Depending on the nature of your relationship and your values, you ultimately have two choices in dealing with a passive-aggressive partner. You can either repair the relationship or you can end it, and of course the former is usually the preferred option. Here are some tips to follow in containing passive-aggression:

1- First, it is important to recognize the problems in your relationship as stemming from passive-aggression. It is often helpful to enlist the help of a trained therapist who can objectively assess the situation.

2- Look at your own behavior in the relationship to see what part you may play in perpetuating your partner’s passive-aggression. This may take a great deal of self-examination. Then work to change your behavior. This may mean taking an entirely different approach on your part. After all what you have been doing in the past probably hasn’t worked.

3- Understand what motivates your partner’s passive-aggressive behavior. And try not to be judgmental. Understand how your partner grew up, what anger means to him or her, and how your partner is actually fearful of being alone, expressing anger openly ad becoming intimate.

4- Set clear limits. Explain to your partner that you want him or her to be responsible, live up to promises, and be more open. Then you have to constantly enforce these limits. Take a sympathetic approach in doing this, and try not to be vindictive or authoritarian.

5- Teach your partner that expressing anger is acceptable. Healthy couples may fight as much as those in unhealthy relationships, but they fight fairly. Learn how to make an argument productive by using constructive communication techniques. If your partner feels empowered there will be no need for him or her to use passive-aggression.

Baya Mebarek, Psy.D., LMFT