Stalemated and Suffering: When The Coupledom (the domicile wherein the relationship resides) reaches a level of pain and powerlessness as a consequence of countless hurts and misunderstandings, a strange pall descends upon it.
Avenues of coping may have been explored: talking, arguing, even seeing a therapist. Perhaps to no avail/relief. Whatever the previous process, couples fall upon the passive-aggressive punch as the unfortunate methodology of choice and an anguished outlet for pain. This is a survival mechanism of sorts for humans, a Darwinian strategy in the psychological realm, to master daunting challenges with new behaviors. And ruptures in relationships qualify as very daunting challenges. However, amongst the many “survival” strategies, the passive-aggressive solution is clearly one of the very worst.
According to Mayo Clinic psychiatrist Daniel K. Hall-Flavin: “Passive-aggressive behavior is a pattern of expressing your negative feelings in an indirect way — instead of openly addressing them.” That succinct definition captures what is so poisonous about this “defense”, it’s indirectness. Similar to some physical illnesses where much remains hidden, undiagnosable, while quietly wreaking havoc on the body, relationship disorders can be equally insidious. Only when the symptoms become unbearable might there be a move to diagnose and treat the condition. By that time, someone may have moved out, had an affair, become medically ill or resumed using an addictive substance.
Withholding: A common form of passive-aggressive behavior is withholding: sex, affection, information, conversation. Someone in the Coupledom stops chatting, sharing details of family life; someone refrains from conveying essential data such as appointments, social events, school open houses, soccer games; someone “forgets” to share news about changes at work, relative illnesses……perhaps to create a fight, to let some of the pain ooze out; or to message “you don’t count, you don’t exist in my equation anymore, you show no interest in me, so why should I bring you into my world”. Revenge, retaliation, recalibration of emotions; but it doesn’t work because the true target, the painful rupture in the relationship, remains closeted.
Triangulating: Another highly toxic form of passive-aggressive behavior is triangulation, turning other family members, work colleagues or friends into “confidants” while leaving their partner in the dark. Born out of anger, hurt, or a history of failed attempts to be heard, the partner goes elsewhere to vent, to gain sympathy and perhaps to find approval and justification for their feelings.
A Harbor of Powerlessness: This clandestine yet fairly transparent strategy is futile at best, destructive at worse and often leads to more complicating liaisons or betrayals. Anyone who feeds this strategy becomes a co-conspirator, wittingly or unwittingly, and further damages the Coupledom. Perhaps flattered by feeling “important” or propelled by a healing instinct, the third-party provides a detour in the path towards recovery for the Coupledom.
Oh, The Games People Play! Ignoring text, email and phone messages, leaving tasks unfinished or never begun, lateness, innuendos and sarcasms; all these tricky little devices that folks employ to convey, “hey, I don’t give a ……..how you feel, you hurt me!” are recklessly powerful and hideously provocative. The message is, we can’t talk, we don’t know how to translate these rotten feelings into words that will carry any weight, be heard or understood, so we will act……act-out in such a manner that no one can call us on it. Yet at the same time, the hope is that the partner will figure out the puzzle, “will get it and end this war”. These desperate measures reflect the fear that if hurt or anger is expressed, the partner will minimize their pain, flip it into “your” problem, or explode into flames of outrage. A hateful combination of character assassination, humiliation, rejection or ugliness is anticipated, burying the option of honest dialogue under the rubble of subterranean communication, atmospheric shifts, false notes and big empty spaces.
Pride Goeth Before The Fall: Integrity, pride and self-respect are attributes essential to our feeling of self-worth. On a daily basis we are actively involved, either consciously or unconsciously, in keeping our self worth in working order. When our relationships disrupt this effort, we are activated to remedy the problem; in essence, re-establish our psychological balance. The aim of restoring a healthy balance to our self respect vis a vis a relational disturbance while keeping our “pride” intact is where we run amuck. We often confuse pride with vanity, vulnerability with humiliation, honesty of feeling with shame. In fact, the passive-aggressive strategy of communication is a perfect playground of pride gone array.
An Embargo On Affection: Few shipments of affection, respect or kindness can pass through these chilly waters during the passive-aggressive war. What does get through emotionally bludgeons the Coupledom, leaving scar tissue that over time will thicken with repeated assaults, no truce, and a relationship floundering on the shore.
Call A Truce: Someone speak, name the disorder, own your part and invite your partner to do the same. If there is anger, speak its name. If there is hurt, do the same. And if you need help, find an expert to team up with you to take the passive and the aggressive out of the relationship and bring back the love.
