Passive-aggressive behavior: How to deal with men who have it

Passive-aggressive behavior. Ugh. I really have no patience for it. If you know me, you know that I’m the opposite of passive-aggressive. I’m more aggressive-aggressive. I say if you’ve got a problem, deal with it. Don’t dance around it with silent treatments and eye rolls. Talk it out. Yell. Scream. Send a bullet-pointed email in all caps. Just deal with it! But I know that I’m not the norm. Passive-aggressive behavior runs rampant in our society.

First, let’s define what passive-aggressive behavior really is. It’s expressing your anger, frustration or aggression in non-assertive, indirect ways. For example, you’re late and your dude is peeved at that. A normal guy would say something along the lines of, “Babe, why are you late again? I felt like a chump waiting at the bar for 15 minutes by myself.” You’d apologize and promise to do your best to never leave him hanging like that again. Then you’d move on to a happy dinner. With a passive-aggressive guy, he wouldn’t say anything about you being late, but he’d insist on ordering a bottle of red to split, even when he knows you only drink white. He wouldn’t walk you to your car or kiss you at the end of the night to punish you. You’d never talk about the issue, and your dinner would be totally ruined. See the difference?

Basically, if you feel like you’re on a date with a pouty fifth grader, you’re out with a passive-aggressive dude. Not too hard to spot. Here’s how to deal.

Don’t feel guilty

The goal of passive-aggressive behavior is to get you to feel guiltier than you need to feel. Don’t let their mind games work on you. Apologize the amount that you feel is appropriate and be done with it. For the example above on being late, an apology and a cheek kiss are all that it takes. No need to turn over your first-born child.

Don’t play games

It’s tempting to try outdoing the passively aggressive guy by reciprocating the behavior. I know you can silent-treat him just as long as he can silent-treat you, but you don’t need to prove it. Even if you didn’t start it, participating makes you just as bad as him. Instead, handle the situation like an adult and directly talk about what’s making him mad. A simple, “I notice that you’re angry, and I think it’s about me being late tonight. Let’s talk about it,” can avoid a miserable night and get you that bottle of Riesling you wanted all along.


Honestly, if you’re not already deep into the relationship, I say back out. Fighting fairly is one of the most important parts of being in a relationship, and if you have a passive-aggressive partner who is a repeat offender of this bad behavior, your fights are never going to be fair or constructive. Ultimately, it’s going to mean the downfall of your relationship. So I say get out while the getting’s good.