on February 7, 2005
"Living With a Passive Agressive Man" states that dealing with a passive-aggressive person as a spouse can drive even the most even tempered, rational, and reasonable person to huge levels of uncontrolled anger. P-As are masters at deliberately goading people. Within my marriage, I was unable to obtain the desired level of intimacy due to my partner's resistance. My needs weren't met and yet I continued to try to find a way to meet my partner's needs despite years of frustration and a lack of progress. My ex-husband controlled the dynamics of our marriage with his passive-aggressive behavior. Directly asking for what I wanted was a guarantee it would never happen. A lot was demanded of me but very little was willingly given back--not because he couldn't, I realized at the very end, but because he wouldn't. I'm generally not easily angered, but his behavior could drive me to uncontrolled rage--and then he'd calmly inform me I should seek counseling. Any conversation I tried to initiate about improving our relationship quickly turned to a list of his complaints about what was wrong with me. Finally I gave up any hope of improvement due to his extreme resistence. This book made me realize that I had a very typical relationship with a very passive-aggressive man, but the marital interchange was completely abnormal.
There are eleven hallmarks that identify the Passive-Aggressive personality disorder.
1. Fear of Dependency
2. Fear of Intimacy
3. Fear of Competition
5. Fostering Chaos
6. Feeling Victimized
7. Making Excuses and Lying
9. Chronic lateness & Forgetfulness
My ex-husband regularly displayed every single one.
There is no way to please these people. Although the implication is always that your inadequacies are the reason for their discontent, their problem is so complex and ingrained it is virtually impossible to eradicate. Nothing anyone provides for them is ever enough to calm their fears, self doubt, and bolster their low self esteem. The 'cure' is a constantly moving target, partially because they often ask for the opposite of what they really want, if they bother to ask at all. Usually it's a guessing game: they let you know they're displeased in a covert and passive way, but you have to try to figure out why. They will deny their anger if directly confronted. Nothing anyone does for them is ever good enough. It is almost universal within a marriage to a passive-aggressive person for them to continually withhold sex. That and deliberate action, or inaction, that denies pleasure to their partner when they do engage in intercourse is their ultimate expression of hostility and control.
Does any of this sound familiar? If so, this is the book to read to help restore some of your sanity. For years I refered to my then husband as 'Passive Agressive' without really understanding the disorder. The basis of all this dysfunctional and self-destructive behavior is rage.
Interestingly, what drives the P-A's anger is low self esteem and extreme dependency. Passive-aggressive people try to mask this by continually rejecting the very person they are dependent upon. They attempt to deny their feelings of insecurity and worthlessness by attacking in underhanded ways that make the object of this type of aggression feel confused, helpless, and demeaned. Typically, Passive-Aggressive people tend to choose one of three types of partners: Controllers, Nurturers, or Rescuers. Or someone that has a combination of those
characteristics. Hence, P-As are continually rejecting their partners for the very qualities that attracted them in the first place. They undermine the people they so desperately need in an attempt to prove to themselves they don't need them. It is a personality disorder that is highly resistant to change even with intense therapy and motivation on the part of the patient. P-As are completely convinced there is nothing wrong with them or their behavior; it is everyone else.
A complete loss of confidence and self esteem that living with such a person induces in the unfortunate person who married them is not uncommon, either. Because, of course, everything is always someone else's fault, not theirs. It is usually the spouse, significant other, etc. of these people who end up in therapy because dealing with P-As is so difficult since they are constantly manipulating the environment to make themselves the victim and the person with whom they're interacting the bad guy. It is a very difficult disorder for people who are straightforward and psychologically sound to deal with or recognize. The tendency is, since you are being held responsible by the other person for problems in the relationship, to hold yourself responsible as well.
