How To Deal Proactively With Your Passive Aggressive Partner

Pin-point advice to help activate a healthier relationship with your passive aggressive partner.

dissatisfied unhappy woman direct pointed finger at herself confused open mouth blamed Roman Samborskyi / Shutterstock

Is your partner's passive-aggressive behavior causing you to question yourself?

When you are on the receiving end of passive-aggressive behavior it can leave you feeling like you've been emotionally sucker-punched. It's subtle and hard to know what's happening, but you know exactly when it strikes. It's a suburban sprawl nightmare where every attempt to run away leads you to another cul-de-sac with no escape.


Passive-aggressive behavior in the content romantic relationships can be infuriating. Passive-aggressive behavior is covert to the point of being stealthy. It's causes you to question everything you do, because you know everything is going to end up being your fault anyway.

Passive-aggressive people usually lack insight into the effects of their actions, they may also believe they are the one who has been wronged or misunderstood. They object strenuously to your efforts to share your point of view, and they think other's' expectations of them are entirely unreasonable.

RELATED: 13 Most Passive Aggressive Texts People Send (And What They Actually Mean)


First, you will need to understand what you are dealing with and to recognize the signs of passive aggressive behavior.

Signs of passive-aggressive behavior include:

  • Passive-aggressive folks are often negative.
  • They complain frequently about being under-appreciated and misunderstood.
  • Nothing is ever their fault.
  • They insist on — and are happy to — blame you for everything, because (of course) it is your fault.
  • They argue readily and have a real need to be right.
  • When things don't go their way, they are often sullen and withdrawn. They are masters of the cold shoulder.
  • They criticize situations, events, ideas and people at the drop of a hat. It offsets their fear that they are inadequate.
  • They have little regard for authority.
  • They are sure they are unique in their perception that they alone live in an "ain't it awful, he/she done me wrong" world of misfortune.
  • They run hot and cold between open hostility and seeming to be sorry. (Hint: You can only rely on the hostility part.)

These traits and patterns indicate a passive resistance to any expectation, request,, or demand to show up in the relationship and take responsibility accountability for what they say or do — or, more frequently, don't do.

Your partner's passive-aggressive behavior can create feelings of insecurity in you because of the seemingly intentional inefficiency. They are intentionally late, forgetful, or punishing, all those are understandable behaviors until they are done with a passive intent to assert control over another person

Passive-aggressive people are fearful of competition, dependency and, yes, even of intimacy. You might recognize the "push me, pull me syndrome." or "Come close, but stay away" mixed message. This gives them the power and control they desire, but they cannot approach situations, feelings, relationships or communication directly, so they do it indirectly.


Are they making endless and seemingly rational excuses for why they cannot, or did not, do what was expected of them?

RELATED: How To Shut Down A Passive-Aggressive Person For Good

A passive aggressive person can become an expert at procrastination. When they have difficulty playing nicely with others, they tend to drag their feet in any collaborative project. From suddenly not feeling well, claiming to not feel included, saying they were not given certain information, or professing to not knowing what was expected of them, passive-aggressive people have a reason (read: excuse!) for everything.

They believe these reasons and will actively work to disparage anyone who will not accept their reasons. They love to play the victim. Your passive-aggressive partner will go to great lengths to avoid recognizing their own weaknesses and blame you for their own failures. This is a hallmark of the passive-aggressive personality.


Confronting passive-aggressive behavior in your partner is often a problem since their behavior is based in deep, old anger and resentment.

Unfortunately, the passive-aggressive person is often unaware of what they are doing. When confronted, your partner will probably refuse to acknowledge their behavior and its impact. They might even get quite upset you would even think they were the problem, or that you had the gall to suggest they might be.

How to Deal With a Passive Aggressive Partner

1. ​Do not try to win or apply reason.

There is nothing to win when reason and logic have been suspended. A passive aggressive partner is not playing by the same set of rules.

2. Do not join in their hostility.

Reacting to their hostility simply keeps the fires burning.


3. Know your boundaries.

Express and maintain your personal boundaries, no matter what resistance you experience. Hold fast.

4. Examine what might be your fault, and own it.

BE accountable for your share in the problem but flatly reject what is not, and say so.

5. Do not engage in blame.

The blame and shame game only exacerbates arguments and increases the amount of time and space needed to deescalate.


6. Remember passive-aggressive behavior coming towards you is not about you.

You might be the current target, but the reason for the behavior really has nothing to do with you or your actions. keeping this in mind can help you to reduce your negative reaction to the passive aggression.

7. Get help.

The problem is bigger than both of you and it is nearly impossible to see it or solve it when you are immersed inside it. You really need a professional to help you both untangle the emotion and behaviors.

RELATED: 5 Ways To Stop Being Passive Aggressive — Even When You Don't Realize You're Doing It

Rhoberta Shaler, PhD, has spent the past 30 years helping couples navigate challenging relationships.