Kids From A Passive Aggressive Relationship

Sad Child


What happens to the kids from a passive aggressive relationship? I was surprised recently to find out a therapist I know believes in trying to keep the family together no matter what. I personally was extremely surprised by that. I thought surely therapy had progressed from that kind of thinking. Being from a dysfunctional family myself, and knowing many people from families that stayed together “just for the kids” I have to say I totally disagree.

If you’ve read my blog or been with me for any length of time, then you have read where I believe if your passive aggressive partner is sucking the life out of you and you can’t get out of the relationship for yourself, then at least get out of it for the sake of your children. The last thing you should want for your kids is to pick up the passive aggressive traits of your passive aggressive spouse or partner. Not only are you harming the kind of person they could grow to be, but would you really want them going into their future relationships treating their girlfriend/boyfriend, spouse/partner, the way you’ve been treated? And, as angry as we get at the passive aggressive, they completely destroy their lives and the people that try to love them. Even though we may not see it, you know they have to hurt somewhere deep down inside. Do we really want that for our kids? Like most parents, I want my children to live better than me, not go through the same hells.

I did a little exploring today and would like to share with you what I found.

This comes from a girl who’s mother was passive aggressive while her father was an abusive alcoholic. Her mother denied everything, blamed the daughter. It was easier than having to be responsible for her living the way she was and how her daughter was being treated.

My self esteem was at a very low level. I was in grade four at this point, I was nine and ten years old and my self-esteem was horrible. I became bulimic at fifteen…I remember thinking that there was a relief in being able to control one thing myself that
they could not do anything about and that was my eating. When I was seventeen and the overbearing controlling behavior would become unbearable, I began cutting myself with a razor blade at
seventeen. I went on to suffer from problems with alcohol and drug abuse myself as did my sibling and I tolerated abusive behavior in my relationships. I should mention that my sibling also suffered from the same eating disorders, the same tendency towards cutting and the same abusive relationships. I began suffering from increased bouts of depression and panic attacks, when I was nineteen, I was subsequently treated for my anxiety disorder with anti-anxiety medication which my parents would discredit as everyday worries that could be treated without medicine.

Pretty fricken tragic. The following is from a blog I found where the writer is a grown woman with children of her own, who’s mother is very passive aggressive. Her husband used to try and pass the passive aggressive behavior off as being “accidental. She doesn’t know what she’s doing, saying, etc.” Not after his passive aggressive mother-in-law came to visit for 2 weeks over the holidays. He has had a total change of heart. The daughter finally blew up on one of the last days of the mother’s visit. This is what she says afterward.

At the time of this frantic typing to let out my emotions I have indeed changed her flight to go home early. And may she go with grace, because I truly doubt that I will be spending much time in
her vicinity ever again.

I truly can’t tell you how awful I would feel if my children ever felt that way about me. (Well, truth be told they probably did when they were in high school. Thank God that’s changed. LOL).

Last, but not least, from a child of a passive aggressive parent who took on the traits, but at least realized it and is trying to do something about it.

I learned so much passive-agressive behaviors from my family, and it has taken me years (and a good 300-mile drive!) to overcome them. (Actually I am still working on that, but I am MUCH better than I used to be.)

Not to mention how much money and heartache it’s probably taken.

Kids know. They are smarter than we give them credit for. The people I know whose parents stayed together “for the sake of the children” are now feeling guilty, screwed up, and resent their parents for not splitting and giving them a happier life. Sure the “lifestyle” may not be the same as it was in a two income family, but the love and the lack of hostility makes it a much better place to be.

What happens to the kids from a passive aggressive relationship? I guess that’s up to you to decide. Please feel free to leave your comments. If you have a different point of view, especially because you come from this kind of situation, don’t be shy. I’ll publish anything that isn’t “spam”. LOL


20 Responses

  1. My head is spinning!! My husband and I were married for about 4 years. We have a 17 month old daughter together. He abandoned us on July 4, 2009, claiming it “Independence Day.” We are going through a divorce, and I have an order for protection out against him. I have been trying to figure what the hell happened! I understand now that I married a passive-aggressive. Our whole marriage was frustrating!! I don’t know what to do with my daughter. Will he stick around and try to get more parenting time? He is fighting for full custody of her, and I am so afraid that he is going to go to court and tell a bunch of lies, and once again make everything my fault. If he stays how will this affect my daughter in the future? I am so afraid and frustrated!!

