Are you being passive aggressive?

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Passive-aggression can be a really destructive thing in relationships.

People are usually passive-aggressive when there’s something they want to convey, but they don’t feel able able to do so directly.

Typical passive-aggressive behaviours in relationships can include freezing a partner out (refusing to talk until they guess what’s wrong), making indirect critical comments, making veiled threats, engaging in small acts of sabotage (‘accidentally’ losing something that belong to the other person, for instance, or cancelling plans late notice) or using other people as a proxy for your opinions (‘my mum says….’).

People engage in these behaviours for a variety of reasons. It can be due to insecurity:  feeling that if they were to express themselves directly, they wouldn’t be listened to. Or it can be a form of controlling behaviour: a way of getting someone to react in a certain way while denying them the chance to engage with what’s being said, or disagree.

The main effect of passive-aggressive behaviour on a relationship is usually to create a sense of mistrust between the two people involved. It can create an environment where neither partner feels able to express emotions directly, and may indeed continue to use passive-aggression to do so. And it can create a lot of resentment: people on the receiving end of passive-aggression often feel the aggression, but also that they’ve been denied a chance to have their say.

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