (as through procrastination and stubbornness)".

The expression of negative feelings? Resentment? Procrastination? Stubbornness? How are any of those "aggressive"? They're not … "aggression" would involve beating the snot out of someone you disagreed with, whose wallet you coveted or whom you just didn't like on general principles.

Rather, those negative feelings are normal, natural human emotions for any person who is placed in a situation where he or she feels they're being treated shabbily.

An analogy from
the corporate world

Suppose that your CEO announces a 40% pay cut for all non-executive employees of your company and not long after he receives a $60 million bonus for "effective cost-cutting".

  • Might you have one or two negative feeling about that upward "income redistribution"?
  • Is there a chance that you'd resent it?
  • Would you find it harder to generate enthusiasm for coming in early, working your tail off all day and then staying late for no extra overtime pay?

If you're human and still have a pulse, of course you would! You were designed that way. Does that mean those employees have passive aggressive relationships with their employer? It would be more accurate to just say that the employees had gotten dumped on and did not enjoy the experience.

“… she'll call white "black" and then act as if you're the bad guy …”

The same emotional dynamic comes into play in relationships. If your partner treated you poorly, she might mislabel your non-aggressive response (not a bad thing) as being an aggressive response (a bad thing). She'll call white "black" and then act as if you're the bad guy. And most people won't take women to task for trying to pull that scam lest she turn on them.

But using the layman's definition...

All male-female relationships
are passive aggressive relationships

That sort of so-called passive-aggressive behavior is not just a male practice … we all take exception to being mistreated, male or female. In fact, the single most extreme example of passive-aggressive behavior even has its own name: "the cold shoulder".

Everyone knows what that phrase means in a relationship setting. And everyone knows which of the two genders is the frequent practitioner of this devastating tactic: women.

Do women have the moral high ground when it comes to these kinds of relationships? Hardly. More often they're the worst offenders.

If you're looking to learn more about passive aggressive relationships, about fighting in relationships or other advice on improving your relationships

, continue to our main Relationships page.