Tag Archives: passive-aggressive personality disorder

The Destructive Nature of Passive-Aggressive Personality Disorder

**NOTE: this blog did not turn out as I thought it would. I thought it would be more about depression and grieving, but it ended up being about Passive-Aggressive Personality Disorder, which is what inevitably caused my depression and grief by being the target of the person with the disorder.  My brain went analytical while writing this blog. A lot of technical jargon ended up being included, but in doing so, I feel a sense of relief now.  I actually feel calmer.  Writing is a coping strategy of mine and I never really know where it will take me or how my blogs will turn out.  

Trigger Warning: References to emotional abuse and emotional neglect.

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Ah, depression. It punches you in the face, drains you of energy, and makes everything harder in your life.  Now, mix depression with grief and it is that much worse.  In my case, the punch in the face is my depression telling me that I wasted the last 19 years of my life. 

Haven’t I been here before? Unfortunately, I have. It was when he first left me.  He came back three years later claiming he had gotten his life together and I gave him the benefit of the doubt.  I let him back into my life and the kids did as well.  It was never real, at least not in the sense that he wanted a committed long term relationship again where we could be a family once more.  I was just a means to an end, a person to have around so he wouldn’t feel lonely. What I needed didn’t matter.  Only his self-absorbed interest did.  

I want to tell him that he is an obstructionist, never allowing anything to work, never putting in the necessary time, and always blocking any attempts to make things better. There was a time I thought I just wasn’t good enough. Then it moved into thinking that we just hadn’t found the correct course of action.  I now understand that the reality was and continues to be his abusive passive aggressive personality. Our relationship never had a chance. 

As Millon (1981, p. 258) describes:

The passive-aggressivé s strategy of negativism, of being discontent and unpredictable, of being both seductive and rejecting, and of being demanding and then dissatisfied, is an effective weapon… with people in general. Switching among the roles of the martyr, the affronted, the aggrieved, the misunderstood, the contrite, the guilt-ridden, the sickly, and the overworked, is a tactic of interpersonal behavior that gains passive-aggressives the attention, reassurance, and dependency they crave while, at the same time, allowing them to subtly vent their angers and resentments.

I wasted all those years holding on and fighting to make our relationship better while I was being blamed for all that was wrong in his life, being told that it was because of how I am that was the problem (he never could really accept my diagnosis), and being emotionally beaten down time and time again by underhanded and conniving ways.

With me it was always “no” from him. No matter what I did or what I said, it was always “no”. He would never be direct about the “no” either.  It was always done in a covert, underhanded way.  The gaslighting, the procrastination, the ambivalence, the obstructing, the stonewalling, the projection, the derailing, the manipulation, the dishonesty, and the unwillingness to resolve anything mixed in with “I love you”, “you are my best friend”, and “I want to share my life with you”.

I want to tell him that what he called love wasn’t actually love. I want to tell him that love is a promise. Love is an action. Love is something you work on and maintain all your life, but love is subjective when it comes to a person.  How one person sees/feels love may not be the same as how another may see/feel love.

I want to tell him that insisting on living in that sea of ambivalence of his is no safe haven, but it will do no good. He feels safe there, riding the fence, never having to make a decision and to never having to take responsibility for a decision made, but a non-decision is still a decision.  

Individuals with Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD) and Passive-Aggressive Personality Disorder (PAPD) share a deeply rooted ambivalence about themselves and others. While people with OCPD resolve their ambivalence by compliant behavior and holding tension within, those with PAPD have virtually no resolution. As a result, they are characterized by vacillating behavior. They are indecisive; they fluctuate in their attitudes, oppositional behaviors, and emotions. They are generally erratic and unpredictable (Millon, 1981, p. 244).

The erratic and unpredictable behavior in an individual with passive-aggressive (negativistic) personality disorder is incredibly frustrating. These individuals tend to be ambivalent within their relationships and conflicted between their dependency needs and their desire for self-assertion. They present hostile defiance toward people they see as causing their problems and then attempt to mollify these same people by asking forgiveness or promising to do better in the future, or always asking for more and more time (as was in my case).

Individuals with PAPD view themselves as self-sufficient but feel vulnerable to control and interference from others (Pretzer & Beck, Clarkin & Lenzenweger, eds., 1996, p. 60). They believe that they are misunderstood and unappreciated, a view that is exacerbated by the negative responses they receive from others for their consistent defeatist stance. They expect the worst in everything, even situations that are going well, and are inclined toward anger and irritability (Beck & Freeman, 1990, p. 339) (DSM-IV, 1994, p. 734).

