Even when we all do some passive aggressive behavior here and there, especially when we are resisting some ordering around, but don't want to issue an open challenge, everyone knows what this behavior looks like. The friend who perpetually arrives late. The husband who sistematically "forgets" important dates for his wife. The co-worker who postpones to return your e-mail messages asking for some help. The very words: "Nothing. I'm just thinking."
Yet while "passive-aggressive" has become a common way of framing this covert non-cooperation, there are not a lot of ways of challenging it. Always the person doing it can, when pushed, accept the behavior but deny the resisting, sabotaging behavior! And you are left empty-handed, with only your gut feeling about being cheated in your objectives!
What you need to look for is not the occasional response that blocks cooperation while saying that it is forthcoming,but look for the passive-aggressive personality, which is ingrained and the habitual way of dealing with the world, you included. In milder forms it can come across as a maddening blend of evasiveness and contrition, agreeableness and impudence, and in severe cases is often masked by more obvious mental illness, like depression. (1)
The classic description of this personality captures a "stubborn malcontent, someone who passively resists fulfilling routine tasks, complains of being misunderstood and underappreciated, unreasonably scorns authority and voices exaggerated complaints of personal misfortune."
Does it sound like someone that you personally know? In a sudden flash or recognition, you think: this is exactly John's description!
well, there you are, now you have a name for this confusing attitude that leaves you reeling, lonely and dissapointed. It is as if, sometimes, you are dealing not with a grown up person, responsible and attentive, but with a helpless and passive child, providing you with inadequate responses to the mature cooperation necessary in a marriage. Sometimes you can even perceive him as doing a clever obstruction of all your plans to move ahead, progress and develop new experiences for both, so scared he is of change and your role in any change happening to him. If you push a lot, then you will be served with aggressive outbursts, coming like "out of nowhere," but destined to protect his personality from any adult demand coming his way.
Soon you will be perceived as part of his tormentors, the hideous grown ups who are not letting him be, and forcing him to do things he doesn't want to do...you will be the arbitrary authority enslaving him, and not perceived as a loving partner.
Do you need to know more? do you need to know if this personality can any time develop and reach maturity? Perhaps you need to get a copy of www.passiveaggresive.com, an ebook that will give you strategies to respond to PA tactics!