Dr. A. Lynn Scoresby
The most complete web resource for parents, by Dr. A. Lynn Scoresby.

What To Do About A Passive Husband

February 13th, 2008 by Lynn

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Some people like to be cared for because they feel a sense of security and a modest amount of pleasure. Most of us like to be passive about some things or express our anxiety in some situations in the form of passivity. But, a person with a pattern of passivity is different. These individuals find so much pleasure or comfort being passive that they are willing to submerge much of their initiative to ensure that someone else will care for them by assuming psychological responsibility for them. Passive husbands and wives, while they might just be passive in relation to their spouse, are usually like this in more than one situation.

A marriage relationship where one is passive usually has another in it who is active and often in demanding terms requiring the first to do, say, or be something. The more the one demands the less the other person responds. When they have conflict one will lecture and the other quietly but stubbornly listens. The passive one may actually agree to do something but then will not. Both feel controlled by the other or the marriage.

Let”s focus on passive men and think about passive women another time. In marriage these men often do not extend themselves to start conversations, propose suggestions for new activities, or provide leadership for marriage and/or family activities. As time passes and real life decisions come up many women learn that in order to get something done, or done in a timely manner, they must assume the initiative and start and do things themselves. Some women like this and also like that their husbands are not very assertive. In this case the marriage seems like it is just right. Many other women, however, want a full partnership where their husbands are at least equally involved and will take their turn assuming the responsibility for leadership. When women want this and do not get it they my be resentful and feel very angry. Unless they are watchful their frustration will be shown in a litany of criticism which belittles and demeans their husbands.

If this were just a marriage problem it would be bad enough, but this condition often extends into parenthood. Struggles with passivity between parents often embroils children. A passive man will spend some time with children but will sit on the sidelines of the real drama of family life letting his wife occupy the primary role. He might make excuses about himself and justify not participating except in a token manner. He might be absent large amounts of time and from many important events. In the worst cases he might be inadequate in other ways in addition to his role as a husband.

In turn a wife will feel growing amounts of stress and demands on her time. Increasing amounts of frustration may lead her to consciously or unconsciously train her sons to “not be like their father” and/or to form tight emotional ties with one or more of her children that are not healthy but will satisfy her emotional needs not met in the marriage. This condition twists the life of the child who, instead of being accepted for himself, has to grow up demonstrating certain forms of behavior in an attempt to satisfy both parents. Both parents are typically more extreme in their opinions and their emotional needs than either would be if both were mutually involved and passivity did not exist.

Some passive men lack the social and emotional skills to actually be assertive in marriage and family. They can benefit from learning from what other more successful men do by reading books, attending seminars, and/or going to counseling. Other men have emotional agendas where their passivity is a form of aggression against women and/or an expression against their lives. Not doing reasonable things to please someone, or not doing what someone wants, or not participating when participation is important are fairly effective ways to display aggression and dislike. When this is coupled with defensiveness, where the man blames his lack of involvement on the wife who asks for it, a true and very powerful cycle of hurt and anger is often created.

What to do? Usually both need some professional help to rearrange the balance of their relationship. A new balance can be achieved by helping both address their emotional behavior, make adjustments away from being “caught” or controlled by the actions of the other and achieve greater focus on each person”s separate and independent actions. This will require the end of coaching, cuing, demanding, criticizing, and blaming. It usually also requires that two people learn how to participate together in the same decisions, activities, and other marital experiences. It also requires that each person learn their actions are a function of their own choices and not responses to what the other person says or does. When this is going along nicely it will be necessary for both the man and the woman to understand their motives for their behavior and to talk about the emotions which underlie the passive and demanding conditions of their relationship. He can understand the resentment and the insecurity that underlies his passivity and talk about where it comes from and what he can do about these feelings. Even though habits have been formed, his increased awareness can be used to help him stop less successful things and start something better. She can understand her anxieties and resentments and she can talk about and accept responsibility for how she expresses them. She can learn that anything motivated by resentment or fear will typically not lead to a good result.

Once the emotions are talked about and understood a couple can identify a more positive set of outcomes which can be achieved by modifying how they participate with each other. Making and carrying out bargains are a good strategy here where each asks for and gets something from the other. Most passive men like the experience of being responded to by a caring and adoring wife who supports and encourages. An angry woman likes to respond and support when a man assumes some responsibility, expresses his opinion, displays initiative and then does all these from time to time to show respect and regard for her. It is typically hard work but it can be rearranged to achieve a better synchrony.

