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How Do You Know If Someone Has a Passive Aggressive Behaviour?

By Nora Femenia

This may come as a surprise to you, but PA behavior is pervasive. Given the fact that open aggression in interpersonal relations is now seen as a despicable fact, punished by law, more and more of men's aggression goes underground. As women claimed more of their own power, some of the men around began to feel unsettled by the role change. Even when they are some women which behave in this way, it is prevalent in men, who use it to protect themselves from the aspects of the relationship they can't deal with. At a wider level, this response has far reaching consequences on family and work life.

Let's look carefully at the sources of your unhappiness, to know if the difficulties are caused by PA behavior that you can neither anticipate nor manage well.

You fall in love and it looks like you will have a companion, someone to share wonderful moments together"when you begin perceiving that your companion is always upset, and making you the responsible party of all differences. When something happens, you don't have a conversation where both sides examine what happened and learn from it, taking responsibility for each one's behavior. No, you have a temper tantrum and a guilt inducing session, so strong that you can end up thinking that you are so stupid, so unable to make him/her happy, that you end up feeling as a miserable wreck, or worse.

If you are dealing with passive aggressive people without realizing what is going on, it can be crazy making. You feel dismissed, shut down, ignored but in a subtle enough way that you don't know how to process and react. Your judging brain is being slowly impaired".and diminished by this constant negative environment. You can be accommodating, pleasant and patient, but the situation does not improve; at some point, you explode. Over time, this can turn into a vicious cycle: passive aggressive behavior begets anger and finger-pointing, which in turn begets more passive-aggressive behavior. You find yourself screaming, slamming doors and feeling out of control, which was not part of your behavior before.

Ask yourself these questions:

* Does your partner become angry with you about things over which you have no control? Is he blaming and punishing you for things that happen to him/her that you had no part in?

* Is your partner frequently sullen, depressed and angry about small life circumstances, but ignore the big problems, thus never facing them?

* Do you receive complaints about you don't appreciating him/her enough, not being able to appreciate even when you do more than ever to please this person?

* Is he expressing a deep idea of being cursed by life, being left behind by others who are responsible for all his problems? Does she ever take any responsibility for what happens to her?

* Is your partner describing a world that is his own creation, impervious to whatever you can say to change that? If you offer a different, more positive construct of the world, of your common friends, family and work acquaintances, is it rejected as "fabrications" because what this person sees is the only "truth"?

OK, now, be brave: Does the person you are dealing with displays at least three of the above behaviors? If the answer is YES then you are probably dealing with a passive-aggressive person who never learned how to be in an equal, mature relationship and is reproducing unresolved personal pain from childhood into this new and presumably "more mature relationship.

If all of this translates later into any kind of abusive behavior, at least you can understand better what happens and how can you regain your integrity and self-respect.


1.- The main problem with passive aggressive behavior is first how to identify this interaction, because the same mind that needs to observe and evaluate (yours) is being confused by a barrage of mixed rational/emotional contradictory messages".

Then, we need to accept confusion and emotional pain as indicators of being in the presence of a relationship with a passive aggressive (PA) person. Is not that you are a less intelligent person; is that another person is confusing you!

2. - A person who displays PA traits is a person who never learnt how to accept and manage his anger, using twisted behavior to project his responsibility on others ("you made him angry") so blaming others for everything real or imaginary that happens to them. Deeply inside, they are emotionally unavailable and can't allow anybody to get very emotionally close, so displaying PA traits is a way to deflect the intensity of feelings, and recover the security of their inner isolation by backing off from emotional intimacy. DON"T feel rejected at a personal level.

3. - It is not related to YOU! You don't have to be a beauty queen, a very successful manager or a sex bombshell to make him happy: it has nothing to do with what you can offer him. Whatever you are, he is probably NOT relating to who you are, but reacting to his own image of what an intimate partner means for him. Getting to know what happens (you attracted a PA person to be your love relationship) has at least to give you this fact for sure: his reactions have nothing to do with you, because he would react in the same way to any one who threatens to enter into his private world. His fear is not of you, but of intimacy and yielding to emotional compromise with any woman.

UNDERSTANDING the three shortcuts you will be able to regain control of the interaction, know where you are when conflict appears and have more power to decide what is next in your life.

Do you want to regain the power to be happy in a good relationship?

How could you get more support?

There is a wealth of ideas, comments and support at

You can pre-register for the incoming book: "LIVING WITH A PASSIVE AGGRESSIVE LOVER, so you can receive your copy as soon as it gets printed; or you can share your experiences at the FORUM

Claim Today your FREE COACHING SESSION from Coach Nora at, and learn how to manage conflicts in a healthy way with a PA person"..

About The Author

Nora Femenia, Ph.D. is President of Creative Conflict Resolutions, based in Fort Lauderdale, which provides conflict resolutions skills training and personal coaching at all levels.


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