10 signs of a passive aggressive relationship

Passive-aggressive behavior can emerge within various relationships, be it romantic, familial, social, or professional. Passive-aggressive individuals are those who may outwardly appear compliant and appropriate, but inwardly exhibit negative behaviors and passive resistance. This type of behavior can range from mild excuses to harmful acts that undermine someone's well-being and success.

Individuals with chronic passive-aggressive traits typically share four common characteristics: they are challenging to deal with, uncomfortable to be around, avoid direct expression of hostility, and engage in repeated deceptive behavior over time.


Outlined below are 10 common traits that passive-aggressive individuals often display within relationships, accompanied by excerpts from our books. While most individuals with pathological passive-aggressive tendencies exhibit several of these behaviors regularly, they may remain largely unaware or unconcerned about the impact their actions have on others. Some traits may overlap across categories.

1. Concealed Verbal Hostility

Examples include negative gossip, a negative outlook, persistent criticism of ideas, conditions, and expectations, speaking to an adult as if they were a child, and invalidating others' experiences and emotions.

Possible Intentions: Establishing dominance and superiority by belittling others, causing feelings of inadequacy and insecurity in others to alleviate one's own sense of deficiency, seeking importance through persistent criticism, consciously or unconsciously spreading unhappiness to others, and competing for power and control in the relationship.

2. Veiled Hostile Humor

This includes sarcasm, disguised hostile jokes followed by "just kidding," repetitive teasing, and subtle insults targeting appearance, gender, socio-cultural background, credentials, behavior, decisions, social relations, and more.

Possible Intentions: Expressing hidden anger, disapproval, or rejection toward an individual, disdain for what the individual represents, and using humor as a weapon to marginalize someone's humanity, dignity, and credibility.

3. Disguised Relational Hostility

Examples of this type of behavior include the silent treatment, social exclusion, neglect, sullen resentment, and indirectly harming something or someone important to the targeted individual.

Possible Intentions: Expressing anger or resentment, inflicting punishment, creating a negative and unsettling environment, throwing the targeted recipient off balance, and attempting to generate insecurity.

4. Masked Psychological Manipulation

This entails lying, making excuses, being two-faced, backstabbing, intentionally pushing buttons, providing negative or discomforting surprises, blaming the victim for their own victimization, distorting the truth, using mixed messages to keep the recipient off balance, selectively disclosing or withholding information, exaggerating or understating, and presenting a biased view of an issue.

Possible Intentions: Deception and intrigue, avoidance of responsibility, manipulation of facts, distortion of perception for easier persuasion and control, and diversion of attention from the real issue.

5. Guilt-Baiting

Unreasonable blaming, targeting the recipient's vulnerabilities, holding others responsible for the passive-aggressive individual's happiness and success, and holding others responsible for their own unhappiness and failures.

Possible Intentions: Targeting the recipient's emotional weaknesses and vulnerability, manipulating and coercing the recipient into unreasonable requests and demands.

6. Stalling

This involves procrastination, forgetfulness, stonewalling, withholding resources or information, unnecessary bureaucracy, excuse making, breaking agreements, and lack of follow-through.

Possible Intentions: Avoiding responsibility, duty, and obligations; maintaining power and control by imposing numerous obstacles; engaging in passive competitiveness that makes life more difficult for others; deliberately obstructing others' success; and harboring jealousy of others' achievements.

7. Resistance

Traits such as stubbornness, rigidity, inefficiency, complication, incompleteness, or ruinous behavior in performing tasks.

Possible Intentions: Power struggle, passive combativeness, deriving "victory" from the recipient's frustrated efforts and negative emotions.

8. Underhanded Sabotage

Purposefully undermining tasks, projects, activities, deadlines, or agreements; causing material harm or loss; disrupting positive interpersonal, social, or professional dynamics; deliberately disclosing harmful information; and obstructing communication and endeavors.

Possible Intentions: Covertly expressing anger, hostility, and resentment toward an individual, group, or organization; channeling unvoiced grievances or unresolved past issues; personal, social, or professional jealousy; and subtly administering punishment or seeking revenge.

9. Self-Punishment

Exhibiting behaviors such as quitting, intentional failure, addiction, and self-harm.

Possible Intentions: Hurting others by hurting oneself, aiming to frustrate, frighten, or cause pain to someone, seeking attention and sympathy, indulging in drama, and conveying a cry for help regarding underlying issues that may require significant intervention.

10. Victimhood

Examples include exaggerated or imagined personal and health issues, dependency, codependency, deliberate fragility to elicit sympathy and favor, and adopting a weak, powerless, or martyr-like persona.

Possible Intentions: Exploiting the recipient's goodwill, guilty conscience, sense of duty and obligation, or protective and nurturing instincts.

The Bottom Line

It can be very hard to spot and deal with a passive-aggressive relationship, but you don't have to do it alone. At iFindCheaters, we can help you find out the truth and break free from the chains of influence in a simple and private way.

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Don't let jealously and fear take over your life. Get back your peace of mind by taking charge with iFindCheaters.

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