Posted in Marriage

75 Responses

  1. fotos de chicas en ligero

    mm.. funny :)

  2. linda

    Wow….now I am experiencing this mess as my husband cannot set boundaries, consequences, etc. The children are walking all over him like a dog and he is allowing them to disrespect me too. I have had enough!

  3. Cathy

    I have been living with this type of person for 22 years, when I met him, he was like this, but I adjusted my own ways and beliefs to compensate for his lack of not knowing how to relate to certain situation. I convinced my selfself that he was incapable of showing emotional support and also incapable of compassion. I was able to deal with it for many years until we had children. I thought for sure his passive behaivor would mature and he would become “the authority figure” in our household. Little did I know he wasn’t going to change. He says he doesn’t know how to change. When I confront him with my frustrations, he acts like a child, he won’t look me in the eye, and he won’t give me any feedback except to say “I’m sorry”, in a childish voice. I now have two young teens who are full of life and exploring life, i.e. drinking, pot,etc……..I can’t do this alone, but I am the only one in the house that can, my husband just sits back and says “I support you in any decision you make”………………WOW THAT MAKES ME FEEL GREAT…….I AM SO HURTING IN SIDE WITH PAIN FROM LIVING NO EMOTIONAL SUPPORT OR COMPASSATION FOR ALL THESE YEARS. Somedays I ask myself “is this normal”? My answer is NO, but I don’t know what to do.

  4. Marie417

    WOW Cathy! I can understand your frustration because of simalarities in my marriage and with our kids. May I say that for several years I complained and nagged at my husband’s passive behaviour, and it only made things worse. It was mean, it made him feel like crap, and my resentment crept into my overall attitude towards him. Men need respect more than anything. How is your husband supposed to learn to lead if you’ve made him feel like a total wimp? Did you read the article? You have so much anger in your tone and words. I feel so sorry for your husband, much more than you. I stopped criticizing my husband and started working on myself. You can’t change him, but you can change yourself. Just doing that will take pressure off both of you, as you will see that you aren’t being the wife that he desires. You will find that you can lovingly encourage him rather than browbeating him at every turn. He WILL see this change in you and WANT to be the man you can respect. I know from experience. It has taken a long time and a lot of tongue biting and careful watching of my attitude, but it’s been worth it as my husband has seen it’s safe to come out of his shell. Counseling helps, too. Separate at first. Best wishes!

  5. Susan

    I would agree with Marie, except when you have children and you work full time, something has to give. Men may need respect, but this guy doesn’t sound like a man; he sounds like a kid. This woman wants someone who will man-up, not child-down.

  6. Kathy

    I understand completely the frustration that the other “cathy” feels … I have been married for almost 38 yrs. We have been to counseling multiple times through our marriage but counseling changed little. My husband is now retired and the passiveness is worse than ever. I am burned out … I have to follow behind him to make sure things are taken care of. I’m the one who has painted the exterior and interior of my home, I trim the shrubbery, maintain the finances, etc. He mows the grass and puts dishes in the dishwasher and watches TV. That’s his whole existence. I can’t trust him even to see that the AC filter is changed. I have tried stepping back and not doing things myself but that doesn’t help at all … just costs us money we don’t have. A few years ago our shed needed painting … I wanted so badly to paint it myself but did nothing in hopes that he would step up to the plate…but he did nothing about it … the siding finally had to be replaced on it because it rotted at the bottom. Cost us over $500! We need extra income and he won’t even look for a small job. I cleaned houses until my back gave out. Carrying the load alone is hard … Marie, you meant well with your comment but it is obvious you haven’t had to live “alone” inside a marriage. Encouraging and uplifting this type of husband doesn’t help them step up to the plate. Because indifferent people do nothing. These men are children that never grew up. I will go to my death never knowing what it would be like to be taken care of.