The book was mainly about how to set boundaries and cope if you are involved with these types of people. The main advise given was if you can't cope with the reality that changed or even improved behavior is probably not an option, (and most people can't!) your only recourse is to leave. Which is exactly what I waited way too long to do. I was married for 27 years to an extremely passive-agressive man. If I had read this book earlier, I may have stopped accepting responsiblility for the problems in our marriage, making excuses for his bad behavior and escaped earlier, saving myself and my son years of grief.
on August 16, 1998
I am married to and have two children with a passive aggressive man. I have searched local bookstores for a book on the topic for 2 years. One night, in desperation, I searched Amazon for a book on the subject and thankfully, I found this book by Scott Wetzeler.
Scott Wetzler clearly outlines the personality of a passive aggressive and concise terms and offers comprehensive solutions in how to deal with this personality.
What I loved most about the book were the validating stories told by other women that have experienced the, frustration, humiliation and emotional abuse, while involved with a "PA". I read their words over and over again in partial disbeleif, that my exact feelings and discription of the behavior, were staring back at me in black and white.
I urge anyone (male or female) who is in a relationship with someone who sulks, does not respond to a direct question or insists they are not angry even though their actions tell you otherwise, to read this book. It will save your life, as it has mine.
"Living With The Passive Aggressive Man" is a significantly flawed book, but one that has helped me tremendously in my post-breakup healing process with a passive-aggressive (PA) man. The book's greatest strength is describing what the PA man is like. I had many "aha" moments as clinical psychologist Scott Wetzler described the multitude of mind games PA people play including excuse making, obstructionism, and an old favorite: the PA person intentionally pushes your buttons, but if you get angry, they claim you're the one with a problem. This last example is of projected anger, which Wetzler explains quite well.
Wetzler's discussions of arguments and apologies also ring true for me. He explains that a fair fight is not in the repertoire of a PA partner. He'll be sarcastic or sulk or bring up distracters, but will not tell you what's bothering him. Furthermore, in many cases, they won't apologize at all, or will quickly issue an insincere apologize to change the subject. Wetzler asks you to gauge whether your partner actually changed their post-apology behavior. The section on parenting also was tremendously helpful. Wetzler states the biggest parenting problem for the PA parent is difficulty disciplining their child, which was certainly true in my relationship.
Other parts of the book did not ring true for me, although they certainly might for another reader. For example, he talked about the childhood experiences typical to PA people that helped make them that way, but my partner had generally positive things to say about his childhood. An alternative explanation could be that some people may consider themselves "too spiritual" to get angry, so they vent their anger passive-aggressively. Wetzler discussed "Who falls for the passive-aggressive man?" but this section did not help me at all, as I did not identify with his descriptions of "victim", "rescuer" or "manager." An alternate possibility is that many PA people present themselves as calm, likeable people, but after you fall in love with them, they slide into PA behavior rather insidiously.
My biggest problem with the book is the premise suggested by the title, "Living With The Passive Aggressive Man." The PA person often has a significant personality problem and is emotionally abusing you with his mind games, yet the concept of getting him or both of you into counseling is not even mentioned until the epilogue. This strikes me as odd, considering Wetzler is a clinical psychologist. Instead, much of the book is dedicated to teaching you, the non-PA partner, how to jump through hoops and walk on eggshells, so you can live with these mind games and hopefully gradually get your partner to change. Too much of this tip toeing is yielding to the PA partner's needs at the expense of your needs, and possibly sanity. For example, give the guy all the space he wants sounds like great advice, but what about women in relationships where the guy is around in body only watching TV, or avoids her for weeks at a time but has time for his buddies? Wetzler says, if he says something rude to you that angers you, YOU have to not get angry and prove to him that you're on his side. In a nutshell, to make this work, you the reader are expected to do considerably more than your fair share of the relationship work and keep your cool while he irritates you to his heart's content. Often times, that's what women are already trying to do in relationships. Instead of all this "do it yourself" while you cater to his needs while yours go unmet, all this time having the patience of a saint, why not go into counseling? There's a real danger that the woman attempting Wetzler's approach without couple's therapy would eventually explode due of frustration and exacerbate the problems. Wetzler says if you're spending years (!) using his approach, but you find it to be ineffective, your only option might be to leave.
My other problems with the book are:
1. The book is not backed up with research, as all information is derived from his patient's experiences in his clinical practice.
