Monthly Archives: May 2016

How to Face the Passive or Aggressive Partner In Relationship

Most people are afraid of conflict in their relationships. No one really enjoys getting into arguments with their partner, right? But to some, conflict is more terrifying than to others. A passive-aggressive person is deathly afraid of conflict.

When you’re the partner of someone who behaves passive-aggressively, it can feel like you’re locked in an endless dance of anger and frustration. Over my thirty-five years as a marriage therapist, I’ve tried and tested many ways to resolve conflicts and come up with my battle-tested 7 Steps to Resolving Conflicts with your Passive-Aggressive Partner.

In order for any conflict resolution strategy to work, though, you must come to it from a place of empathy for the person who is passive-aggressive, so first let’s learn a bit about passive-aggression.

Why are passive-aggressive people so afraid of conflict?

Like most emotional responses, our attitudes about conflict begin in our childhood. If the conflict your partner saw at home as a kid involved open expressions of anger—and sometimes violence—your partner’s experience has taught them that conflict means someone will get hurt. If, instead of outward expressions of uncontrolled anger, your partner’s family did the opposite and avoided conflict at all costs, your partner likely never learned how to fight fair. Meaning, they never learned that conflicts can be productive tools.

Healthy conflict doesn’t only resolve a dispute, but it can also build understanding and compassion in relationships.

For people who rely on passive-aggressive behavior to get their needs met, their biggest fear is that any overt disagreement will lead to the end of a relationship. Your partner is likely anxious and doesn’t want to tell you directly how they feel because of fear about how you may react. Your partner is scared that you will abandon or divorce them if they assertively express their needs and desires.

Now you know where passive-aggressiveness comes from, here are my 7 Steps to Resolving Conflicts with Your Passive-Aggressive Partner:

1. Cool down.

If you approach your partner when you’re in the throws of an angry emotional reaction, no good will come of it. Your partner will just shut down. So, take some time to breathe and to cool down, examine your anger, and gain control of your emotion before you proceed. Seriously. Take time on this step. This is where things tend to go wrong: when people try to resolve conflicts while they’re emotionally activated.

2. Discuss.

Talk to your partner about what the problem is exactly. Both of you should define the problem from your own point of view. You want to make sure the conversation you think you’re having is the conversation you’re actually having. Don’t try to read your partner’s mind.


3. Brainstorm.

Work together to come up with ideas and options for solving the problem you’re having. Make a list of all the possible solutions—include ones you don’t like, ones your partner might not like, and ones that sound crazy but could maybe, possibly work. Throw it all out there.

4. Pros and cons.

Now that you’ve got your list of ideas for solutions, go through your list and discuss the pros and cons of the various potential solutions. Talk about what you like about the ideas and what you don’t like. In the discussion you might even come up with more ideas!

5. Win-Win.

Choose the solution that works best for both parties. Have the intention that everyone wins, or at least no one loses. The win-win solution is the best one, but obviously that’s not always realistic in every conflict.

What is The Good Relationship For You

Before you even think about dating or moving onto another relationship, you have to take inventory about your last relationship and figure out what worked, what didn’t and what you need to change in the future.  Ten questions to ask to figure out if your relationship was good for you and what you need to do to change it:

1. Safety: Were you physically, mentally, emotionally or verbally harmed? Were there times you were afraid of what your partner would do or say? Were there times you just dreaded seeing this person?

2. Self-esteem: Did you feel guilty, “less-than”, not good enough, not worthy in your relationship? Does your partner or ex partner criticize your behavior, your looks, or any other traits and qualities? Do you own that criticism and internalize it? Do you beat yourself up because of what you’ve done or continue to do? Are you taking the blame for the failures in the relationship? Has your partner broken up with you more than once because you haven’t changed or haven’t changed enough and you’ve been searching for the magic solution to make this person stay once and for all? Have you jumped through emotional hoops for your partner because he or she never seems to be happy with you? Have you ever hated yourself for being a fool for your partner?

