How to Set Limits and Boundaries With the Passive Aggressive Husband

Though it is difficult to be partners with a man who constantly frustrates you with his passive aggressive behavior, there are things you can do to break through his lack of involvement. When you begin to understand the problem and us a little straight talk, a passive aggressive man’s behavior can change. It does depend on the severity of the learned passive aggressive behavior but in most cases, positive changes can be made. That being said, you should know that there is no easy cure for the life long habits taken on by a passive aggressive man.

Dealing with someone who handles life’s problems in a passive aggressive way is much like dealing with a defiant teenager. You must be direct and straight to the point at all times. The passive aggressive knows how to push buttons so, it’s important for you not react and play his game. One major problem with dealing with a passive aggressive is unrealistic expectations as far as him changing. This might cause you to demand more than he can or is willing to give. You have to stay realistic in your expectations. Change what you can and learn to live with the rest if you choose to stay in the marriage.

Setting Limits With Passive Aggressive Behavior:

  • Set firm limits as far as what you will and will not tolerate and then stick to them.
  • When communicating with the passive aggressive do not do it in a defensive way. Use messages that begin with “I” when expressing feelings of disappointment.
  • Don’t protect the passive aggressive from your unhappy feelings but be sure to communicate those feelings to him in a way that will keep him from withdrawing further.
  • Never accept excuses for his passive aggressive behavior.
  • Don’t buy into the “I forgot” excuse. If the passive aggressive “forgets” an important date and leaves you in a lurch tell him it was his choice to “forget” and how his choice hurts you. Remind him that he never has a problem remembering dates and activities that are important to him and give him examples of times you have gone out of your way to show value toward a date or activity that was important to him.
  • Choose your fights wisely. Being involved with the passive aggressive man you have learned that 9 times out of 10 he is going to avoid anything he views as conflict. This is not only destructive to him but the health of the relationship also. You should all choose our fights wisely BUT should never shy away from confrontation over big issues in the relationship. When you do this, you are playing into his neurotic needs and giving him the opportunity to point a finger at you and call you crazy when you eventually do blow your top over some small issue.
  • Rules need to be set between you and the passive aggressive when arguing or discussing an issue. No abusive language, stick to the subject at hand, don’t get off track and start bring up the past. Take time out to cool off if things become too heated and then return to the discussion.
  • Encourage him to make choices and you will be helping to build his confidence. When it is time to go to a movie or out to eat, tell him you want him to choose the movie or restaurant. If he refuses to follow through and uses the “I can’t” excuse remind, him that what he really means is he won’t because he resents you asking. Ask him to be more honest, to stop making excuses, and to just tell you that he doesn’t want to do what you ask him to do. There is no harm in pointing out his lack of effort and telling him that if he doesn’t start carrying his weight in the relationship, even if it is something as simple as choosing a movie you are going to stop asking for his input. If he refuses to take more of a leading role then you will have to start asking for only what you absolutely need from him.
  • Don’t allow him to play the victim The passive aggressive loves to play the poor, poor me guy in hopes that you will feel sorry for him and not bring up their negative actions. It’s a powerful tool he uses to get out of accepting responsibility for his part in the relationship. The sad thing is, it is directly tied to his lack of confidence and a fear of not being able to hold up his end of the relationship. It’s important to praise him often in areas that he does do well in and to stress how committed you are to the relationship. His actions show a great depth of dependence upon you and fear of abandonment by you. Try to get him to discuss his fears by pointing out to him that anyone views themselves as a victim must be afraid of something.
  • Point out every time he tries to control you with his anger. The passive aggressive expresses anger by withdrawing, being sarcastic, using intimidation, withholding affection and love and, in some cases physical violence.

Consequences for passive aggressive behavior must be stated and carried through if they refuse to take responsibility in the relationship. If, in the end, he is unwilling to make changes to his negative behavior, don’t take it personally. It is learned behavior that he uses to avoid confrontation and he may have an obstinate need to hold onto that behavior and the fears that come along with it.