  7. Stellar

    I don’t agree with Marie417’s comments at all. By sitting back and doing nothing, all you are doing is enabling your passive spouse’s behavior. “Loving” them into who you want them to be does not work. A passive spouse needs good boundaries, what motivation do they have to change if you just sit back and act all sweet and loving. You can be firm and respectful. You can point out things you don’t like without name calling, anger, or abusive words. But change must sought after. If you just stand by, you are only enabling the passive spouse’s behavior. What motivation do they have to change if you encourage their laziness and wimpiness? Do you want your kids to treat their spouse like that?. I know somebody who thinks just like you and her attitude did not work; her husband and kids walk all over her and they don’t know how to respect themselves or each other. She gets no respect and they haven’t changed- she does all the work and nobody lifts a finger, and these are ADULT CHILDREN that LIVE IN THE HOME WHO DONT WORK. Now her kids are lazy and passive too, and she never has a moment’s rest Read the book Boundaries in Marriage by Cloud and Townsend- they show good ways of setting firm boundaries while being loving and respectful.

  8. Lara

    I can relate to Cathy & Kathy. I am at a point
    Of classic burnout.

    Now my DH is not only all that but also carries himself as “normal” in situations where
    He has to socialize etc.Classic Double standards. So now after about 15 years of marriage, I am at not sure how much of family and friends are left if any.

    I agree the financial part of it, if I don’t do it NOW, then the only choice I have it to do it MYSELF at a higher cost.

    I have two wonderful girls. Wonder how this is affecting them. Any book or self help suggestions from anyone who has seen light at the end of the tunnel is apprecated.

  9. Stephanie

    Cathy I completely see your point of view. It is extremely frustrating to be married to someone who is passive. I totally disagree with Marie417 comments. Yes men need respect but so does the wife. Susan said it perfectly “This woman wants someone who will man-up, not child-down.”

  10. Dr. D.

    Another part of the problem is that a wife who is used to making most of the decisions may distrust, resent, and bully a husband when he does try to make decisions.

    It may take a lot of tongue biting, but wives of passive husbands must learn to not criticize or second guess a husband’s decisions if she want him to start taking more responsibility and to make decisions.

    Some good tips in this regard are found in Laura Doyle’s “The Surrendered Wife” and at http://www.surrenderedwife.com/

  11. jessica

    I am in the same boat as “cathy” and “kathy”. But I still can agree with what Marie417 is saying…to a point. You ARE going to have to bite your tongue quite a bit to make this work. Though I don’t engage in name calling, I can become VERY angry and my words never seem to help the situation. He just withdraws farther. But I’m not sure showering him in love is reasonable or even possible either. It takes two people to make this work. When only one is trying, that resentment builds and in my case, anger eventually spills out. And my “super nice and understanding husband” (aka passive) just looks at me like I’m crazy.

    And I am laughing my butt off at the comments about not doing things just costs you more in money in the long run. I’ve been slowly realizing that for years.

  12. liesel

    We are hard-working women, wives, mothers who married for partnership and equality, for mutual support in this challenging adventure of making our way in the world and raising our families. We are not here to be our husbands’ social workers; that is just an unfair added demand to place on us. My husband is like my third child–and a rather disfunctional one, too: a perpetual adolescent who has no initiative, skills, passions, friends, or understanding of his children or of me. A happy day for him is a bike ride, loading the dishwasher, and having a class of wine with the remote in hand, not even watching anything for more than 20 seconds. My world with him, and my life as a woman, have shrunken to the size of a pea, and I no longer try to talk with him about the things I think and care about, worry about, work on, strive to do for our family. He is like a dull, dumb guest in our lives. He barely talks, and when he does no one knows what he’s trying to say. Sometimes I think I should have him tested for early Alzheimers! The kids adore him, but they are also growing up and becoming impatient with him — they are more mature, more conversant, more adventurous and vibrant than he will ever be. Thank goodness they are! But he is left behind, and I will always regret that I mistook his deep passivity for gentleness and his dullness for quiet wisdom. All the signs that he would be so completely weak and dependent were right there. I sure had smoke in my eyes.