©jill edelman, M.S.W. , L.C.S.W, 2010
Anne Carpender says
Oh, I lived this one. I couldn’t do it. The passive behavior became to hard to figure out or intercept. It almost ate me alive, I had to get away from the partner to survive.
This was a spot on description.
Thanks again for the affirmation.
I think you hit on another troubling feature of passive-aggressive behavior….it can be very confusing, denied by “perpetrator” and crazy making for the partner. Thanks for the feedback.
great stuff Jill-I know you’re not ‘fishing’ for compliments-BUT i love how you worked floundering into this call for healing!
Speak up people..so much can be resolved by talking ,instead of expecting loved ones to be mind readers
Thanks Kathy. You got it!
Kim Schneider says
Ready to call a truce. Digging deep for courage and strength.
Interesting. Eager to hear more.
Kim Schneider says
Can identify with some (actually, just about all) of what you have written here. Eager to talk more about it – and learn how to change or cope with passive aggressive behavior. A little anxious of the changing/coping part!
Insight first, change second, time key! I have faith in all three with you.
Okay. I trust your wisdom and appreciate your vote of confidence.
I have never felt close to my husband and always felt that there was something missing in our relationship emotionally. Every time I try talking to him he either walks away and refuses to discus the issues i bring up. It never seems to be his fault about anything and he always twists things round in a way so he can put the blame onto me, he has lied to my face and if I confront him about it he says i am the one that is lying. He never takes responsibility for anything he does wrong and if I manage to corner him into a situation that he cannot get out of he just explodes into a tantrum. I found out 3yrs ago that he had an obsession with porn. He is contracted away from home and tends to mix with not so very nice people. I was shocked and extremely hurt when I found out about this because he does work long hours and we very rarely had sex. I used to make excuses for him thinking he was just tired and stressed out and when i tried to talk to him and tell him it felt like he didn’t love me anymore and that i felt rejected he would tell me that he really loved me and he was just tired. I very nearly had a breakdown and it was only then that he said he didn’t realize what affect this had on me and never intended to hurt me and that it was just a man thing. I am at my wits end because he will not communicate properly at all. He never does if it is anything he has done wrong. When i try to talk to him he just explodes into a rage. Last time he did this he threw an ashtray and broke the mirror door on my wardrobe he never wants to sort anything out. Even when things get too emotional and we both agree to talk later when we are calm he never wants to resolve anything and avoids communication altogether. One time when he got really angry i had to call the police and as soon as they arrived he sat down calmly. I was left in an emotional state and he told the police that I had hidden his car keys and that i was the one that had problems communicating and controlling my temper. The police threatened to arrest me instead of him as i nearly lost it i was so frustrated and couldn’t believe that he would do such a thing but luckily i managed to calm myself down and not react like the crazy woman he was making me out to be. He ended up being escorted to a hotel for the night by the police.The following day when he returned home and had calmed down he found his car keys in a drawer and acused me of hiding them when he had put them there himself. we have recently split up I have tried to help him and asked him to seek professional help but he has refused and doesn’t seem to think he has a problem. Even now if I ask him to talk about anything he just says it is nothing to do with me anymore. I have explained to him that even though we are separated we have to consider our sons feelings and that we are still a family and need to try and build bridges and get along because we are both parents but he is so unemotionally disconnected it’s unbelievable. He has never really interacted with our son even when he came home at weekends from his work. He seems so selfish and such a ME person at times but yet if i ask him for anything financially he will always do his best to provide and be so nice. Emotionally though there is no chance for either of us.
Dear Liz, You have shared much of your painful journey. I think that your offer to see someone with your husband so that the two of you can manage, as parents, to work together to help your son through this rough time, makes great sense. I am not sure what your husband is running from, nor do we hear his voice in any of this, except through you as someone who, for now, is not able to confront the difficulty his marriage is facing. I can imagine how heart breaking this is for you, as you have strived to reach out to him. If he can provide financially but not emotionally, hopefully he can give you some sense of security, even as he cannot be the husband or father that emotionally is needed. Good luck and thank you for commenting on my post.
