Wednesday, November 18, 2009

"Forgetfulness" by a Passive Aggressive Spouse

I’d like you to meet Tim and Jane. Outwardly, Tim appears happy, agreeable, and obliging. But when Jane asks Tim to do something for her, things never seem to get done properly, or sometimes get done at all. When Jane asks Tim to pick up the dry cleaning on the way home, he forgets. When she asks Tim to help tidy up the living room, he does such a poor job that Jane ends up doing it all herself. Why does this always happen? Tim always says he’ll do it, but very rarely does he ever follow through.

Does this sound familiar? Then you may be dealing with a passive aggressive spouse. The passive aggressive spouse is angry inside, but is unable, or unwilling to share his feelings with his spouse in an upfront manner. As a result, he takes out his frustrations on his wife in a passive way.

A common sign of passive aggressiveness is a spouse that is constantly forgetting to do things. Just as Tim forgets to get the dry cleaning, or forgets to clean the living room, the passive aggressive spouse will say “sure, I’ll do it,” but in the end, he will deliberately lose sight of what he had just agreed to do. This forgetfullness may seem innocent at first, but eventually it will grow into a routine with the ability to destroy a marriage.

This pattern of passive aggressiveness often begins in childhood. Think of what happens when you ask a child to put away their toys. The child will say yes, but instead procrastinates, starts playing with something else, and ignores what he should be doing. Before you know it, an hour has passed an not a single toy has been put away. While this is acceptable behavior for a child, it is not acceptable for the pattern to continue into adulthood.

If your spouse is frequently "forgetting" to do things, you may want to consider that it is passive aggressive behavior. What do you do next? It depends of the relationship, the time you have been married to him (the longer the time, the more resistant to changes he will be) and of your needs to really have his support...

More information on this kind of passive aggression and its impact on marriages can be found on our blog.


Bill said...

I find it unsettling that the article seems to be directed solely at the male as being the offender. I Like the article and agree with most of it and would suggest that the author rewrite the article to express that PA affects both genders equally

Nora Curtis said...

Bill, it is true that there are passive aggressive behaviors present in both genders...but in my experience, I find that men find this escape hatch more convenient more of the times. They can escape to their caves, be silent, ignore the issue for a long time, and all it be considered "normal" behavior.
Is the cultural factor about the strong, dominant and silent male that strengthens this model...Perhaps 10% of the women can get this image applicable as model for themselves, but usually they identify more with the suffering victim when they express, claim and protest what is happening to them...and beg for changes! I don't see many men begging for changes in their partners...