The passive-aggressive man is a confusion creator, and if you remain “hooked,” you will spin around in that cycle of confusion as well. He remembers things different from you and if you try to get him to see “the truth,” you’ll be hooked in his world of confusion. He twists the facts, rewrites history to put a positive spin on his behavior. This, however, makes you feel crazy.

So, how are you going to stay clear, calm and connected with a passive-aggressive man? It will not be easy, but it can be done. You must master a few strategies.

First, understand passive-aggression. You cannot remain clear and calm if you don’t understand what is happening. If you remain reactive, you’ll be dancing from one encounter to another. Notice what is happening. When and where do you get hooked? What does he say that provokes you into snapping back aggressively? Notice these patterns and determine to remain clear about what is happening.

Second, determine to be active, not reactive. Choose how you will respond to him. In the face of his passive-aggressive actions, choose to be clear with him. Let him know how you see things. Refuse to get into a power struggle with him. Don’t try to change his mind or make him see things the way you see them. Be in charge of yourself, knowing what is true for you.

Third, keep agreements simple and doable. Create agreements that are likely to be kept by him. Choose your battles carefully. It is far better to have a simple life, with simple agreements, than try to enforce complex agreements that he will sabotage.

Fourth, maintain clear and firm boundaries. Don’t allow him to manipulate your point of view. Seek specific agreements, even writing them down for clarity. Reiterate those agreements with him to ensure clarity. When he violates boundaries, which he will do, state your feelings clearly and consistently.

Finally, celebrate modest victories. Understand you cannot make him do anything. However, you can introduce accountability into the relationship. Clarify how his behavior impacts you, asking for exactly what you need. Notice how even small victories create a positive connection with him.

Are you in a relationship with a passive-aggressive man? Have you discovered strategies that others might find helpful? Please feel free to email me at or see information about The Marriage Recovery Center on my website.

July 14, 2009

Dr. Hawkins is the director of the Marriage Recover Center where he counsels couples in distress. He is the author of over 30 books, including When Pleasing Others Is Hurting You, Love Lost: Living Beyond a Broken Marriage, and Saying It So He'll Listen. His newest books are titled  The Relationship Doctor's Prescription for Healing a Hurting Relationship and  The Relationship Doctor's Prescription for Living Beyond Guilt.  Dr. Hawkins grew up in the beautiful Pacific Northwest and lives with his wife on the South Puget Sound where he enjoys sailing, biking, and skiing. He has active practices in two Washington cities.