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Avoid passive or aggressive communication: Seek win-win and your relationship will grow (Part 3: The Passive-Aggressive Style)

No one is perfect, and there will likely be times when you or your partner succumb to using passive or aggressive communication. Notice when this happens, make amends and vow to make this the exception rather than the norm, and your relationship will grow!

tin_can_telephone Communication styles

What is your communication style? Generally, there are four common styles:

  1. Passive
  2. Aggressive
  3. Passive aggressive
  4. Assertive

Following on from last weeks post, it is important to recognise your primary communication style and that any combination of passive and aggressive communication styles can be detrimental to your relationship over time, as they result in lower levels of intimacy. 

3. Passive-Aggressive

Passive-aggressive communicators will often behave passively to a person’s face, but display aggression when that person is not around. On the surface the communicator’s goal is to avoid conflict (like passive communicators), but they will often convey anger or seek vengeance later.

An example of this would be a stay-at-home-dad who feels resentful of his spouse for always working late and not helping out with any of the housework. Instead of actually talking to his partner about his feelings, he complains to his parents and brothers that she is underachieving as a wife and mother; meanwhile, his wife has no idea that there is any issue at all!

Any combination of the passive and aggressive communication styles can be detrimental to a relationship over time, as they result in lower levels of intimacy. If only one person is assertive and the other is passive or aggressive, the relationship may still suffer. 

The chart below shows that there is really only one “win-win” combination:


Consider your communication style and notice when you slip into dysfunctional patterns and turn your relationship towards win-win!

Always consider your limitations in terms of time, experience, and professional expertise when working with abusive couples. Consult or refer to other mental health professionals including marriage and family therapists and psychologists trained to work with abusive couples. Create connections with local domestic violence counsellors and agencies and utilise their expertise and support groups or contact us.

Source: The Couple Checkup: Find Your Relationship Strengths. By David Olson Ph.D

By Shane Smith, Director PREPARE-ENRICH, Relationship Educator and MediatorPresident, Marriage and Relationship Educators Association of Australia

Read on for various resources to assist you at this time. Finally, please let us know how you are going in these challenging times. 

For more information on the virus and the steps that can be taken to minimise its impact, visit the Australian Government Department of Health website.

Marriage and Relationship Education is a learning opportunity, much like you would do in any other important life event. Check out the video for couples on YouTube:

Tune in next week for more discussion about relationships and mental health. 

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