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How to Deal With a Passive-Aggressive Man After I Divorce Him

by Elise Wile

The very behavior that infuriated you when you were married hasn't stopped after the divorce. While your ex-husband may not be able to make snide remarks every evening at the dinner table, he still gets under your skin when he plays the innocent victim in your interactions or otherwise tries to subtly act out anger. It's up to you to break the pattern that keeps you on edge every time you must deal with him.

Call Out His Behavior

Nip the behavior in the bud by calling your ex-husband out at the first sign of passive-aggressive meanness, recommends life coach Martha Beck in the article "The Perfect Comeback" on Oprah.com. For example, if he tells you that you are looking "relaxed and well-fed" after the divorce, tell him, "That sounds a bit like you are commenting on my weight gain. Let's cut the meanness and keep our conversation civil." If he denies his behavior, simply give him a knowing look and walk away.

Point Out the Elephant

Pointing out the obvious issue that the passive-aggressive person is uncomfortable addressing can be an effective way to handle such behavior, says social worker Signe Whitson in the "Psychology Today" article "Four Strategies to Effectively Confront Passive Aggressive Behavior in a Relationship." For example, if your ex-husband always "forgets" to drop your son off when he is supposed to, discuss his discomfort with running into your new partner and develop a more suitable arrangement.

Maintain Your Distance

Don't engage in a passive-aggressive's unhealthy behavior patterns, advises Whitson. A typical passive-aggressive move is to say something almost inperceptively mean and then wait for you to blow your top, giving him the opportunity to bring his anger out into the open. Don't allow his anger to manifest. Refuse to let him yank your chain -- take a step back from the interaction and view it objectively so you can keep your cool.

Avoid Going on a Guilt Trip

One of the passive-aggressive person's fortes is liberally applying guilt until you eventually buckle under the pressure of his demands. Refuse to feel guilt over your ex's passive-aggressive behavior, advises psychologist Phil McGraw on his website. When your ex-husband lets you know that he can't afford to pay his rent this month because he had to pay child support, simply let him know that you're sorry he's having financial difficulties and change the subject.

About the Author

Elise Wile has been a writer since 2003. Holding a master's degree in curriculum and Instruction, she has written training materials for three school districts. Her expertise includes mentoring, serving at-risk students and corporate training.

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