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  1. 2

    Richard says

    This is spot on, except it is my wife who is the passive aggressive. We have been to 2 counsellors over the years who never spotted it. This article was great and allowed me to see how difficult it would be for my wife to change. After 45 yrs of marriage divorce is not an option.

  2. 3

    ellen says

    recently I reunited with school friends after 15yrs of no contact and one of them has turned out passive aggressive, I spotted immediately no one else did, but I kept it to myself in wonderment. i should explain I’m now a child development psychologist. Curious I’ve met with this friend’s family and current friends and they are suffering enormously yet do not know what it is. i’m in a bizarre position where he is now confiding in me alot as I know how not to react. education is everything and hope is on the horizon. I thank god.

  3. 4

    JOAN says

    on our 40th anniv my husband ignored it. no card no love ltr no nothing. we had recently bought a truck and camper and said that we would save our money and stay home for that wkend and do whatever we wanted at minimal cost. he took it literally. i atleast gave him my own love ltr. i dont buy it as he did the same for our 25th no acknowledgement. also ran off to nascar race for a week when had serious trouble with teenage daughter and left me to deal with it all by myself. also ignored another serious situation and me with our 12 yr old daughter.well its almost 4 months now and he has done nothing to fix the problem. i have had 4 emotional breakdowns and weve talked abt it (me more than him) and still no honest concrete answer from him. these breakdowns are affecting my health. i am getting more and more depressed and less and less active and losing appetite. im 5’2″ and less than 100 lbs so cant afford to lose any more weight. i just want to go to sleep and not wake up.

  4. 5

    WindintheWillows says

    I was married to a narcissist for 10 years. Divorced him after 10 years of hell with two children. And now I married a PA!

    How do you set a boundary. If one would say: “Honey, for our wedding, I did ALL the planning, organised my and your wedding rings (engraved his), got you gifts of: engraved watch, special wedding car of your choice, a special groom’s cake for you, booked you a sleeping place for the night before with special treatment, got you a message I read on a CD, organised your haircut, paid for it in advance and left a love note, sang you a song, bought all your best men’s shirts and ties and all you did was bought me the first and cheapest watch you could at a shop where we agreed we would not go for a lack of service”. He would say how ungrateful I am. How I always just want, want, want. He paid for 3/4 of the wedding, I the rest. My salary is 3 times less than his.

    I don’t get sex, he doesn’t do anything special for me on a special day. Not my birthday, my miscarriage (he is such a lot of pain because he has lost his child, too, so we must focus on him) or engagement.

    What do I do. He does, however, love my kids. I cannot divorce another time!

    Please, please, if someone could help.

    Compromise? What is that? It is his way or the highway. He’s hit me before.

  5. 6

    Bunny says

    It is his way or the highway. I’ve gone through years of cajoling, reasoning trying to appeal to any humanity in him and with nothing to show for it except for the continuing of the guilt trips, the blaming and avoidance. I do not want to divorce again, either, but life can be better without having to have someones hate piled on you every day in the guise of love.
    My first husband was a narcissist, too, and I think I know some of your pain in realizing a second mistake. When the advice is given that “these people do not change”, it is correct. I did not believe it as first, either.
    I hope you can find a way to cope and be happy in life.
    Please remember that he can through away his anger any time he wants to….he just doesn’t want to.

  6. 7

    wheretonow says

    These are all too familiar stories – at least some aspects. 28 years for us. We have been working on our M since infidelities came out 3 years ago for him. At least 2 women. A lot of MC and IC – but not recently. He said he got tired of hearing them focusing on him. He said he wasn’t getting anything out of it – why spend the money – and that’s all they wanted.

    No infidelities on his end since the day he was caught (about 3 years ago).

    But recently, I’ve been reading about passive aggressive people – and I see my H feets it to a T. Most everything.

    He’s a TOTAL conflict avoider – and he views almost everything as a “major” conflict – from how we fold the towels to asking him how his day was.

    So, how am I EVER going to even approach him on passive aggressive traits??

  7. 8

    Divorcedtoo says

    “The passive aggressive expresses anger by withdrawing, being sarcastic, using intimidation, withholding affection and love and, in some cases physical violence.”

