Newshoes123 recently made this comment: “Soon I wasn’t good at driving, then I didn’t do this or that, and I should be doing or that, and I rose to all of his challenges but if I asked him to do something simple like pick up his clothes off the floor, that was a big deal that was worth a week of pouting and ignoring me. But I was so “obsessed” by having his “love” that I bent over backwards to try to please him, begging him at times to just talk to me and that was his ammo and it killed me.“
Three separate but important things are in this comment: the deterioration of confidence, worth, and self over time; the ridiculous issues that a passive aggressive man can fixate on to feel resentment about (and thus need to punish you for); the very sad ‘alone with him’ that can break down your spirit.
I want to talk about the second thing, which is how ridiculous and petty some of the things are that a passive aggressive man can secretly obsess about with resentment, and the irrational and covert ways that he might choose to punish you.
Did I say irrational? Bizarre might be more accurate. I missed posting this for a ‘throwback Thursday’, so we could call it a freaky Friday blast to the past post.
Once upon a time, I was a very young wife with only one child, and she was a toddler at the time. I’d finally gone back to work, and rather than opposing and sabotaging me, my passive aggressive husband was in favor of it for a couple of reasons. The main reason was because he wanted his younger brother to be able to live with us, and that meant we needed to live in a bigger place, and that meant we needed more money. The other reason was because I worked as a waitress in a restaurant, and that just didn’t feel threatening to him. (It wasn’t seen as a path towards bettering myself).
At the time, I usually worked between 32-38 hours a week, always at night. This meant we didn’t pay for a babysitter. Although I wouldn’t tolerate it now, back then it also meant that my working at night meant that I could still do all the cleaning, laundry, shopping, and cooking. All he had to do was come home from work, eat the supper I’d already cooked, and put our toddler to bed. Sometimes the dishes got done, sometimes they didn’t.
Our budget had been so tight before I went to work, that I was thrilled to have money to pick up clothes or a toy for my daughter. I had money to get my hair cut, or pick up little luxuries, or what I viewed as a luxury. One of those luxuries was a laundry hamper. Up until that time, I didn’t even have a spare basket to put our dirty clothes into. When we changed into pajamas to go to bed, our dirty clothes were dropped in one pile in the corner of our bedroom.
My working meant I was able to make changes here and there, and one of them was so simple that I barely gave it thought at the time I got it. I brought home a plastic laundry hamper, the kind with the lid that swung down when you dropped clothes on it. I think it might have been a Rubbermaid hamper. When I mentioned it to my husband, it was actually in a rather casual way, just a simple, “Hey, just want to let you know I got a hamper so we don’t have to pile our clothes on the floor anymore.” That’s what I said in reality.
Wow. I think he heard it through some skewed filter that must have sounded like this:
Husband! I’m ordering you to put your dirty clothes into a hamper. Do you hear me? This is an order! A command! I’m in charge! I’m in control! Put your dirty clothes into the hamper or else! This is war! I’m the boss!
He replied, “Okay.”
There’s no other rational way to explain his behavior that followed.
The next night, I came home from my shift, and was getting ready for bed, when I noticed his dirty clothes on the floor near the laundry hamper. In truth, I barely noticed it, but I did mention to him as I was tossing his dirty laundry in the hamper, “Husband, just wanted to remind you that I bought a hamper for our dirty clothes.”
That’s what I said. He must have heard it through his passive aggressive control freak filter as, Husband, I’m reminding you that I’m ordering you to do something!
Or maybe he just thought, Ahh… the controlling female wants me to do something, and it would please her. I must remember to thwart this!
He replied, “Oh, yeah, I forgot.”
The next night I came home late from work, and when I was getting ready for bed, there was his dirty laundry on the bedroom floor very close to the hamper.
Now I actually felt confused. You see, the possibility that this could be a control issue was too bizarre for me to consider at this point. I said, “Husband? Your clothes are on the floor instead of the hamper there. I’m not sure why…”
He must have heard that as, She’s nagging me. I worked all day, she doesn’t appreciate it, and all she can do is pick on me for one thing. Screw that hamper.
He replied, “Oh yeah, yeah… okay.”
The next night I came home late from work, started to get ready for bed, and sure enough, his dirty clothes were on the bedroom floor right next to the hamper. I stood and stared a minute at the sight of his clothes crumpled next to the hamper, unable to comprehend a reason for it.
I was irritated and perplexed. “Husband, what’s going on? What’s the deal with this? I don’t get it! Is there some reason you don’t want to put your dirty clothes in this hamper?”
He said, “I just forgot! ‘Daughter’ was fussy, and it took longer to get her ready for bed. I cleaned up a big mess in the kitchen that you left too.”
(There was not a big mess. His dinner was cooked and waiting for him when he got home from work, and I was leaving to go to work. He did dishes, but as usual, there was a hefty resentment price tag.)
I was tired, so I probably just wanted to believe it wouldn’t happen again. I threw his clothes in the hamper and went to bed.
The next night, there they were again. Now he isn’t offering an explanation or excuse. Now I’m feeling angry. “What the hell, Husband! I don’t get it. I have no idea why this is a problem or an issue for you, but here’s the deal. I’m not washing your dirty clothes unless I take them from that hamper. If you want to pile them on the floor, you can wash them.”
Not a word of response regarding what I said. I couldn’t say that he punished me by withdrawing or withholding affection that night, because it was the full blown status quo during that time when I was working. (hmm)
The next night, his clothes were now in a two day dirty pile next the the hamper. I hid my irritation and went to bed. The next day, I took the dirty clothes out of the hamper, and left his pile on the floor. I knew that he was used to showering every day, and I knew exactly how many pair of underwear and socks he owned, so I calculated how many days he could hold out before he’d have to capitulate. I decided to just ignore it, and bide my time.
The days went on, and his pile on the floor continued to grow, until finally I knew he should have been out of clean underwear and socks. I thought that I must have miscalculated by a pair, and that the next day would be the day he’d either fill the hamper, or wash his own clothes.
Can you guess what happened next?
I came home from work, and it had been a rushed, busy night. I was so tired, and not even thinking about his laundry issues. He hadn’t changed out of his work clothes, so we were both getting ready for bed at the same time. There he stood, wearing my underwear and socks.
I think I was in a kind of surreal shock. Who does that kind of irrational, stubborn, crazy thing? I picked up his clothes on the floor, and carried them downstairs to the laundry machines. I learned another lesson. It wasn’t the lesson I wish I’d learned, if I’d only understood what I was dealing with, and what the years to come would show me. I did learn the lesson he intended, which was that he would win at all costs.
The people in our world all adored him. His family, my family, all our friends, the neighbors. If I had dared tell that story when it happened, most of them would have laughed, albeit some of the laughter would have been uncomfortable. I couldn’t wrap my brain around it, and so how could other people?
I think only someone who has been married to a truly passive aggressive man, the kind of passive aggressive that sabotages, resents, punishes covertly, withholds, excuses, blames, and then turns around to behave in a charming, child-like, sweet, helpful, and funny manner, would understand this crazy story.