Monday, May 03, 2010

Why passive aggressive people do marry?

We all dream of happiness, right?

When you dream of happiness, you tend to envision a relationship where there is a fair share of give and take. Mutual support is expected and welcomed. It is very easy to imagine and expect attention, care and permanent interest from a spouse. Whatever our past experiences, this is what everybody dreams...

Why marry, otherwise? if both parties are grown ups, then they know what they need and expect from the most important life relationship, that is marriage.

When the inevitable problems appear, if the two are mature enough they will know how to talk about their needs and then negotiate with the spouse a shared decision about possible solutions. This is, in a nutshell, what healthy marriages are up to: a search for solutions to solve both partners’ needs.

Sometimes there is a break and this implicit contract never happens. If isolation and loneliness set in, intimacy disappears in utter silence, and the spouse is surprised, and shocked. This is not what was expected! Why one of them is withdrawing into himself?

Perhaps it is easier to attribute this situation to the role learning process where both people need to adapt to their new role as spouses. The lessons of marriage are not just learned in the first month!

Sometimes the situation keeps going on with long silences, and feelings not expressed. Frustration and resentment grow like a bad weed and the initial promise of marriage is seen as a cruel joke.

What happened? Living together in the same space pushes both spouses to deal with previously ignored issues: how much proximity? Where are personal limits drawn? How to negotiate intimacy without feeling invaded or controlled?

What we are doing, unconsciously, is to put into play the only rules we have learned in life: the ways in which our own parents did their marriage. We saw them, their distance or proximity; their ways of reflecting trust or satisfaction for being in each other's company.

Probably their lack of communication skills was painful: when there was a problem that needed a candid approach to be solved, they didn't know what to do. Retreating into silence and expecting the other to understand without words is one of the traps of marriage.

In the "expecting to be magically understood by the other myth," there is a party who believes that the other side bears the responsibility for initiating contact, opening up issues and offering solutions.

From their own side, they feel safe in silence and don't recognize the impact this silence has on the other, coming across as carelessness and callous indifference. If this "clamming up" is constant, and there are no bridges to rescue the intimacy, then one person in this couple is using passive aggressive behavior to send a message of frustration and resentment.

You could be immersed in a long term relationship that brings you confusion, isolation or anger for ever without realizing that this kind of pain is a product of your partner's passive aggressive communication style.

A passive aggressive intimate connection is a sad paradox. It is as if, in the middle of our constant search for love, companionship and support, we found instead a huge dark cloud that says:

"My job is to drive you crazy with confusion and frustration. I will pervert and block all your steps towards reaching love in such a way that it will be impossible for you to discover who did it and how it was done...meanwhile I'm professing love and devotion to you."

This is the challenge presented by the passive aggressive person's constant emotional sabotage, which has the objective of sustain a permanent resistance to any deep intimacy, trust and union.

If this proximity is experienced as risky, threatening of their internal security and impossible to tolerate, then, why do passive aggressive people marry in the first place?

BECAUSE, we all are human and they, under the passive aggressive defensiveness, still have their own needs for love and connection unsolved. What gives then? Only a serious effort to address this defensive behavior could offer some peace of mind and the possibility of continuing a personal development up until now arrested and twarted by fear of intimacy.

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