Your significant other can be stubborn, tends to avoid confrontation at all costs, and doesn't easily listen to your requests. Maybe they even withhold things that they know you need or play the victim in order to get the upper hand. Sound familiar? If so, you may be in a relationship with someone who is passive aggressive and you've likely found yourself wondering how they got to be this way.
What is Passive Aggression?
Passive aggressive behaviors are indirectly aggressive ones, rather than directly aggressive. The most common signs include refusing to discuss concerns openly and directly, avoiding responsibility, and being deliberately inefficient.
Everyone has unique stories, and there are sociological and biological issues at play in determining a person's personality. Both how a person was raised and their genetics can contribute to how their personality develops.
Ahead, read up on two possible causes of passive aggressive behavior. Just keep in mind that there is no "one size fits all" answer when it comes to personalities and there are likely multiple factors that influence anyone's behavior and traits.
Most everyone has stories of childhood trauma. While it isn’t necessarily this trauma that determines a person's personality or how they deal with life, how someone perceives trauma can contribute to their behaviors. This is why many people who suffered abuse as a child can go on to live fulfilling, successful lives. They do so because they don’t make their identity about what they went through.
A passive aggressive person likely developed patterns of behavior as a child when dealing with things they perceived as traumatic. These patterns may have been meant to help them cope with perceived trauma, but they can become problematic later in life.
For instance, people who act passive aggressive may have a deep-seated fear of abandonment. This fear could be a result of a childhood experience like having emotionally distant parents.
So, if you are in a relationship with someone with passive-aggressive tendencies, you might want to do some digging into their childhood and pay attention to their parents' or care-giver's behaviors.
Fear of Anger
Most people are taught at a young age that it's bad to express anger inappropriately. A person with passive-aggressive tendencies likely learned that expressing anger in any way is bad and that it's wrong for them to feel anger at all.
Because pretty much everyone learns how to express their feelings from their family members, the amount of love and security people are given and how anger is dealt with in their childhood can determine how they deal with those issues as adults.
Perhaps your S.O. grew up in a household that didn't allow anger or conflict. If someone's childhood was void of negative emotions like these, it could make it difficult for them to express their feelings even as an adult. And when people aren't able to express themselves, feelings can emerge in passive-aggressive ways.
People often become passive aggressive because they are taught in early childhood not to express their feelings or needs. Rather, they are taught to hide their true feelings. This is the crux of the issue. The key to moving forward is working out a way for your passive S.O. to safely and constructively express how they really feel and what they really want from you.