Life with my passive aggressive husband can feel like a roller coaster that’s rolling out of control. I can be so determined to focus on my own goals and hold to my boundaries, and then find myself flying through some crazymaking at a dizzying speed.
A wonderful thing has happened recently. Some really good work has come our way. When we’re scheduling and planning, I try to make sure that the good clients stay happy, even as some deadlines are colliding. My husband is actually first rate at actually doing what he does as a professional, but he’s not good with the planning, prioritizing, or business decisions. Theoretically (and with the encouragement of a psychologist we once saw), this is where my strengths come in.
In a normal relationship that sounds like a win-win, but a relationship with a passive aggressive man is far from normal, and anyone who has been in one knows that these men are so driven by resistance, resentment, control, self-pity, and sometimes just pure contrariness, that they can behave in ways that make absolutely no sense at all.
While we were planning how to get 60 hours of projects stuffed into a 30 hour bag, I asked him to inquire with Client K about any flexibility for the deadline on Job X. He stared with a veiled irritated glare. I asked, “Couldn’t you at least ask? It would make such a difference.”
He replied, “I could try, but I’m already pretty sure it can’t change for this job.”
“I understand, but will you at least ask? I’m not sure how we can pull this off without a little extra time.”
He said, “Yes, but I told you that I don’t think it’s possible on this job to change the deadline.”
“Yes, okay, but you will ask?”
My experience with him has taught me to play careful attention to exactly what he says, because semantics are a manipulative tool for him.
(Later he might come back with something like: I never said that I’d doooo that, PJ, what I said was that I could, but I didn’t think it would matter blah blah blah…)
I’ve learned that he’ll talk around something with slippery semantics in order to avoid a concrete commitment.
This conversation actually dragged on. Above is the condensed version, with him growing more irritated, and in turn I turned part of my thoughts towards a future escape one day. This was only a part of the planning and prioritizing, but it was as much fun as dragging my nails down a chalkboard. I told him that Job X was an example of how the meetings took more time than necessary. I said, “If I ask you to please inquire if there’s any flexibility on a particular deadline, a good answer would be to say that you will try. Then we’d make a note, and move on.”
He went on a mini rant about hating my repeating things and wasting his time.
Later that afternoon, we went to long overdue haircut appointments that he’d made a couple weeks beforehand. During the short ride, he was giving me job updates, and right before we parked to go in, he said that Client K had called, and we had two extra days on the deadline for Job X. I said, “You gave me such grief when we were meeting this morning about that. Could you say it again with any humor or humility?”
Oops. I guess not. Instead he gave me a seething ugly glare. He insisted that he never disagreed with what I asked, that he didn’t argue with me about it. I said that was a lie, that I still had the morning notes, and to stop gaslighting me.
Then we walked into the hair salon. He was instantly the tired lovable puppy. We both looked like tired shaggy mops. The stylist was a single middle aged woman that we’ve gone to before. My husband said to me, “You go first,” and to the stylist, “Take your time with this lady. She’s had a hard week.”
Um. I looked around at him, and said, “And why was that?”
The stylist looked at him and said, “Were you the reason she had a hard week?”
He replied, “I hate to admit it, but I was. I was kind of an asshole, and wasn’t treating her very well.”
The stylist said, “Well at least you admit it! Most men wouldn’t do that!”
I said nothing.
When we got back in the car later, I asked him, “Was that real? Was that a real apology, or did you say it for brownie points for your image in there?”
He said, “Oh no, it was real. I really meant it.”
I said, “So you admit that you gave me a difficult time, and you were gaslighting me earlier?”
“I didn’t do that! You misunderstood me, or you weren’t listening to me! I think our problem in those meetings is a communication failure!”
We walked in the house, and started passing like two ships in the night, or two distant roommates. As we bumped into each other in a hallway, I said, “Remember that one man’s resentment and irritation might be another man’s joy and treasure.”
Cold, but unsure disdain looked at me in response.
The evening went on, and later that night I was watching episodes of an old TV show with a few of the kids on youtube on the computer. He came out and quietly whispered to me that he wanted to apologize.
I whispered back, “Really…Please don’t say things you don’t mean.”
“No, really, I really mean it this time. Please forgive me. I’ve been thinking about what you said, and my pride does get in the way when things are going well.”
(Heard it all before.)
He said, “I’m really sorry for giving you a hard time, and for gaslighting you.”
(really… heard this too)
“You’re admitting that you did gaslight me today?”
“Yes. Please forgive me, and pray for me that God frees my heart from being passive aggressive.”
Heard this before too… but at this point, I softened. How could I not pray for someone that asked me? How could I not forgive when I always need mercy myself?
It was exhausting. Draining. And with what was left of my energy, I made a checklist for my own goals for the next day, and fell asleep feeling alone with someone.