Liz, I am sorry about what you’re going through. I understand. I have a husband who is passive aggressive. That said, I have to say that your significant other also sounds like a narcissist to me, though of course, he can be both. I found reading a book by a therapist named David Celani called, “The Illusion of Love” to be helpful at understanding borderlines/narcissists. It also explains why codependent’s are often attracted and stay with this type of person, which it sounds like you have issues with from reading your post. Trust me, you can waste your life trying to fix someone who is broken in ways you cannot fix. And not only will they not be fixed, you will be damaged in the process. If you understand that your former partner has a personality disorder and accept that you cannot change that, you will be much better off. I know you want what is best for your child, which is admirable, but what is best is for you to make them know that their father’s behavior isn’t their fault or about them. You need to protect them from loss of self esteem by educating them about personality disorders and filling them with self esteem. You also need to protect him from his father if he is violent. It is better to have no father, than let him create the same lifelong emotional problems for his child. Therefore the best thing you could do for your child is to become a pillar of self esteem and strength yourself, to create a great example for them and to know how to instill these traits in them. I also found that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is extremely helpful at accomplishing that, and you can learn the exercises yourself in a book called, “The Feeling Good Book”, by Dr. David Burns. Perhaps if you put the work in on yourself, you can detach from a toxic situation. It doesn’t mean you can’t pity that your ex is broken. All people who are broken have my sympathies. However, as they are toxic it is easy to get sucked into a toxic dance, where they act badly and you keep trying to change them and the situation. It is painful to let go, but much less so than to keep trying to change someone who has a personality disorder. As he has indicated to you that he has absolutely no interest in opening up or talking to a therapist, the problem is that you are not accepting that this is who he is and who he wants to be. You cannot make someone want to change. It will only keep you from getting what I assume you really want, which is a loving, supportive, empathetic, communicative, honest partner. The sooner you accept that your ex isn’t going to fulfill those needs, the sooner you can find the person that will. It will only cause you pain to hold on. Once you let go of trying to change them, you might find that it is freeing. In my case, it freed up lots of time that I had spent/wasted on trying to fix them. It freed up head space, energy, and time that could be focused on improving my life and to do things that would actually be fulfilling. I felt more in control of how my day to day life was going, as it wouldn’t be punctuated by unexpected drama. Once you stop trying to have someone else fill needs unmet in childhood and you take full responsibility for your life, you will more likely attract someone healthy too. Anyway, I learned all of this the hard way, and hopefully this helps you avoid more pain and heartache.
Jill Edelman M.S.W., L.C.S.W says
Grace, thank you for responding to Liz’ comment with so much knowledge and empathy. You have provided wonderful resources and suggestions for Liz and all others caught in a confusing relationship with multiple layers. I applaud your successful efforts in liberating yourself from the grip of the narcissist and swirl of manipulations and distortions characteristic of those relationships. I encourage others to educate themselves as you have done to expedite their release as well.
Karen Posey says
Grace, here I am, June 2017 searching for some truth about what I’ve been going through with my husband for 18 years. I’ve actually been wanting to die so the pain stops. Growing up I don’t remember ever being held by my father, nor a “I love you”, nothing but fear. I was married to a violent police officer for 26 years, then now my current husband 18 years who I believe has this disorder. It’s a Godsend to me to finally begin to identify why I feel I’m going insane. He has always withheld his affection, and won’t ever have a normal discussion and look at me. He looks away, stares into some abyss and won’t engage.
I’ve begged him to show me affection, a hug, kiss on the cheek. Something to help me feel loved. If and when we have sex (NEVER has it been love making), he doesn’t start it and only gets on top to ejaculate. Now his anger is becoming evident. Yesterday we had an argument and he’s screaming at me calling me bitch and says he’s leaving me as soon as he can. Says I mistreat him and throws up the past. Everybody just loves my husband, he shows them a side he doesn’t show me behond closed doors. I had a triple bypass 1 year ago and am having such a hard time recovering because of all the
stress in my life. I’m 61, people say I’m very pretty and look like I’m in my 40’s. But, I feel like I’m shriveling up, and my spirit is broken, and my face is swollen because of all the tears… after a lifetime of not feeling love. All I ever have done was love men that wouldn’t love me. Maybe it’s over for me. Maybe I was only to be loved by God. Instead of looking to the future with hope, I look forward to breathing my last breath. Thank you for what you wrote. I saved it so I can read over and over in hopes I’ll have enough love left for myself to move on alone. Thank you and God Bless you.
Jill Edelman M.S.W., L.C.S.W says
I’m glad you found the information from Grace and on the blog useful.Shifting the pain of “rejection” to coming to terms with the fact that this individual can’t be loving will be a major step toward freedom from this constant pain. You’re important and caring for yourself, our self-respect and health, that’s where you need to place your energy.Not begging blood from a stone.
