I have never seen myself as a passive person but more of an energetic problem-solver.  My counsellor was surprised when I gave myself that label recently too.  If anything, I’m noisy and opinionated and would veer more towards the aggressive end of the spectrum.  But all of the discussions, explanations and ‘new starts’ and policies in my marriage had no effect whatsoever, I was stuck exactly where I was, year after year.  All of my energy, the rows and effort did nothing.  Just nothing- if anything the situation just got worse.  I couldn’t understand it, as I was trying so hard. I just couldn’t seem to find the key to happiness, and it was just so important to me that we had a happy family.

1)  It takes two people to make a relationship and a marriage.  However hard I tried, cried, argued, complied or pacified, it was NEVER going to succeed.  The other guy had a different agenda.

2) I saw my behaviour as ‘feisty’.  Last year I had to write an essay for my degree about mental illness, and (long story short) researched into Passive Behaviour.  Horrifying ‘lightbulb’ moment when I discovered something about myself that I really did not anticipate or accept easily- I was behaving passively in dealing with my husband.  Really? me? never!  (Schiff and Schiff 1971) -One of the definitions of passive behaviour is ‘repeatedly doing something that doesn’t work’.  This might be aligned to one definition of madness, which is to keep doing the same things and expecting different outcomes!

So in a nutshell, when dealing with PA behaviour, once I had explained once or twice or ten times (a hundred times), expressed my feelings a million times, screamed, ignored, avoided, responded……I could go on but you get the gist.  It should have been obvious, but I just wasn’t doing anything that made the slightest bit of difference to HIS behaviour.  Yet I was sooo active and busy and trying so hard.

I got angry at the couple’s counsellor who asked me why I put up with his behaviour if it was so bad?  I responded by saying ‘I don’t! I argue etc etc (you’ve got it by now)’ but he gently pointed out that I wasn’t doing anything constructive.  (He didn’t say that but I’m paraphrasing).  Seriously?  What else should I do?

Ahh. Set boundaries and follow through with them. Hahahahahaha! Consequences for his actions.

Have you experienced PA behaviour?  If you have, on every conscious or unconscious level you know that setting any sort of boundary or attempting to hold him responsible puts you in the firing line for an escalation of nasty behaviour.  Very, very scary stuff.  An exacerbation of the very behaviour that I was trying to ‘solve’.  Where’s the logic in that?

So, maybe if I just explain to him once more instead, or maybe this time his apology is sincere, or he really will do what he said he’d do, perhaps as he says, I am being horrible for not believing him this time…….feisty or passive?

Took me a very long, painful time to realise that however noisy I was, I was still being passive. Yuk.

8 thoughts on “Passivity

  1. Over the years, I think I did try to do just about everything, everything except divorcing, and that was because for all those years I didn’t see it as an option. We can’t choose something we don’t see as a choice.

    Most everything I tried involved either trying to change myself, or later learning to enact and hold to boundaries to protect myself.

    Not all of trying to change myself was a bad thing. Some of it ended up being changes that I liked, but some of it involved an unjust and futile diminishing of myself.

    Boundaries were a good thing to learn, but setting a boundary near a passive aggressive man is like waving a red flag to a bull. The response of a passive aggressive man to a healthy boundary is typically irrational, covert, and crazy making.

    Liked by 1 person

    • PJ, I agree with everything you’ve said. I also worked for literally years on my ‘anger’ issues and I never thought of divorce as firstly, the ‘problem’ in my marriage was me, and secondly, because of my anxiety about security. I eventually realised that my anger was a valid reaction to HIS spitefulness BUT also that my rage and angry behaviour reaction was not okay. When I was not raging, I was rescuing and neither are healthy. The alternative is boundaries but I simply did not know that as I had no experience of how to set them. as you say, PA men won’t accept them and the covert violence escalates. I am still learning how to recognise my boundaries, even now, but unfortunately I think setting boundaries is the only way through the craziness. If it escalates, then that’s where it goes, the alternative is just too unhealthy and damaging. I hope people (including myself) haven’t hurt your feelings by pointing out that you were rescuing your sons. I appreciate this forum of women genuinely struggling to get out of the mire of PA behaviour, and I feel all of the comments were meant with love. This is the key to a change, I believe, and I wish I’d had it 20 years ago. Keep safe, have a peaceful day.


