11 Passive-Aggressive Behaviors You Might Be Guilty Of

The ability to be honest with your partner about the tough stuff is something that gives your partnership the foundation it needs to get through anything. When you can’t be open with your partner, the negative parts of your relationship still come out somehow. This is usually when passive-aggressive behavior takes hold and comes out in all sorts of different ways.

  1. Making “jokes” that aren’t all that funny Roasting your partner can be a very healthy part of a good relationship, but that’s only from time to time and in good fun. If you’re acting passive-aggressively, your “joke” might actually be a jab at your partner about something they did to upset you recently or even in the past.
  2. Saying you’re okay when you’re clearly not Your partner does or says something that upsets you. They might not know that you’re upset, but they have a feeling and so they ask, “Are you okay?” If you are mad and you snap back with the “I’m fine,” or “nothing’s wrong,” it’s proof that you’re not being as direct as you should be. This type of behavior can cause resentment in relationships because problems you have never get aired out.
  3. Bottling up your feelings When you continuously play the aforementioned “nothing’s wrong,” game, it can eat at your intimacy. This level of passive-aggressiveness leads to bad feelings to be piled on top of one another inside you. When that bottle gets full, though, it’s going to all come spilling out and your partner will be shocked they did you so dirty when you never said anything about any of it.
  4. Talking a lot of crap about your partner behind their back If you have something bad to say about your partner, you should be saying it to their face. If you don’t have the guts to have a face to face with your partner but can easily go to friends and tell them how horrible they treat you, that’s a problem and it’s seriously passive-aggressive.
  5. “Forgetting” to do things on purpose Say your partner forgets to get the laundry even though you asked them three times. This ticks you off, and for good reason. If you’re acting passive-aggressively though, you’re not going to sit them down and tell them that it does. You’re going to forget to put the dishes away when they ask you. It’s a twisted game to play and will only lead to bigger problems.
  6. Getting even with your partner Being petty with your partner is another passive-aggressive behavior you may be guilty of if you keep a tally for everything. It could be good or bad things, but keeping score in a relationship will only make it more of a game and less of a partnership. If they hurt you and you feel the need to hurt them back, that’s a problem.
  7. Trying too hard to please your partner On the other hand, being too positive with your partner can be a passive-aggressive behavior all on its own. If you can’t be honest with your partner about differing opinions because you don’t want to have an argument, you’re not being straight up.
  8. Expecting your partner to read your mind No one is a mind reader and to get what you want out of a relationship you need to have open communication. If you rely on your partner to know how you’re thinking and feeling without actually telling them, you’re just setting them up for failure. It’s not fair to blame them for your inability to be direct.
  9. Failing on purpose I’ve heard this from multiple men on multiple occasions. The story goes that if their partner asks them to do something, they fail terribly at it so that they’re never asked again. This type of behavior is not only an insult to a person’s intelligence and too close to manipulation for comfort, but it’s also passive-aggressive. If you don’t want to do something your partner asks of you, just say it.
  10. Taking things way too personal When you hold onto resentment for someone, chances are everything they say that comes across as even the tiniest bit negative is going to seem like a personal attack. If everything your partner says feels like a punch to the gut, it’s probably because you haven’t been open enough about how you feel about certain things. (Of course, this is not the case in relationships with verbal abuse).
  11. Giving back-handed compliments Back-handed compliments are a great way for passive-aggressive people to say what they want to say without having to actually say it. Disguising dislikes or irritations with your partner as back-handed compliments can leave your partner feeling confused and hurt. It’s just not cool.


Angelica Bottaro has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Trent University and an Advanced Diploma in Journalism from Centennial College. She began her career as a freelance writer in 2014, racking up bylines in The Good Men Project, MakeWell, LymeTime, YouQueen, and more. She eventually shifted her focus and began writing about mental health, nutrition, and chronic disease for VeryWell Health.

You can follow her on Facebook or check out her website at AngelicaBottaro.ca. She also posts on Instagram @a.ct._b and Twitter @angiiebee.