There are books and articles to help to understand and deal with passive aggressive men. Over the years, I’ve read so many of them, trying to understand what I may have missed, to find the stone I hadn’t yet turned over, or the piece of the puzzle that would make sense.
As a young wife in the beginning of my search for information and understanding, you would have seen me buying self-help books for marriage problems, for understanding depression, discovering what a boundary was, or how to be a good wife and mother. I bought the book Happiness is a Choice, but no matter how hard I tried to ‘choose’ to be happy, I felt confounded, confused, and began to wonder for the umpteenth time what was wrong with me.
Right from the beginning of my marriage, and throughout those long, painful years, I continued to ask what was wrong with me.
That doesn’t mean I never got angry with him, never thought an issue was his fault and lashed out at him (should we discuss reactive abuse in a future post?), never had some light bulb moments about certain things, or never tried to reason, cajole, plead, threaten, beg, borrow, or steal to get him to ‘see’. It didn’t mean that I didn’t have my own issues to work through, my own mistakes, sins, or areas I needed to grow and mature. I think I ran the gamut over the years.
While I was focused on what was wrong with me, running harder, jumping higher, loving more, forgiving more, having more faith, praying and crying with face to the floor in the dark, I would periodically reach out for help. It’s a problem when you try to explain what others haven’t experienced; you appear to be over-reacting and a bit crazy, the hysterical swinging at ghosts.
For definition’s sake, by outsiders, I mean ANYONE who hasn’t been an ongoing target of covert abuse by a passive aggressive man. This can include his parents, siblings, kids, neighbors, church members, and co-workers. By ongoing target, I mean the focus of his driving need to have a target to ‘resist’, the target to push and pull, the focus of his charm and resentment, and the focus of his sweetness and sabotage.
You see… if it’s you as the main target of the crazymaking and his resentment, if you feel crazy, then you think the problem is you. It’s easy to think, it must be me...
If in these kinds of dark moments of wondering what kind of hopeless, weak mess I was, if in those moments he would behave sweetly, would tell me he loved me? Oh, how relieved I’d feel. How grateful that he loved me despite how unlovable I must be.
Build with one hand, tear down with the other. Meanwhile, outsiders continued to give me the message that I was so lucky to have him.
My reaching out for help usually left me feeling more despair, more confused, more hopeless, and more crazy. Each time he’d make a therapist laugh at his jokes, elicit pity from a counselor, endear himself to a family member or friend, I could almost feel invisible cords tighten like a noose around me. It must be me… I must be selfish, critical, difficult, depressed, lazy, dependent, angry, and sickly.
Was I selfish, or neglected and fighting for healthy self-care? Was I nitpicking and nagging critical, or could it be objective analysis and attempts to communicate? Was I difficult, or was it the strength to search for the truth? Was I just an innately depressed person, or was it situational depression, a normal response to abuse? Was I lazy, or often utterly drained and depleted by his behaviors? Was I dependent, or was it a result of his seeing my efforts towards thriving and independence as a threatening thing he needed to undermine and sabotage? Was I angry? Yes, I was angry, and I needed to be more angry and proactive. Was I sickly? Not for a long time, but now my physical health is part of my dependence obstacles.
The crazymakers. The bitchmakers.
I didn’t have validation or support.
I was bombarded with the message to have more faith, and that love wins. I believe in the power of love, but I know that God is the perfect parent, and just look what Adam and Eve did. Jesus said our faith could move a mountain, not change the will of another person. Am I lacking faith, am I not praying and loving enough, or am I not getting the support and validation to help me recover? Where is accountability for him by critical others in my life?
The most depleting thing of all for me just might be the lack of validation and support. When nobody else holds him accountable, then I doubt. Doubt is when I want to reconsider (what have I missed? Where am I blinded?), and it exhausts and puts fog in my thoughts.
I don’t judge anyone for staying or leaving, because here I am (for now). I’m still looking at what is wrong with me, but the critical shift is that I look to my own choices, and how my choices impact my pursuit of health and happiness. My focus is to live in integrity with myself.