    Wow, that was my husband: withdraws, sarcastic, withholing affection and love and on a rare occasion, intimidation.

    I guess it is nice to call him passive agressive. Now that I’m divorced, I just think he is a jack ass. And no, he will not ever change because he thinks he is perfect and everyone else is a looser. I guess that is why he essentially is alone.

    Now I just have to learn to not feel sorry for him and move on with my life.

  8. 9

    hm says

    From a man’s perspective, most men act in a so-called PA manner because to do otherwise with most women these days would be called “abuse”. Most if not all women these days have hyper-inflated views of their place in the world. This is fueled by the endless magazines, websites and which encourage women to examine every aspect of their lives with a fine-tooth comb. Especially as it relates to men:

    1. Does he speak his mind and tell you how he feels and offer his opinion of you? That’s overt abuse!
    2. Does he sit there quietly, listening to your never-ending tales of woe and not offering any of his thoughts? That’s covert abuse!

    Problem is that most of you over, say, 25, have a real expiration date. When you’re alone at 60 with your five cats, you’ll understand.

  9. 10

    Sheila says

    For the first time, I’m seeing my passive aggressive spouse as a narcissist. Reading through the comments I am reminded about two incidents. They are funny now but at the time they hurt.

    We were in a head on collision when we were in the process of moving. I was six months pregnant and lost consciousness. He hurt his back. I was hospitalized. Upon coming home, I found the kids were wearing dirty clothes because he hadn’t moved the boxes into the house. So, I had to move the heavy boxes because his back hurt. Mine did, too but he didn’t want his to get worse.

    With the same child, he wanted me to be induced into labor so he could keep his promise to drive me to the hospital. The doctor agreed because the fighting about it was stressing me out. I was induced and fourteen hours later, I asked for pain relief. My husband shouted me down and left the hospital for four hours. The nurses did nothing. When the shift changed, I asked again and finally was given an epidural. When I confronted him about it, he said that he was tired and thought that I’d be able to sleep through giving birth.

    I’m beginning to realize that he can’t see anything from my perspective; it is as though I’m supposed to feel what he is feeling. It is bizarre.

    Thank you for the article and comments.

  10. 11

    Bella says

    There is no way of dealing with this type of a person… I have gone thru hell for 15 years! I left him for 2 years and took him back cause I thought he changed and realized his own behavior! Well.. Im looking at running again! There is nothing no one can do for a person like this! I did it all, I did everything this article says to do with dealing with people like this… I fell in to a deep depression cause I can’t take trying anymore… these kinda of ppl are evil, I think sometimes they are the children of devil.. NO JOKE! Maybe they should come up with some type of medication like they have for people who have ADD!

  11. 12

    Michael says

    I like this article because it is pretty gender-neutral. It is actually my wife that is passive aggressive. Earlier tonight I tried to follow up with her on her promises to see a counselor to “manage her stress better” because she was blaming work for her stress. Instead she talked right over me half a dozen times and told me how me and our relationship is the cause of all of her problems. I finally had it and told her to either get help or I’m going to divorce her because I can’t keep living like this. We’ve been to marriage counseling for years and they’ve cut us loose — in my wife’s own words she knows what she should do, she just doesn’t do it. I’d like to get her some help, but I’m not even sure what kind of mental health professional can help with passive aggressive behavior?
    I don’t want a divorce. I want my wife to get her act together. But I accept that I’m powerless to make that happen for her — she has to do that for herself.

  12. 13

    Bgt says

    I have never been in any kind of relationship what’s so ever. So I never encountered its something I wanted to read. But, I have read some of these comments. It is absolutely horrible that many are getting depressed. I suffer from it for different reasons but I’m getting out of it. I know this is hard but take out your negative situation in this case the aggressive behavior in your guy. I know there’s children involved but, the probably suffer as well always hearing, and seeing. So it’s not quite fair to none of you. And If you tried to get help then leave it at that. They only way people will change is if they acknowledge what needs to be changed. Until they do that help won’t do anything. But, here’s the thing you can change you can get help so if you need after you seperate you need it. Same with children. Seperation can be hard but if they need help get them help. And if you make it as normal as possible like nothing changes(even though it does) having the same routine, school, bed, homework. It will be less harder for them to adjust. It can be very stressful if switching schools for the parents and children. I hope this helped have better days :)

  13. 14

    SJI says

    @Bgt……U say u have never been in a relationship. If true, why r u even looking at this site n why would u have audacity to comment. Get Lost.