  13. lili

    I don’t have a perfect answer but one thing I could suggest, be patient and life is so fast. I have been in your situation then he went out the line, meet another young girl who promise a better life. Now, we are in the point of difficult situation. He is not only show that kind of passive behaviors at home + continue his affairs on text, phone, travel together with younger girls who he says friends. well.. beside dealing with him and 2 teenager. the life seems a roller coaster road. When I am less attack his behaviors, it seems bring his senses back. I don’t know where the road will end but one thing, women have the capacity to be strong and use it for the benefit of us and the children. At the end, the they are the looser and couldn’t understand the joy of having good wife and family. So..men out there start treat your wives right. Life is not only about you. Think about your contribution to the next generation. Your job as a husband and father is far more important and special in human history.

  14. Tomasina

    I have to say first even though I knew I wasn’t the only one dealing with this type of husband it does me well to be able to type it out with women who understand and to different degrees or levels, understand the frustration.

    Being married to this type of man is extremely difficult in that even knowing that marriage is work everyday and knowing that there would be worse days we still have hopes of a team effort on most days. But unfortunately that is not necessarily the case.

    Lara asked for any suggestion and Though I too am still struggling with many of the exact same things and have responded in many of the same ways, here is where I am. As a christian women, the most powerful thing that I have learned to do is ALWAYS be prayerful. No I don’t have that down yet but I am striving. which brings me to another point. Strangely enough God brings me back to me, working on me. Basically helping me to learn how to respond to him in my frustration and anger without all the yelling, belittling, and name calling. Also, Bringing my relationship to Him(meaning God), closer.The closer I get to Him, the more peace He gives me in the midst of this storm.

    Next, I believe it is necessary to get help from a counselor. We are not expected to figure this thing out on our own and do it by ourselves. My husband and I have started and stopped going and about to start again. I would encourage that even if this is not something your husband would do to go for yourself and possibly he’ll eventually go even if not it will be beneficial for you/us.
    A book that I am trying to read is “The Power of a Praying Wife.” (They also have Husband) It is a great book. When speaking of Respect and what men need, the book “Love and Respect” by Emmerson Eggerich is a great book. Someone earlier mentioned Boundaries which I agree is good. And my last recommendation is Gary Chapman’s “Five Loe Languages” which I believe is SO important. We have to continue to fight for our marriages. Not just end up taking on all the responsibilities and being angry about but continue to find positive ways to make it better. I appreciate this “blog” because we need to be able to vent, however, once we get that out and for me finish wiping my tears of frustration I am picking myself up and taking my next step. I encourage Cathy, Kathy, Lara, Jessica and anybody else, no matter how long you’ve dealt with this it is never too late. There is still an opportunity for change. I strongly believe as long as we are here alive there is always room for change. Harder, it will be because we’re stuck to the point we may not no a difference but begin to hope again then take the steps again towards different results.

  15. Susie

    Boy, can I ever relate to many of these posts! I have been married to a pssive man for over 25 years. We have been to so many counselors over the years, I can’t begin to count. We have read books, been to seminars, etc. His passivity has only gotten worse, and more ingrained. He will not take initiative when it comes to anything relational, and is so defensive whenever I try discussing our problems. He says “it’s my personality.” (BS!)and tries tp make every conversation about how it’s all my fault. We have no children of our own; he was raising a daughter on his own when we met. She is now 35 with 6 children, and we don’t have much of a relationship with her either. He is very proactive when it comes to work, but absolutely has no ability to relate on an emotional level. He is a wonderful man in so many respects, it seems like such a shame. He has abandoned me at the most difficult times of my life and packed and left me when I needed him most(father’s death, mother’s death, being in the hospital, etc.) I can’t believe I’m 62 and still don’t feel like we have any emotional connection and I am trying to deal with the fact that it will never happen. We’ve been near divorce so many times. Don’t know what to do at this point and at this age…

    I sure do relate to Liesel’s comment: “I will always regret that I mistook his deep passivity for gentleness and his dullness for quiet wisdom.”

