Dealing With A Passive-Aggressive Partner? 6 Sanity-Saving Tips

Passive-aggressive people can be emotionally tricky. They are generally indirect when it comes to anger. Therefore, attempts to deal with them during conflict can leave you feeling insecure, frustrated, or even dismissed by their subtle instigation or avoidance.

So, what happens when your partner is passive-aggressive? It’s one thing to deal with a passive-aggressive coworker or boss away from home, but what if you have a romantic partner or spouse who handles disagreements this way?

If this sounds like your relationship, you likely feel frustrated and unsure of how to handle the situation. Fortunately, as frustrating as it may be, there are ways to cope with a passive-aggressive partner and maintain your sanity. 

1. Don’t Fight Back

Passive-aggressive people tend to initiate disputes, but seldom acknowledge their responsibility for them. When you criticize or push back, they take it personally and use it as ammunition to blame you disproportionately. 

Try to remain calm, engage the negativity as little as possible, and don’t get pulled into their manipulation. They see your anger as a victory on their part, and will likely try to push your buttons even more. 

2. Understand What You’re Dealing With

Passive-aggressive people tend to be quite insecure. They may also exhibit narcissistic traits. More than anything, however, they tend to be codependent. 

Though they loathe taking responsibility for the conflict, tension and discontent may seem to be a running theme in your relationship. Your passive-aggressive partner relies on you to assume responsibility for relationship repair as they pick it apart.

3. Notice Negative Behaviors and Characteristics

One of the biggest characteristics of a passive-aggressive person is denial. They will typically negate their role in any fight. Rarely they are willing to own up to anything that instigates trouble. 

You may find too, that your passive-aggressive partner is seemingly forgetful, negligent, ambiguous, ambivalent, or inconsiderate. They want to provoke you, but without exhibiting anger or admitting responsibility for your conflicts.

Try to be mindful and observant. Pay attention to what triggers your partner without assuming responsibility for their behavior.

4. Don’t Allow Them to Disrespect You

Passive-aggressive people tend to diminish or tear down other’s opinions or ideas. This may be subtle, disguised as humor, or part of a pattern to assert their superiority over time. 

For example, let’s say you and your partner are trying to decide what to have for dinner. You suggest several restaurants. Yet, your partner takes issue with each of them. Instead of providing any suggestions of their own, they simply criticize you instead. 

Be wary when this happens. Calmly share that you will not tolerate constant criticism. Also, ask that your partner respectfully interacts with you. It’s okay to welcome constructive or helpful conversation but reserve the right to walk away if neither occurs. 

5. Be Assertive and Firm

When dealing with a passive-aggressive partner, focus on being clear and calm. Lashing out or constantly trying to appease your partner usually just meets with further frustration as your partner minimizes, disengages, or gaslights your perspective.

Instead, firmly approach the situation. Explain calmly the reasons why their tone, words, or behavior are hurtful to you. Try not to be accusatory or intentionally mean — this will only egg them on. 

If you remain calm and level-headed, your passive-aggressive partner may react with less emotion, thus lessening their passive-aggression. 

6. Consider Couples Therapy

If you’re dealing with a passive-aggressive partner, you may feel like you’re at your wit’s end. You love your partner, and you chose to be with them for a reason. However, it can be hard to remember these reasons when passive-aggressive behaviors persistently overshadow your communication. By seeking out a couples counselor, you can learn better ways to interact and handle your frustration. 

You Aren’t Alone

Hopefully, when your partner’s behavior is brought to light by a third party, they may start to take some responsibility for their behavior. Or, if your partner is unwilling to go to counseling, you could seek out a therapist for yourself. You aren’t alone, and there are ways to handle a passive-aggressive partner. It is wise to meet your own needs for a safe and healthy relationship.

Please look consider therapy to help learn how to deal with your partner’s behavior — for your sake, your partner’s sake, and your sanity’s sake. Reach out for a consultation soon or visit my Couples Therapy page to learn more.