How to Deal with a Passive-Aggressive Ex-Spouse

Protecting Yourself from a Passive-Aggressive Ex-Spouse


Because it’s easy to get pulled back into situations and emotionally charged issues you worked so hard to extricate yourself from, protect yourself with these tips to keep hidden anger from seeping back into your relationship with your ex-spouse:

•  Watch out for emotional reasoning or “feel think,” when a person allows his/her emotions to rule without indeed checking whether any suspicions, jealousy or other feelings are valid.  Passive-aggressive individuals have a tendency to see things more starkly – all or nothing, black or white – without seeing any shades of gray or in between. Very often these feelings and faulty perspectives feed anger that seep out in indirect ways.

•  Know that passive-aggressive spouses who are also self-absorbed will expect that things work out for them, but not for you.  They will very often send off mixed messages saying one thing, doing another.   Resist the urge to share details of your successes and to believe their friendliness because you may find back-stabbing in the next encounter.

•  Realize that you may never have closure on what anger issues lurked in your marriage.  This can be frustrating to live with.  Likely, if your ex-spouse hid a lot of anger, there won’t be a sudden recognition of that anger either.  Awareness could come gradually or not at all.

•  Resist playing the typical passive-aggressive games.  Not every comment has to have a response, nor email or other exchange.  Ignore what you can, back away from any tendency to have the last word or react.  Talk friendly yet assertively.  Making points just keeps the game going.

•  Know that it may take time to convince third parties or the court system of any manipulation.  But have faith that in time, process plays out and when there’s light to be seen, reasonably minded people usually do see this.  Children will see the light as well, when they are older, and if there’s light to be seen.  Especially if you operate from a good value system without reactivity, your behavior will also look exemplary in the minds of others.

(Portions of this came from the book Overcoming Passive-Aggression: How to Stop Hidden Anger From Spoiling Your Relationships, Career and Happiness by Tim Murphy, Ph.D. and Loriann Hoff Oberlin, M.S., LCPC)

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