    • Marie- I am so sorry to hear about your situation, although if he could just walk out like that he may have done you a huge favor. If your marriage was already very frustrating only 4 years into it, you can imagine how it would be after 10 or 15 yrs.

      For your own protection, you should “log” everything. If you’re worried about your husband telling a bunch of lies in court, then you should put down the date, time, and type of communication any time he contacts you, and what the contact was about or what happened. You should start by writing down everything that you can remember that has happened since he left, and then start your date log from there. Do you really think your husband wants your little daughter full time?

      He probably will get visitation rights as most courts believe both parents should have a relationship with the child. As far as lies, etc. you might tell your attorney about him being a “master manipulator” and try and think of examples where he displayed poor judgement during the marriage and since you’ve had her. Just remember, he abandoned you and the baby, not vice-versa. I will tell you my ex and I agreed on joint custody, and then he started seeing them less and less. He just wanted them in court, he didn’t really want them.

      Good luck to you. There must have been a reason why a judge gave you an order of protection. That certainly can’t be a good thing for him. Feel free to come back anytime. In the meantime I’ll keep you and your daughter in my prayers.

    • Marie,
      I’m right in your shoes. My daughter is almost 3- also had a protective order- psych eval. came out PA- as well as lying so much that the results of the Axis one were invalid.
      I’m bankrolling everything- including support to him and divorce. I know I have to protect my little girl and will go down in flames trying to.She’s already seen too much and I watched her personality regress- then rebound once he was out of the house and our lives. He is fighting for unsupervised visitation and 50% custody.
      We are on to a parenting coordinator- and I’m feeling very at the mercy of others in protecting us- and both our emotional and financial future.

      HELP!! What happened with you guys? Any one else have any advice?

      • JH- OMGosh, I am so sorry you are having to go through this. Welcome, by the way. Sorry. I just read your comment and my heart went out to you immediately.

        They send you to mediation, or maybe they’re calling it “Parenting coordinating” now, whatever it is, it’s not a good thing if your child is already having problems. See what you can do to get a “child advocate”. It’s a pain because you have to be on your best behavior also, to an extent, but they fight for the child, not one parent vs. another. Which in this case, showing the damage that’s already been done, the child advocate should be on your side, no? This is like getting the child her own attorney to stick up for her. The courts highly respect their recommendations as they do not represent one parent or another. Obviously there must be something terribly wrong with the father if supervised visits have even come up, and if there is the damage you say, she shouldn’t be with him 50% of the time. I’m telling you, you look good as far as asking for a child advocate, and it should be a way to truly get what is best for your daughter.

        Any one else have any experience with this? I know with my 3 kids, I went to mediation, it was as if whoever lied best won. Not only that but the female mediator hated women. I learned later she would award kids to the fathers even when they didn’t want them. Luckily for me, he only had physical custody for a couple of months before he started flaking and I had them most of the time anyway. Unfortunately my oldest daughter suffered sexual abuse at the hands of him before he disappeared completely. When I said it, I was just a scorned woman, even though I was the one who left him. If I had a child advocate, my daughter may have never suffered like she did.

  2. Are there any responses from adult children, say in their 40s? Do they have any insight into their relationships with their pa and pa-dependent parents?

    • Elleke- Hi, as a matter of fact I have had some responses from adult kids of passive aggressive parents. Some of them pretty sad as now they are battling to control or change that behavior in themselves. On the plus side, growing up with it they at least recognize it in themselves and thus are willing to try and change. Some are pretty messed up from it. They had one passive aggressive parent, and say one who was just extra “needy”, or submissive. Very dysfunctional. Now they too are seeking to find what is normal in a relationship.

