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Passive aggressive behavior has no place in a healthy relationship. Building healthy relationships is an important building block in recovery. More often than not, relationships suffer greatly due to the negative behaviors associated with addiction and mental illness. Passive aggressive behavior is defined as a pattern of indirectly expressing frustration or anger, using things like sarcasm, avoidance, procrastination, and stubbornness. The habituated patterns of passive resistance in response to one’s responsibilities or to requests from authority figures are problematic. Passive aggressive behavior creates tension and breeds resentment.


These are some examples of passive aggressive behavior:

1: You don’t speak your truth. For example, someone asks for your opinion and your response is one thing, but your behavior is another: your exuberant, “I love it!” doesn’t match your disinterested approach or attitude.

2: You are duplicitous:  you feel one way but act another. For example, you show a sweet demeanor, but inside you are boiling.

3: You are a perpetual victim: everyone is doing something TO you. See #1. If you speak your truth, this victimization can cease.

4: You never give a straight answer.

5: You procrastinate and make others wait, giving endless excuses. This is your way of passively controlling a situation, but it will leave you friendless and/or unemployed.


Recognizing that you may be engaging in some or all of this behavior is the first step. You can change! Working on relationships and cultivating healthy interactions with others takes a firm commitment. You have to want to shift your behavior. Direct communication earns respect from others, and builds a sense of self-respect within. It makes a huge difference in the way you are perceived by others and in the way you see yourself.

Passive aggressive behavior doesn’t vanish overnight. So, while you are doing this work, try and be patient. You will have to learn to face your fears and begin saying what you mean, regardless of what others think; you will have to take responsibility for your actions and cease blaming others; you will have to shift the way you see yourself in relationship with others. You will have to become willing to be honest — all of the time.

What you have to say matters. People want to hear you, and they want to understand the way you feel. Passive aggression has no place in a healthy relationship. When you say what you mean, and mean what you say, you cultivate trust, and that, friends, is a key factor in a healthy relationship.