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Video:How to Confront Passive Aggressive Behavior

with Jane Fendelman

To get past passive aggressive behavior in a relationship, there has to be willingness to be patient with each other. Here are some tips for confronting and communicating with a passive aggressive partner.See Transcript

Transcript:How to Confront Passive Aggressive Behavior

Hi, I'm Jane Fendelman for About.com and today we're going to talk about how to confront passive aggressive behavior in a spouse.

Be Patient With a Passive Aggressive Partner

So, let's say you're dealing with a passive aggressive partner, don't ever say "calm down," that's throwing gasoline on the fire, it never works. So, sometimes this person doesn't even know it, but all they need is a hug and for you to pat their back and say "oh my gosh, that is just awful, I'm so sorry that happened," and that fixes it.

Be Calm When Discussing Things with Your Partner

Always remember, when you approach a passive aggressive mate, to come to them in a calm time, let them know you're going to listen to them. Let them know that you're only going to talk for ten minutes, and then you're going to listen to them, you're each going to get ten minutes.

Be Clear and Open with Your Mate

Always remember to tell them how you feel, know that a passive aggressive mate might be hyper-sensitive to things that sound like criticism, so you want to try to couch it in that you love them and that you want to be more connected with them, and that's your intention for coming to talk.

Make it very clear with each other that you have guidelines about how you're going to speak and listen to each other. And that will, therefore, make it feel safe for you each to communicate. 

Use These Four Stock Statements

In dealing with a mate, or a family member who is passive aggressive, I recommend the four stock statements. So let's say you come home, your spouse doesn't like your haircut, and they say "oh, did you go to the old barber?" That's a passive aggressive statement. What they really mean is "I hate your haircut." And you will respond with one of the stock statements, for example, "why do you ask?" the other statements are "you are entitled to your opinion," "I'm sorry you feel that way," and "that is one way of doing it." Also there's a fifth, that's not actually a statement but just silent, loving, eye contact, where you don't respond at all, but you send over a silent "I love you. I know you're in pain, and that's why you're acting in this passive aggressive way."

If You Need to Walk Away, Schedule a Time to Come Back

One of my rules when I'm working with couples is, if you do need to walk away and take some time to cool down you have to say when you're going to come back. You can't just walk away. Walking out on a mate is passive aggressive, and it's not okay, it's damaging to the relationship, just as barking and yelling at your mate is damaging to the relationships. So the rule is if you need to take a moment, or ten or fifteen minutes, or go and take a twenty minute drive in your car you have to say "I'm leaving now. I'm too upset. I love you, and I'll be back to talk about this in twenty minutes."

How Do You Know when It's a Lost Cause?

So, how do you know if it's a lost cause? If you have a passive aggressive mate and they really wont listen, and they're unwilling to communicate with you in a mature, grown-up, adult way that is solution oriented, then there is nothing you can do. There has to be willingness. If the willingness is there and you have the respect, and you have the love and the chemistry, you can get through anything and your difficulties will bring you closer together instead of splitting you.

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