  3. I survived a 17-year marriage with a PA boy/man and I have to say that I was able to get out, pretty much intact with many deep lessons learned, only after having 3 years of psychotherapy and lots of family support. The signals were all there in the beginning, but I ignored them. It didn’t take me long into the marriage to know that something significant was not good for my “being”. We had three children together and I spent most of the marriage protecting the kids from his sideways, twisted psychology. He withdrew and “left the marriage” very early on when I began to express my desires for a marriage of mutuality. Ultimately, his response was to passively aggressively control me by manipulating our finances so I couldn’t get out of the marriage. When I finally was able to gather the strength to get myself and the kids out – he got into a relationship with a very close friend of mine. To me, this final betrayal is a symbol of how he treated me in the marriage; dishonored and disrepected me most of the time. I continue to have to communicate with him, but only through e-mail. The best medicine for me in relationship to him is severance.
    I am so happy now that I am out. I have more energy, I am clear and my voice is finally coming back. My finances are stable and I was promoted in my career.
    I have three teens now, two of which have taken on some of his coping tactics. I am working with my same psychotherapist to keep myself strong in the face of their triggering behaviors. I love them honestly and openly. I believe that if I work on getting myself stable and strong they will witness another way of being. I alos have always allowed for them to express their emotions so I have hope that their default behavior won’t be Passive Aggressive. I strive for my life vision and that gives me confidence in the PA antidote of modeling consciousness.
    To all of those who are in the midst of this type of mind cloud; be good to yourself and take the time to answer the ten questions. I wish I had been posed those questions early in my marital dilemma –

    • Nicole- Welcome and thanks so much for your comment. I am so sure you just gave a lot of people a ray of hope and a little encouragement to go ahead and get out of the ordeal instead of going through it anymore. It’s always nice to hear the upside.

  4. In our family I have just found out, that We both have PA
    We have two small children.

    sometimes it is in all of us whetrher we choose or are willing enough to accept it.

    • David- You are so right. We all have moments of passive aggressive behavior. The difference is if it becomes a way of life. It also makes a difference if we choose to live it or change it. For the sake of your two children, I hope you really, honestly, work at the latter.

      Thanks for your comment. I wish you the best of luck. Feel free to comment anytime. Hopefully you’ll find something useful here.

  5. I agree – a bad marriage should not be forced together for the kids sake! I’m 50 and still working out the demons of having parents (married 55 years now) who shouldn’t have stayed together! She was passive-agressive (or more like passive-abusive) and he was the enabler. He taught us kids “to keep the peace!” at all costs.

    I grew up and married husband #1 (the abuser, who left my son and I homeless) and #2 (the P-A, who retreated to his “cave of silence” for sometimes weeks).

    After the 2nd divorce, I unfortunately continued the pattern of rescuing men. I found a guy who I thought was the love of my life. Happiest I ever was in a relationship! Loving, passionate, adored me to pieces! That is…if I didn’t ask for anything. I dealt with his limited schedule, his inability to bend for me, his blaming me for every argument or set back in our relationship and his refusal to uphold my needs (like simply requesting that his kids knock before walking into the master bedroom). No matter what I asked for, it was “unreasonable” and overruled. And he had a knack for making me feel like the “bad guy” and going thru intense guilt for being so unfair to such a great guy. After 4 years of giving 90% to his 10%, and having my fill of being “punished” for stating my needs, I finally did some research and learned what Passive Agressive behavior is.

    At 50 years old, I see how my dad’s need to keep the peace has had a detrimental effect on my adult life. I am done with rescuing men and giving away my power! My Christmas gift to myself? I broke up with the P-A boyfriend for good.

    • Bonnie- Welcome! and good for you! It’s amazing isn’t it how going through 2 abusive relationships, and the passive aggressive still wiggles his way in without being detected until it’s too late? They are such chameleons. Somehow they always know how to be just what we need them to be while they are hooking us. They manage to do it pretty fast also, because they know they can’t keep up the facade forever.

      It sounds like you gave yourself the best Christmas gift of all. LOL. I’m telling you folks, if you have children and you’re living with a passive aggressive, you are probably doing irreparable harm. Thanks for your comment and sharing with us, Bonnie. Feel free to comment anytime.

  6. i am currently in a situation where my ex girlfriend is pregnant. i dont believe she has cheated on either. the main issue is she is verybally abusive when things dont go her way. it’s either her way or the highway. we have tried counseling. it would go well for a bit, but she would regress. i finally stood up to her and let her know that i would not let her continue to verbally abuse me and degrade me. i am strongly considering handling this over to the courts, because she is one tough cookie that refuses to budge. any suggestions?

