I called these men the Quietly Angry because they may not raise their voices, or actively confront, but they will drive you crazy--if you allow them to. One reason their behavior is so annoying to others is you can't put your finger on what they are doing unless you notice their pattern of behavior. You can't say, "Don't raise your voice when we are talking," because he may not speak loudly. You can't say "Don't throw the dishes when we argue," because he probably won't throw anything--at least not when you are watching. He is an expert at being annoying, making your life miserable (though you are probably not the only target), and generating countless headaches with few if any visible signs of anger. Their behavior may best be described as "plausible deniability." You will understand that when you attempt to prove they are purposely annoying.
You might be thinking, "This isn't so bad, no screaming, no throwing of valuable objects, sounds good to me." Make no mistake, he intends to make you feel wretched, one small incident at a time. His primary coping strategies are passive resistance, surface submissiveness, evasion, and circumventing of rules (Pretzer and Beck, Clarking and Lenzenweger, eds. 1996).
We aren't certain why individuals develop this exasperating pattern of behavior. However, it has been suggested that they were not allowed to express anger and to disagree as children; therefore, they learned to veil their aggression. They appear to believe that others are trying to control them, and they doggedly resist control--whether it exists or not. If he makes you feel miserable, yet you cannot point your finger at what exactly he is doing, he may be using passive aggressive behavior to express his anger.
Do the following behaviors seem familiar to you? Does your partner have a few of these traits? Remember, one behavior is not a pattern. Perhaps it is time to decide if he might be a passive-aggressive man.
Criteria for the Passive Aggressive Man
To be diagnosed as passive-aggressive, he will need to have four or more of the following:
* Passively resists doing routine social and work-related tasks
* Complains that others do not understand or appreciate him
* Acts sullenly and argues with others
* Criticizes and scorns authority figures (parents, spouse, teachers, bosses, etc.) without reason
* Exaggerates and complains a lot
* Exhibits a consistently negative attitude
* Fails to do his share of the work or does substandard work on purpose
* "Forgets" to do something on purpose
Since the Quietly Angry folks tend to be negative and uncooperative, relationships with them can be fraught with tension.
Read more about these interesting men (and how to respond them) in the Manipulative Man