  16. Kathi

    Sooo thankful to have found this page. Reading these comments i relate. 33 years of living with this type of personality has taught me life skills.In the beginning i to took his quietness as a strength not as his lack of interacting but boy have i grown. Through many prayers and 2 grown kids later i am still praying and trying to understand his ways.He now is on disability due to major depression and goes to bed at any sign of difficulty.After the death of his father i have learned mental illness runs in his family that was kept a big secret actually to many secrets has came to light. How many of us have a list of questions prepared when we first meet our spouses? I now would know what questions to ask.I am determined to learn not to focus on his issues and accept the fact he has a diagnosis. Many years i have tried to share character building information with him and i now realize it has only caused resentment. We are not on the same page now but i can not fix that. To many times we become consumed with others ways and lose our own awareness or i feel i did. I ask him once why he wanted to get married in the first place and he said because
    (you were a strong person) and he wanted to be strong to. :( This was a recent conversation. I have such a long way to go in my growth but i thank God i still have a desire to learn at this age in my life. We have so many ties that bind children and granchildren and i am living one day at a time with my Archie Bunker guy lol.I do know each person has to have their own motivation, they will either walk with you or fold their hands and watch you.Trying real hard not to find fault just trying to find myself :) Thank you all for your posts its been a long hard road after all these years so much stress that we should not had to deal with.Emotional abuse is how i view it.As they say hurt people hurt people.

  17. mjay

    Marriage is death for a man. Some men just break down before The End and cannot confront their overseers/wives.

    That’s just the way it is…

  18. Cyndy

    Wow! I am glad I came across this page. I have been married 3 years and I am already tierd! I must hand it to you wonderful women who have stood by there men in all the craziness for so many years. My husband does not take the leadeship role and I am feeling all the stuff mentioned…hurt,anger and so on. I am ready to leave but I keep hoping it will get better. This is our second marriage for the both of us. My first husband was abbusive physically and now this one is emotionally. I am stuck now because of the covenant we share with God. We are both in our 50’s and you would think we were wiser or I would of been wiser. Oh well it is what it is. I feel I need to focus on myself and my walk with God. This ordeal has made me bitter and angery at myself and him. Please keep me in prayer and I decide what to do.

  19. Christina

    I agree and disagree with all comments.
    I mostly disagree with the surrendered housewife….It all sounds good,
    but how are you supposed to trust and respect a man, who is foolish with your money. Has no respect for what you wanted in life. We have been married over 15 yrs, have 4 kids, live in an old run down house and are bankrupt. Under minds you when you are disciplining the kids, doesn’t pay attention to or plan a thing…. Has to be nagged like hell because asking kindly means waiting 10 years. Doesn’t listen when you try and explain that you are unable to do things he expects you to do.Is only interested in you when he can’t keep his hands off of you because he wants sex. YES….I am Angry, I do not trust and I resent ever getting married. What a fool I was at 18!

  20. ann

    wow…as I write this, my husband is sitting right in front of the tv, where he is 99% of all the other nights, too. I just finished asking him if he wanted the two tickets to Blake shelton that were offered to us,and he couldn’t even make a decision on that. My entire life has been like this…he’s comletely content to watch life pass him by, and he can’t make a decision to save his life. He’s a great father, but I’m not even sexually attracted to him because he’s so wishy washy about life in general. I have to pull the line on EVERYTHING. I’m actively pursuing a career, and then I plan on putting the wheels in motion to do something with my life. If he wants to climb on board with me, great. Otherwise, I guess he can continue to sit on the couch and watch T.V. I refuse to grow old like this.

  21. Marti

    Wow! So many hurting women including myself for 22 years. There aren’t enough words to express that would cover the isolation and loneliness I live and cry because I won’t untie the family. I come from a severly untied family and thus I never would have seen this coming. I have two grown boys who are wonderful but healthly liveing lives of their own thanks to me! I raised them, disciplined them, worked full time to feed and cloth them…while my husband played with farming until I left so my paycheck would not become bank collateral. I struggle often in dealing with the emotional and physical stress on me that I can’t always hide or control my reactions. I know this adds to the problem which all my boys see as my problem alone. This hurts deeply and makes me want to leave but I’ll catch all the blame then too. The payoff would not be worth it. I’ve read all the books mentioned before and have even gotten my husband to read some with me (he won’t on his own), been to counseling, been seperated,… all to no avail. My feelings run the gammit and my God is my only comforter. Where would I be without Him?! He keeps me on the high road and my reward is in Heaven but for the rest of this life I cry. Oh, and I have most that money can buy now since we had to sell the farm. Money is my husbands solution to everything. He is quick to buy me off! People see me and all I have and think what is she complaining about?! No sympathy It never fills the emotional void, but definitly worsens it. It makes my husband look good though. I live in an abyss and am so greatful to read from others who would understand. I bless you! If I did not have children, I would have left years ago. If you are in a marriage with a passive man only for a few years and there are no children, I recomend you leave the marriage. This is abandonment and is one of two bibical grounds for divorce. The other is adultry. I came with a child due to my first husband having had 5 affairs in our short 4 years of marriage. Our son was 2mo. old. He divorced me for the 5th girl. My husband now seemed so strong compared to him. I too mistook passiveness for strength when in fact it is a huge choice on his part to refuse to grow out of. I don’t get it! At least this husband does not cheat on me!
    He sleeps in his chair everynight in front of the TV too since his 40’s. (He’s 58, I,m 54) I’m am refusing to grow old in a chair-ever-. I ride my bike,sew, read, garden, teach, play piano guitar and pray, pray,pray. I have lots of girl friends. (He has no friends but tons of aquaitances!)We’ve attempted to do things with couple friends but it dosen’t take hold. He is too passive! Go figure!