  2. Cathy, I had the same experience in counseling with Norman’s therapist years ago and he was right. Just by my staying here and continuing to participate in Norman’s drama, I made life good for Norman. Norman’s life worked for him, he was happy, secure, well-fed, had a wife he could trust and depend on. The counselor even told me that it was very unreasonable of me to expect him to want to change anything about his life. Even so, I stayed. Your post provides a very big clue as to why some people stay too long in abusive and unhappy relationships.

    Having a problem-solving mind is a great quality as long as there aren’t toxic people around that keep you working on endless problems that have no logical basis. Some people like my mother simply don’t want solutions, they just create drama to get attention and they will drain the life force right out of everyone in their life. My mother, a hypochondriac was forbidden to visit her doctor’s office after he threw her out. He knew how to set boundaries! I was taught to question everything, question authority, reason, find the root of problems and be willing to be completely objective when examining issues. It occurred to me while reading your post that while I believe these are wonderful traits, they might actually have contributed to us staying in these relationships longer than we should have because we actually thought that we could seek,discover and solve the problems in our marriage and we got addicted to it and became burned out detectives. It’s clear to me now that since I lived in such a dysfunctional family, my natural affinity for problem-solving became a toxic addiction.

    I too have raged and all it is, is built up frustration from hundreds of insane, illogical, repetitive experiences that manifest into one big explosion. While I don’t think it’s healthy to be in relationships that cause that much frustration, rage was actually a very normal healthy response to what we were dealing with and therefore probably protected us from a fatal heart attack or stroke ( they say that people like us are actually healthier than those who refrain or repress). I think we both know the cure for rage now ( get rid of the cause). Rage No More! 😀


    • How strange- I’ve been thinking overnight about what keeps us in these relationships and what is the factor that triggers us to leave. This was exactly one point that came up in my thoughts, endlessly analysing the relationship and thinking that it can be ‘solved’. It feels active and empowering, but actually trying to solve the unsolvable is energy wasted in the wrong direction!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. You got it!
    In all fairness to everyone involved, good or bad, it’s not right to want or need to change anyone and no one likes feeling that they need to change which contributes to underlying resentments. It is true that Norman, being a chameleon and a fake most of the time, wasn’t an easy man to read but I have to be honest and admit that I noticed his character flaws in the beginning and just wanted to perceive them as temporary lapses in good judgment.

    About the catalyst for leaving…..I really believe that it’s just a matter of getting completely fed up and used up and feeling that you have nothing more to lose. Both my dogs died this past spring and one of them, Moses, died on the last day of Passover and I couldn’t help notice the irony in that. I knew then I had nothing else to lose and nothing to protect except myself. After Moses died, I was alone in this marriage one on one, face to face with Norman. I had nothing to buffer and distract me from the hard truth anymore. It took another two months of grieving my loss alone, feeling the full impact of living with a man like Norman to break and decide to leave. It’s usually not until people have lost everything that they are willing to change what isn’t working for them. Addicts don’t contemplate seeking help until their spouse leaves them or they end up in prison or they lose their kids or run over someone in the road. We’re no different really. I’m leaving Norman and I don’t have anything Cathy. I mean, I have material things like a bed and dishes but I have no security and I have no friends or family to lean on. If I had left back in 03 or even 05, I would have had loads of money and loads of support and I even had a job that I might still have today if I had not been with Norman. Since then, I continually spiraled into nothingness until one day during one of our disagreements, it just hit me that I have nothing to lose by leaving and I have the rest of my life to lose if I stay. Besides, I was just so damn sick and tired of having the same arguments, the same daily issues, the same drama over and over again. I got tired of hearing Norman accusing me of living in the past and unable to forgive every time he repeated one of his destructive undermining behaviors. I got tired of hearing my own desperate and angry thoughts. I got fed up.

    When I had my dogs, I thought I needed to stay because it was too difficult for me to find a place to live that would allow two dogs and I lived under the illusion that being with Norman provided some level of security. Yes, he earned an income and that was surely important but in reality, Norman never provided any real security and he traumatized my dogs all the time and even put them in harm’s way. I felt horrible and so wracked with guilt over putting my dogs through all that hell that I had to make things right for me. I knew that I had to leave in order to rectify my mistake in their honor and not allow them to have suffered and died in vain.

    The contractor is coming today to treat the mold in my house so I’ll be staying in a hotel again for a few days. Until next time 😀 Take care of yourself. Hope your daughter worked out her issues with her boss and is still employed. If not, I hope she finds a new job real soon!


