10 Signs Your Man Is Passive-Aggressive (2023)

Do you wonder if your husband is passive-aggressive?

Do you feel that their words and actions do not match? Are you confused and frustrated by the mixed messages you receive from him? So you could be married to a passive-aggressive man.

In this article, we'll discuss what passive aggression is, how to tell if your partner is having a passive-aggressive streak, and what to do about it.

What is passive aggression?

passive aggressionThey are feelings of anger or hostility that are masked, silenced, and disguised as something else to avoid conflicts or evade responsibilities.

It exists on some level in almost every relationship. For example, you were hurt by an insensitive joke your friend made. But instead of confronting her about it, you dodged her calls for 2 weeks and acted like you were too busy.

In a more sinister scenario, anarcissistic fatherYou can use passive-aggressive language to communicate with your child. They may subtly criticize the child's physical appearance, create feelings of guilt for not doing more to earn the parents' affection, or habitually compare the child to siblings, cousins, friends' children, etc.

Why don't they tell the child"You're Not Good Enough"o "You don't deserve my love"they can directly inflict emotional pain without consequence.

Passive aggression is also very common in intimate relationships.

of alldysfunctional intimate relationship patterns, passive aggression is one of the worst. It creates emotional incongruity where the person's words and actions do not match their true feelings. The incongruity, in turn, sabotages the relationship and leads to unexpressed frustration and resentment.

And yet, people often resort to passive aggression because it's an easy way to evade responsibility for "unacceptable" feelings and punish their partner without being "the bad guy."

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Examples of Passive-Aggressive Behavior

Passive aggression encompasses a variety of behaviors that essentially serve one purpose: to avoid confrontation by hiding the true feelings behind the behavior. These include

  • silence and stone walls
  • culpa
  • negative comparisons
  • Criticism presented as concern
  • sneaky compliments
  • Gimoteo
  • play the victim
  • Sabotage
  • Procrastination, cancellation of plans, chronic delays
  • hostile or uncommunicative attitude
  • Nonverbal cues (sighs, looks, angry gestures)
  • Sarcasm and hurtful jokes, etc.

What does passive aggression sound like?

Consider this conversation between a man and a woman driving home from a party.

Wife:Are you mad at me?

Husband: No. What makes you think that?

Wife:You've hardly said two words to me since we got in the car. Because I talked to Gary? I told you that nothing happens between us. We are only friends.

Husband:I know, you can talk to whoever you want.

Wife:So you're not mad?

Husband:Of course not. If you want to act like a jerk in front of all our friends, that's your choice. I do not have any problem with that.

Wife:are you calling me an idiot?

Husband:No. I would never do that. I wonder why you would want to flirt with your ex after everything he did to you.

Wife:I wasn't flirting! We are talking about his son. I gave him some school recommendations, that's all.

Husband:In order. Like I said, you are a free woman. I can't tell you what to do.(falls silent again)

Wife:I'm sorry. I won't talk to Gary again if he bothers you.

Husband:Oh, I don't care. You can talk to him if you think it's a good idea.(softer)I'm just taking care of you.

Let's deconstruct this conversation.

In this example, the husband does not want to admit feelings of jealousy and insecurity. on the other hand the

  • chooses silence to express his disapproval and anger
  • makes his wife feel guilty for talking to another man like she did something lewd
  • attacks her intelligence and insinuates that she publicly embarrassed him
  • when she confronts him ("Are you calling me an idiot?") hegas lightsher in denial ("No. I would never do that").

After being forced to defend herself, the woman finally agrees to stop talking to her ex. So the husband asserts himself without being vulnerable and without being responsible for her controlling behavior.

This example shows that passive aggression is not harmless. In fact, due to its covert and misleading nature, it can be more damaging than "active" aggression.

The origin of passive aggression.

Because passive aggression is primarily a means of avoiding conflict, it is typically exhibited by people who are conflict averse or those who wish to reveal their feelings in an easily deniable way, as in the example above.

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This pattern of communication typically has its origin in childhood.

Passive-aggressive people often grew up with explosive anger or in homes where expressing anger was prohibited. So you're afraid of that emotion and you don't have a model for healthy conflict resolution.

They suppress their anger to avoid conflict. But at the same time, they can't completely erase it, so they act passive-aggressively.

It can also involve intentional manipulative behavior that is part of a larger personality disorder pattern. For example, narcissistic and borderline personality disorders are associated with passive aggression.

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10 Signs Your Husband Is Passive-Aggressive

Detecting passive-aggressive behavior can be difficult because, by definition, it is quite subtle and easy to deny.

