Is he passive aggressive because I do or don’t X,Y,Z?

A particularly judgmental person named Bill responded to this post from one of the best bloggers on passive aggressive abuse.  You can read his comments in full, but particularly I addressed the following:  “The more you ruminate about how much you hate him, the more he will continue to meet your expectations. You have spent three years bemoaning him on the internet behind his back; no wonder your relationship is in the toilet. If these feelings were addressed with him openly, maybe he would be able to change some of his behavior. Instead, you repress your true feelings and immaturely and passive-aggressively take your problems to an anonymous forum. Grow up and talk to your husband about these feelings. Show him this blog! If you truly feel this way, you shouldn’t be ashamed of it and certainly shouldn’t hide it from your partner.

My response is below:

I agree that bad marriages aren’t a good way for kids to grow up. I felt that way as a kid growing up in a bad marriage, and despite my best intentions and efforts, it was a painful awakening to realize that I’d repeated the pattern. I can’t imagine anyone plans to have a bad marriage.

I disagree that anonymous blogging is passive aggressive. That’s one perspective, but many others find it to be a process for growth, clarity, and support. Passive aggressive is aggressive; it’s sugar coated hostile aggression disguised in ambiguity and pleasantness. It’s also so mind twisting that over time, you lose confidence in your own thoughts, feelings, choices, and reality.

Those who actually read this blog, know that this blogger has openly communicated her feelings to her husband. Those who really understand what deeply passive aggressive people are like, realize that open and honest communications typically don’t alter their thinking or behavior. This isn’t just my opinion, but the consensus of professionals that work with them.

The woman that writes this blog has been on a slow and steady path of growth. This blog has been an essential part of her growth and recovery. Passive aggressive people are driven to sabotage and undermine things that make their partners happy or help them in essential ways; therefore, it would be self-sabotage to share it with him.

For the record, I have a blog and it’s not a secret to my family. It’s anonymous to protect my kids and my husband. My kids deserve that privacy, but they also express encouragement to me for my blog. My teenagers (i.e. dependents) read your response here. The older one quietly commented, “The problem is that he obviously doesn’t understand.” The younger teen said, “He’s the immature one.” Their opinions were expressed before hearing any of my thoughts. I only asked them to read what you had to say.

I discuss the options of stay vs. go with my kids, and what the currently available choices would mean. They support me if I need to leave their father, but prefer that I stay and that stability is maintained while they’re in school etc. I express my feelings openly to my husband, including my goals to recover physical health and financial independence with the goal of making separation reasonably viable. I tell my husband that my hope is that he’d work on his part so that we could heal our marriage, but if he chooses not to, then I’ll keep working at recovery until I can separate from him. It does absolutely nothing to change his behaviors. He wants us to stay together, but doesn’t change or get help. His intentions are good, but his behaviors are undermining to everyone.

My husband does know I blog about recovery from passive aggressive abuse, but doesn’t read my blog (although I’ve never told him that he couldn’t). He’s never asked for the name of it, or the link. He acknowledges that he’s passive aggressive, and we’ve been in and out of professional counseling over the years. In my particular case, it shoots down your theory that direct communication about the relationship (or the blog) would make any difference.

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Notes on abuse

I’m not sure how many of you have heard of Sam Vaknin.  He’s a self-proclaimed narcissist and abuser.  Part of his pathology has been to write at least one book, and put lots of videos on youtube to purportedly help others understand abuse and narcissism. (It also gets him a lot of attention.)   It’s fairly creepy to listen to him, but I will say that whatever his motives, he gives a ton of information about narcissists and abusers.

Quite a long time ago, I listened to many of his youtube clips and took notes.  I thought it might be helpful to share some of the notes I took back then.

I don’t even want to type his name again, so the ‘he’ is referencing the same person.

He said that abusers exploit, lie, demean, ignore, manipulate, and control.  He said that kind of ‘love’ is not respecting privacy, treating you as an extension or object, using you for gratification, being consistently tactless, expecting too much of you, being brutally honest in a way that disregards hurting you, and capable of sadistic humor.

He said that some will abuse by proxy; in other words, recruiting and grooming third parties who are unaware and can be manipulated.

He said covert abuse is also ambient.  The atmosphere is one of instability, fear, foreboding, and an irksome feeling.  Over a long time, it erodes a victim’s sense of self-worth, confidence and esteem.  Ambient abuse can reverse roles:  the victim will be considered unstable, while the abuser is regarded as a suffering soul married to the victim.

