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Uh Oh! My SO can't express anger, annoyance, or his displeasure with me

kenny

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Over my 60+ years I've repeatedly noticed this characteristic in some people, particularly in those raised Catholic.

This really concerns me.
I love him and want our relationship to last.

I'm faaaar from perfect, and hope our relationship will last.
But this really concerns me.

After years of Jungian psychoanalysis I have learned to do my best to nix my own passive aggressive behaviors.
(Line farting, everyone does it and it always stinks.)
But now I see he's being very passive aggressive about something very important.

I'm not his boss or therapist, but I'm worried.
I'm not sure what to do.

Penny for your thoughts.
 
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Bron357

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Be upfront. Tell him “I know you aren’t happy / don’t want to xyz so can we talk about it? My feelings are abc so if yours are every different we need to talk through a compromise.

My approach to life and issues is if it doesn’t cross any of my boundaries or cause me angst, grief or upset I’m happy to go along with whatever it is my partner wants. I’m a very accommodating person but if something is really important to me I let my partner know and also if my view is not negotiable.
 

kenny

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Be upfront. Tell him “I know you aren’t happy / don’t want to xyz so can we talk about it? My feelings are abc so if yours are every different we need to talk through a compromise.

My approach to life and issues is if it doesn’t cross any of my boundaries or cause me angst, grief or upset I’m happy to go along with whatever it is my partner wants. I’m a very accommodating person but if something is really important to me I let my partner know and also if my view is not negotiable.
Thank you for the helpful response. :))
 

kenny

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So the PS community understands why, in the future, I won't be responding to him/her, I've put nala on ignore.
 
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Calliecake

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Kenny, I would follow Bron’s advice and talk to him. I would phrase it the way she did in her first paragraph. I hope this works out well for you. You deserve happiness.
 

Phoenix

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I canNOT deal with passive aggressive behaviour. It drives me NUTS!! I'm one of those that talks it out and try to get things resolved...and then forget about it/ move on.

I'd try and talk to your SO, esp if this is something very important to you. Does your SO think it's important to him too? I obviously don't know what's going on with you and your SO. But in my own experience, what I consider important may not necessarily be what other people prioritise and thus they don't give it the attention (I deem) it deserves.

Good luck and hope you two sort it out.
 

Queenie60

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@kenny - communication is the key. Tell your SO how you feel and —— oh well, it is what it is. Truth may hurt however, you will know where you stand. Relationships can suck sometimes. I’m sorry you’re dealing with this. I always believe that truth and communication are they key to a successful relationship. However, only you know the real deal of your relationship and the right way to handle it will come to you. I wish you the best. Take care. Q
 

dk168

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No advice from me as I suck at relationships, except to wish you luck with yours!

DK :))
 

jaaron

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I know I have passive/aggressive tendencies- there's a kind of comfort in the feeling you're maintaining power and control. I do try to fight against the urge, and am mostly successful, I think, but it can be a difficult pattern to break. Particularly since, by the time we're adults, it tends to be pretty long-established. My mother is a very loving person, but when she got angry with us, her response was the silent treatment (as was her mother's), so it's the model I grew up with.

I read something once about being passive/aggressive, particularly in an intimate relationship, being almost a form of emotional abuse--you're putting someone else in a situation where they're trying to meet your needs while you're actually withholding what they really are, so it's a no-win situation for both of you. For some reason, that really hit home with me and I've been able to use it as a tool to remind myself how harmful that behaviour can be.

On your part, I think one thing you can do is try to show him that it's ok to express bad feelings--that you can handle it like a grownup. Has be been in, or did he grow up in, a situation where expressing negative feelings had a bad outcome? If so, it could be fear and navigating a few situations that are uncomfortable but get resolved might help.

Would he be open to couples counselling?
 

missy

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Not reading any replies before I share my thoughts.

