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Is My Husband Passive-Aggressive?

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From the U.S.: I’m not sure how to define my husband’s behavior. I keep thinking “passive-aggressive” though I don’t know if that is correct.

My husband is extremely lazy (morbid obesity has a lot to do with it,  because he doesn’t want to move) ; he’ll ask me to do basic things like hand him an object that’s three feet away while he is lying on the sofa watching tv ; even something right behind him, but he doesn’t want to sit up and turn to see where it is or reach to grab it.

He has a pattern when he wants me to do something for him: for example, instead of saying something like ” would you please make me some popcorn?” he will say “do you want to make some popcorn?”He reframes his desires/requests as issues of MY wanting to do something. “do you want to do the laundry/take out the trash/do the dishes/get me the pretzels/set up the TV tray/get the door when the food arrives?”

I have often responded with =”Do I WANT to? No, not really. Why can’t you ask me directly to do something for you because you would like me to instead of making it seem like it is something I WANT to do?I’ve told him numerous times that he’s being passive-aggressive (but I am probably using that term incorrectly) by pretending that every favor he asks me to do is instead something that I am eager to do, rather than a nice thing I am doing at his request, possibly so that he won’t feel guilty, or beholden, or bossy, or demanding, or lazy ; but of course he says that is not the case.

Then he says he will be more direct in his requests, but he never changes his style. My question is, what is this type of behavior classified as, or is it just something that bothers me (as he insists) but actually is perfectly healthy, normal, rational behavior? I don’t mean the laziness, I only really want to define/understand the habit of asking me to  do something that is really for him, but rephrasing it to seem as if I WANT to do it. Silly question I’m sure, but I hope someone can address it. Thanks so much!

Is My Husband Passive-Aggressive?

Answered by on -

A.

I’m sorry this troubles you so much. It seems to me that it is a pattern of language that has probably been with him for a very long time. He is unlikely to change it. It doesn’t really matter. You know his meaning even if you don’t like his style.

What concerns me is that it looks like the two of you are fighting about communication style instead of something of much more serious consequence. You said he is morbidly obese and that it interferes with his ability to move to even do the simplest things. The fights about his language style are an effective distraction but they are only that — a distraction. Your husband’s obesity is endangering his life and affecting the quality of your life together. You have been enabling his food issues by doing things for him that would otherwise require him to move.

I urge you to let the communication issue go. Instead, focus on the much more serious health issue. You can’t make him lose weight. You can’t make him care. But you can tell him how much it scares you that you will lose him because of his weight. You can let him know that you love him enough not to do things for him so he doesn’t have to move. You can offer to go with him to a doctor and nutritionist to learn how best to address the issue and how you can be an effective support.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

Is My Husband Passive-Aggressive?

Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Dr. Marie is licensed as both a psychologist and marriage and family counselor. She specializes in couples and family therapy and parent education. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2019). Is My Husband Passive-Aggressive?. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 20, 2019, from https://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2019/01/25/is-my-husband-passive-aggressive/
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 23 Jan 2019
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 23 Jan 2019
Published on Psych Central.com. All rights reserved.