Omg this is my life 200% also I cannot believe someone else has the exact same marriage problems! I also had to apply for a divorce after 21 years I cannot take the lack of emotion, communication and NO sex I’m just done! He denied me intimacy for 5 long years then has two affairs in our family home just sickening!
you do realize this is called “gaslighting”, yes?
Gaslighting refers to when someone acts in a way to make you think you are crazy or that you are the person that’s done something wrong, and not the person you are trying to catch out.
Hiding objects deliberately, then saying that you are the one that tried to hide it, is a classic example (this happened in the book and the movie, “Gaslight”).
Another example: avoiding responsiblity, saying it’s not him, it’s you.
I’ve been married to a PA for 30 years, looking back, the day we got engaged the relationship started to flounder. I tried everything, counseling book, frank discussions, nothing worked. Whenever I begged my parter to work on the relationship, they promised they would and then didn’t. . When I threatened to leave they cried and wailed and swore they would work on it. No affection, no emotion no touching. Sutble digs and misdirection to keep me off balance and emotionally dependent to the point where I felt like I had to ask permission to spend my own money. I see it all now, I’m so pissed. There’s no solution but getting out and away from the twisted torture. Most of the articles I see concerning passive aggressive relationships encourage the victims to keep trying. I’m urging you to get away ASAP and start living again.
After 22 years we began the hard discussions that saved our P/A relationship. But first the anger and anxiety made me sick, then he was unfaithful and moved out. The searing, overwhelming pain following disclosure brought us both to our knees so we had to start talking. He never could understand the reason for my anger and assumed that it was because I didn’t want him, which was hard on his self-esteem. When I finally spat out the words, “because you’re selfish and do what you want without thinking about me” he smiled and finally understood (I tried before, nicely, but he never really got it). Now he’s an ideal husband and tries his best every day to please me and I am TOTALLY HAPPY at last.
Hard discussions make life easier. Thank you so much for sharing your experience with us.
This article is wonderfully and so accurately written. My passive aggressive husband filed for divorce back in August after an argumentthat we’ve been having since dating 9 years ago. He’s been withholding intimacy and sex for all of our time together. He doesn’t hold my hand, hug or kiss me and each time I wanted to become pregnant I’d have to beg him to be intimate. We now have 2 small children. He’s promised to”fix” this issue for a very long time and yet has done nothing to help us or himself. We live like roommates. It has become very treacherous trying to communicate with him. He will not move out rather creates tension in our home. He is 42 and got his father involved to come to our home one night to “put me in my place” because I’d threatened divorce. I’m sad that he couldn’t find it in himself to get some help but relieved not to deal with the immature behavior any longer.
I know this life and I don’t know how to get out
At last I’ve found something to show people what I’m talking about when I’m trying to explain the way my husband is the way he is. Some people thought that I was picking on him or constantly putting him down. Neither of us really understood what was going on, but after reading some articles about Passive-Aggressive behaviour, it seems like we have finally begun to understand certain patterns of behaviour and why he sometimes seems completely uninterested or not willing to engage in conversation or activities. I felt very sad and very much alone. It seemed to be very confusing, and I felt very desperate at times. No one seemed to understand my story, or even my point of view. Sometimes I feel like I’m not important or even invisible during these times when my husband is emotionally distant or uninvolved. Hopefully by sharing this we might be able to get some closure.
Thank you so much for your article. It has given us some answers and direction as to where we need to go next.
Jill Edelman M.S.W., L.C.S.W says
I’m so glad that my article and others have helped to organize and explain what can be a confusing and debilitating component of your relationship. Good luck to you and to your Coupledom.
I have been married for 41 years to a greedy selfish man. I have the college degree and have always supported the family’s, yes mine and his while he tries to take all the credit. Everyone can see right through him. I recently had my third heart attack and was transported by helicopter to a nearby cardiac center where I had to undergo emergency open heart surgery.
After my semi-recovery, I still have not fully recovered, he had the audacity to tell all our family and friends that I faked the whole thing. He actually thought they believed him. I have the scars and $142.000 bill to prove otherwise. Insurance paid the rest. He tried to shed a glimmer of light on the illusion that he does all the work and has always provided.