As the one who has been on the receiving end of this anger and irritability, it was the silent kind of anger filled with resentment and sometimes it was even the “sugarcoated hostility” variety. It was never expressed to me directly, however. You can’t have a direct conversation with a person with Passive-Aggressive Personality Disorder and nothing ever gets resolved, so the tension just builds and builds until there is an explosion.  Unfortunately, the target of the passive aggressor is typically the one who explodes and it is usually due to the fact that the passive aggressor has tried and may have actually succeeded in sabotaging your wants, needs, and plans using a variety of tactics.

According to Darlene Lancer, JD, MFT,  passive-aggressive people act passive, but are covertly aggressive. “Their unconscious anger gets transferred onto you, and you become frustrated and furious. Your fury is theirs, while they may calmly ask, “Why are you getting so angry?” and blame you for the anger they’re provoking.”

I am getting clinical here. I need to take a step back.  Maybe my analytical mind is taking over as a way to cope with the emotional pain I feel.  I am dealing with the reality that I let it happen again. I let the emotional abuse happen again.  My brain is telling me that I had to try for the family’s sake.  I had to give him another chance for the sake of the  It’s almost like they do it on purpose, isn’t it, Fred?!children and I had to find out for myself. 

I found out alright. I found out that our family cohesion was the priority of my children and me, but it was not his. He has always had trouble balancing his life out, including balancing prorities.  My children and I were often left on the way side as he lived essentially two lives, his apparent family life where he kept to himself mostly and his life outside the family where he didn’t have to worry about family responsibility.  He presents out to the world as this very charming, friendly, and personable man.  He is “The Nice Guy” to everyone else, but me. 

I was the one who received all his negative characteristics. He seemed to only be nice and charming to me when he wanted something. He is very good at doing just enough to hook you, and then the push/pull behavior starts. He is a very avoidant person. He prefers to be alone, but does not like being lonely.  He wants someone around, but only on his terms.  Don’t ask for any emotional reciprocity, because you are not going to get it, but you better always be encouraging and dependable for him and not cause him any drama or turmoil.  In other words, do not disrupt his Zen or he will punish you by giving you the silent treatment, ignoring your needs, isolating you, or sending you mixed messages to keep you off balance.  

Sounds childish, doesn’t it? It sounds this way, because it is childish. Passive-aggressive people are not pleasant to deal with at all.  I am not going to go into the reasons as to why a person would develop Passive-Aggressive Personality Disorder other than to say that the exact cause of passive-aggressive behavior isn’t known.  If you are interested in learning more about possible causes you can click here, here, and here.

A personality disorder is not a mental illness, so it cannot be treated with medication. Only through therapy can a person work though and learn how to cope with living with a personality disorder.  Unfortunately, if a personality disordered person doesn’t feel that there is a problem, then there is really nothing you can do.   You can’t help those who do not want to be helped, I learned that the hard way, but there are ways to help yourself when it comes to dealing with a person with Passive-Aggressive Personality Disorder.  Here is a list of some of the ways that I have learned over the years:

  1. Be assertive (this might take some practice.)
  2. Don’t nag (which very hard to do when your patience is frayed).
  3. Don’t be an enabler by tolerating the behavior (that only encourages more passive-aggressive behavior).
  4. Create healthy boundaries and consequences if those boundaries are crossed.
  5. Be aware of your own reality. This is covert emotional abuse and you may not even realize it is happening.
  6. Be honest.
  7. Walk away if the situation feels like it is just spinning in circles.
  8. More often than not, you will have to remove yourself from the passive aggressor for your own self-preservation.

I wish I could remove my ex-husband from my life entirely, but we have two children together, so that is not something that I can accomplish. My children are currently both in high school. In just a couple years of each other, my children with be considered adults and the mandatory child support that he has to pay will end as well as any visitation schedule.  My hope is that I will be able to remove him from my life as much as I can when that time comes.

More blogs that I wrote on this matter:

Seeing the Truth in Patterns (Posted on December 27, 2016)

I Can’t Anymore . . . (Posted on February 20, 2017)

Closing Doors . . . (Posted on March 14, 2017)

Letting Toxic People Go

**The articles linked in this blog reference the DSM-IV.  The DSM-V came out in May of 2013. Certain diagnostic criteria changed in the DSM-V, but the information contained in the articles is still relevant. The images are not mine and are sourced.

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