Reading about passive aggressive men

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.

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21 Responses to Reading about passive aggressive men

  1. Great post (as usual). Thanks for putting my feelings into words.c

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  2. Exodus says:

    PJ’s I think you described very well what each of us has endured. It really is a spiritual crisis for us because we really do want to rise above this and we want to believe in the power of faith and positive thinking. Speaking of ‘rising above it’…..Norman used that phrase against me this morning saying that I shouldn’t allow myself to be so affected by other people’s problems ( his of course) and that I’m weak and a coward and that I should be better than that. Can you believe he said that? Dumb question, eh? Ironically, my mother always told me that I was a selfish person for allowing her violent marriages to upset me.

    I know it’s about my choices and I know that my lack of self esteem is the main reason that I made the choices that I did. Will I feel any more confident once I leave? I don’t know. Maybe. I can only hope so.

    An abnormal reaction to an abnormal behavior is normal. I don’t think there is anything wrong with you PJ’s..not disordered anyway. I just think that we feel disordered because we are living with a disordered person. Granted there are reasons what we chose these types of men to be in our lives and there are reasons why we tolerated them for as long as we did and we need to examine those reasons and heal those wounds that make us vulnerable to abuse. We still have the freedom to choose.

    Liked by 1 person

    • WritesinPJ's says:

      Exodus, I hope that self esteem and worth start to bubble up and fill you up like an overflowing well!

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      • Exodus says:

        ((( Thanks PJs))) Last night I watched the documentary on Mark Twain and thought about you and our spiritual crisis. I laughed and cried ( actually sobbed) as the narrator quoted many of Clemen’s thoughts regarding G-d and the scriptures. I felt like Clemens was reading my mind and handing me some comfort, humor and validation through his words. The one thing that really inspired me was how Clemens had suffered such profound grief and yet, just with barely anything left to give, he rebounded and began again. I may just wear a white outfit today with red socks in his honor 😀

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  3. You describe almost EXACTLY what I have gone through in my 27 years with him!

    Liked by 1 person

    • WritesinPJ's says:

      I have come to feel that only someone partnered with a passive aggressive will understand what it all is really like.

      Like

      • Seeing the Light says:

        Yes.

        Like

      • Exodus says:

        Yes, It’s the loneliest form of abuse there is.
        When I attempted to reach out to others in the past for some sort of validation or comfort, I didn’t have all day to describe all the continual nonsense to someone in order to give them a realistic perspective of what I was dealing with. I soon learned that it’s mostly pointless to try to tell someone that I’m depressed because my husband accidentally forgot to deposit the check that day.

        The day before yesterday Norman came home that evening to take a shower. I asked him politely to please put the bath rug on the tub to dry when he was done. If he leaves the wet rug on the floor it will become muddy and given that I just washed them that day, I really didn’t want that to happen. He put the rug on the tub BUT whenever he has to do that, he punishes me by turning on the shower head so that when I turn on the hot water, it will spray down on me and the rug. He’s been doing this for over ten years. Sounds silly and stupid I know. But, it’s truly insane behavior because it’s completely predictable and one of those PA habits of his. I knew he was going to do that and when I went to take my shower yesterday evening, I cut the head off before I turned on the water. My mind isn’t filled with valuable knowledge- it’s filled with all the details that I need to remember about Norman’s PA habits and how to counter them and manage them. No wonder I couldn’t remember my SS number the other day. After my shower and after I put the rug on the tub, I decided to leave the shower head on FOR HIM and sure enough when he turned it on, it sprayed and he exclaimed, ‘ Oh the shower is turned on!”. I was working in the living room and just smiled like the big bad wolf.. I’m now a certified PA wife….hehehhe Thanks in advance for everyone’s applause 😀

        This morning Norman told me that he put the rug on the tub last night after his shower. He said it in one of those childish voices as if he wanted me to give him a cookie for being a good boy. I thanked him and asked if he left the shower head on and he said, ‘ Oh, so that’s why you left it on..to pay me back..I see how you are.’ I responded with, ‘ Norman, for all these years I’ve wondered why it is that you only leave the shower head on IF you must put the rug on the tub. Is it because your mind can’t handle doing more than 5 things in one day and you must delete something like turning the shower head off in order to add the rug detail or are you just an angry person who resents behaving like a responsible adult?” He just stood there , rather stargazed, and then he said goodbye.

