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Passive-Aggressive Example
Husband's Passive-Aggressive Avoidance

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The following is an example from website readers of passive-aggressive encounters they have experienced. The suggested responses are not personal advice as a full evaluation of the situation is not available. Also, the suggestions may not work in every situation but are to give you an idea of possible ways to respond. For more, read: Crazy-Makers: Passive-Aggressive People and 7 Rules and 8 Methods for Responding to Passive-aggressive People

Wife: "I really need to move from where we live now."
Husband: "We can't afford it."
Wife: "True, but if you found a well-paying job in the new location, we could improve our income."
Husband: "So start looking for a school for the kids in the new location".
Wife inquires and looks for school in new location, finds school, makes appointment for daughter for entrance exam, takes daughter for entrance exam, follows up with phone calls, makes appointment for interview and takes daughter for interview.
Wife: "How's it going with looking for a job in new location?"
Husband: "I phoned up one place, there was no reply. What are you doing about schools for the kids?"
Wife: "I feel I've done enough for the time being, I'm waiting to see developments from your end."
Husband: "See? You're not prepared to do anything to make the move work so I'm not going to do any more either!"

Response: This is an example where I would refer the reader to my article "Why Are People Mean?" because it is probably not malicious passive-aggressive behavior but due to some other issue and so it may be an avoidance of that other issue. But the avoidance comes across as passive-aggressive. In which case, it may be important to try and determine what is the underlying issue. I would suggest that in a calm, supportive and understanding way the wife should try to approach the subject and find out what the issue may be. For example, "I know this can be a big step to take and change can be difficult. But I'm here to support you. Is there something that is holding you back from making the move? Are you worried about taking this step? What can I do to help you?" Hopefully, the husband will be able to share more of his concerns if he's not feeling pressure, but support. Then the two of them can have a conversation focused on resolving those concerns.

Actually, the example I gave comes from someone who is clearly passive-aggressive so in this case there may not be much to argue about.
Here's another example:
Husband is sitting in middle of table, wife at the end of table with child on her lap.
Wife: “Pass the pitcher please.”
Husband: “You can get it yourself, if you try.”
In this case, the wife realized the futility of continuing the discussion, requested from child to get off her lap for a moment, stood up, reached out and took the pitcher herself.
Later in a quiet moment,
Wife: “Why weren't you willing to pass me the pitcher?”
Husband: “Because you never do anything yourself, you just sit around and expect everyone else to serve your needs.”
This actually developed into a long discussion about the wife's needs, etc. until the husband very surprisingly came to the conclusion, "Do you mean to say that if I improved my attitude things would be better?" WOW! after 21 years, maybe we've made some progress, thank God. Now all that we need to do is for him to actually see the progress if he improves his attitude--obviously, if he doesn't see any improvement in wife's attitude towards him, it will be her fault. So, wife is going to have to take this to heart and be extra nice when he improves.

Response:The wife is making an excellent point here. Her husband uses passive-aggressive blame in order to avoid things that are unpleasant or uncomfortable for him. However, if he makes even a tiny bit of progress with his attitude, she needs to reward that progress through her response to him. The best way to increase desirable behavior is to reinforce it, not criticize the undesirable behavior. In this situation, since they have had what I call “the talk,” she can now focus on watching for even small increments of change and reinforcing them.

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