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When you can’t verbalize your issues

December 4, 2011
By CATHY BROWNFIELD - Family Recovery Center , Salem News

Sunbonnet Sue's husband is resentful and resists demands on him by anyone. He feels cheated. Sue got hearing aids that help her to hear better, but the ear specialist wouldn't give them to him.

Favoritism, said Sunbonnet Sam, although Sue objected. If they weren't going to help him there was no point getting them. He puts everything off, his motto being, "Ignore it long enough and it'll go away." He is stubborn. His entire family is stubborn. He has a tendency to say mean things to her when he is in a bad mood. She can see, by looking at his face, whether he is irritable on any given day, and he sulks a lot. When he is cynical or hostile toward her and she calls him up on it, he always denies it. He doesn't remember saying anything like "that." When Sue is happy, he is unhappy.

For a long time Sue didn't realize what the problem is. She thought he was just very unhappy, but she knew there was nothing she could do about that. It was up to him to change that. Sue is frustrated, and has been for years, which is not unusual for her situation. That emotional rollercoaster has taken its toll on her. All she wants is for her husband to be committed to their life together, to cooperate when she tells him what she needs him to do around the house and property and to follow through and finish what he starts. He doesn't remember telling her, "When I was growing up we learned to make do." She's been "making do" for some time.

Then she read about passive-aggressive behavior. Passive-aggression is a very real problem that affects everyone in the household.

Daniel K. Hall-Flavin, M.D. at Mayo Clinic defines passive-aggressive behavior as "a pattern of indirectly expressing negative feelings instead of openly addressing themFor a passive-aggressive person, true feelings are shared through actions, not words."

"It is a dynamic born of fear of being controlled, fear of confrontation, hidden anger and an inability to deal straight with people," writes Dr. Lynne Namka in her article, "The Boomerang Relationship," at

The passive-aggressive individual creates a negative environment affecting the partner and eroding the relationship. An adult may have unresolved issues with his/her parents about anger and power, and repeatedly acts out those issues with the partner.

Dr. Hall-Flavin advises that passive-aggressive behavior is not considered a mental illness, but may require the help of a therapist to identify the problems and resolve them.

From Tulane comes this block of information: "People with passive-aggressive behaviors show hostility and aggression in passive ways to resist job and social demands, forgetting to do something on purpose, making a habit of putting off or being late with social and/or job tasks, failing to do one's share of the work or doing sub-standard work on purpose, having a constant negative attitude and criticizing authority figures, not openly, but in subtle ways.

"The goal of passive-aggressive behavior is to frustrate the wishes of others and make others angry."

Published reports advise that the problem begins in childhood. If you come back next week, we'll address "passive resistance" in children. Parents can use some tips for their life skills toolbox.

Family Recovery Center promotes the well being of individuals, families and communities with education, prevention and treatment programs. For more information on this topic, contact us at 964 N. Market St., Lisbon; phone, 330-424-1468; or e-mail, FRC is funded, in part, by United Way of Northern Columbiana County.



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