However, you probably know your husband better than anyone. He may have noticed that some of his behaviors are not situational or sporadic. They are a pattern and as such are easier to spot.

These are some of the more common passive-aggressive behaviors that your husband may exhibit.

1. Expect you to be a mind reader.

A passive-aggressive husband has a hard time communicating his needs directly. So he'll drop hints and make vague statements hoping you'll "guess" what he wants and grant his wishes like a magical genie.

This behavior is not necessarily "aggressive" or angry, but it is very frustrating to deal with.

It may be that your husband had no voice when he was a child. Every time he communicated his needs, he was fired or blamed.

Whatever the reason for this behavior, it's not a productive way to get your needs met.

2. He is combative in small matters

Since he can't be openly angry or upset about the things that really annoy him, he starts "little potato" fights to vent some of his frustration and get back at the things that really annoy him.

This can be very confusing. For example, it may seem that her husband is very passionate about loading the dishwasher in a certain way. And every time she "wrong" it, she reacts like it's a personal insult.

You may think he's overreacting and that's not a big deal. But for him, it's a passive-aggressive way to take the real frustration out on him.

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3. He never admits to being angry.

The classic goal of a passive-aggressive person is: “I'm not angry; I'm disappointed." Um, short message: You're angry.

A passive-aggressive husband will almost never admit that he is angry. Again, this includes expecting you to know how she feels without him having to say it. The other part is that expressing anger is taboo for him.

Perhaps growing up, you experienced a parent with an explosive temper. Or whenever he was angry or frustrated, he was punished or discouraged so he wouldn't show those feelings.

These childish patterns often follow us into adulthood, even when there is no reason for them. Even though her husband is an adult, she may still have a deep-seated fear of expressing negative feelings.

4. He pouts when upset.

So what does he do instead of being angry? He pouts.

Pouting, brooding, keeping quiet – these are classic passive-aggressive behaviors used to hide anger.

Instead of having an honest discussion about what's bothering him, your man withdraws emotionally, leaving you to figure things out and try to break through his impenetrable armor of silence.

You can also withdraw your affection or intimacy to communicate your discontent.

5. Doubt or feign incompetence

Every time you ask your man to do something, he hesitates until you get frustrated and do it yourself. Then he says:Oh, you didn't have to! She was about to.

Or in another scenario, feign competence to evade responsibility. In all other walks of life, he is an intelligent and capable man. But ask him to do a simple housework, like doing laundry for example, and he'll turn into a jerk who can't do anything right.

We have all done this at some point as children. Who hasn't tried to stop cleaning because they "didn't know how"? My 5 year old tried to use this excuse all the time.

RELATED POST: 20 Definitive Signs Of A Toxic Mother-in-Law (And What To Do About It)

But when an adult does it to another adult in a relationship, it is manipulative and immature and needs to be addressed.

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6. Avoid talking about difficult topics

Difficult topics like finances or parenting philosophies are not anyone's favorite subject, especially when there are vast differences in approach.

For example, you are a saver and your husband likes to make extravagant purchases because "you only live once." Both approaches are valid, but reconciling them is difficult. Therefore, open communication is essential to balance an unbalanced situation.

That's why members of a strong marriage aren't afraid to have tough arguments and challenge each other's assumptions.

Her husband, on the other hand, avoids these conversations because of the potential for conflict. He believes that ignoring differences will make them go away.

7. Is often critical but claims to mean well.

Criticism is usually a form of passive aggression disguised as advice, concern, feedback, etc. Usually we can ignore it because the source of the criticism is not that important to us. Arguably the most easily ignored criticism is from an outsider.

But when it's your spouse who habitually criticizes you, it's hard to ignore him because he's in your "inner circle," so assume he knows you well.

A critical husband may innocently think that he is helping you. But deep down, it is a form of aggression that has found a more acceptable outlet. and could bekill your relationship.

8. Use work or social networks to ignore you

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Whenever you have a conflict or disagreement, he is incredibly busy at work. Again, this is convenient passive-aggressive behavior because it's so easy to deny.

Another common passive-aggressive way to communicate anger or disapproval is to use social media every time you are together.

Of course, it can also be a habitual behavior of couples. It's not uncommon these days for a couple not to talk to each other in a restaurant, but rather to both check their phones.

So use your own judgment with this one. If the rest of the signs are correct, then there could be a passive-aggressive element to her husband's social media obsession. At the very least, it suggests a pattern of avoidance and escapism.

9. Complains instead of asking for help

In general, whining is classic passive-aggressive behavior. When someone complains, don't yell, curse, or bang your fist on the table. But make no mistake, it is a form of aggression.