The solution he suggested at this point?  “Run.  You owe yourself your life.”

More covert tactics of abuse were what he described as intermittent reinforcements: unpredictability, uncertainty, capricious, inconsistent, and irrational behaviors.  He explained that this will render the people around the abuser to be more dependent on him.  Dependent on the next twist and turn, the next inexplicable whim, wound, outburst, denial and smile. 

“The abuser makes sure that he is the only reliable element in the lives of his nearest and dearest… and he does that by shattering the rest of the world through his seemingly insane behavior.  He creates a rollercoaster, a hurricane, a tornado, as he perpetuates his stable presence in their lives by destabilizing their world.”

His suggestion?  Demand predictability.  Demand rational.  Demand respect and boundaries.

He said that narcissists have disproportionate reactions; e.g. supreme rage to a slight offense.  Narcissists can be inordinately attentive, and have a shifting code of conduct.

His suggestion?  Demand just and proportionate behavior and standards.

(yeah… right)

He said a narc will attack the very foundations of human interaction to dehumanize and objectify you.  While a narc imitates adults, deep inside they are emotionally absent and immature. 

His advice?  Never show you are afraid.  Do not negotiate with bullies.  Respond with your full arsenal.  If things get rough, disengage.  Whatever you do, keep it secret.  Abusers collect information, and will not hesitate to misuse it.

He said that abusers engineer impossible situations; they create dangerous, unpredictable, unprecedented, or highly specific environments in which the abuser is sorely needed.  The abuser makes sure that his knowledge, his skills, his traits, are the only ones applicable and useful in the situations that he himself has wrought.  The abuser generates his own indispensability. 

He advises:  Scrutinize every suggestion.  Prepare back-up.  Be doubting.

The narcissist is a partial adult.  The narc interferes with your ability to work and function. 

The effects of abuse might be forgetfulness, fatigue, panic attacks, intrusive memories, shame, depression, anxiety, enhanced sense of vulnerability, sleep disturbances, guilt, and humiliation.  A narc will lack friends, engage in more isolated activities, and avoid competition with sharp minds, or self-sufficient people.  A narc needs an unthreatening audience for supply.

A narc cannot empathize or love, and is not interested in people other than as supply.  When a narc can no longer use you, he’ll discard you.  Narcs resent benefactors.  Narcs are convicted that no one can resist their charm.  Narcs believe they are entitled and deserve special treatments and allowances.  To a narc, charming means having power over.

The above notes are from listening to a narc lecture on narcissism and abuse.  Take it with a grain of salt, but I think he knew what he was talking about for the most part.

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Crazyville update

We kept trying to call my sisters, and finally early this afternoon, my daughter got through.  Now it turns out that my sisters won’t come until Monday, and the one staying for a vist,  will be staying here, and not in a motel. 

Back to the normal nutty status of trying to get things cleaned up for my kids/grandkids arriving next week. 

I may even have enough breathing room to get some exercise swimming this afternoon!

(breathing easier now)

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Vulnerable and overwhelmed

Did you ever have so much going on, and feel so little capacity to deal with it, that you almost feel like you just go into a freefall within yourself?  Only mine feels like it’s happening partly in slow-motion.  It’s kind of like a juggler dropping the balls he can’t keep up with and saying, “Oh well.”

I’m trying to get ready for a visit from my firstborn, my daughter.  She’s supposed to be here later Tuesday, and staying here several days.   We’ve had a troubled relationship for a long time, and she hasn’t been home for a long time.  She’s bringing her two little boys, my only grandchildren, and riding with her brother, my second oldest son.  There’s so much history and back story.  I want so much for it to go well, but I’m also feeling almost numb.

I don’t know about your experience trying to accomplish something in timely increments when you need help from your passive aggressive husband, but my experience is that he’ll frustrate me through delays, procrastination, and then when it’s too late to accomplish anything in a sane way, he kicks in and works hard.  The end result is that he looks amazing, and I look frustrated and depressed. 

By the time something does get done, I’ve had to go to Plan B, C, D, etc. and I’m drained.  I’ve been feeling a little more tired and depressed since I heard that my friend passed away.  I was grieving and reflecting, my energy more focused on myself.  My husband seemed to be more aloof, more tense, more combative, more resentful, have more conversations that shifted like sand when I tried to communicate with him, more passive-aggressivey all around.  (We had a huge heated discussion that I’ve been too tired to even blog about.)

