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13 Ways Manipulators Use Passive Aggressiveness To Manipulate and Abuse You

It’s appealing for your sympathy, aimed at making you feel guilty.  It’s attention-seeking drama aimed at you and gaining control again.


Narcissists are masters of at playing the victim, especially in their smear campaigns against you.

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Making others believe they were the victim of your behavior, not the other way around.

Others play the martyr – not magnanimously, but so they can have control and feel better about themselves.

Victimhood can be a form of co-dependency.  Where you have a need to be needed.

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Even if the other person rejects your desire to rescue them. Your obsession for fixing them is at the expense of your own needs and wellbeing.

12) Passive anger

Passive aggressiveness can be frustrating to deal with, as the passive-aggressive person can transfer their inner anger onto you.

They covertly and passively press your buttons and push your boundaries. If you become frustrated and angry they’ll then turn it back on you, asking:

Why are you so angry?

If you’re in a relationship where this behavior is happening then chances are you are codependent.

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Their covert manipulation is a form of coercive control and emotional abuse.

By staying there and accepting it you are also enabling them to continue with it.

It’s a form of hidden anger and resentment towards others they seem are more fortunate than they are.

They have an exaggerated sense of their misfortune,  which they deem to be caused by others.

They can be sullen, argumentative and resentful and it can be so uncomfortable to be around them, it can be easier at times to take the path of least resistance.

Passive aggressiveness can be found in relationships, in the workplace – your colleagues.  Even your friends can use passive-aggressive behavior.

Don’t enable this behavior. It’s emotional abuse.

13) Dealing with passive aggressive people

The best response is not to engage with any of it.

If you nag them, scold them or pull them up for it, then you will most likely be gaslighted anyway.   They’ll project their behavior onto you.

And unwittingly force you into the parent role, which they can rebel against even more.

The only response is an assertive one.  Which is neither passive or aggressive.

Don’t blame them or judge them. Take emotions out of it.

Simply, describe their behavior and explain the effect it has on you and the relationship in factual terms. Using words such as:

When you do X, I feel Y and I believe it would be better for our relationship if instead we try Z

It’s all about having strong boundaries, which are key to signaling to them how you expect to be treated.

There are even times when you can find yourself acting passive aggressively.  I have.

There was one time when I started to use sarcasm and put-downs to covertly bully my husband.  I wasn’t even aware I was doing it at the time.

It was when certain events impacted our relationship and we fell into an unhealthy parent-child dynamic.

Thankfully, I recognized this and that it was coming from a place of insecurity within both of us.

I learned love is a verb, not a noun.  To get us back on track I needed to show him I loved him with my actions, not just words.

We both needed to nurture our boundaries, sense of self-esteem and self-worth.

So, back to her question:

Is passive aggressiveness a part of the dynamic?   A form of emotional abuse?

The answer is: Yes. In codependent relationships, definitely.

Passive anger or passive-aggressiveness is a form of emotional abuse.  Coercive control.

It’s aimed at making the other person feel small, so they can feel greater about themselves.

Related Video: Things Narcissists Do

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Originally appeared on
Written by Vivian Mc Grath
Printed with permission from author

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Vivian McGrath
Vivian McGrath is a TV Exec Producer making documentaries for US/UK and Australian television networks. She’s a survivor of domestic violence, motivational speaker and empowerment coach. It’s her mission to help women recover from abusive relationships, fall back in love with themselves and never settle for anything less than they deserve again! Watch her free Masterclass here:
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