When it comes to identifying toxic love and its many traits, passive-aggressive behaviors don’t always seem to top the chart. This is not because they are not as dangerous as other toxic traits.
Quite the contrary, it is because they are not easy to spot. They hide under many innocent disguises—ambiguous comments, silences, and of course, innocent words laced with animosity.
Unlike a manic-depressive who alternates between two extremes, the passive-aggressive partner is two extremes at once. That is, they exhibit aggressive behaviors that hide behind the veil of passivity. You might wonder what the aim is. Is it to make themselves the victim, guilt trip you, and insult or hurt you by chipping at your patience bit by bit?
Being in a relationship with a passive-aggressive partner requires a lot of mental and emotional work. To make matters worse, this sort of relationship does not always end well and can leave you feeling worse about yourself than you did at the beginning.
To explain this point more expressly, I have highlighted thirteen ways passive-aggressive love can kill a relationship.
- 1 13 Ways The Passive Aggressive Love Can Kill A Relationship
- 1.1 1. Ambiguous statements
- 1.2 2. They counter/ obstruct suggestions
- 1.3 3. Unaddressed resentment
- 1.4 4. It is difficult to confront issues
- 1.5 5. Low self-esteem
- 1.6 6. Negative nancies
- 1.7 7. The inability to forgive
- 1.8 8. It requires you to be a mind reader
- 1.9 9. The ‘crazy-making’ behavior
- 1.10 10. They love their comfort zone
- 1.11 11. Constructive criticism is seen as a personal attack
- 1.12 12. All words and no actions
- 1.13 13. Plays the victim
- 2 FAQs
- 3 The Bottomline
13 Ways The Passive Aggressive Love Can Kill A Relationship
1. Ambiguous statements
For any relationship to work, partners must learn not to compromise on emotional honesty. Unfortunately, this is something a passive-aggressive partner avoids, and it isn’t because they can’t be emotionally honest with you. Instead, they deliberately construct their words in ways that their partners cannot easily decipher.
For instance, if you decided to get a new hairstyle, they might say something like, “I see you have gotten a new hairstyle, interesting,” with crossed arms and a downward gaze. This is a statement that could have easily ended with, “It looks nice” or “I prefer the former look.” Instead, they deliberately choose not to conclude the statement.
You, as the partner, might easily interpret this to mean that they do not like the look and feel insecure. However, when you react, he might suggest that you are upset for no reason, and he has said nothing wrong.
2. They counter/ obstruct suggestions
Another passive-aggressive personality trait that can kill a relationship is fault-seeking. You see, this man puts himself on a high pedestal and refuses to be seen as the wrong one.
For instance, if you suggest that you have more date nights to rekindle intimacy. Your passive-aggressive partner who doesn’t like the idea will not expressly say no to it. Instead, he will shut it down with different excuses, such as ‘There will be no one to watch the kids,’ or ‘we can’t afford it.’
Another example would be a situation where you have to decide on where to have dinner. Because the passive-aggressive man fears making the wrong decision, he allows you to make suggestions but counters them with different reasons they are not ideal.
He is intentionally coaxing you into choosing the restaurant he has in mind so that even if things don’t turn out well, you won’t blame him for the choice, and he can easily push the blame on you.
3. Unaddressed resentment
The passive-aggressive love is eager to please. As such, a man who loves this way will most likely struggle with expressing anger, dissatisfaction, or disappointment. He behaves this way because he fears losing you and fears that being honest with his feelings could lead to rejection.
When a person is not explicit about how they genuinely feel, it makes it difficult to know who they truly are, leading to suppressed feelings and unaddressed resentment. For instance, instead of speaking up and saying they do not enjoy going to the clubs, they stay mute about it, continue to go to the club with you, but spend the entire time there resenting you for making them go.
Over time, this can be detrimental to your relationship because there will be no emotional intimacy, and your partner might express anger in other ways to punish you.
4. It is difficult to confront issues
Even when it is not a confrontation, a dialogue with a passive-aggressive partner can be quite challenging. That’s because conflicts make him feel uncomfortable and overwhelm him emotionally.
They fail to understand that a person can be assertive without being aggressive. So, suppose you find yourself in a situation where you have to set boundaries over your own body, he will likely respond with a passive-aggressive behavior like the silence treatment. He sees this as an attack. As such, it triggers his passive aggressiveness.
When you cannot set boundaries or confront your partner lovingly and delicately about issues, it can be frustrating and make you feel like you are dealing with a brick wall.
5. Low self-esteem
Low self-esteem exhibits itself in many ways, one of them being passive aggressiveness. You see, when a person has low self-esteem and is unable to communicate, it causes them to become resentful and passively aggressive.
For instance, if you have recently changed jobs to pursue your passion and start a business out of it, it could cause your partner to feel insecure about the financial security in the relationship. However, instead of expressing this in a non-confrontational way, he chooses to hold back because he feels admitting to it will make him look weak and inadequate.
His response to your behavior does not necessarily mean that you have made the wrong decision. Nevertheless, it will still cause you to question yourself and feel guilty for being selfish.
6. Negative nancies
No one plays the role of a negative Nancy better than a passive-aggressive man. This man will complain about anything and everything while doing little to nothing to change the situation. Such people are known to be fatalistic, contrary, and downright pessimistic.
A passive-aggressive person believes that nothing good lasts and expects the worst-case scenario to happen to them. Their low self-esteem causes them to assume that they do not deserve anything good, and as such, they tend to self-destruct.
For instance, if your relationship is going well, you might notice that your partner might start to distance himself for no reason. He probably feels that it is too good to be true.