I hate being vulnerable.  I hate it.  Brene Brown has a great youtube on being vulnerable, but guessing she isn’t married to a passive aggressive man who will use covert abuse to take advantage of vulnerability. 

Add to this that two of my own sisters are coming to my house today.  I think they are.  When? I don’t know.  They haven’t actually told ME this.  I only know this because one of my younger daughters talked to one of them, and told me this.  I haven’t seen my sisters for a long time.  I don’t understand why one of them didn’t call me.  This has never happened like this before.  One of them lives a thousand miles away, and has been traveling and visiting with the other sister that only lives an hour and a half drive away.

The sister who lives closer is in a long relationship with a man that she’s left and gone back to a handful of times because he was emotionally abusive, and he has always despised me and made it difficult for her to see me.  Difficult is now translated to we never see each other, and never talk on the phone anymore either.  I suspect it’s because she used to be closer to me than almost anyone, and he’s the kind of man that has control issues.  It hurts like h-e-double-l, but it’s an area inside that is just scarred over with time now.

The other sister not calling me is just unprecedented and weird.  I think she’s going to be dropped off by the sister who lives closer, and then is visiting for a handful of days too.  She even mentioned staying in a motel to my daughter.   That also confuses me.  We always stay with each other when we do visit.  Even when when there’s a bunch of us for some reason.  We have never been a stay in a motel when visiting family.   I don’t understand what’s going on here, but there is still so much to do.  Really, too much to do in a short time, and as I sit here trying to think of how to keep on track and wonder when my sisters will show up, and how I want to see them, but right in this moment I’m feeling depressed and apathetic about it as well. There are some convoluted dynamics going on here. 

I don’t want to take the time and energy to deal with it, when I really want to focus on preparing myself emotionally, and preparing the physical house, for the visit from my daughter.  Today, I should be driving to Costco so I can get that out of the way.  I wanted to pair that with looking at couches on craigslist.  Maybe pick up a few new handtowels, and some sidewalk chalk or plastic sand toys for the grandbabies.  I wanted to be going through stuff to clean, get the shopping done, and bake something to put in the freezer. 

So I’m sitting here wondering why this strange thing of my sisters not talking to me has happened, and here is my passive aggressive husband stepping up into Superman mode to work like crazy.  What a guy.  Only it didn’t have to be this way if he’d helped and finished things along the way in an orderly, timely, and sane way.  I can’t really show or express that because I’ll appear ungrateful and beeyotchy for what he’s doing right now.  Even if he does it in a way that further frustrates me.  (Like taking a really really long time working in the outbuilding, and when I limp out there, I can’t see much has changed yet.)  I need his physical help to do some things.

I really can’t express my frustration and confusion with my sisters at all, I have to hide that, because I can almost guarantee he’d use that as a weapon down the road.  So I find myself going into this que sera sera freefall inside. 

This is one of the times that I feel most alone.  Vulnerable. This is not good.  It’s the time when anyone on the outside could look, not understand or see the whole picture, and possibly judge me. I’ve dealt with that so much over the years being married to a passive aggressive man, that I’m too tired to juggle that false perception. I’d rather just sit down, unpack a lunch and munch on something while someone judges me.  He gets to be funny, charming, and wonderful, while I’m falling more into tired, neurotic hag territory. 

It’s either that, or now is a good time for me to skip town on some spontaneous vacation for myself.  Except I can’t afford to, and my foot injury isn’t entirely healed.  My vacation in pajamas. 

I’ll report back from Crazyville later. 

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Not even death

Two women that I loved died very recently.  One was very old, full of days as the Bible would say.  She was the older sister of my father-in-law, my aunt by marriage.

The other was far too young, and hadn’t even had the chance to enjoy a grandchild.  She was my beautiful friend from what feels like another lifetime now when I lived in another state. 

I’m thinking about these two women, and I’m thinking about death.  The older aunt was my favorite person out of my husband’s entire family.  She was funny, smart, very kind, full of integrity, and really very normal.  By normal, I mean she was quite sane. 

My friend was my age.  J was born in China Town, and I’m not sure she even learned English until she started school.  She was so private that the world didn’t even realize that the inscrutable surface was privacy.  Once J trusted you, it was entirely different, and the colorful fun person unfolded with sparkling colors.  When we were younger mothers, we not only saw each other for park play days and school events, but later we’d call and have a phone chat as our day was winding down.  I remember those calls mostly for how we’d make each other laugh. 