Long story short, he has not changed except to become more selfish over the years. He still demands attention. He still throws me under the bus every chance he gets. And he still does not care about anyone but himself, not the kids or the grandkids. He has not mentioned a word to me about my near death experience except to ask when I can go back to work and start paying the bills again.
love spell says
Hi,I log on to your blogs named “The Passive-Aggressive Punch: The Silent Code of Anger In The Coupledom | The Couples Tool Kit” like every week.Your story-telling style is witty, keep doing what you’re doing! And you can look our website about love spell.
I wish I knew then what I know now.
I was used and abused and left in the cold.
I too, because very ill with Ulcerative Colitis, he’d leave
me at the ER when it was critical, never understanding the
depth of the illness.
It gave him a chance to seek comfort from anyone who’d give it.
I finally asked for a divorce and things went from worse to bad.
It hurt our child and when she tried suicide, he never even called or called a doctor back or came to a family meeting.
And this is just a few highlights….
I’m glad I’m not alone in being traumatized by these PA men but
it seems to be prevalent in society and that’s very disturbing.
It’s better to be away from such a liar and cheater, who ended
up marrying a friend of ours with 2 daughters… it can’t be
any better for her because a leopard doesn’t change his spots.
A hurtful man who destroyed two lives and is oblivious to his actions and the consequences..
I wish all who have been affected by these Passive Aggressive and Narcissistic people – the strength to leave them and hope that life gets better. I pray every day that things improve little by little.
Thank you for the article and the comments. The last 4 1/2 years can touch each point.
I’m currently going through this. Being told how mean and nasty I am. I need to be more cautious of the words I use, my facial expressions, body language, tone of my voice, etc. Narcissism comes in many forms. Since me dad passed away in December 2016, I have grown more angry and less tolerant of the b.s. I’ve started standing up for myself, which only makes it worse. I tried to sit down and talk to him last night, which we all know, didn’t go so well. Withholding affection is emotional abuse. A way for them to control you. How you react to it may make a difference. If they don’t see it as hurting you or controlling, they are wrong. Not sure how much longer I’ll be staying. I referred him to this article. Doubt it will be read by him. Read up on narcissism. Not just men, but women can be this way too.
Jill Edelman M.S.W., L.C.S.W says
Thank you Janet for sharing your difficulties with the blog. My experience is that once someone catches on to the dynamic of withholding, the options for dealing with it change – less the victim and more an informed adult who keeps learning and investigating how to liberate themselves from its hold. If the partner does not participate in examining and outing this behavior in the Coupledom, once it has been identified and described, well,then tough choices need to be made – for everyone. Of course, looking at oneself is as key as sharing a mirror with another. All the best.
Helen Chapman says
Thank you for posting this information about Passive/Aggressive behavior. This is longer than I had hoped, but it’s complicated and my husband left in a rage today. I’ve been married to my husband, a widower, for 3 1/2 years. I was married for 25 years and was divorced (from a workaholic) when we met. We each have 4 kids – adults mostly. The younger two – one just started college and my son is in high school
At first things seemed ok. As his (15yo) son realized things weren’t like they were when his mom was around, he began to act out and lash out at me. I knew he was stressed, as he would tear up pencils, pens, small kitchen gadgets, chew on coke tabs and Gatorade caps. I also knew I wasn’t the person to help him with this. I tried to show him unconditional love and cook dinners, take care of him when he was sick, etc. He (the 15yo son) began to yell at me and be disrespectful and his father condoned it. My husband would yell at me, too. The first time was when he asked me to pull together a scavenger hunt for a group of his son’s friends with 5 day’s notice, the week before Thanksgiving with no assistance from them. I said I couldn’t do it alone and he stormed off yelling.
I couldn’t get my husband to talk about things as a family and he really didn’t have adult conversations with me about this treatment of me or the underlying reasons. My daughter was in 9th grade at the time this began and she said, “My mother doesn’t deserve to be treated this way.”
I found out recently that my husband would talk bad about me with his kids and his late wife’s sister. He said he hasn’t done that since we started seeing a therapist about four months ago. If he talked to the sister, he would hide it from me and tell her not to tell me because I was paranoid. He would agree with his kids and talk about me with them when his son would inflame things, twist the trust and downright lie about me.
Withholding information is a huge thing with him! He has planned vacations, made arrangements to travel with business, planned his son’s Eagle ceremony which involved his late wife’s family staying with us, all without telling me the dates. He tells other people, but makes excuses or yells at me if I ask him to talk to me in advance the next time.
He has been yelling at and blaming me for 3 years. It still blindsides me every time he explodes. I have become numb to the frequency of the abuse. He yells, cusses, blames me, calls me a B****. Often he does this when we are in the car and I’m a captive. He will not stop the car. Once I got out at a red light and walked to a gas station at the corner. He was mad!
