The insidious thing about a truly passive aggressive person is that it feels like everything wears a teflon coated mask with him. Deniability is the name of this game.
You’re lulled momentarily because everything is going reasonably well, and it’s really a window of time that should be enjoyed in life. It makes sense to be peaceful, to be happy, and often there’s been a recent window of feeling close to him. Kind of like the Jaws music starting just when you thought it was safe to go in the water…
That’s when you feel it, that awful, familiar moment you know something is wrong. Something is off. You won’t see it coming. Like carbon monoxide, you won’t hear it, or smell it. But you will feel it. Deep in your gut. As invisible and undetectable as it can be, its impact starts to sicken and weaken you. You might ask him “Are you upset with me?” He’ll usually deny it. But your gut will scream it, and that creates immediate cognitive dissonance and a disoriented feeling.
He’s still speaking to you, interacting with you, but there’s no affection or warmth. The distance is invisible, but as real as the Grand Canyon, and the peculiar loneliness is painfully exquisite. You can’t point to anything to explain it, or gain any kind of validation or support from others who can’t see it or detect it. You’re just there, in that terrible place of being alone with someone, being hurt in places where no bruises show.
Finally, there will be an incident or something tangible you can point your finger at, some action or inaction, selective hearing or selective memory, sabotage, or gaslighting, and you’ll point at that thing and say ‘There! That’s it! Why did you do (not do) that Thing!
He’ll be calm (with a barely perceptible tinge of a kind of resentful smug gotcha) as he denies it, and then he begins to fire off reasons that you have offended, insulted, neglected, annoyed, or disappointed him. Your thoughts and emotions land once more in the spin cycle.
Some of the accusations will just be unreasonable and easy to dismiss. But because you’re human and have your own faults and weaknesses, there will be enough truth to divert and deflect the focus off whatever he did and back to you. Usually he’ll fire off a barrage of grievances, and the topic is not only changed, but careens wildly and skips around the room like a drunken chimp.
The more upset you get, the more it feeds his irrational drive to get you off kilter crazy. In fact, it’s so insane that you’re quite sure that if you could just get him to see it, that he’d stop. But enough years and reality will teach you the truth of Dr. George Simon’s words: They see, they just don’t agree. or… They’re aware, but they don’t care.
By the time the encounter is over, the lesson was driven home one more time that trying to get at the truth or bring any accountability to the table comes at a price.