  7. I spent 15 years with my ex. The whole time feeling like i was getting more insane as the years went by. He was a good man but yet was emotionally closed. There was too many times i would get frustrated and say i should carry a dictator phone on me to record what he says because he would deny what he said as quick as he would say it. After i left him i worked out that he was like an empty vehicle that needed to be driven and i could no longer drive his life as i had a life of my own and 2 children to bring up and teach to be independent adults. It has only just been mentioned to me that my ex might be passive aggressive. His behaviour since i left him has got worse. I really don’t know who he is anymore. I thought no matter what happened between us he would always be a good father and consistent in their life. What a massive shock it has been to find that he had not been this person. At first he kept letting them down. Then when i pulled him up on this behaviour he informed my via text that he was no longer willing to talk to me about the kids and his new girlfriend (of a few weeks at this time) would be the one i should be communicating with. Right or wrong i refused to do this and told him that i think the courts should decide if this was right behaviour. He took me to court and then half way pulled out. Yet again i was shocked with this behaviour and left with no help or advice in what is the correct way to handle this behaviour. So after a few weeks my children where so upset in not seeing their dad i started to let them see him. Questioning myself and my own behaviour. The last 4 years have been one emotional roller coaster after another. He married his girlfriend and had another child and through out the whole time she has been the one who calls the shots on seeing the kids. He has free access but yet only chooses to see my children for 4 hours one day a week and even then he lets them down. The children are now at the point where they have found their own voice and stand up to their dad telling him they are not happy with how he treats them. In response to this their father has done numerous things like changing his mobile number and the only way they can get in contact with him is via the stepmother. There has been many other things that i feel would take me all day to write them down on here but the situation that we are in now is there was another row the children had with dad. (Kids are aged 15 & 12) As always when these rows kick off dad has gone straight into blaming me for them standing up to him and this behaviour. He told them that i am mad and insane and that i have implanted things into their head. These things he is talking about are things that have happened around the children when i was NOT around and the only people who were around where himself and his family, but yet he is still trying to tell the kids these things never happened when they know it did. He has also told them that i never took them to school when they where younger and that is was always himself or other people. Of course the children remember me taking them and told their father this, they even told him who we walked to and from school with and the times we went to the park or around to friends houses or friends they had come to our house after school. But no he will not agree to this, their memories, he told them that i have deleted history from their minds!! He has not phoned them now for over a month. My daughter phoned him a few days back at his shop and he picked up. He spoke to her as if nothing happened. He told her that he had moved home and she was so upset that she did not know about it. He told her that he would ring her to arrange for them to come around. He has still not phoned back!! What do i do?? I know that as long as my children want to see their dad there is nothing i can do to stop them but watching this behaviour going on and the upset that he is causing to my children is hard to deal with. I have tried to explain to them about passive aggressive behaviour but i don’t think they are old enough to understand. I fear that this behaviour will be so damaging to them. It should not be their job to chase their father and be the adults in this. They received a text from their stepmother saying a lot of bad mouthing stuff about me and then saying that their father will see them under this condition. That they do not bad mouth his family to him. My daughter replied with, i respect your wishes but can you respect mine and stop speaking about mum as we love her just as much as we love you dad. There was no response to the text and no phone calls since. I really thought the madness of living with this man would go away when i left him but yet its still in my life. But not for one minute do i regret leaving him. Not only for my sake but for the sake of the children. I too am remarried and my husband is an amazing step dad. He never ever has bad mouthed their father in front of them and know that my children are the most important thing in my life and will always come first. I am grateful that they have a very happy life at home with me where we are open and honest about feelings. My children know they can talk to us about anything they want and that their feelings belong to them and they have a right to talk about it even if they feel myself or my husband has upset them. I have taught my children that with all things in life feelings pass if they are dealt with. But what do i tell them about their dad. Do i be honest with them and tell them never to have any expectations that their dad will get what he is doing or will change?
    Sorry to have gone on, I have tried to find support groups but there seems to be none.

    • Thank you so much for this. It has really spoken to me. I have 2 girls (2 and 4 years) with my PA husband. Been together 10 years. Always knew something was not right but could not put my finger on it. Found out about PA and it all made sense. Everything clicked into place.
      Your comment gives me courage to raise my children to express their feelings. And maybe someday leave him.
      I am sorry, I have no answers for you. Just a thank you.