He has often yells “I’m done! I’m moving out” A couple of times he has called later and returned. He did this again today and my heart is breaking. I did not call or text. I know I don’t deserve this kind of treatment, but it so hard when I love him. When he is not yelling, he is loving and caring.
Jill Edelman M.S.W., L.C.S.W says
This does sound very painful and so much of the root of the behavior needs to be located in your couples therapy. There are many possibilities but of course the primary is that there are consequences to mistreatment and abuse and you will need to decide what they should be to protect your personal integrity and safety. No love is good love when it comes in a package of abuse. You and your husband need to face that together.
Until I read this article I didn’t know my situation had a name, passive-aggressive.
I’m the one that’s had sex withheld in a passive aggressive manner because I don’t put perfect checkmarks in all the boxes to deserve, or earn, it. My wife says that in order to have sex I have to pre-advise, and it has to be between 9pm and 1030pm, on a night that is convenient to her.
and if I haven’t been the most helpful, perfect person then all of that is off the table.
Since January of this year we’ve had “relations” twice. I didn’t even bother making the approach when we were on vacation in Mexico last month as I fully expected the decline…so why bother.
What’s most frustrating is that if I don’t initiate ‘relations’ then it doesn’t happen. She has never initiated sex. Ever.
As i’m writing this, I’m suddenly tuning in to my own stupidity.
Sadly, my wife is beautiful, kind and wonderful. But just not interested in putting the physical side of our life anywhere above 100 on her list of shit that matters.
Jill Edelman M.S.W., L.C.S.W says
Thanks for your open sharing. This unfortunately is a frequent source of friction and hurt in marriages – the intimacy divide. I would open up a healthier dialogue with your wife about it. Likely you will need a third party trained to ease the pain in this conversation to aid you along. But not getting help will likely widen the chasm that begins to grow when someone feels as you do. Prevention is all.
After thirty years we’ve finally agreed to separate and devorce.
I can’t believe I had it so bad twice. My child hood was a nightmare and this chap knew all about it.
I lost twenty year’s of my life to a very abusive step father and what feels like my whole life to him. It’s also cost me my children and grandchildren because they took his side and blamed my problems totally on my upbringing . I’m totally burnt out, I’m trying to rest up although this is difficult due to the heartbreak. I know there’s more to come.
Jill Edelman M.S.W., L.C.S.W says
Dear Carol, I’m sorry for all the pain that you have experienced. Have you been seeking out professional help? With all the trauma and scars and regrets, that path if you find the right fit for you, can lead to healing and learning. Good luck.
Dan S says
My wife is all about herself. She constantly complains that she is overworked, but I cook, clean, fix the house and cars, all while she feels sorry for herself for getting fired twice from two jobs for being a poor employee over ten years ago. My kids complain about her passive aggressive behavior, She is never wrong nor has she ever apologized for her behavior or when she has been completely abusing me or the kids, it’s always my fault. Even a DCFS worker chewed her out for her behavior when one of my daughters flipped out and ran away. I cannot bring up any issues about her because it always turns on me or someone else as the bad person. She is never wrong and everything is everyone else’s fault. I am at my wits end, but feel obligated for better out for worse to stay with her. I know it seems stupid to others, but I made a promise and stick to them. I am far from a perfect husband, but I breaking down because of her behavior.
Jill Edelman says
Dan, to interrupt this cycle of powerlessness that you and your children experience, based on your comments regarding your wife’s behavior and impact, it makes sense to seek out professional guidance. This can be individual work for you or family work. Sometimes because of resistance on the spouse’s part – starting with individual help makes the most sense. I would recommend that you consider looking into that option if you haven’t already done so. Starting with small changes can lead to big ones. And you have the power to get help for yourself that might also end up shifting just enough to make a difference.
Jill Edelman M.S.W., L.C.S.W says
Thank you Jenny for sharing your thoughts about my blog post. The paralzying and punishing effects of this kind of defense are well described in your note. The impact of this type of behavior on the partner can make them feel terribly confused and even guilty until they catch on and free themselves from its hold. Good luck.
This has been the most difficult relationship of my life. Trying to understand why someone would promise to make change and than wonder why I became so angry is beyond my comprehension. My tolerance wore out, we argued than one week later he filed. This man doesn’t know how to communicate unless he’s been drinking. It amazes me.