Why is My Husband Passive-Aggressive?

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 passive/aggressive game © Iqoncept | Dreamstime.com

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

Resource10 Things Passive Aggressive People Say | Psychology Today 

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5 Comments on “Why is My Husband Passive-Aggressive?

  1. Although Christ is not the “spineless man” some paint him to be, he does teach us to turn the other cheek and love our enemies.

    I think appropriate expression of anger comes more easily when we identify the underlying emotions. Anger is often a secondary emotion and as I understand, this is especially true for men as we teach them certain feelings are not allowed or masculine.

    I would bet many men resort to passive-aggressive behavior when they feel disrespected. Showing their hurt is not seen as masculine, and the hurt turns to anger. Showing their anger is not seen as appropriate. Not unlike the woman for whom enjoying sex is not allowed or good.

    Hubby wants wife to enjoy sex. Wife wants hubby to share emotions. Sigh…

    • Right, He is not just about beating people up! He is a mix of strength and compassion. I don’t think either alone is much good, nor do I think it’s attractive to women.
      I’d not thought about it as you lay it out, but it sounds right – we don;t feel it’s masculine to express being hurt, so we turn angry. At that point it can’t go well, no matter how we proceed.
      Paul Byerly recently posted…ChooseMy Profile

    • Yet, Jesus also spoke rather harshly, particularly when examined culturally, to his enemies. This example of Jesus is nearly, never examined for what it is and is usually glossed over without a word.

  2. I think its great to review PA.

    I see traits of PA in both hubby & I. It was not safe in my family of origin to express yourself. So my siblings & I became what people wanted us to be…classic codependency behavior. (Professional fakers.)

    But God. What can I say? He’s so awesome. While I still battle PA it’s not my first line of defense anymore.

    The PsyToday link was interesting. In the comment section – someone added ” You’re too sensitive. ” (adding to the list of PA comments.) I get this a lot from my stepkid & in laws. But only them.

    Sadly my husband is distancing himself from them. He feels they just use him & don’t respect him. They did to me for 13 yrs, but it took the passing of his mom for him to see their manipulation & disrespect with clear vision.

    • Drawing boundaries with toxic family is always difficult. All too often we do nothing until we can’t take it any more, then we over react out of our hurt and anger. Praying for a wise setting of lines.
      Paul Byerly recently posted…ChooseMy Profile

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