2. About half of it did not ring true to me, but that of course would vary with different readers.
Bottom line - I highly recommend the book for the incredible insight into what PA behavior is, how it operates in a relationship, and how it makes you feel. But Wetzler's approach to dealing with this is a long hard road, and likely not the best path.
on September 2, 1998
I am so grateful to Scott Wetzler for writing this book. It has allowed me to forgive myself for taking the final step and getting a divorce, de-coupling from a situation which only someone with iron-clad self-esteem and unswerving vigilance could survive.
"He doesn't hit you, he doesn't drink, he doesn't run around, and he likes to cook. What more could you want in a husband?" That's what my ex's late mother used to say. But something was definitely wrong with this picture. He wouldn't work. He wouldn't talk. He wouldn't acknowledge responsibility for anything. But he loved therapy. Years and years of couples counseling didn't help. I found it hard to get a handle on what was wrong until reading this book.
Wetzler successfully calls attention to the "sins of omission" as opposed to the "sins of commission" and that truly is the crux of the problem. Also, the slippery logic, the convoluted rationalizations, the comfort of paralysis, the narcissistic view of the universe. I was trying to engage in give-and-take with a passive aggressive man, and that is plain impossible. My hands just kept sticking to the tar baby.
My ex was good-looking, intelligent, and charming. But the solitude, the procrastination, the silent treatment, the inability to hold a job, the supreme sense of entitlement, the refusal to argue or engage in any discussion of issues, blaming me for his failures, using abstinence as a weapon... In ten years of marriage, my husband never uttered my name.
I kept waiting for the waves of remorse to flow over me after I'd made the decision to separate. After all, I was 36 when I married him. Although I should have been wise then, I let me desire for a family and my desire to "help" him blind me to the obvious.
Now I feel as if an albatross has been removed from my neck. I have renewed strength. My self-esteem is returning. I am vigilant as a bulldog because we have two small children. PAs are basically scofflaws who discount all negotiated agreements, don't feel rules apply to them (taxes? child support? are you kidding?), and will manipulate even little children to get their way. I am now prepared, thanks to Dr. Wetzler, to stand my ground.
on March 17, 2006
This book explained the elements of my 33-year marriage, the heart of our struggles and subsequent divorce. It touched on details of interactions that I did not realize were related. I wish I had read it decades ago. My only criticism is that the examples are mostly from couples who are dating or other short term relationships. I would like to see Mr. Wetzler do a second book dealing with the dynamics of a long term marriage, layered with the stresses of raising children and the family dynamic that results. It would deal with deeper and more complex issues. Still, the concepts presented in this book were so right on, that I was very surprised. It has helped me redefine a lot of elements of my life -- past, present, and future. I have given copies to my adult children and they are appreciating the explanations of mom and dad, as well as cautions for their own lives.
on October 31, 2005
I have read this book over and over again! It is highlighted and starred and red marked in tons of places. But you'd think I would have taken it's contents much more seriously, since I read it the first time BEFORE I married him! I did ask him if he'd get counseling if this condition caused us problems. He said yes, but meant no. So we are now divorcing after only 2 years of marriage. I got us to counseling, but he would not return after only one visit. I can't tell you enough, how my husband fit almost every single symptom/behavior this book describes. I guess I thought it was not as serious as it is. But let me give witness...IT IS SERIOUS. The part that is most difficult, is a passive aggressive man does not see how destructive his ways are. He is wearing that tainted lens. Negativistic. So even when you point out what he is doing that is sabotaging your relationship, he still denies it. While I do believe there is resolution for issues even with a passive aggressive man, the tricky part is, he has to WANT to get help. And that is where it is so difficult. A person who is angry, petty, envious and selfish is not likely to see their faults. They are too skewed by their dysfunction. My best advice to any woman reading this, that is with a passive aggressive man is get away! Sad reality, but true. Not likely he will ever see his problems, let alone get the help he needs. I am grateful to Dr. Wetzler for writing this much needed book.
on October 27, 2003
Excellent book! I have searched for a book like this and finally found it!