    • Daughter’s issues have blown over, thankfully, and I am slowly learning to release responsibility and let her live her own life. She is talented and capable, she’ll be fine. I acknowledge your bravery in ending this relationship, however hard it is ‘ the devil you know’ and a scary step. I can only say that I don’t regret it for a minute. Whatever happens in the future, you will have a new life to lead. Have a restful few days


  4. Cathy, real quick, don’t have time to write today. Read this on DailyOm this morning and thought you might enjoy:

    Combating Emotional Vampires:
    Relationships are always an energy exchange. To stay feeling our best, we must ask ourselves: Who gives us energy? Who saps it? It’s important to be surrounded by supportive, heart-centered people who make us feel safe and secure. It’s equally important to pinpoint the emotional vampires, who, whether they intend to or not, leech our energy.

    To protect your sensitivity, it’s imperative to name and combat these emotional vampires. They’re everywhere: coworkers, neighbors, family, and friends. In Energy Psychiatry I’ve treated a revolving door of patients who’ve been hard-hit by drainers–truly a mental health epidemic that conventional medicine doesn’t see. I’m horrified by how many of these “emotionally walking wounded” (ordinarily perceptive, intelligent individuals) have become resigned to chronic anxiety or depression. Why the blind spot? Most of us haven’t been educated about draining people or how to emancipate ourselves from their clutches, requisite social skills for everyone desiring freedom. Emotional draining is a touchy subject. We don’t know how to tactfully address our needs without alienating others. The result: We get tongue-tied, or destructively passive. We ignore the SOS from our gut that screams, “Beware!” Or, quaking in our boots, we’re so afraid of the faux pas of appearing “impolite” that w! e become martyrs in lieu of being respectfully assertive. We don’t speak out because we don’t want to be seen as “difficult” or uncaring.

    Vampires do more than drain our physical energy. The super-malignant ones can make you believe you’re an unworthy, unlovable wretch who doesn’t deserve better. The subtler species inflict damage that’s more of a slow burn. Smaller digs here and there can make you feel bad about yourself such as, “Dear, I see you’ve put on a few pounds” or “It’s not lady-like to interrupt.” In a flash, they’ve zapped you by prodding areas of shaky self-worth.

    This is my credo for vampires: Their antics are unacceptable; you must develop a successful plan for coping with them. I deeply believe in the merciful message of The Lord’s Prayer to “forgive people their trespasses,” but I’m also a proponent of preventing the unconscious or mean-spirited from trespassing against us. Taking a stand against draining people is a form of self-care and canny communication that you must practice to give your freedom legs.

    What turns someone into an emotional vampire? First, a psychological reason: children often reflexively mimic their parents’ most unflattering traits. A self-absorbed father can turn you into a self-absorbed son. Early modeling has impact. Studies of Holocaust survivors reveal that many became abusive parents themselves. The second explanation involves subtle energy. I’ve observed that childhood trauma–mistreatment, loss, parental alcoholism, illness–can weaken a person’s energy field. This energy leakage may condition those with such early wounds to draw on the vitality of others to compensate; it’s not something most are aware of. Nevertheless, the effects can be extreme. Visualize an octopus-like tendril extending from their energy field and glomming onto yours. Your intuition may register this as sadness, anger, fatigue, or a cloying, squirrelly feeling. The degree of mood change or physical reaction may vary. A vampire’s effects can stun like a sonic blast or make you! slowly wilt. But it’s the rare drainer that sets out to purposely enervate you. The majority act unconsciously, oblivious to being an emotional drain.

    Let me tell you the secret of how a vampire operates so you can outsmart one. A vampire goes in for the kill by stirring up your emotions. Pushing your buttons throws you off center, which renders you easier to drain. Of all the emotional types, empaths are often the most devastated. However, certain emotional states increase everyone’s vulnerability. I myself am most susceptible to emotional vampires when I feel desperate, tired, or disempowered. Here are some others:
    • Low self-esteem
    • Depression
    • A victim mentality
    • Fear of asserting yourself
    • Addiction to people-pleasing

    When encountering emotional vampires, see what you can learn too. It’s your choice. You can simply feel tortured, resentful, and impotent. Or, as I try to do, ask yourself, “How can this interchange help me grow?” Every nanosecond of life, good, bad, or indifferent, is a chance to become emotionally freer, enlarge the heart. If we’re to have any hope of breaking war-mongering patterns, we must each play a part. As freedom fighters, strive to view vampires as opportunities to enlist your highest self and not be a sucker for negativity. Then you’ll leave smelling like a rose, even with Major-League Draculas.


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