In the beginning of our relationship my dh had trouble sharing his anger/frustration/disappointment with me. He wasn't used to doing that. He was raised by parents who were very stoic and not expressive with their feelings. They were the type to push things under the proverbial rug so to speak and not deal with things that made them unhappy. His mom was not and is still not emotionally intelligent. Luckily I am very emotionally intelligent so though I had my work cut out for me I was up to the task. Of course I had the advantage of growing up in a family where we expressed our emotions all the time as they were occurring. My family is warm and loving and loud and honest so I had that as an example of healthy relationships. And though YMMV healthy relationships consist of open communication and sharing of one's feelings in a timely fashion.

I told my boyfriend (DH now) that I cannot read his mind. If he is upset about something tell me immediately or it will build up and explode when we least expect it to and it will be disproportionate to the offense if you kwim. Let something simmer and build and the explosion will be much worse than if we had dealt with it immediately. Because suppressing one's emotions will lead to resentment and anger that will come out in inappropriate ways if not dealt with quickly in a time efficient manner. IMO.

I am one to say exactly what is on my mind as soon as I feel it and he was not. He is much better now and over the years kept improving in that area. So now I will say he is much more emotionally intelligent than he was in the 90s. No one is perfect but passive aggressive behavior has no place in a loving warm safe relationship. Nip that in the bud with honesty and earnestness and sincerity and love. Anything said out of love with kindness should be received well and know it won't happen overnight. But over time improvements will be seen and with encouragement and soft reminding on your part you guys can make this work.

We are all different but one thing we all have in common is we need that human connection in life. We need the company of others and we need love and acceptance. And to get all that we need to communicate. Our thoughts and feelings and in a timely way.

Good luck Kenny. Rooting for you guys.
 

Phoenix

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Not reading any replies before I share my thoughts.

In the beginning of our relationship my dh had trouble sharing his anger/frustration/disappointment with me. He wasn't used to doing that. He was raised by parents who were very stoic and not expressive with their feelings. They were the type to push things under the proverbial rug so to speak and not deal with things that made them unhappy. His mom was not and is still not emotionally intelligent. Luckily I am very emotionally intelligent so though I had my work cut out for me I was up to the task. Of course I had the advantage of growing up in a family where we expressed our emotions all the time as they were occurring. My family is warm and loving and loud and honest so I had that as an example of healthy relationships. And though YMMV healthy relationships consist of open communication and sharing of one's feelings in a timely fashion.

I told my boyfriend (DH now) that I cannot read his mind. If he is upset about something tell me immediately or it will build up and explode when we least expect it to and it will be disproportionate to the offense if you kwim. Let something simmer and build and the explosion will be much worse than if we had dealt with it immediately. Because suppressing one's emotions will lead to resentment and anger that will come out in inappropriate ways if not dealt with quickly in a time efficient manner. IMO.

I am one to say exactly what is on my mind as soon as I feel it and he was not. He is much better now and over the years kept improving in that area. So now I will say he is much more emotionally intelligent than he was in the 90s. No one is perfect but passive aggressive behavior has no place in a loving warm safe relationship. Nip that in the bud with honesty and earnestness and sincerity and love. Anything said out of love with kindness should be received well and know it won't happen overnight. But over time improvements will be seen and with encouragement and soft reminding on your part you guys can make this work.

We are all different but one thing we all have in common is we need that human connection in life. We need the company of others and we need love and acceptance. And to get all that we need to communicate. Our thoughts and feelings and in a timely way.

Good luck Kenny. Rooting for you guys.

