Passive Aggressive

I confess I’ve never even looked up anything on PAs.  Yet, I know that is exactly what to call it when my spouse does his routine.  This is a man, at least in my mind,  who usually gets what he wants. Yet his most common complaint, after not enough money which is a hot button issue, is that no one listens to him.

So what’s that about? Here’s the thing: he says stuff indirectly.  The most innocent is when he says, “The dishes need to be done.”  Dishes are our son’s job who is currently out of town.  Is he telling me that he feels it’s my job to get them done or my fault he hadn’t done them yet?” Either way, I feel like I’ve been assigned something. At the very least, I feel I’ve had to work at figuring out what his words mean.

It doesn’t help that he speaks in the same banal tone as when he says, “The trees need to be trimmed.”  “The yard is dry.” “Leaves need to be swept.”  Those are typically what we’ve come to look at his jobs, so I tend to let most of those comments pass unacknowledged.    “It looks like it’s going to rain.”  “The stock market is down today.”

But there are other times when I sense not only an underlying message, but behind it, frustration.  This morning when we went to a local diner for breakfast, he said, “It’s quieter in the back room.”  I had been eyeing a table by the window for my own reasons, including faster service and a brighter view.  He repeated himself, “It’s quieter in the back room.”  Meanwhile the hostess was cleaning off the table that I wanted to sit at.  “You’re not thinking,” my waiting spouse tells me.  I want to tell him, “You don’t want to know what I’m thinking!”  He repeats himself.  Finally, I ask him “Do you want me to check the back room?”   His response isn’t overwhelming. But I walk into the backroom to see if tables are available and to check the noise level.  When I return he tells me that I’ve confused the hostess.  I have confused the hostess? Really? It suddenly occurs to me why we don’t go out for breakfast very often.

When we sit down, it is a bit quieter.  I ask him, no I insist, that he practice asking for what he wants.  It’s called communication. We laugh a bit over an assertiveness training class I asked him to take one year.  He thought his booming voice scared most of the mice, uh, participants.  Is there a class for people who boom yet don’t feel heard or don’t clearly ask for what they want?

After a little breakfast, I sense less agitation.  And yes, the service took longer. But he’s had his morning tea and our stomachs, now full, makes us feel more accepting of each other.  “What’s on the agenda today?” I ask him.  I often ask him this on weekends hoping to be clear about his goals, so I don’t expect anything I can’t hope to get.

“Yardwork needs to get done and the cat needs hairball medication.”  I sigh, “Ok, dear.”  “Sorry.  I’m going to trim the trees, but first I wanted to go get the hairball stuff for the cat.  Wanna go?”  “Sure, as long as we won’t be too long.”  We leave the diner and I think “it’s progress.”

As we drive away, he says, “A few bills came yesterday.”  Don’t even get me started on what that means.

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