Portland Relationship Counselor: How to Recognize Passive Aggressive Behaviors

November 19, 2014 by

In marriage, passive aggressive behavior is an indirect expression of anger, unhappiness, or resentment to avoid direct confrontation of a conflict. Passive aggressive individuals may attempt to keep their real feelings to themselves, but end up revealing them in underhanded and often more damaging ways.  In the long term, expressing hostility through passive aggressive means can be more destructive to a relationship than shouting or arguing.

Being on the receiving end of passive aggressive behavior can be frustrating. You may feel hurt or upset, but unable to explain why. But if you are able to identify passive aggressive behavior and recognize that it is a veiled expression of hostility, you will be better able to protect yourself from its capacity for harm.

Here are three examples of common passive aggressive behaviors:


An individual acting passive aggressively may sidestep responsibility for their actions by claiming forgetfulness. They may also claim they haven’t heard or understood your requests.

Sulking and silent treatment

Rather than expressing their feelings through words, a person engaging in passive aggressive behavior may act sullen and moody to show their anger. If you try to address this, they may deny their behavior or simply refuse to answer or speak.

Being purposefully inefficient  

Even though an individual acting in a passive aggressive manner may pretend to comply with your requests, they will often complete the task in a way that is impractical or inefficient, or try to sabotage the task entirely.

Healthy marriages must have honesty and trust—both virtues with which people with passive aggressive tendencies struggle. Dealing with passive aggressive behavior is incredibly difficult, as it requires a lot of patience and understanding. If you recognize passive aggressive habits in your spouse, don’t struggle with it alone—contact a Portland relationship counselor and learn how to communicate to help them overcome the behavior.