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My Partner is Fluent in Passive-Aggressive

Webster’s defines a passive aggressive as being marked by or displaying behavior characterized by the negative feelings, resentment, and aggression in in unassertive passive way. Me, I define it as a polite attempt at pissing people off. Usually, the person displaying the passive aggressive attitude doesn’t want to appear angry. Now, in ordinary life, this behavior it sometimes useful. Maybe you don’t like someone, but you can’t work up the nerve to tell them so instead you avoid them all together. Problem solved. But in a relationship being passive aggressive is bound to cause more problems than it solves, if for nothing else, because this process and tends to talk around the problem instead of about it. So in this blog I’ll talk about it, how to recognize it and most importantly how to deal with passive aggressive behavior or not.

When trying to understand any type of behavior it is beneficial to be able to identify the cause of the behavior. For instance a child who is made to feel neglected or unloved may find themselves searching for the love and approval of a parent. When they get older, he/she may find themselves in a relationship where they are always trying to please their partner because that’s what makes them comfortable. Not the best example, but you get the point. Unfortunately, the experts haven’t been able to identify the cause of passive aggressive behavior. In the DSM passive aggressive is not even officially characterized as a personality disorder. Men will tell you the cause is an angry girlfriend or spouse. Seems about right. While the cards has not been determined, risk factors have. The two main risk factors are childhood abuse or neglect or harsh punishment. Harsh punishment, that’s any child who grew up on my block in the 80’s and we’re all okay, kinda? Since there’s no clear-cut explanation for the origin of this behavior, I employ my grandmother’s wisdom, “don’t worry about things that you cannot control”. Instead focus on the present and what situations trigger this behavior. Then at least maybe you can manage it or run for the door. Oh but how will one know when to run for the door?

Passive aggressive behavior is defined as a deliberate and masked way of expressing covert feelings of anger (Long, Long & Whitson). Now before anyone could hope to deal with this behavior, one must first be able to recognize it. Here are some examples of passive aggression courtesy of Psychology Today:

1. Disguised Verbal Hostility– Negative gossip. Sarcasm. Veiled hostile joking — often followed by “just kidding.”

2. Disguised Relational Hostility– The silent treatment. The invisible treatment. Social exclusion. Neglect. Backstabbing.

3. Disguised Task Hostility– Procrastination. Stalling. Forgetting. Stonewalling. Withholding resources or information.

4. Hostility Towards Others Through Self-Punishment (“I’ll show YOU”)– Quitting. Deliberate failure. Exaggerated or imagined health issues. Victimhood. Dependency.

These behaviors are common when dealing with passive aggression. You may also notice certain phrases are you repeatedly by are passive aggressive friends. Let’s not act like we don’t know what these phrases are okay? I know I’ve uttered these phrases more than a few times and I’m sure that if you have in a relationship or if you’ve ever been in a relationship you’ve heard these phrases on more than one occasion:

– “Why are you getting so upset?”- Seriously? Remember passive aggressive people aim to disguise their anger and bring yours to the surface this phrase could be the catalyst.
– “I thought you knew”- A requisite of this behavior is being covert. Omitting information that could help ease a situation or avoid an argument but then asserting that a partner should know, only serves to create frustration and confusion.
– “Fine” or “Whatever”- Sulking and withdrawing from an argument are two primary strategies that are often employed by people with passive aggressive behaviors. They believe that confronting an issue head on will cause more problems in their life. By using the phrases “fine” or “whatever” they are immobilizing emotionally honest communication.
– “I’m not mad”- This is classic passive aggressive behavior. Instead of being upfront about their current emotional condition, the passive aggressive person seeks to hide their true emotional state.

In truth we have all been passive aggressive at one point in time or another and I’m sure we all ordered one of these phrases. Dealing with this behavior once in a while can be frustrating but manageable, but the chronic and persistent exercise of passive aggressive behavior, over time, will cause the deterioration of any relationship. To be honest I’m not positive if any of these strategies are exactly what your situation may call for. The best I can do here is recommend giving it a shot. As always patience and open communication are paramount and trying to work through any issues that you may have. And if all else fails there’s always Common Ground Relationship Coaching! Good Luck!

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Dealing With Ultimatums

Giving your partner an ultimatum can sometimes feel like the best decision for your relationship. You may have reached a point where you’ve gone through a lot of difficulty with your partner and you believe an ultimatum is the only solution to correct his or her behavior. Unfortunately, when we try to force change to someone’s behavior, it has a tendency to backfire.

The problem with ultimatums is that they are laced with emotion, usually from a build-up of previous exhausted efforts to get your partner to do something that you want or to change a behavior pattern. And it’s after you’ve tried numerous attempts, had many discussions and explained how you felt that you may reach a conclusion that the only choice left is to issue an ultimatum.