Your husband may constantly complain about being misunderstood, underappreciated, or even "cursed" or unlucky in life.

Behind those whining and moaning could be a serious condition like depression. But it could also be her husband's way of telling her that he is angry that her needs are not being met.

For example, if your husband says things like:"Do not worry about me"o"No one appreciates what I do"It's more of a hint to you than a mature attempt to communicate his feelings.

Instead of directly telling you how he feels, he positions himself as a victim and blames other people for his state of mind.

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10. Uncomfortable with emotions in general

Your husband is generally uncomfortable with strong emotions, whether his or others'.

For example, every time you express strong feelings about something, it shuts down. Or always invalidate you by saying:"You're overreacting", "You're too sensitive", "No big deal", "Just get over it", "Why do you always have to be a drama queen?"

Lacking a healthy pattern of emotional expression growing up, she experiences every emotion as unsafe and potentially destructive.

If you have children, you can also subconsciously discourage them from showing emotion. In children, it is likely to censor sadness, fear and tenderness. In daughters, anger and assertiveness are not tolerated.

How to deal with a passive-aggressive husband

In most cases, passive aggression does not come from a malicious place. It's just a childish and immature way of dealing with your own frustration.

It is also the lack of understanding.

Your husband may not know that conflict is a normal part of a healthy relationship.

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In fact, if a couple never fights, it's a red flag. It means that people are inauthentic, superficial, or lack proper communication skills.

Because of his personal history, your husband may feel that conflict is a sign of trouble and that happy marriages always run smoothly. Conflicts scare you or make you feel like something is wrong.

If you recognized your husband from this article, you are faced with a difficult dilemma: tolerate his behavior or try to change it.

If you lean towards the latter, you know that passive-aggressive behavior patterns run very deep. It is something that has been cultivated for many years and has significant rewards. So it doesn't evaporate overnight. Even if your man is really willing to change something, it will be a process.

So what can you do to help him?

Well, just learning the warning signs of passive-aggressive behavior in your husband changes the dynamics of your relationship. Having this idea is a big step forward in allowing you to better control her own reactions and have a more accurate understanding of the type of relationship she wants.

Here are some other things you can do.

1. Talk openly about the topic

Talk to him about the problem (but not in the heat of an argument). Let him know that as long as he is respectful, it is safe for him to express his true feelings.

Use first person phrases and avoid accusatory tone or body language. For example you can say:"If you put off something I've asked you to do, I feel rejected and disrespected. I'd appreciate it if you would do it sooner in the future or tell me straight up that you won't."

Remember: you deserve honesty and respect. They don't ask for anything out of the ordinary.

2. Lead by example

Show him that conflict doesn't have to be disastrous or destructive to a relationship.

When a problem arises, don't let your emotions get the better of you and don't resort to personal attacks. Find common ground and acknowledge their feelings while expressing your own.

Also, recognize and reward their efforts to be more direct, no matter how small. Over time, your assertiveness will grow and you will be able to communicate more authentically.

If your husband grew up in an environment that generated passive aggression or if he hugged youunhealthy communication patternin a previous onetoxic relationship, there is a way to break the habit and embrace a new way of being if you are open and determined to change.

3. Set limits

Setting limits or borders is essential in any relationship. Let your man know what he will and won't tolerate, and be clear about what he wants.

"Setting limits sends you an important message: that you are entitled to better treatment," psychologist Scott Wetzler writes inLiving with the Passive Aggressive Man.

For example you can say:“I understand that dealing with conflicts is not easy for you. But I won't accept the silent treatment."

4. Seek professional help

If your husband is not progressing, keeps reverting to his old ways, or even worsens (because he is afraid of facing his inner demons and may rebel against the pressure to change), seek help from a therapist.

Regardless of potential setbacks, it may be a good idea to seek professional help, as a passive-aggressive pattern often begins in childhood.

The difficult and often triggering journey of reprogramming childhood beliefs and confronting irrational fears will be much easier with a counselor trained in these issues.

Therapy can also improve your communication, offer strategies to overcome challenges, and help strengthen your marriage. Or you can make it clear that the marriage is over.

After all, there are different types of passive bullies, and not all are willing or able to change.

If you feel that your husband is being more manipulative and controlling than childish and passive, consider the possibility that he is in an abusive marriage and seek help.


Oberlin, L. (2006). Understand passive aggression.advice today.

Wetzler, S. (1993).Living with the Passive Aggressive Man.touchstone.

Whitson, S. (2020). 6 telltale signs of passive-aggressive behavior.Psychology Today.

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