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Till death do you part is a joyous prospect in the beginning—and who doesn't enjoy sharing fun activities with their spouse? There is seemingly endless time for snuggling during a movie at home, exploring new places during vacations, or eventually bonding over the birth of a child, just to name a few.
But it's important to remember that marriage isn’t all fun and games. It’s riddled with conflict, and at no time do we want to feel more connected and cared for than during conflict with our spouse. And that is something that those married to a passive-aggressive spouse don’t experience.
What Is Passive Aggression?
Passive aggression is behavior that is indirectly aggressive rather than directly aggressive. Passive-aggressive people regularly exhibit resistance to requests or demands from family and other individuals often by procrastinating, expressing sullenness, or acting stubborn.
People who display passive-aggressive behavior have a hard time expressing their feelings verbally. This results in the suppression of any negative emotions they may experience. Instead of expressing negative emotions verbally, they project those feelings in their behaviors toward a spouse.
Manifestations of Passive-Aggression
Passive-aggressive behavior won’t manifest in a punch to the face, but covert anger can cause you to feel as if you’ve been kicked in the gut. People who exhibit this behavior show their anger by withholding something they know you want, through procrastination, stubbornness, and obstructionism.
You may not have witnessed this behavior before marriage because people with passive aggression have a tendency to agree with and comply to everything they feel you want. When they reach a point where they no longer want to go along with the status quo that has been set over the years, they will become defiant in their own non-confrontational way. That is when the disconnection and loss of emotional intimacy is most felt by those married to a passive-aggressive spouse.
Marriage is a contract, one you enter into expecting to get your needs met during the good times and bad. Passive-aggressive people are fairly handy at showing up and meeting needs during good times, but not so much during the bad times.
Their fear of conflict coupled with their fear of forming emotional connections keeps them from being a fully engaged marital partner. Attempts to engage with a partner who suffers from this may result in a sense of emotional abandonment.
For a marriage to succeed, it requires intimacy, self-sacrifice, and emotional investment on the part of both spouses. The passive-aggressive spouse is child-like in their emotional connection with anyone. For that reason, they love to play but also pout when they feel you are expecting more than they are willing to give.
They can form an intimate connection, up to a certain point. They can be self-sacrificing, within limits. They can make an emotional investment, to a degree. If a spouse always stops short of giving what you need, especially during times of conflict, a marriage can be very lonely.
4 Ways a Passive Aggressive Spouse Promotes Loneliness During Conflict
- During an argument, a passive-aggressive person will claim that their partner is overreacting or too aggressive. In the heat of the moment, it is completely normal, healthy even, to be expressive and show emotions. These are traits that they themselves cannot understand, much less demonstrate. They may not see the exercise as a way to solve a problem—only to deepen one; some may even take it as a personal attack. Their refusal to engage in conflict leaves their spouse feeling lonely and responsible for all the marital problems.
- The more expressive and emotional their partner becomes, the calmer and more logical the passive-aggressive person appears to become. This is a mechanism to once again avoid conflict—the "logic" they employ is relative to the situation and does not reflect any mature emotional intelligence. As a result, conflicts don't get resolved, and their spouse is left reeling in negative emotions.
- The more detached a passive-aggressive person appears to be during conflict, the more anxiety will manifest in their partner over the perceived emotional investment into their relationship. Spouses should be the most important people in each other's lives, able to navigate marital conflict and connect emotionally. A passive-aggressive spouse is capable of making a connection but only up to a certain point. When they begin to feel unsafe with their own skewed emotions, they disconnect and leave their partner with doubt in themselves and the relationship.
- The passive-aggressive person retreats completely and their partner is left to pick up the pieces. Nothing ever gets resolved, and such behavior sends a clear message that they are unwilling to meet halfway in the marriage. This feeling for the spouse is comparable to rejection, but the passive-aggressive partner doesn’t see it that way. They still love their partner, but will forget what that means when they begin to feel threatened, thus starting the chain reaction of conflict-avoidance, emotional distance, and long-term relationship woes.
There is a twisted logic at play behind someone's need to remain calm and logical during times of conflict. They fear rejection, and by engaging and sharing their emotions during conflict, they feel this will trigger a rejection by someone they love. The thought of anyone being upset with them is unsettling, and when that person is their betrothed, they see it as emotional destruction.
The more they refuse to engage, the more effort their partner puts into their interactions together. In their mind, the more you try, the more you admire and love them, and so they will not see this situation as negative. Unfortunately, this leads to an emotional disconnect that cannot be bridged until their passive-aggressive behavior is addressed and amended.
Marriage to someone with passive-aggressive tendencies can cause you to question your self-worth and your right to someone caring about your feelings. Whether they realize it or not, they stifle you and your needs in favor of getting their needs met.