It seems to be a silent but growing epidemic of miscommunication between people in any kind of relationships. If you read forum comments, help requests are popping up everywhere, and the hurt from miscommunication seems to be a shared national pain.
People are now more used to accept loneliness;
we don't know how to manage confrontations with love and respect;
we can't accept other people's negative feedback, etc.
Whatever the reasons to use this confusing art of "talking without getting into anything deep," let's look at its impact on marriage.
As you can’t not communicate with others, (we are social beings, remember?) you can “communicate with others” in such a way that it denies the basic purpose of communication that is to connect people with each other...How?
People say general things, never in a direct way, and let the other person guess the meaning of the words spoken to avoid confusion;
Or change the subject to something neutral like the news, or the weather, all to avoid being present and responsible in the interaction.
People don’t accept responsibility for their own behaviors, and edge, deny, or avoid going deeper into some relational conflict, as to never have to propose needed changes to their own behavior.
In short, some people are officially married but so compromised by their own need to avoid what they consider a dangerous enmeshment with the spouse as to sabotage the real heart of connection, that is simple, direct and responsible conversation.
This is a direct attack to the heart of any love relationship, where developing trust and learning to share our intimate aspects are the tasks we need to learn at this stage of our lives. And the consequences are devastating:
We have women saying of this emotional isolation: “I’m single in a marriage with three children...”
What do we need to learn of this behavior?
The first point to understand is that this passive aggressive spouse has grown up perfecting a non-relational communication style.
He has a permanent challenge in his mind:
Who can say the most words without giving the other person any personal information of importance?
Who can use language to confuse and disorient the other and make her believe that this is a personal relationship, when in reality is an old battle against some controlling figures of his past?
Who can be the master of this game of gas-lighting the other without paying any price and enjoying all the benefits of being married without being personally engaged?
In this frame of thinking, given that this behavior is a legitimate response developed along time to protect the self against intrusive, demeaning and overly critical parents, the newcomer, (the new bride or wife) has not created it.
Given that being elusive and prone to hiding his emotions, especially his anger is a response learned way back, it is not now a response to her behaviors...it’s his “normal response” to everything that happens in his world, his marriage included.
Why does she prefers to believe that is her the caused of his morose responses or lack of?
First, he tells her exactly that he is behaving so because she did X;
Second, believing it gives her some power: if she caused this behavior, she can do something to prevent or change it....so with her change will come the right husband she dreams of.
Now, comes the unconscious pact in which both will spend 20-30 years battling each other. Mostly of the women responding to our surveys in the blog share stories of being married for more than 20 years when they finally they realize that the passive aggressive response is always there, that there is no change but minimal, and that they have been “alone in a marriage” for too long!
Why do they take so long to realize what’s going on?
The confusing impact of passive aggressive language is one powerful reason, because it prevents her insight. She is blinded by her love.
The second one is her relentless hope that she can change their husband by doing better in the house, taking care of this or that aspect, etc.
When everything fails, at least there is power in realizing that:
It is his behavior, adopted to defend himself since his childhood;
There is little or nothing she can do to change it;
She is neglecting her own personal growth in a battle that was lost from the beginning.
When she has the courage to see the real picture, then she can have a plan to develop her own sources of love and companionship.
Neil Warner is a relationship expert, and is the co-owner of Creative Conflict Resolutions, a conflict resolution group that specializes in healing emotional abuse and stopping passive aggression.
He has authored or co-authored many books on this subject, and has recently branched out into publishing books straight to Kindle.
In his daily work and consultation with clients, he strives to promote the concept of "creative conflict" - that is, how conflict can be used as an avenue for growth and love within the relationship.
He believes that everyone deserves the chance to pursue happiness in their relationships, and devotes himself to helping people overcome obstacles to that happiness. And he continues learning how to be happy in his own personal life.