  8. My parents are currently getting divorced. My dad is passive aggressive. He will often just sit across from me in the family room and just stare at me with a confused look. I’ll ask him why he’s staring at me and he’ll say “No reason.” But he keeps staring at me. Sometimes he’ll do the same thing but just downright ask me “Why do you hate me so much?” Whenever he asked me this, I used to tell him directly what I though; blunt honesty. But he would deny everything I said and blame it on my mom. Oh, and some background; my mom works everyday 5 AM till 8, takes car end my sister and I, and her elderly mother. My dad works 1 job, is obese, and complains all the time. He will make subtle comments when my mom and I go to work out, and never makes my sister do anything. Whenever I try and confront him he always acts like it’s never his fault, he’s just a perfect man living in a house of terrible women. I’m ashamed to call him my father. He’s always innocent. He doesn’t understand how depressed he is making me each day he stays.

  9. Megan, your Dad sucks and needs help! But he will never think that and always make it feel like it’s your fault! Please don’t take own his responsibility! He needs to own his own feelings, and
    become a man!

  10. My situation is not very different from anybody elses. Living with a PA husband. I finally left when my daughter was 18. While I lived with them, they would gang up on me. She was talked to about me by my husband making me look like the bad guy. He never supported me when I tried to teach her that there are consequences to bad behavior. And because he did this throughout her middle and high school she had no respect for me.She had an abortion in high school and she didn’t tell me, she told him. He brought her for that. I found out by receiving the bill from our medical insurance. I asked them about it and they just didn’t even bother to talk to me. Both of them. I used to hear him tell her that I was just “crazy” and not to take me seriously. Well, I sold the house and moved out, they had no choice but to do the same. I never saw my daughter as we were moving. She did not pick up one box. Then I was told that she was addicted to Percocet, “but no big deal”. She continued to protect him from me (as she was told that I abused him and abandoned him). I saw him now and then and noticed how thin he was getting. I had to threaten him to get him to a doctor. On August 3, 2015 he was diagnosed with Stage 4 Metastatic Kidney Cancer. I helped with his care (doing mostly everything). He wanted to stay home as long as he could and therefore the drugs were prevalent in the house. She had been in a Methadone treatment, but while he was sick, I noticed she did have her methadone anymore. It was discovered at the hospital at his chemo session that Oxycodone pills were missing. She actually stole her father’s drugs. The father that she was suppose to be protecting from me. She was trying to control me the whole time by playing all kinds of games with me along with his sister and brother but no one helped me help me until he was admitted in Hospice. His sister (who didn’t live in the area) came here when I called to tell her that he was being admitted and then processed to NOT talk to me and took the power of Attorney away from me. She ended up paying for the funeral and planning it with my daughter and omitted my name from his obituary and was told not to go to the service. I did anyway! Now I have not heard from my daughter. I don’t know where she is or if she has gone back to the drug. He allowed her NOT to work (she’s 22 now). I’m worried about her but have no way to find out where she is. Its so hard to move on.

  11. I completely disagree with the notion that children are better off if the family is split.

    I am recently divorced from my PAPD wife of 17 years. I tried everything I could to save it, but she wanted to destroy it. She dragged me through the court system, lied and failed to disclose hidden assets and bank accounts and played the victim saying she is not capable of earning anything more than a minimum wage job. There is much more, but since you know PAs, I won’t go on. She is a pathological liar and a tyrant.

    Here is why I disagree: I still live and care about my now “ex-wife” and am still devastated by it. Despite the difficulties with her acriond, angry outbursts/temper tantrums and secrets, we had a good family and the kids (both teenagers) are missing it. Now they are acting out, distant, defiant and depressed. There are many studies that show kids are better with the family intact. Another reason to support the idea, is that divorce does not keep them from the PA parent. In this case, their mother has involved them on many occasions instead of leaving them out. She them uses projection and accuses me of what she is doing. Regardless, the family was better off and happier together.

  12. I have a 17 yo daughter and nine year old twin sons. I have needed a divorce for 17 of the 19 years I’m married at the very least. My sons are struggling with their fathers push me pull you communication dysfunction. My daughter is an angry introvert. I am 55 and on SE although having worked as an rN over 20 years full time my check is enough to survive. I stay with this extreme PA for fear what would happen to my kids if I were not the target and they were. If I was not here to run interference when he starts his contrary crap. Some days I pray for an early death to escape him and then pray for a long life so I can help my kids after growing up with this miserable passive aggressive father they have, learning so much dysfunction. I need help so badly.

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