3. Job/career: Did you call in sick because of being emotionally upset? Did you miss work to do things for your partner that he or she would not take care of? Did you neglect your job or career for your relationship? Did you obsess about your relationship to the detriment of your professional life?

4. Children: Were your children neglected when you were arguing with your mate? Were you frustrated or too upset to do things with/for your children? Did you swing between neglect and over-indulgence of your children out of guilt? Have you left your kids too long at a sitter or daycare because you needed to do something with your partner? Are you irritable or emotionally unavailable for your children because of the drain of your relationship? Do your children act rude to you because you’ve had no boundaries with your partner or you’ve been such as doormat for everyone, your chldren see you as one? Have you ever thought that your children may be rude to you because they don’t respect you and they don’t respect you because of the role you play in relationships?

5. Finances: Did you spend money on the relationship that you did not have? Did your partner siphon money off from you? Did your partner ask you “lend” him or her money and you loaned it even though you knew he or she did not have the means to pay it back? Do you spend money on self-improvement because your partner is critical of certain areas? Do you spend money on gym memberships or diet programs because your partner is critical of your weight? Do you spend above your means to be more attractive? Do you pay for things that your partner should pay for or help you pay for? Are you financially frustrated with your partner?

6. Stamina: Does the relationship drain you physically, mentally, or emotionally? Do you lose sleep or neglect your health because of the relationship trauma/drama? Do you have trouble sleeping or turning off your thoughts and that results in being a mess the next day?

7. Legal: Did you ever do anything in your relationship that could get you into legal trouble? Are you so wiped out that you forget small things like getting your car inspected or you are upset and speed or you become so upset you drink and drive? Are there things you are doing that could get you in big or small legal trouble that you would not be doing if not for this relationship?

Tips to Trust on Your Feelings

unduhan-93One reason critical thinking books advise their readers to suppress feelings is the assumption that we cannot trust our feelings. Indeed, we sometimes spontaneously trust others only to find out later that we were foxed; we buy too much food when we are hungry; we book a holiday based on pleasant anticipation and later regret it.

Although there may be some truth to the claim that we cannot trust our feelings, suppressing them comes at a cost. As outlined in an earlier blog post, suppression has negative effects on self-control and on stress.

So the question for every critical feeler becomes: Are there instances where we can trust our feelings? If yes, can we develop rules of thumb for when we can trust our feelings and when we cannot? Here are three.

One rule of thumb is that we should take feelings seriously and not suppress them because they might be important signals. A bad conscience might indicate wrongdoing, and fear might signal danger. However, this is not a sufficient reason to trust feelings unconditionally.

A second rule of thumb is, “know thyself.” Feelings provide us with signals for what is going on in the world. When these signals are accurate, we can trust our feelings; when feelings are not proper signals, we cannot trust them. For example, we should have scruples when we do something wrong. That is, a bad conscience should reliably tell us that we made a mistake.

However, a hardened youth might lack such a conscience while a hypersensitive person may be too conscientious and experience scruples where most people do not. An impostor may even feel pride when he succeeded in deceiving a victim.

The hardened youth has to cultivate feelings that signal wrongness in the right situations and should in any case take scruples seriously.

Hypersensitive people, by contrast, may ask each time they have the feeling whether it corresponds to the severity of the wrongdoing, or whether a deed is wrong at all. It is decent to have a fine moral compass but we should still be able to live on even if we make minor mistakes.

Pride is often a trustworthy signal that we have done something well. Sometimes, however, pride comes up for the wrong reason, for example, when we succeeded in cheating another person or when we boast how much heavy drinking we tolerate. In these cases, we should “reprogram” our feelings such that successful cheating elicits a bad conscience instead of the “cheater’s high,” and the tolerance of heavy drinking is seen as a problem, not as an achievement.

“Know thyself” applies to fear as well. We should know whether we tend to fear too much or too little. Some individuals might fear too much in one situation (for example dangers related to their children) but too little in other situations (for example dangers related their work). Again, people have to adjust their fear-level to what is appropriate in a given domain or situation such that they can trust their feelings in the future.