Beautifully put.
 

lyra

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Although this is a "new" relationship, you are both (I'm assuming here) of a certain age. At this age, I'm just going to come out and ask my partner what's going on, because I'm not a mind reader and maybe it has nothing to do with me. We are set in our ways. It takes a lot of conscious thought to change, and do we really want to have to change, is it hard, or is it easy? My partner recently went through a very long and bitter period. It was very hard to deal with. I mostly avoided him. Things changed when he changed something in his life that set him on a happier path. He took up a new hobby that he loves. Maybe it's not you?
 

marymm

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Yeah, I'd have a talk with him, let him know that from the way he's been acting lately you think there's something pressing on his mind. Tell him you respect his privacy and his need to continue to think about whatever the matter is, but you are ready and willing to listen whenever he is ready to talk. Tell him of course you don't know what the matter is, since he hasn't shared it yet, and that he is important to you and whatever the issue has to do with, you stand ready as a safe place to talk. Tell him that you cannot read minds, but you love him and care about him, and are there for him.
 

Karl_K

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Wish I had a good answer for ya Kenny.
When we were dating both my wifey4vr and I were total meh about valentines day and wanted nothing to do with it.
Well after almost 10 years of marriage, yesterday I find out my wifey4vr was upset because we never do anything on valentines day.....
So I guess what im saying is every relationship knocks ya off balance once in a while. Such is life.
 

Alex T

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Heaps of good advice here @kenny and nothing I can really add to. Be strong & make sure YOU are happy & everything is working for YOU. Big hugs.
 

kipari

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Can't say it better than @missy , so I'll just echo : communicate communicate communicate. The faster you address any Issues, the faster they can be resolved.

If someone doesn't want to resolve issues but consciously uses them as leverage or for power games, that's a deal breaker for me. But of course YMMV. Best of luck to both of you.
 

VRBeauty

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Passive aggressive reactions are something I deal with myself, though I think I have gotten much better in my current relationship. I know that it can absolutely poison a relationship.

One aspect of it - and this is far from the whole picture - may be to let him know that he is safe to express his wants, needs, and even criticism with you.
 

MollyMalone

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@kenny , I don't know how you two met, how much you've heard from him-observed about his interactions with his family, in the workplace, other friends, past SOs. Would you say that your SO is generally uncomfortable with/anxious about interpersonal conflict or does his emotional reticence seem largely confined to his relationship with you?

My first post-divorce SO, "Brian," grew up with an alcoholic father who was abusive (physically and emotionally) to the mother and kids. So far as he could recall, his mother, sister, and Brian had always walked on eggshells lest they "provoke" the husband/dad (of course, dad erupted nevertheless), but there was a lot of emotional pressure to be "good", i.e., not rock the boat & dad's behavior was never discussed in anything but a watch-out way. All that left a huge imprint on Brian, the legacy of which carried forward into his adult life.

On the other hand, the husband of a dear friend of mine did not have that kind of volatile, randomly violent childhood. He grew up in a warm, loving household, but nonetheless suffered as an adult from being overly conscientious & seeing himself as good person was really important to him. While being attentive to others is a generally laudable trait, for him it meant that he was really uncomfortable asking for something for himself vis a vis personal relationships. Even in the workplace, he wasn't as an effective a boss as he could have been because he found it "easier to do it myself." His stuffing things down/stifling what he considered to be negative/bad feelings did come to the fore in his marriage and although it blindsided my friend, it was the impetus for them to do couples counseling. A short-term stint for them as a couple that gave the two of them good tools, but he continued solo with another therapist for another year or so. They have a great marriage, and although he is still a giving, considerate person, he is no longer weighed down by the past baggage of perfectionism, etc.

All the above is a long-winded way of saying that there can be more than one reason why someone is emotionally reticent. And it's not necessarily a conscious choice that the person is making out of spite.

I personally would not launch this kind of initial conversation by saying, "I know you are...." because "I know..." can come across as a pronouncement from a position of superiority rather than an invitation for meaningful dialogue between equals (also why I would not use "passive-aggressive," which he doubtlessly will hear as a damning pejorative -- and isn't a useful descriptor anyway of what exactly you find troubling.) And following up on others' comments about his feeling safe with you, I agree that his feelings of vulnerability are very likely to be driving his train. But I myself wouldn't tell him in the opening conversation, "you can feel safe with me." You can't dictate his feelings with such a declaration. Plus, there may be very good reasons why he doesn't feel safe. So instead, how about "I'm wondering if you feel emotionally safe with me"?
 