7. The inability to forgive
When a passive-aggressive partner is upset, he suppresses this feeling instead of communicating it with his partner, trapping himself in a state of discomfort and misery. These negative emotions are unhealthy for any relationship to flourish because they influence all other feelings.
Because he chooses to indulge in hostility, it is difficult for him to forgive. Instead, he keeps scores, patiently waiting and plotting ways to make you pay. A relationship with this type of man can feel like being on a battlefield because your partner is constantly seeking ways to make you a loser.
8. It requires you to be a mind reader
Love is indeed selfless as such, and should not require any form of payback. Nevertheless, we won’t be sincere if we claim not to have expectations on how these loving gestures should be received and perhaps, reciprocated.
While this mindset is easy for the average mind and a self-confident person to accept, a passive-aggressive partner finds it somewhat puzzling because despite having his expectations, he never expresses them. Instead, he tries to be sweet, agreeable, and loving with hopes that you would somehow know and respond in the manner he wants.
The bottom line is, that while he is kind and sweet, his kindness comes at the price of meeting his expectations (which he doesn’t expressly tell you), and when you do not meet them, he gets upset, and you get punished. So if you can’t read his mind or body signs, the relationship will be torturous.
9. The ‘crazy-making’ behavior
Not everyone has the mental capacity to handle their partner’s passive-aggressive behavior because it is contradictory. On the one hand, he is kind and loving, but on the other hand, he undermines your achievements or even refuses to acknowledge them. Frankly put, the issue is not you; it is him.
He is behaving this way because he is afraid of you. You see, he wants you but doesn’t want to be attached to you. He feels his autonomy is threatened and chooses to fight it by being controlling. He puts more effort than needed to prove that he doesn’t depend on you.
10. They love their comfort zone
Passive-aggressive people always tend to love their comfort zone. They are scared of change, and any slight semblance of it can destabilize them. You will find that such people will rather be complacent than try to make their relationship work. This is because they do not have the emotional capacity or tools to deal with the complexities of relationships.
On the other hand, instead of complacency, they rely on what and how they have seen other people in their lives handle conflict, not minding if it is the best solution or not. This type of man relies on repeating old patterns but hopes they yield different results simply because they do not know how to step out of their comfort zone to try something new.
11. Constructive criticism is seen as a personal attack
As earlier explained, the passive-aggressive partner tends to avoid conflict and struggles with confrontations. This struggle often transcends to how he receives constructive criticisms, irrespective of the approach you take.
Because this man believes that the world is against him, he is easily triggered when things do not go his way, making it difficult to communicate or notify him of his shortcomings.
Conflict avoidance can damage a relationship because relationships should be between two imperfect people who push and support each other to become better versions of themselves through constructive criticism.
12. All words and no actions
When a passive-aggressive partner doesn’t want to do something, he never declines or says no. Instead, he agrees to do it but never sees it through. For instance, you might suggest that he accompanies you to an office dinner, and instead of being upfront about his reluctance to attend, he accepts then shows up late or shows up and doesn’t socialize.
Another way the passive-aggressive partner doesn’t fulfill his promises or keep to his word is through procrastination. By procrastinating, he is secretly hoping that you get fed up and change your mind. That way, if you claim to be upset, he will respond that he never said no; you just weren’t patient enough.
13. Plays the victim
When in a relationship, you and your partner should be able to hold each other accountable for bad behaviors. This is how you grow in love, develop a better understanding of each other, and enjoy an intimate connection. Unfortunately, this sort of bliss is unattainable with a passive-aggressive partner.
The passive-aggressive partner hates to be held accountable for their actions and will resort to playing the victim by all means necessary. For instance, he does not respond to your messages for two days but will get upset that you are angry and call you unreasonable for not understanding that he has a lot of work from his boss.
So he becomes the ‘innocent guy’ who can’t catch a break from his boss and now his girlfriend.
On the surface, passive-aggressive people look happy and accommodating, but they have a lot of unaddressed resentment on the inside. So while they may want love, being able to love selflessness will be impossible because they cannot handle the complexities of love.
Passive-aggressiveness negatively affects relationships because it creates mistrust between partners. It prevents partners from expressing their feelings, causing them to channel their resentment through other means and creating an environment that is not emotionally healthy.
Not all passive-aggressive people deliberately try to hurt people. For the most part, many of them do it unconsciously and unintentionally. So contrary to your opinion of them being cold-hearted and manipulative, they have feelings. However, they lack the tools to express and manage their feelings.
To know if your husband is passive-aggressive, you should ask yourself, ‘how does my partner handle anger?’ Does your partner identify with giving the silent treatment, suppressing his anger, or constantly countering your suggestions without providing any solutions? If yes to all these, then you have a passive-aggressive husband.
Passive-aggressive people have a knack for acting like everything is okay when they are falling apart inside. Their failure to speak up causes them to experience persistent unhappiness. The same way they deny and suppress emotions is the same way they will never get to address those problems. As such, they are not always happy people.
In the end, anger is a normal human emotion. Even the most emotionally stable individual will admit to being angry now and then, so you shouldn’t be with someone who is afraid to express their hurt feelings or punishes you for doing so.
I hope you enjoyed reading this list and can see the many ways in which passive aggressiveness can ruin a relationship. If yes, be sure to leave your thoughts behind, and don’t forget to share.
As hopeless romantic I struggled tremendously in my love life. After many years of searching, trial & error, and countless failed relationships, I finally found my Mr. Right. It wasn't an easy road, but one that has taught me an incredible amount about the workings of relationships between men and women, and this is what I hope to share through my writing on this blog.