HealthBoards (
-   Relationship Health (
-   -   How to get over being passive aggressive (

CyberNick 04-03-2008 05:32 PM

How to get over being passive aggressive
Hey all, hope everyone is well :cool:.

Basically, I've been dating a girl for nearly a month now who I like a lot. It's exciting to be with someone again that I feel could go somewhere in the future, as opposed to my more recent "one date and done" scenarios.

My problem is more a personality quirk than anything else I guess you could say, and it is basically that I can be pretty passive aggressive at times. The deeper issue is that I feel (especially in the very new stages of a relationship) like I should avoid fights, issues and conflicts to keep things going smoothly. I was raised with an extremely aggressive and confrontational father, and a very "eager to please" mom who would basically tell us to agree with dad and make him happy. I turned out getting many of my mom's personality traits. I'm an extremely easygoing person, I hate confrontation and all the things that go along with it. This leads to me keeping many of my gripes and annoyances to myself, things that probably would be better off if I just brought them up and dealth with them immediately.

An example is yesterday, we went to a movie. One of my major pet peeves is when I'm out with a girl and she is constantly fiddling with and checking her phone (texting, answering calls, etc.), especially during conversations or movies because it is distracting. About twenty minutes into the movie she had probably already checked her phone and text messaged nearly 5 or 6 times, and it was bugging me. I finally told her that she was driving me crazy with the texts in a kind of half-joking half-serious way, and she was immediately apologetic and said that sometimes she doesn't even realize how annoying it can be because she doesn't even think about it. She was almost embarrassed and asking me if I was mad, and I said not at all, its just a little annoying.

The thing is, I felt good that I told her it bugged me but I also felt really bad immediately afterwards! I kept thinking oh man, what if she thinks I was being an a**hole or that maybe I should tell her she can use her phone if she wants. I have such a need to avoid confrontation and please people that even a necessary but stupid, small thing like this drives me crazy when I have to tell somebody.

What can I do to get better at this? Passive aggressive behavior (from both people) was probably the hugest factor in ruining my last relationship. It led to really good times where everything seemed fine, and then really bad times when we would both unleash everything we had been bottling up for so long during fights and arguments. I'm trying so hard to avoid the same patterns with this new girl, but it's still hard. It's not that she has tons of annoying habits or anything, I just really want to try hard to make things work and I know that being passive isn't going to help matters.

Trixibel 04-03-2008 06:26 PM

Re: How to get over being passive aggressive
Well, Nick, my upbringing was very much like yours except the opposite, it was my mother who was aggressive and confrontational and my father who was more of a pleaser. As a result me and my siblings are all 'pleasers' - me probably being the least.

I think you can say just about anything if you say it in the right way. And you need to learn to say what you want to say and not feel guilty afterwards. It wasn't like asking her to stop fiddling with her phone was going to hurt her feelings, you weren't making a nasty remark about her appearance or something, she obviously just likes you and doesn't want to 'not please' you but if you said it jokingly then that's fine, you got the message across without sounding grumpy. It's hard for easy going people to get angry because it's not natural and we don't always do it well. But I think it's important to say what you think without letting it all build up inside you and cause a bigger explosion later. Maybe you should get a counsellor or someone to help you with it or do some reading, I'm sure there are some good books around about assertiveness training. Because that's basically what it is - assertiveness training.

Are you really easy going, or have you just been 'trained' to be easy going? We can all learn to be easy going if it's just to keep the peace. Maybe your mother wasn't that easy going - maybe she just didn't want fights in the house all the time, upsetting you kids. My sister's in a relationship like that, where she has to be the pleaser to keep her aggressive, domineering partner from exploding. Often one parent will back down because of the kids.

Seraph 04-03-2008 07:30 PM

Re: How to get over being passive aggressive
I feel the same way, you, I was trained to be nonassertive, and the result of this is definitely holding stuff in until it explodes (tantrum) or leaks out (nagging, etc). I have done lots of work on this, and one of the biggest helps to assertiveness is, simply, language. Own your own of saying that "you are driving me mad", say "I get annoyed when somebody does this, and I would love it if you would stop doing it"...No blame or judgement in the second statement, you are saying what YOU feel and nobody can properly object to this. It takes a lot of practice, but it is far better than putting up with something and then getting mad, sick, churned up, whatever. There are, as Trixibel said, many good books on assertive communication about and it would be worthwhile to study one of these. Also, work on it with your partner, tell her what you are hoping to accomplish and encourage her to give you feedback on your statements. "How did that statement make you feel?". This way, you can practice and get a good idea how you are going. Good luck, Sera

cmpgirl 04-04-2008 07:30 AM

Re: How to get over being passive aggressive
Hi CyberNick: You are just like my husband. He is over 20 years your senior,(if I remember from other posts you are in your early 20's) and I can tell you what letting this slide and not taking action now, could do to you.