  14. 15

    Bunny says

    Do not ever think that you can help these angry, angry, people! It is now nearly a year later from my first comment and no change has happened in any quarter from him. These people cannot feel empathy and have such a strange skewed view of reality, it truly makes my head swim. They hate you, are angry at you for years, heap piles of hate on you and then get angry at you when you leave. Psychology does us all a disservice by telling us it’s not their fault and giving us all the useless advice. Why don’t the rest of us get a free ticket to act like jerks! I’ve tried so very hard and my husband just tells me that when I talk he can’t think straight. I’m sick of living with an angry six year old that doesn’t have the guts to face his hatred of his mother. He can live alone in his own little angry delusional hell. Love, patience, compassion or kindness cannot help someone who likes his hell.

  15. 16


    two sick people get together, and get sicker together. All a person can do is work on themself.

    Be the change you wish to see in the world.

  16. 17

    marnie says

    I am 50 married 5 years his behavior is getting worse is it a mental illness or done on purpose help!!!

  17. 18

    Ericka says

    I am divorcing a PA man, and I am finding it really hard to detach myself from the hurt left. I wish I could never see him again and actually just forget all that happened, except my kids. The pain left from these people is harsh, and figuring out that you’ve been manipulated into taking the blame for everything not good for years in your relationship leads to a lot of anger. Anger at yourself for not seeing it clearly and taking the constant rejection and devaluation, and anger that the person led you to believe they had real feelings for you when they don’t actually have that capacity.
    In keeping with most PA’s obsessive need to look good to everyone but those closest to them, my soon to be ex wants equal custody. Since again he looks so good on paper and “on the surface” I cannot really argue with this. He really is good at “looking” the part. He isn’t a bad dad-he does what is necessary and my kids get on with him fine. But, I really fear how this all goes emotionally once he has adult expectations of them that way. What happens when my teenage girl hurts his feelings and he begins to subtly reject her?
    He has suddenly fallen in love with a new woman as well, and this causes me concern all around in terms of my kids’ emotional well being. He went from first date to spending b-days and family time with her and our kids in about 3 weeks time, and now they have tons of long term plans (even for my daughter to get a cell phone on her plan). What if my kids cause trouble in this new relationship? Will their needs be listened to or will he come to resent them as he did me when I didn’t approve?
    For my part, I am having so much difficultly detaching from this man, as you never know when a passive aggressive will drop a bomb. You kind of always know it is a matter of time until some crazy making move will shatter the calm. If anyone has tips on how to try to stop worrying when you have to allow this person to 1/2 raise your kids, please share…

  18. 19


    the return of my husband to me, they told me that my husband have been taken by another woman that she cast a spell on him that is why he hates me and also want us to divorce. then they told me that they have to cast a spell on him that will make him return to me and the kids, they cast the spell and after 3 days my husband called me
    and he told me that i should forgive him, he settled to apologize on phone and said that he still love me that he did not know what happen to him that he left me. it was the spell that the Dr omoba shrine casted on him that made him comeback to me today,me and my family are now happy again today. thank you DR. omoba for what you have done for me i would have been nothing today if not for your great spell. i want
    you my friends who are passing through this kind of love problem of getting back their husband, wife , or ex boyfriend and girlfriend to contact and you will see that your problem will be solved,

  19. 20

    Kristy says

    HELLO. I want to give thanks to the great doctor Lawrence who help me in getting back my ex-boyfriend i saw a testimony post by miss Kate from Spain about how the great doctor Lawrence had helped her, i decide to email him and to my greatest surprise my ex-boyfriend came back to me after three days of contacting him.i simply want to say thanks for what he had done for me and am so happy may he live long. if you have any problem just email him and you will not regret contacting him…

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