Dating a passive-aggressive person? 10 signs to watch out for

Are you dating a person who indirectly expresses their anger? It might be a sign you are in a relationship with a passive-aggressive person.
Signs of passive aggressive relationship
Know how to recognise a passive-aggressive person and how to deal with him or her. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock
Natalia Ningthoujam Published: 22 Sep 2023, 02:00 pm IST
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There are some people who get angry quickly, but know how to disguise it well. Some might get sarcastic or give the silent treatment rather than openly communicating what they feel. If you notice these red flags, you might be dating a passive-aggressive person. This behaviour may seem harmless in the beginning, but it often leads to tension in relationships. Read on to find out the signs that indicate you are in a relationship with a passive-aggressive person.

Who is a passive-aggressive person?

A passive-aggressive person is someone who indirectly expresses their anger, frustration or resentment instead of openly addressing their concerns, says Dr Pankaj B Borade, consultant psychiatrist, Ruby Hall Clinic, Pune. They may use subtle remarks, backhanded compliments, silent treatment or confusing language to communicate their displeasure or discontent without being direct about it.

People display passive-aggressive behaviour for various reasons:

• Fear of confrontation
• Lack of communication skills
• A desire to avoid blame
• Inner anger or frustration that they don’t want to admit
• A wish to control situations subtly or low self-esteem.

The expert says some people may have learned this behaviour from their family members or witnessed as a culture or way of coping with conflict or express discontent.

Also read: How to deal with an aggressive partner: Tips for a healthy relationship

Unhappy couple
Know the characteristics of a passive-aggressive person. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

Signs you are dating a passive-aggressive person

There are some signs that suggest you may be dealing with a passive-aggressive person in a relationship. Here are some of them:

1. Sneaky remarks and compliments

Compliments from your partner can make your day. But a passive-aggressive person will make subtle, sarcastic or undermining remarks disguised as compliments or casual statements, conveying their true feelings indirectly.

2. Avoiding open communication

A passive-aggressive person consistently dodges open conversations about their feelings or concerns. They prefer indirect ways to express their grievances.

3. Intentional delays and procrastination

They purposely delay tasks or take their own time to give responses to express their frustration or annoyance without openly addressing the issue they have.

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4. Silent treatment

When they are upset, they withdraw and stop communicating or interacting with you. It is their way to show their dissatisfaction or anger. So, even if you ask a question they won’t answer.

5. Playing the victim

They may act like they have been wronged or mistreated, even if they were the reason why the problem popped up in the first place. They do this to avoid taking any kind of responsibility.

6. Confusing communication

They use ambiguous language or behaviour to communicate. This can make it difficult for you to understand their true thoughts or intentions, says Dr Borade.

7. Blaming others

They tend to shift blame onto others or external circumstances or situations rather than accepting responsibility for their own actions or emotions.

8. Non-verbal aggressiveness

Through non-verbal cues like eye-rolling, sighs or other expressions of annoyance, they convey their displeasure but indirectly.

9. Passive resistance

They may subtly resist complying with requests or instructions without overtly turning them down. This can be quite frustrating.

10. Indirect control

They try to influence or control situations or people indirectly, avoiding direct confrontation or even appearing bossy, says the expert.

How to deal with a passive-aggressive partner?

People act passive-aggressive for different reasons, mostly because they don’t want to directly say what’s bothering them. Dealing with a passive-aggressive person can be tough, but there are ways to handle it.

Conflict in relationships
A passive-aggressive person will not have an open communication with you. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Here are some ways:

• Start by trying to promote direct and honest communication in a relationship. Ask them kindly to express their feelings directly instead of using indirect behaviours.
• Stay calm and patient while talking with them, even if they frustrate you.
• It is essential to set clear boundaries and let them know what behaviour you won’t tolerate.
• When conflicts arise, address them directly but respectfully, avoiding the blame game.
• Consider suggesting couples therapy or counseling to work on communication issues together.

Amidst all this, don’t forget to take care of yourself, as dealing with passive-aggression can be emotionally draining.

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About the Author

Natalia Ningthoujam has written on various subjects - from music to films and fashion to lifestyle - as a journalist in her career that started in 2010. After getting stories from the crime scene, police headquarters, and conducting interviews with celebrities, she is now writing on health and wellness which has become her focus area. ...Read More

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