When I had a baby, she’d come get my young kids to give me a break, then bring them home with a cooked meal for our dinner.  When J had to be rushed to the hospital, her equally inscrutable and even more private husband brought their kids to my house (on her instructions, although he seemed nervous to allow it).  We trusted, respected, and enjoyed each other.  After I moved, years passed of not seeing each other, but just a phone call could dissolve time and distance.

I’ve been grieving J for quite some time.  She’d suffered a stroke, and was in the unconscious twilight between life and death for months.  Hearing last night that she had passed hasn’t entirely soaked in yet.  Part of me is still in denial, and waiting for ‘the real call’ to tell me that she made the miraculous recovery.  Yet, my heart knows quite well that she is fully recovered now, just in a place that I can’t see her until I travel there one day.

Death stops everything for the one who dies, but in this world, it can change everything or next to nothing for those who remain.  It all seems to depend on the presence or absence of Love.

“In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on.” Robert Frost

The older I get, the more truth I see in that quote by Robert Frost.  When I was young, I refused to discuss or even think about one of my parents dying.  I suppose I must have unconsciously wished that by refusing to think about it, or emotionally accept that my mother and father could and would die, I felt that I could somehow stop it, or at the least forestall it.  It was all quite irrational, but what I’m trying to say is that losing one of them was emotionally inconceivable to me at the time.

The days and months and years rolled on, and the day came that I stood by my father and heard him take his last breath.  That powerful moment still comes back in memory, but thankfully not as often anymore.  I wept intensely, and walked under the canopy of stars that night to try to absorb how it was possible that such a larger than life presence was just gone.  Coming back in the house, I saw that one of my sisters was already removing his shoes, his glasses, his jacket, and I wanted to scream at her to just let them be, to stop erasing evidence of him.  But he was still gone, and not one physical material thing in this world, no matter how strong and evocative the memory attached to it, would bring him back. 

Life went on.  It was almost surreal to realize that everyone would continue to bathe, eat, launder, clean, work, and sleep, as though this unthinkable thing hadn’t happened.  One horrible lesson was that being married to a passive aggressive man would make me terribly vulnerable to covert abuse during times of deep grief.

We all thought our father would outlive our mother by years, but it was the opposite.  It was worse to lose my mother, because it was in bits and pieces that she left us over time.  She faded in and out, and each time there was less conscious connection with her.  My mother had dementia.  Dementia isn’t at all a clean grieving.  It’s ragged and sharp with jolting edges that don’t heal, because the person is still with you.  On the other hand, you also have the rare but absolutely priceless windows when even dementia can’t stop someone from coming back to connect with you heart to heart. 

Life and time can seem to pass relentlessly, even when you see Time taking someone away from you.

When both my parents were living, we lived a thousand miles away from them.  I used to try to take trips back to give one of my sisters a break from care giving.  On one of those latter trips, I experienced one of those priceless windows.  My mother’s dementia was advancing, but she was still able to be at home with my father (who was legally blind by then). I’m not sure that she always knew who I was.  One night when I was tucking them both in (and that is a strange full circle to be sure), I came to my mother’s side of the bed to kiss her goodnight.  When I started to stand up, she gently but firmly grasped my arm to hold me there.  She looked at me and said, “PJ, I bet you must look at me and wonder, Where is my mother?  If you look closely, you can still see her.”

My heart was in my throat, and I said, “I see you, Mom.  I see you.  I love you.”

“I love you too,” she replied. 

The last window I was able to share was when I saw her the last time before she died.  I’d taken my two youngest girls with me for that visit, and this time my mother was in a nursing home.  She didn’t know who I was at all, but she couldn’t take her eyes off her granddaughters, and kept smiling and nodding at them.  She didn’t speak at all, but it was almost Christmas, and so I sat next to her, stroking her arm or holding her hand, and I started to sing her favorite carol, Silent Night

Silent night, holy night, all is calm... and then I heard her voice, still sweet and like velvet, joining in.  She sang every word of the first and second verse.  I sang another carol, and she kept singing, so we just sang Christmas carols together.  Not even dementia could steal that.

Leaving her to return home was so sad for me.  I fretted when she declined further, and as things often go awry, had to deal with the flu hitting here when I wanted to travel quickly.  I was getting ready to leave for the trip back the very day when I got the phone call that she was gone.  She died alone.  The nurse walked in her room and just found her gone, and called my sisters.  That was the worst part of it for me.  I wanted to be with her, curled up next to her, hugging her and loving her when she left us.  She deserved so much more.  The kindest, most gentle and loving being to ever walk this planet, was worth the most loving and beautiful farewell possible.  Enough time has passed that I think that is exactly what God provided, despite human failure.

