Passive-aggressive behaviour is about expressing anger or hostility indirectly. This is done through withdrawing, procrastinating, stubbornness, talking behind others backs, or sulking. Passive-aggressive individuals repeatedly failing to do what is expected or required – often after saying they are for it and will do it.
The term is probably over used and misapplied, but it’s a huge problem in many marriages. In my experience, passive-aggressive behaviour is more common for husbands than for wives. I found a study that said men and women have similar levels of aggression, but men are more likely to express it physically or passive-aggressively. I also see a number of psychologists saying this kind of behaviour is more common in men than in women.
The question is why are so many husbands passive-aggressive? Do they come into marriage this way, or does it happen after marriage? Psychologists say passive-aggressive individuals were raised in homes that did not allow healthy expressions of anger. Anger was to be suppressed, swallowed, hidden. Lacking a way to honestly and openly vent anger, people find backhanded ways to attack and hurt those with whom they are angry.
Our society has become increasingly intolerant of traditional displays of male aggression and anger. Some of this is good; we should all be opposed to anyone beating women and children. However, anger is a valid emotion, and there need to be acceptable ways to express it. When we’re denied the right to express our anger, we find other ways of doing it.
Men in the church often have it worse than non-Christian men. We’re told Jesus was meek and never angry, and we are to follow His example. The problem of course is Jesus was not the spineless man some paint Him to be, and we are asking men to follow a false example.
Another factor in men becoming passive-aggressive is seeing it as the only alternative to being physically violent. Physical violence is an easy reaction for men because God made us this way. In the past, this reaction sometimes meant the difference between life and death for a man and his family. Today this is less likely to be the case, but we’re still wired this way. Most men are smart enough and mature enough to not react with violence when it’s not appropriate, but if we haven’t learned other ways of dealing with our aggressive feelings we have a problem. Passive-aggressive behaviour seems to be the most common fall back choice.
~ Paul – I’m XY, and my anger has scared me on occasion.
Up Next: Wednesday – Dealing With a Passive-Aggressive Husband
Resource: 10 Things Passive Aggressive People Say | Psychology Today