When my husband was 47, (he's 49, now) it all finally came to a head. He has a very agressive father and his mother.....well let's just say she goes beyond passive all the way to martyr.

We've had a very good life together. I am the outspoken one and he has always held everything inside, for pretty much the same reasons as you. He never wanted anyone to be mad at him. He would let things pile up and then once or twice a year, he would explode over something petty or insignificant.

At 47, his sister passed away and the family was in turmoil, split basically in half because his sister was a person that his mother couldn't "accept". I won't go into details because this is not the place. Lets just say that some of us supported his sister and her family and the others made her final years a living he**.

It was the straw that broke the camel's back. My husband ended up just shy of a nervous breakdown, because even though he was appalled by his parents and siblings behavior,(they did not even attend her funeral) he felt guilty because he was angry at them. He didn't feel he had a right to be. Always the peacemaker. And it almost killed him.

Luckily, he's been seeing an excellent therapist and is on medication for the last 2 years. His therapist works with him diligently to help raise his sense of self worth and learn how to be more assertive. He is a new man. Don't get me wrong, he still has a long road ahead of him. After 47 years of having a certain personality trait, you don't transform overnight.

I agree whole-heartedly with the others, that you should find a way to work on this. Whether through a good therapist or on your own. Don't wait till you are forced to do something about it, like my husband.

I wish you the best of luck and much happiness with this girl (she's the one who was younger and a little reserved, right?) Take care and God Bless, cmpgirl

happymom28 04-04-2008 08:44 AM

Re: How to get over being passive aggressive
I am just like you CyberNick. I HATE confrontations and feel guilty when I speak my mind. I often found myself appologizing for things that I had absolutely no control over but somehow I felt responsible for. I would hold things in and then explode and then, of course, feel guilty for that explosion.

Like Seraph said, the best way to work on this is to own your feelings. This is the same advice my husband gave me when we first started dating. Saying "I get distracted by cell phones at the movies" is showing how you feel without making her out to be a monster. I completely agree that if you word things correctly and think before you speak then you can pretty much say whatever is on you mind.

Ms_ENV27 04-04-2008 02:55 PM

Re: How to get over being passive aggressive
You're compliant. Someone who doesn't want to "make any waves" or who will apologize even when it wasn't your fault, just so theres no tension.

I'm the same way. As a lot of people on these boards are. I want to change, but it's hard. And honestly I haven't tried hard enough.

All I can say is read plenty of books on the subject, see a counselor and just educate yourself.

And i'm glad you said something to her about how she constantly checks her phone constantly while having a conversation with you or watching a movie. It is extremely annoying, and people really don't understand "cell phone etiquette" which bugs the living hell out of me.

Good luck :angel:

CyberNick 04-04-2008 05:50 PM

Re: How to get over being passive aggressive
Thanks for all the advice.

To cmpgirl: Yeah, it is the younger girl that I am still dating. Things are going well, except for my own insecurities obviously :D

I think I will try to get a book or something and read up on it. She can be the same way at times, not really passive aggressive but she'll be in a bad mood or something and instead of just saying "I'm kind of in a bad mood, it has nothing to do with you" she'll be standoffish for a while and then later on say sorry, I was in a bad mood earlier. We're also both overanalytical and have to examine and overthink every little weird behavior or quirk.

Great couple I know! lol, things are really going good though despite the way I make it seem. I told her that this is something I'm bad at and that I need to work on so at least she knows and has acknowledged it.

cmpgirl 04-04-2008 11:21 PM

Re: How to get over being passive aggressive
Hey CyberNick: I just wanted to reply to the part about your g/f being standoffish, that IS being passive aggressive too. Not just "kinda".

I think you'd be surprised to find that if you just talk to her about it and tell her that you've noticed that you both do these things, you just might get those lines of communication open. I know the hard part is knowing when to start the conversation, but I think you should approach it when you are both in a good mood and enjoying each other's company. If you wait to bring it up when one or both of you is being moody or standoffish, the both of you will be less receptive.

Some of the best talks my husband and I have are actually in the car, especially if we are going a longer distance. I think we both tend to bring things up in that situation because it also helps to make the trip seem shorter. Plus we're alone and can't be overheard by anyone.

Just thought I'd throw that out there. I also think that getting some books on the subject is a great way to start. Good luck and let us know how you're doing. cmpgirl

All times are GMT -7. The time now is 03:37 PM.