If your man says things that are subtly insulting and hurtful but then acts like you’re the one who is overreacting, it can be crazy making.
At times you wonder how you can ever win when he mopes around and won’t say what’s wrong. If all you’re getting is the silent treatment, how do you respond to that? It’s frustrating and lonely to live that way.
And what about when he agrees to do things that you’ve asked him to do but doesn’t do them? How do you bring up that the light in the basement is still broken–even though he’s been promising to fix it for three weeks–without causing a fight?
I used to wonder myself and feel hopeless that there was anything I could do about my husband’s poor behavior. But now I have a go-to that changes everything.
This is what works wonders with a passive-aggressive husband:
1. Identify Your Spouse-Fulfilling Prophecy
Early in my marriage, I had no idea why my husband was using all his might not to do the things he knew I thought he should do, but I was very curious!
He’d say he was going to do the dishes but never actually moved a muscle to do them. Instead he watched hours of TV.
When I asked about the dishes as politely as I could, he’d growl, “I just can’t win with you!”
I was thinking, “Um, sure you could if you would just do what you said you were going to do instead of yelling at me!”
I came across the term “passive-aggressive” somewhere, and it totally fit my experience of him. I felt validation about identifying my husband as someone who was passive-aggressive–like that explained a lot.
I even said things like, “Aren’t we being passive-aggressive today.”
Not very charming, I know. But somehow I thought that if I pointed out what he was doing, it would make him aware and he’d be so motivated to change that he would be more considerate and tender as a result.
That never worked, unfortunately. Not once!
Even as I write that explanation, it seems like flimsy reasoning on my part. Who improves because their wife criticizes them like that? And when I was saying that, how was I any less passive-aggressive than I was accusing him of being?
Still, I didn’t know what else to do with my prized diagnosis, so I just kept on saying it to him, like a Spouse-Fulfilling Prophecy (SFP): “You’re so passive-aggressive!” And guess what I continued to experience?
That’s right–I noticed he was even more passive-aggressive than ever. He and the TV were constant companions, and the icy silence left a chill in the air.
Of course, that’s what I was focused on, and what you focus on increases. I kept telling him how passive-aggressive he was, so that’s how he kept showing up for me.
It’s amazing how powerful I am that way.
Here’s how I got myself out of that mess, thankfully.
2. Make a New SFP
Once I realized how much influence I had on how my husband showed up, I started choosing my words more carefully.
Instead of affirming that he was passive-aggressive, I began saying things that matched the experience I wanted to have, like, “You are always doing things to make me happy.”
Where did I find the chutzpah to say something like that when I felt he didn’t care about my happiness? After all, no amount of begging and pleading was motivating him to do housework or even have a civil conversation with me!
It was just an experiment at first. What could it hurt to change up my approach? I said it to myself and I said it to him.
Not only was he less defensive when I stopped insulting him by calling him “passive-aggressive,” he acted like I finally got him. He looked relieved, and he nodded in agreement with my new Spouse-Fulfilling Prophecy.
And while I may have been shaking the first few times I said it because it felt like such a stretch and I thought he might see that I was lying, my new SFP had an unexpected consequence: It changed the way I saw my husband.
I started to see everything he was doing to make me happy: taking out the trash, putting the cans on the curb every week, deferring to the movie or show I wanted to see, going to get the car in the rain while I stayed dry.
Now I had evidence that what I was saying was actually true. Instead of feeling uncomfortable, I was feeling elated that I had more power than I realized to have the experience of my husband that I wanted to have.
All I had to do was use the right SFP!
3. Say It to Yourself and to Him
You can make your own SFP by taking your complaint about your partner and turning it upside down. What is it you would have if he weren’t passive-aggressive? Or you can fill in the blank with your own pain point if your husband isn’t passive-aggressive. What is the hidden desire in your complaint?
That he’s so gentle and tender? That he’s so lighthearted? So patient and understanding?
Sometimes women struggle to come up with an SFP because it seems so far from “The Truth.”
The thing about “The Truth” is that it’s subjective based on who’s observing it. In physics, simply observing a situation changes that situation, and every researcher has a bias.
If you start with the bias that your husband is an insensitive jerk, you’ll likely experience that. If you start with the bias that he’s a sweet, loving guy, you’ll likely experience that.
You might be thinking that I don’t get it at all because my husband wasn’t really passive-aggressive like yours is.
Could be. I don’t know your husband. Only you know if changing your SFP fits for you.
But what if using a positive Spouse-Fulfilling Prophecy caused a miracle in your house like it did in mine?
You’ll never know until you try it.
What will your new SFP be? Post yours in the comments below.