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6 Ways to Deal with Passive Aggression from Your Spouse

We all know violence is not allowed in any marriage. Marriage is the analogy used to describe Christ in the church. Christ loved the church enough to sacrifice Himself and give Himself up for her. It should be the same in a marriage. When spouses are not loving and honoring each other, it serves as a poor example to the body of Christ and the world.

Passive Aggression Is Abuse

One of the ways a marriage can be a poor example of Christ is when one spouse uses passive-aggressive behavior on the other. Passive aggression is more subtle and harder to detect. It may take the form of a snarky comment, belittlement in front of others, or attacks on someone's self-image. We can also take harsher forms, such as a forceful grab of the arm or an unnecessary fight after a fun event. No matter what the format takes, passive aggression is abuse. Passive aggression can harm a marriage and do permanent damage if gone unchecked. To be the best examples of Christ to the world, we must love ourselves and God enough to do whatever it takes to resolve the issue. What can a spouse do if they are the victims of passive aggression? Here are six ways to deal with passive aggression from your spouse:

1. Pray about It

The best person you can talk to about this issue is God. The Holy Spirit, in his great wisdom, can reveal the wound or emotional issue that may be behind passive aggression. Your spouse cannot work on what they cannot identify. If your spouse cannot discover the root of the issue for themselves, ask the Holy Spirit to reveal it to you. Take some time together and pray as a couple. Have a heart-to-heart discussion about how this behavior damages your marriage. Remind them that they took a vow on your wedding day to love, honor, and cherish you. By using passive-aggressive tactics, they are failing to keep their marriage vows.

2. Confront Them

If the passive aggression is happening to a wife, the church may take an erroneous stance that the wife should submit to the husband. Yet God never once has to submit to someone who is committing harmful acts of behavior toward their spouse. Speak the truth in love by confronting your spouse on this matter. Identify specific examples of how you have detected passive aggression in your marriage. Use "I" statements and let them know this will not be tolerated. Sometimes a hard conversation will help the spouse see the error of their ways. If the passive aggression continues, however, you may need help from outside sources to resolve the solution you need.

3. Seek Accountability

If after you've confronted your spouse, they continue to blame or deny the problem, they might need accountability. Pray together and identify a mature Christian in your local church body or a trusted friend with which your spouse can share this issue. They may be able to give wise counsel on how to stop this behavior. Additionally, if they are willing, have your spouse ask them to keep them accountable and agree to meet either in person or by phone to check in to see how your spouse is doing. Before their check-in, however, they must ask you if the behavior has improved. If it is not improved, write down or give concrete examples of this behavior. Have your spouse confess that to their accountability partner together. They can then brainstorm ways to stop this behavior. Make sure the person your spouse trusts is mature enough not only to keep this sin confidential but also to give practical ways to repent.

4. Seek Professional Help

In addition to accountability, you and your spouse might need to seek help from a professional to help you process the damage this passive aggression may have caused. Because it leaves no scars, passive aggression is easy to dismiss and ignore. Yet, a hurtful word or action may damage your emotional, mental, and spiritual health. It may damage your self-image and weaken your ability to have healthy relationships with others. Find a counselor in your area who can work with both of you to identify the problem, renew the mind, and change the heart. More than likely, this behavior stems from some sort of grief, sadness, or anger that is going unresolved. It is on the spouse to care for himself and his spouse by processing and resolving these issues immediately. Commit to whatever length of time it may take for you to repair your marriage because of this issue.

5. Report It

If your spouse refuses to go to counseling or change their behavior, it may be time to let your pastor know. This may seem extreme if your spouse is in a leadership position at your church, but because of this rift in your marriage, this position may need to be re-evaluated. Leaders should be above reproach and treat everyone, including their spouse, with love, dignity, and respect. If you have confronted him and he does not change, bring him to a leader in your church who can offer objective counsel on this issue. This is the proper way for how sin is to be addressed. But sometimes, churches overlook this type of behavior in favor of keeping the church's equilibrium when it comes to leadership. Ask your pastor to work on practical ways your spouse can restore this relationship. Give it a deadline as to when this should occur. If they do not change their behavior by the deadline, it may be time to take a break from one another until the problem is resolved. Although God does not honor divorce, he also does not honor spouses who treat each other with disdain and disrespect. 

6. Take a Break

Although this should always be the last resort for marriage, taking a break from one another will jump-start the healing process and help each other look objectively at the situation. It is important to evaluate how often the behavior is taking place. Is this behavior taking place all the time a couple of times? After a mutually agreed upon break, come back together and discuss what you both learned about yourselves during your time away. Share with the Lord what He revealed to you during this time. Were there any past events that may be tied to this behavior?

Create specific action steps to take if the behavior is still not resolved. Put those action steps in writing and place them somewhere you and your spouse can see them often. Ask the Lord to remind them about their commitment to follow these action steps. A marriage will suffer if this behavior is not resolved. If you do the hard work necessary to end this behavior, you will be doing a great service to you, your spouse, and your children. This demonstrates you do not want to continue to be a problem and be an example for your children to follow.

Although passive aggression is a form of abuse and must not be tolerated, there is hope. Stay hopeful during this tough season in committing to improving your marriage. In the end, you will not only have a thriving marriage but also be better people because of it.

Photo credit: ©GettyImages/PeopleImages

Writer Michelle LazurekMichelle S. Lazurek is a multi-genre award-winning author, speaker, pastor's wife, and mother. She is a literary agent for Wordwise Media Services and a certified writing coach. Her new children’s book Who God Wants Me to Be encourages girls to discover God’s plan for their careers. When not working, she enjoys sipping a Starbucks latte, collecting 80s memorabilia, and spending time with her family and her crazy dog, Cookie. For more info, please visit her website www.michellelazurek.com.

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