I have lived with a PA for over 10 years and have been extremely frustrated with his behavior. I have often felt extreme anger, acted out in a rage of frustration and felt very crazy trying to figure out the inconsistencies between his verbal response and his mismatched behavior. I believe that most of the general public have no clue as to the craziness of the PA personality disorder. This personality is often seen as the "nice guy/girl". Not understanding the PA personality and the rage and anger that sits beneath the "nice guy" persona, can make you feel crazy, misunderstood and even doubt your thinking and intuition.
A MUST READ for anyone who is in a relationship with a PA. This book gives great insight and helps you to understand that it is not you! Topics in the book discuss issues relating to the PA personality, relationships, having children with a PA and working with PA's. The book gives you guidelines on how to better prepare yourself in dealing with this personality.
Reading this book I realized that I am not alone. I am not crazy and yes my feelings of anger are justified most of the time. I am better able to see through the PA's sly superficial words and niceties to the sniper rage that seeps through in his behaviors. Living with a PA personality is difficult to live with. This book teaches you how to see and cope with this difficult personality type.
on November 8, 2001
I just discovered Scott Wetzler's book and was dumbfounded. The book was written about my husband and me. It is a pinpoint accurate roadmap of a man whom I'd loved so much but who had caused such pain. Like the other reviewers, I marked pages and groaned aloud as I read actual sentences he or I had uttered over the 12 years of our marriage. I knew that the diagnosis of major depression did not nearly explain my husband's behavior.
The habitual lying, compulsive spending, procrastination, skewed logic, victim mentality, reality avoidance, reality breaks, inability to make a decision, emotional disconnect, "nice guy" facade, manipulation, etc., ... it was all there is black and white. So I wasn't nuts afterall. He was a smooth and seductive operator which might explain why, after several years of his, mine and ours therapy, no one identified passive aggression.
Dr. Wetzler's book gave me sudden and forceful insight into PA, the dynamics of my marriage and how I unwittingly perpetuated this devastating behavior. Although my intoduction to his book came too late to help save my marriage, perhaps it will help someone else who has a chance of salvaging theirs. Or it may help someone make the break when all else has failed. What I learned from the book gave me some measure of peace, renewed confidence that I deserve much, much better, and the understanding necessary to help in the post divorce healing process. For the future, I now know what to look for--in myself and in a man--so I don't get involved with this type ever again. Ever.
This book is a MUST READ for the person at the receiving end of passive aggressive behavior. And Dr. Wetzler has a wonderful writing style.
on December 6, 2005
This book validates the experiences of anyone who lives with a passive-aggressive personality man.
I was relieved to know someone KNEW what life is like with a PA man. I've read many books related to the need for control and manipulative "games", but this book had the greatest impact. The book also helped me realize how much my behvior is changing due to the impact of living with the PA man - like the frog who slowly boils to death unaware of the water's temperature change. Had I found this book long ago, it would have saved many painful years.
on September 5, 2003
I found this book a wide-eye opening experience.
I could never understand what was wrong with my husband. Why he was always sulking and trying to get back at me for things I wasn't even aware of. Nothing was ever his fault. I don't mean apologies, I mean taking responsibility for the outcome of his actions. One of his favorite behaviors was to leave in the midst of one of his tantrums for days. His entire family and I thought he had a depression problem. After 5 years, marriage counseling and anti-depressants later, I finally realized what was wrong with the help of this book. It has helped me but also saddens me.
I wish the counseling had been there for a problem that obviously many women and men are facing. Although I thank Scott Wetzler for writing this book, it doesn't seem to me that his suggestions can really help anyone living with the PA person.
Creating a dynamic where your feelings and needs are second to someone else's doesn't seem healthy to any relationship. The importance of mutual dependance in a relationship passage touched upon it only slightly.
What would be helpful is if there is a book showing the PA person how destructive their behavior can really be to his relationships and ultimately to his or her own happiness.
Dr. Wetzler, we need a part 2. Not exclusive only to men and more for the PA person to read on their own in helping them create more satisfying and less detrimental relationships.
Still, this was an important book and well worth the read.