When someone is passive-aggressive, it can be really difficult behavior to deal with. It makes the other person feel small, prohibits real communication, and makes it impossible to get anywhere in conversation. And if you're the one being passive-aggressive in a relationship, then it can do a lot of damage.
The worrying part? You or your partner may not even know that you're doing it. Sometimes something as innocent as teasing can descend into passive-aggression. “Teasing your partner can be great for your relationship because it builds a playful rapport,” San Francisco-based matchmaker with Three Day Rule, Allison Gerrits tells Bustle. "But it's important to make sure the teasing isn't one-sided or too critical. If there are bigger issues that need to be addressed, have a clear and more direct conversation. Don't let teasing become a passive aggressive way to talk things out."
And that's the problem with passive-aggression, it can leak out in all sort of weird ways. Sometimes it makes your fight worse, sometimes makes you create a fight out of nothing, and sometimes it just erodes your partner's self-esteem. Make sure that you're not letting passive-aggression mess up your relationship, because your partner doesn't deserve it — and your relationship could pay the price. Here are the signs to look out for.
1Your Partner Is Constantly Defensive
Defensiveness isn't a good trait — but make sure you're not driving them to it. "The first thing you need to do is look at why," Marina Sbrochi, IPPY award-winning author of Stop Looking for a Husband: Find the Love of Your Life tells Bustle. "Take the last defensive situation you found yourself in with your partner. Write down what went down — as it happened, no emotion. Now, take it line by line and see if you can find out what spurred the defensiveness. Has your partner made poor money decisions in the past and your talk was about money? Natural defensiveness comes up around that issue. You can then see if your comment triggered some defensiveness — and maybe be honest and see if your comment actually had a passive aggressive tone — or perhaps an underlying 'I don’t trust you with money' to it."
2You Pick Fights Out Of Thin Air
Sure, you're always going to disagree with your partner on things. But if you find that you're constantly getting into fights for no reason, a lot of times attitude has something to do with it. Make sure passive-aggression isn't playing into it.
Oftentimes, the source of being passive-aggression is resentment that you haven't dealt with. If you feel resentment and that sometimes slips out in nasty comments, you need to take a long look at the relationship.
4Your Partner Is Withdrawing
Being the subject of passive-aggression is tough. If you find that your partner is withdrawing and expressing their opinion less and less, there might be a reason for it. Make sure your comments aren't keeping them down.
5There Are A Lot Of Silences
You often hear that it's good for couples to be able to be alone and just quiet together — and that's totally true. But if you're using silent treatments as a punishment, that's effed up. It's not OK to put people through. So you need to learn how to handle and process your emotions in an adult way, because your partner shouldn't have to deal with that.
6Your Partner Is Afraid Of The Old, "I'm FINE"
If you're using that line more often than not when you're upset about something, and your partner has gotten used to it when they ask you what's wrong, it's time to re-think your behavior.
7Your Fights Go In Circles
“All couples argue,” Sarah Watson, licensed professional counselor and sex therapist, tells Bustle. “It’s incredibly healthy to discuss your differences and what you need from your partner. What isn't healthy is screaming and saying hurtful things that you cannot take back.” What also isn't OK, is fights that go around and around and keeping coming up again because nothing was solved. If you can't let go of your passive-aggression, then you won't be able to fight healthily — and your relationship will stall.
Passive-aggression is destructive behavior and it can ultimately hurt your relationship. Make sure you're honest about your own behavior and how it's affecting your partner, because your relationship is definitely worth it.