What Are We Teaching Our Children About Passive Aggressiveness?

A lot of us here on this blog have children. Even before I read a comment this morning about a woman living with a passive aggressive husband, hating it, but staying together for the “sake of the children” I had already been thinking about what I’ve taught my own children about relationships.

Last night I had a long talk with my oldest daughter. She has been “in love” with this guy for years. The whole time they were together she was absolutely miserable. He’s as emotionally stunted as a 12 year old, even though he’s 35, and as cold hearted as a dead mackerel on a pile of ice. Even though they haven’t dated in a few years, she insists on revisiting the past and being reminded of why they aren’t together in the first place. This guy is the max in passive aggressive partners. His MO is after not speaking to her for a little while, opening communication, being the sweet guy he was when they started dating, reeling her back in, setting up a date or a visit,(they live a couple hours apart) then cutting off all communication completely, and not showing up. Sound familiar?

I find myself looking over my past relationships while she was growing up trying to see what I did to contribute to her lack of willingness to let go. As most parents do, I’m sure that I contributed to this somehow. I know that part of it is that where she moved to she hasn’t made many friends, she’s away from family, and she’s lonely. All of that contributes to an isolation that makes you willing to put up with stuff you normally wouldn’t. I have a hard time wondering why her self-esteem doesn’t take over and tell her she’s worth so much more. Is that what she got from watching me?

Which leads my thoughts back to us here. Aren’t we worth so much more? Wasn’t there a time in our lives where the affection, sex, and love all went hand in hand? What makes us so willing to settle? Like any other area of their lives, don’t we want more than that for our children?

Like my daughter who has dated way to many that have put her down instead of building her up, the passive aggressive relationships in our lives have a way of wearing away and corroding who we really are. Because we start out giving so much love, along with that we seem to give away so much power. We end up caring more about what they think of us than what we think of ourselves. In most passive aggressive relationships we start out as one person that they fall in love with because of the way we are, and then we marry or whatever, and it seems they do their best to break down who they fell in love with. We help them isolate us because who wants to shout from the rooftops “my husband hasn’t had sex with me in months, (years)”? We feel like it’s something wrong with us, when the problem lands squarely on our passive aggressive spouse, or partner’s shoulders.

At some point we have to take the power back, and if we don’t do it for ourselves, then we need to do it for our kids. We need to teach by example because that is how they learn. If you think you have a chance to save your relationship and you’re still willing to put in all the hard work that goes with that, then by all means you should give it a shot. Get into counseling, talk with your spouse, and where and how appropriate, talk with your kids.

If things have gotten so bad between the two of you and it looks like years ahead that leads to a dead end, get out while you still have some semblance of your sanity, and while your children still have a chance to see what a good relationship should be. At least they’ll learn what is not okay, and what they don’t have to put up with when it comes to how people treat them. I’m afraid I should have paid attention a long time ago.

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2 Responses

  1. AMEN! After nearly 18 years in a loveless marriage “for the sake of the kids”, I left. I realized my sons were starting to think that snide comments were acceptable forms of communication with a woman. That it was OK to sit and watch TV and only wake up long enough to point out how nothing was his fault.

    However, i must say, my argument was less about keeping the children’s lives stable as not subjecting them to being used as a weapon. He would rather destroy them than let me have any part of their heart, and is desperately trying that now. The advantage is that now, they are old enough to think for themselves, so his tactics are serving no purpose than to show he’s wrong.

    • Hi Anna- Welcome and thanks for your input.

      It’s unfortunate when adults use children as weapons to get to one another. I went through a hellacious time when I left my kids father, and they ended up pretty messed up from the experience. I didn’t think the day would ever come when they would be old enough to see through him.

      Your sons thinking mimicking their father’s behavior and thinking that is ok is exactly what I’m talking about. Because we take it, they don’t get it that it’s not right. It’s smart of you to realize what was happening and it sounds like you’re close enough to them to be able to talk about how things were wrong, hopefully so they don’t repeat their father’s mistakes. We have so much influence on how they interact with others based on how they see us interact at home, it’s amazing.

      18 yrs. is a long time. Glad to hear you didn’t give up and got out instead. It can be a tough road and it’s hard to believe we wasted so much time once you get out. I hope things are going well for you now, and at least you feel a little lighter in life not having to carry the burden of living with what he does. Please feel free to let us know about your journey. You never know who you might encourage.

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