        In addition to the rug on the tub nonsense, Yesterday morning I also noticed lots of coffee grounds spilled all over the counter and even on the clean dishes. Not a speck of it was on the floor though which made me realize that he had decided to be a good boy by not putting it on the floor but punish me in a brand new way ( cheers for spontaneity) by making sure it was on everything else. How does he do this? Does he stand there carefully and strategically sprinkling them? It’s very creepy that Norman can’t hear me calling him in our small house but that morning upon noticing the grounds, I very quietly sighed and grumbled to myself something like , ‘ Oh boy” and he was apparently in the office watching me. As soon as I commented to myself he piped up very boldly, ‘ What is it? What did I do’. I’m tellin ya, no other person would have heard a word I uttered and he didn’t either. He was just watching me, peaking around the book case and ready to respond. I didn’t respond to his questions and kept doing my usual stuff. I also noticed that he had accidentally spilled a few of the coffee filters out of the box and they and the box were laying on the counter in a puddle of water. All this because of a bathroom rug? Norman is becoming even more ‘thoughtful’ these days. I asked him before he left if he thought it was odd that everything he does requires that I be involved in some way and then I began singing that song, ‘ IT takes TWO baby, it takes two..me and you ‘ by Marvin Gaye….and I wished him a good day.

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        • WritesinPJ's says:

          Exodus: “Yes, It’s the loneliest form of abuse there is. When I attempted to reach out to others in the past for some sort of validation or comfort, I didn’t have all day to describe all the continual nonsense to someone in order to give them a realistic perspective of what I was dealing with. I soon learned that it’s mostly pointless to try to tell someone that I’m depressed because my husband accidentally forgot to deposit the check that day.”

          I laughed inside, but with a small grimace of understanding all too well.

          Like

  4. ChickenLadyMovedToTown says:

    There’s nothing more I can add. You’ve said it all, and now I’m speechless…

    Liked by 1 person

  5. lonelywife07 says:

    I’m so grateful to have the support of my four boys and my DIL….they have seen PA Mans behavior first hand…In fact, last Sept. After PA man and I had a huge blow up, my DIL called me about something, and as soon as I answered she asked me, “What’s wrong…are you ok?” And I started sobbing…they came right over, and PA Man showed his true colors….My DIL later told me that it was the first time she REALLY got a glimpse of how PA Man is so cold and indifferent to me!

    You are again, spot on with this assessment, PJ….PA Man is insisting he doesn’t want to lose me or his family…and will go to counseling…I guess I do have the upper hand when you look at it….because PA Man does know he WILL be the outsider if we split….MY boys don’t have a relationship with him at all, and I know that once we split, they won’t want to see him…he will truly be all alone.
    Counseling…that magic word we all hope to hear…But like you stated PJ…”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”….Yes….that is what I know will happen. It’s like that episode of Everybody Loves Raymond that I posed on my blog a few weeks back…the therapist fell for Raymonds “sincerity” while his wife looks on in horror, knowing this isn’t the man she lives with on a daily basis!!

    There really isn’t any hope, is there? I scored 89% extraverted on that personality test you posted several weeks back….I AM an extravert, always have been….that’s my personality…I can’t change it.
    And PA Man is passive aggressive….he can’t change that. It’s who he is.

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    • Exodus says:

      Oh my gosh…the raymond show…..that’s really bad. I’m glad that I didn’t see that episode. I won’t watch that show or the king of queens.

      Now, now, there is always hope. That is, if you have 9 lives. Oh durn. Sorry!

      You should never be with anyone that requires that you change for them and the hardest thing for any of us is to realize that we don’t need anyone’s validation of what is happening to us. The counselors are not going to be effective because the man that sees them every week isn’t the same man that comes home to us.

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  6. Exodus says:

    PJ’s I discovered something VERY interesting yesterday that I want to share with you.
    While packing some books I stumbled upon 3 self help books- 2 of them were about PA behavior and inside one of those, I found Norman’s PA worksheets that his therapist gave him during their first session. Norman never returned for further help. I decided to quickly read through the worksheets and at the end of the package was a questionnaire with multiple choice answers that required Norman to rate his personality based on the scenario. He would rate himself as being 1- very uncomfortable 2- slightly uncomfortable 3- reasonably comfortable 4 very comfortable.

    I was stunned by Norman’s responses( even had to adjust my glasses) because they were so truly inaccurate and gave me a true glimpse into his lack of insight and self awareness.

