A husband accused of passive aggression should remember that when disputes are frequent and people don't bother even listening to the other side, the gap widens and relationships get sour. Hatred and contempt fill the gap with negative emotions difficult to dilute. He can be tempted to fight fire with fire and answer perceived "aggressions" with more aggression. It's understandable that such accusations by his partner are frightening, angering, shocking or devastating. He may be accused of doing things his father or mother did and his swore he'd never do. Perhaps the wife is speaking about emotional abuse, sending away the children, and many other strange and horrible things. The husband may want to shut down when she speaks - but he shouldn't!
No matter what, each and every dispute about his behavior is a request for understanding; each confrontation a hidden search for recognition from him. When the other side is yelling at him, he should not follow his first impulse to escape or shout back. Rather, he should listen to own every word that comes out of her mouth. It's important to validate what she says; repeat what she says back to her, and ask if he got the whole version or if there is something that escaped his understanding.
If he's come to understand what she means and how she saw things, he needs to show it! He can show her he understands her and wants to help her, because that's what she's looking for! His mindset needs to settle into someplace where he can honestly say, "Please, forgive me; I don't want to be that passive aggressive person anymore, because I don't want to hurt you anymore." And mean it. And if he still doesn't feel that he did something wrong, he can at least tell her that he respects the fact that she FEELS he did. Respect of each others' feelings, opinions and emotions is extremely important, but especially so in relationships where divorce is looming.
If his wife is repeating the same rant over and over again, it means that he hasn't responded to her complaint in a way that makes her feel he HAS heard her.
At that point, he's probably still responding in a defensive way, explaining again to her whatever she already knows that can improve his situation. This is not what she needs. She doesn't care at all about his excuses, real or imaginary. He needs to see the pain below the surface. And boy, if he doesn't know how to do that, why does he call himself her husband?
She needs him to hear exactly what she's saying to him, emotionally. She wants him to grieve, as she is grieving, the insensitive and selfish person he has been with her for as long as he has. And she is grieving for the lost opportunities for love, for understanding and mutual support that are all in front of the two of them now.
If any husband wants to do real relationship repair, he should begin with taking care of her needs. Accept her anger as a fact of his life. Hear her words of pain, validate her feelings as true and legitimate, and never forget that this marital strife is originated in the years and years of insensitivity towards her.
But, if he wants to be really married to her, as a grown up and not as a child, he needs to understand that this is what a woman wants in a relationship with a significant other. She needs and deserves his honesty. This means that he has to take a good look at himself and discover, accept and heal those parts of himself that are not matching her reality; those aspects of his life that don't reflect adult commitment yet.
The first step is giving his wife that feedback that he hears her, that he's ready to stop being the type of person that only brings her pain. The next step? To actually change, heal and recover!
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