After the phone call telling me my mother had died, I was initially calm (numb) when talking to my kids.  We told stories of ‘Gramma’ and each story made us smile and laugh.  For just a fraction of a second, I swore I could hear my mother’s merry soft laugh as well.  Later on that day, I crawled into my bed under the covers, and wept into my pillow so no one could hear me.  I thought of all the painful and horrible things she unfairly endured in this life, and I wept even harder that life had been so cruel to such a bright, gentle soul.  In the midst of my hot, silent tears, I could suddenly and very clearly hear my mother’s voice say, “PJ…you won’t find me there.”

In that moment, I knew that if I wanted to feel close to her, I had to think about sunny days, a steaming cup of tea with a good book, a child’s innocent smile, the sweet sounds of a baby cooing, a cat purring on my lap,  a dog snoring by my feet,  and the fresh scent of bedding that dried in the sun..  I could find her in the cozy satisfaction of washing dishes, folding washcloths, dinner prepared with love and cooking in the oven, helping a stranger, and putting out seed for birds and squirrels.  I needed to look everywhere through the eyes of my spirit with the kindness she lived by, and her joy in what was simple and good. 

Death can stop everything that fades, rusts, tarnishes, and disintegrates, but nothing that really matters.  Not even death can stop that kind of love.

When I miss my friend, I see the mischief in her eyes, and hear her laughter.  I think of J traveling across the world two times to bring home a child to add to her family, because after giving birth to her second daughter, the doctor told her no more pregnancies.  I’ll remember the look in her eyes when she watched her daughter playing the piano during a school event.  How J always encouraged me.  The love in her words when she told me how she met her husband, and how they faithfully waited until they could marry.  More than anything, how each of her kids, adopted or biological, were just her kids.  They amazed her, and brought her greatest joys.  Like my mother, she had the clarity and strength of a servant’s heart. 

Rest in peace from memories of pain; live in joy where you belong, beautiful women of faith.  That great cloud of witnesses grows ever more real and dear.

I Don’t Belong



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When a woman loves too much

Below are excerpts from the book Women Who Love Too Much by Robin Norwood.  What are your thoughts?

“When being in love means being in pain we are loving too much. When most of our conversations with intimate friends are about him, his problems, his thoughts, his feelings — and nearly all our sentences begin with “he….”, we are loving too much.

When we excuse his moodiness, bad temper, indifference, or put-downs as problems due to an unhappy childhood and we try to become his therapist, we are loving too much.

When we read a self-help book and underline all the passages we think would help him, we are loving too much.

When we don’t like many of his basic characteristics, values, and behaviors, but we put up with them thinking that if we are only attractive and loving enough he’ll want to change for us, we are loving too much.

When our relationship jeopardizes our emotional well-being and perhaps even our physical health and safety, we are definitely loving too much.”

“If you have ever found yourself obsessed with a man, you may have suspected that the root of that obsession was not love but fear. We who love obsessively are full of fear — fear of being alone, fear of being unloveable and unworthy, fear of being ignored or abandoned or destroyed. We give our love in the desperate hope that the man with whom we’re obsessed will take care of our fears. Instead, the fears — and our obsessions — deepened until giving love in order to get it back becomes a driving force in our lives. And because our strategy doesn’t work we try, we love even harder. We love too much.”

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Finding Ourselves


This is a wonderful article from a new blogger that I just discovered. I hope you all enjoy it as much as I did!

Originally posted on Out of the Mire:

I recently spoke with a beloved friend experiencing emotional pain due to a family interaction.  Her sentiments were familiar.  This interaction was similar to an older one, and it brought forth latent feelings of ontological insignificance.

“I don’t matter.”

Isn’t this something we can all understand? People treat us badly.  They brush us aside.  They lash out, ignore us, make us the problem, blame us, gaslight us, talk about us behind our backs, and the like, and we get hurt.  Sometimes profoundly.  And, we’re left wondering why.  Don’t they know that we matter, too? Don’t we? We matter, right? Right? Right…?

I thought about it.  Is it possible to explain that we are indeed significant and valuable even in the context of mistreatment, neglect, and abuse? What might drive that point home?

This might…

"Sunset at Montmajour" by Vincent Van Gogh, 1888

“Sunset at Montmajour” by Vincent Van Gogh, 1888

This painting sat in a Norwegian industrialist’s…

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