Signs He’s Being Passive-Aggressive And What To Do About It

Passive aggression can ruin a relationship. A partner who seeks to silently undermine communication and manipulate your emotions needs to be dealt with as quickly as possible so that you can determine whether the relationship is capable of saving. Here are some signs that he’s being passive-aggressive and how to deal with it.

  1. You feel guilty all the time. This is one of the biggest signs your partner is being passive-aggressive. It can be difficult to recognize when someone is being passive-aggressive because the whole point is to make the other person feel bad without confronting them. Feeling guilty all the time may be an indication that he is dropping hints that you are an inadequate partner. This type of passive aggression often comes in the form of seemingly innocent and insignificant comments that are calculated to go unnoticed while producing negative emotions.
  2. He plays the victim. While you may feel that you’re equal in your relationship, he seems to think that you have power over him. Because of this, he sometimes acts as though his misfortunes and mistakes are your fault. While this is probably extremely frustrating for you, it’s helpful to understand where it comes from. This type of behavior demonstrates that he is struggling with personal insecurities. If you can address them, his passive aggression will become a thing of the past.
  3. He gives you the silent treatment when he’s upset. Also known as “stonewalling,” the silent treatment occurs when someone decides to ignore another person at a moment when communication is desperately needed. Instead of opening up a productive line of dialogue, he chooses to shut you out and hurt you by pretending nothing is wrong, or that you don’t even exist. The healthiest way to address this is to confront him about it rather than shutting him out in return.
  4. He acts like a martyr. Whenever he does you a favor, you end up feeling like you are indebted to him. This is partly because he insists on doing things that you know he hates. In fact, he seems to go out of his way to torture himself, ostensibly on your behalf. In doing so, he is trying to show you what a saintly partner he is, and make you feel overwhelmed with gratitude to have him in your life. Again, this is a sign that he feels inadequate. He thinks that to be appreciated by you, he needs to over-exaggerate his value.
  5. He pretends everything’s fine when you try to talk about things. One of the most common forms of passive aggression is verbally denying emotions. You recognize that he’s upset, but whenever you try to address it directly, he acts as if he has no idea what you’re talking about. Unfortunately, this is very difficult to combat and can become highly manipulative. If you can’t find a way to open an honest dialogue, it will be very difficult to rescue your relationship. He has to decide to cooperate.
  6. He turns insults into jokes. Whenever you call him out for saying something hurtful, he claims it was “just a joke.” As a consequence, you feel that you are overly sensitive. To break out of this cycle, you must first validate your own feelings. Recognize that your emotions are justified and that his “jokes” are intentionally harmful. When you identify that he is the aggressor, you can confront him about his behavior and refuse to accept his denial.
  7. He sabotages you. If you like the bed to be made, he deliberately leaves it messy. If you’re working from home, he turns his music up so that you can’t focus. These are obvious bids for attention, even though he won’t approach you directly. The best way to deal with this type of passive aggression is to address it before it makes you angry. Once you’re angry, you’ll end up talking about the sabotaging behavior rather than what caused it.
  8. He blames you for his emotions. He says things like, “You make me so angry,” or, “You know how upset I get when you do that.” Instead of taking responsibility for his feelings, he turns you into the instigator. Playing the victim in this manner is further evidence that he feels powerless. It is necessary to understand where this comes from. Is it unconscious or intentional? If it’s unconscious, it is probably the result of past trauma, and the two of you will likely be able to address it and become stronger. If it’s intentional, it is a form of manipulation and indicates that he enjoys cruelty.
  9. He purposefully doesn’t show up when you need him. Whether it’s being deliberately late to the gathering you’ve been planning for weeks or not answering the phone when he knows you need to talk to him, being strategically absent is a classic sign of passive aggression at its worst.  By withholding support, he’s trying to show you how much you need him, and by extension, how much you should appreciate him.
  10. Is it beyond repair? Passive aggression takes the form of a wide range of behaviors, some of which are reparable and some of which are not. For some people, it’s merely a habit that can be changed. For others, it represents a deeply ingrained cruel streak that falls squarely in the realm of emotional abuse. Only you can determine the extent of your partner’s passive aggression. But no matter how mild it is, it needs to be addressed sooner rather than later.
Rose Nolan is a writer and editor from Austin, TX who focuses on all things female and fabulous. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Theater from the University of Surrey and a Master's Degree in Law from the University of Law. She’s been writing professional since 2015 and, in addition to her work for Bolde, she’s also written for Ranker and Mashed. She's published articles on topics ranging from travel, higher education, women's lifestyle, law, food, celebrities, and more.