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rainydaze

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I'm not his boss or therapist, but I'm worried.
I'm not sure what to do.
This really concerns me.
I love him and want our relationship to last.

You might have your answer right in those sentences. Saying, or writing, that to him could be a wonderful opening to a conversation. They're from the heart, they're loving, they're supportive, they are non-threatening. Reassuring him that you care very deeply about him and your relationship and that you're not going to spook when things aren't perfectly perfect will help set a comforting foundation from which he might be able to take a leap of communication.

I also find that sometimes writing a letter or an email helps to break through. It is less confrontational (which may be part of the problem, my DH was raised shove-it-under-the-rug-tippie-toe-around-it-let-it-fester Catholic) as he can take his time to process it, and even respond in writing which takes the pressure off it 'say' it exactly right the first time.

Best wishes Kenny, I hope you find a way to come together on this and work through it!
 

Daisys and Diamonds

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Good luck Kenny
You'll work it out =)2

Im hopeless - i don't do passisve agression? I avoid every kind of confrontation
i just ignore some problems and hope they go away and honestly 95% of the time it works. our relationship has stood the test of time because i keep my mouth shut (sometimes)
But i don't let things fester and i can drawl a line in the sand and move on

What i would say is don't imangine a problem that might not even be there

Some people just find it hard to talk
its just how we are made
 

yssie

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I do passive-aggressive like a pro. I not only want him to do the laundry, I want him to want to do the laundry - and I want him to want to want to do the laundry :lol:

Only way to get me to cough up whatever I'm stewing over is to ask me a couple dozen times - I'll act like I've become sufficiently annoyed by the pestering to angrily toss the truth out, but in truth I'm relieved. My other half has learnt that "leave me alone" actually means "don't leave me alone, keep prodding"... We rowed regularly until he figured that out. It took me a long time to understand that he's wired differently, and when he says "leave it" he really does want me to drop it until he's ready to discuss it.

So I'm not much help. Besides to comment that sometimes, when upset, otherwise-quite-sensible people might say exactly the opposite of what they actually mean.
 
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House Cat

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Over my 60+ years I've repeatedly noticed this characteristic in some people, particularly in those raised Catholic.

This really concerns me.
I love him and want our relationship to last.

I'm faaaar from perfect, and hope our relationship will last.
But this really concerns me.

After years of Jungian psychoanalysis I have learned to do my best to nix my own passive aggressive behaviors.
(Line farting, everyone does it and it always stinks.)
But now I see he's being very passive aggressive about something very important.

I'm not his boss or therapist, but I'm worried.
I'm not sure what to do.

Penny for your thoughts.
I believe people are passive aggressive when they are afraid to express their true feelings. I also believe that there is anger under that action....

I believe the partner of the passive aggressive one must make the relationship safe for the other to express themselves.

Safe is your keyword. This means your reactions must not be retaliatory in any way. If he expresses himself, you must be neutral or loving for expressing his feelings. After all....it’s just feelings. His feelings aren’t an indicator of abandonment or any kind of negative action....

When relationships are long, there is a lot of baggage....we carry it around and it flares up in the weirdest places. Then, we get in these cycles that we feel we can’t get out of. If one partner can just make themselves a safe place, that can usually change the whole dynamic...it’s difficult though.

We wen’t through couple’s counseling...it was called EFT. It was all based on making one another a safe place to express one another. We also got a lot of old stuff out in a safe neutral place. My husband is passive aggressive and I had to learn to temper my reactions in order to make is safe for him to say what he was really feeling.
 

smitcompton

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Hi,
I'm rather a simple communicator. I would just ask him, "Are we OK"? You'd tell me if something was bothering you, right? I'd like to be able to ask you that once in a while. I want to make sure we are on the right track together.

I'm more like Yissie. I need to be prodded several times before I open up.

Annette
 
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