    For example: ( my perception of him in the parenthesis)

    Expressing Anger when you are angry……………3 ( PLEASE!!!)
    Discussing another person’s criticism of you openly with them…3 (HOLY COW..NO WAY!!)
    Telling a friend that they are doing something that bothers you…3 ( NO WAY!!)
    Returning a defective item to a shop………4 ( This was the only 4 on the page and it’s a bold face lie. Norman always feels like they will hate him if he complains and returns anything)
    asking a favor of someone………..3 ( NO WAY!!!)
    Asking for constructive criticism……3 ( Need I even comment?)
    Telling a friend exactly how you feel……3 ( ” )

    Anyway, there was not a single 1 on the page and the only 2’s that were on there were:

    Arguing with another person
    Saying ” No” to another person without apologizing
    Receiving a compliment and saying something to acknowledge that you agree
    Speaking in front of a group
    Treating yourself or doing something just for you ( I believe this could be somewhat accurate given that he’s an extremely selfish man that does whatever he wants to which upsets me quite often- hence, his interpretation based on my reaction)

    The results of the test suggest that he could be more assertive.

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    • GainingStrength says:

      Exodus, we took a test (can’t remember which one, maybe love language?), but I was stunned by his answers. Really? was all I could think of to myself after reading his answers. You’re right, they answer how they think others view them or want others to see them and not the truth. How can you change without first acknowledging the truth? Answer: YOU CAN’T

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      • Exodus says:

        Gaining, Exactly. So true! I think the reason we stay so long is that we just assume that their insight will kick in. I don’t believe that it can but that’s just based on my own experience. I really don’t believe that part of their brain functions very well if at all.

        I forgot to mention that this test was taken back in 04!! OUCH, OUCH. It’s difficult to put ten years into perspective relative to enduring all this nonsense. What a reality check that was.

        Like

  7. Jane D. says:

    Yes, and yes, to living with a PA (nobody believes you because “he’s such a nice guy!”) and moving on to live with integrity to yourself.

    Like

  8. Rachel says:

    I know a P-A man myself and I am his target. I have since taken a few steps back from our so-called relationship and decided to let it all go to regain my inner peace. Since then, I’ve traveled to many places to find myself again and most importantly, a peace of mind. I have found the strength, courage and bravery to no longer be afraid of my attachment to him. It isn’t easy because I love him. I’m not in love with him (anymore) but I genuinely love and care about him as person.

    A friend of mine, in one sentence, described him as.. “I don’t need you in my life, but don’t you dare leave me.” I will never abandon him because I don’t have it in me to leave behind someone I do care about. I understand him now. I understand how his mind works even though he has the slightest idea that he’s P-A and will reject the notion. I know the situation better now and know how to protect myself from his covert abuse. When the time comes that everyone in his life will abandon him, I will remain. That’s the choice I’ve made. It all boils down to that. You can love from a distance and still keep your sanity.

    I hope that you will find yourself as I did. Here’s a blog post from zenhabits I want to share with you that has helped me. http://zenhabits.net/zen-attachment/ Letting go of attachment, from A to Zen. Take care. I hope that it all works out for you.

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    • Exodus says:

      Rachel, Thanks for sharing that website. I spent years practicing breathworks and applying mindfulness and other Buddhist principles to my life in order to cope with my abuse and while it helped me to live with more peace and endure it didn’t help Norman and I became nothing but an exhausted enabler. No one should live in an abusive relationship- not even Buddha would want that.

      I understand and appreciate the paradox of loving everything and being attached to nothing. I remember several years ago a friend of mine said, ‘ But, you shouldn’t live that way” and I told her that I was fine and that what Norman did didn’t have any effect on my attitude or my spirit and that I lived my own life and was able to distance myself enough that I was comfortable. I wanted to believe that and I probably did at that time. The truth is, I don’t want a husband that has nothing to give back and abuses my good nature. I don’t want to live with a husband that I consider to be of the same ordinary caliber as an annoying driver on the highway. Life is too short and the world has enough crazymakers in it to drain any of us in a day so, why waste precious time trying to cope with an unnecessary source of resistance? I can’t choose who I drive down the road with but I can choose my partner. I would rather live alone or with a house mate than to know that I’m being exploited every day by someone that doesn’t even respect me as a human being- much less, a wife.

      We can always choose not to engage in the drama but who wants to be in a relationship that requires that kind of mindful energy every day? I’d rather put my energy to use where it’s going to be nurturing something that can grow. Being with Norman was like constantly watering and fertilizing a dead plant and meanwhile, all the other living plants in the garden were being neglected.

      Like

  9. Jane D. says:

    “Being with Norman was like constantly watering and fertilizing a dead plant and meanwhile, all the other living plants in the garden were being neglected. ”

    Wow, love this description of relationship with our difficult/abusive husbands.

    Liked by 1 person

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