Even though you may feel as though you are presenting your partner with a choice, at the very root, an ultimatum is about control. That is because an ultimatum is framed as a definite and unmovable option and there isn’t any room for compromise. When there is no room for compromise and you give your partner an either/or, you are basically trying to control their choice to be in line with what you want.

Now there is a difference between setting boundaries and giving ultimatums, even though they can appear to be one in the same because on the idea is to set a limit on what someone else may or may not do. However, boundaries are more about choice than ultimatums. Although some may contend that giving someone an ultimatum presents them with a choice, their choice to change or do what you are demanding is not based on a genuine desire, it’s more based on fear of the consequence. This is why ultimatums often lead to resentment because no one likes to be forced or pressured to do something. On the other hand, setting boundaries through healthy discussion teaches your partner about how your expectations for the relationship and you remain open to compromise, even if you have some hard lines with your expectations. Boundaries are expressed with love and compassion whereas an ultimatum is usually spoken in anger and frustration. It’s difficult to get much accomplished when coming from a place of anger and negativity.

If you have to resort to giving an ultimatum, make sure you clearly think about all the consequences for doing so. Usually an ultimatum is given with the assumption that it will force someone to do what you request and that has a tendency to backfire. People typically rebel when they are being forced to do something and it can often come as a shock or surprise if the one you give an ultimatum to decides to call your bluff. So it’s important that you’ve thought very clearly and rationally about all the options on the table and that giving your partner an ultimatum is something that you will definitely follow through on.

Religion and Relationships

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Religion plays an important role in many people’s lives. It is a major part of how they define themselves and when looking for a potential relationship partner, many will seek out someone who has similar views when it comes to religion. However, there are others who will consider a relationship with someone who is of a different faith and with that comes a set of circumstances that will challenge both individuals. People of different faiths will have different viewpoints on many issues which can incite disagreements and possible conflict when trying to resolve. Core values, such as the meaning of faith and prayer and how to deal with the raising of children, dealing with celebration of holidays and other family events are just some of the choices that couples will need to face when involved in an interfaith relationship.

A person’s religious identity can be molded at a very early age whereas some people don’t develop an identity until later in life. When a religious identity is established, it can naturally develop an obstruction between their religious beliefs and the beliefs of others. Those opposing beliefs can create contention whereby one person’s religious beliefs may be viewed as being “superior” to another. This can make problem-solving within the relationship difficult because there is less room for open-minded resolutions. “According to calculations based on the American Religious Identification Survey of 2001, people who had been in mixed-religion marriages were three times more likely to be divorced or separated than those who were in same-religion marriages (Riley)”. Similarities in beliefs and values can be a major factor in determining long term success in a relationship.

There are fundamental beliefs and values within every religious sect, some which are more resistant to change and adaptation of standards from other faiths. How couples work through those distinct differences and how they compromise what values they wish to incorporate are important factors that can affect the longevity of the relationship. If there is one person within the relationship that may have a religious affiliation but is not a devout practitioner, he/she may be open to integrating more of their partner’s religious beliefs into his/her own life. If the relationship is a long term one and marriage is being considered, he/she may even be willing to convert to his/her partner’s religion to satisfy their religious requirements. However, if both parties feel equally as strong and committed to their religious beliefs, finding a mutual agreement could be more burdensome and could be a potential deal-breaker.

Problems within an interfaith relationship may certainly arise when discussing the topic of children and raising a family. Each person may want to have their children grow up having their religious beliefs instilled in them. Other religious rituals and ceremonies may also be questioned, for example, if a Roman Catholic woman decides to marry an Islamic man, she may firmly believe that child must be baptized based on her Catholic denomination. He may disagree and want to hold true to his Islamic faith, believing that his children are to be raised under Islamic doctrine. How couples resolve differences such as these can decide how successful their interfaith relationship can be.

Couples willing to pursue an interfaith relationship may want to seek advice from a professional in the field so they can formulate how they can work to overcome their religious differences. Having a plan on how to deal with situations such as raising children, family leadership, personal identity and traditions can help assist when these complications arise. More important, relationships built on compromise and communication, have a great chance of overcoming obstacles, especially if involved in an interfaith relationship. By learning to compromise and respect each other’s religious beliefs, it is possible to sustain a happy relationship. Also, an interfaith relationship can lead each person to new ideas and appreciations that can be fulfilling. Learning about your partner’s belief system, attending their religious services and participating in their traditions can be valuable to your own life as well as to the cultivation of the relationship. However, the ability to be honest with yourself and full understanding of your own religious beliefs is key before deciding how they will connect with your partner’s.

 

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