  22. Becky

    I’m so glad to have found this site and appreciative to have read all the similar lives. I’m in the midst of a divorce after 11 years from my passive husband. I’m not sure if he ever emotionally connected with me, he never talks, doesn’t take initiative, is complacent and cheap beyond belief. When we were dating I caught him downloading porn videos which was a red flag. My therapist says this is bc of his passiveness and he doesn’t want to commit. So here I am, 11 years in solitude with growing frustration, resentment, so tired of trying to “decode” what he’s saying, sick of pulling conversation out of him, he never makes me laugh and makes gym, sports, tanning his top selfish priorities instead of his wife. I admit, as my frustration increased I began to treat him poorly, belittling, name calling, it got bad and is not the person I EVER wanted to become. We tried therapy for a little while but could never get out of the emotional hamster wheel. Oh, and of course he blames “my personality”. The worst is, as he was leaving me home 2.5 hours a night to go to the gym, I started to drink wine, which is something I”m working on now. The crazy thing is, he keeps up his “boy scout” image very well. Horrible time for me right now, I love him but I guess have fallen out of love (we both have) mostly bc of it. So sad to be moving on, but I/we can’t keep living this way, very unhealthy.

  23. donna

    okay folks-I need an opinion/advice on this. my husband is 65 and I am 51. Five years ago he got fired from a high paying job. He has always been very passive in our relationship and for the 20 years that we have been together I have always felt somewhat suffocated and in need of emotional space. when he got fired his passivity took on huge proportions. after four years, splitting up with him and nagging him to the point that I practically dragged him on interviews, he finally got a low paying part time job. I now pay the bills and he has to live on what he’s making. My job is very demanding and at a time in my life when i would like to relax, I have to step it up even more. When he’s home, which is all the time, he is watching TV. I tried nagging, I’ve tried stepping back (nothing happens except bills pile up). Our only saving is in our house. His answer is that we sell our house and live on that money along with his social security. I don’t want to do that but even if i did, I am only 51 and I think we would run out of money and then I would really be stuck when I retire. If I divorce him, I will also lose the house because I’d have to buy him out. So, I feel really trapped. I have no idea what to do, except try Marriage Counselor # 3-any thoughts, ladies?

  24. Tara

    Finally I have validation for my life. Married for over 35 years and going crazy with frustration from a passive child-husband. NOTHING has impacted his behavior to bring any responsible adult functioning. I’m just glad that he enjoys working and has a bad heart, this will end. I think becoming a counsellor helped me understand, but there is no agent for changing him. I need church for friendships and activity, self care is my main focus. Today I feel a bit better after reading this site

  25. DS

    You like a flower for its fragrance, pluck it and say it is no longer fragrant. You like a man for his courage, own him and say he is no more manly. Paradox !

  26. Cheryl

    Husband keeps saying he’ll change. Its been over 7 yrs now and we have this discussion almost weekly. This is his 3rd marriage, my 2nd. My kids are adults and he has 2 young boys that he does not discipline. Finally, I spoke to my husband and suggested he enforce consequences to his 16 yr olds behavior. His son continually disobeys our rules, so we told him that he would be grounded this weekend. His son of course didn’t like that idea, made a sad face and my husband instantly started to cry! His son then began sobbing, then my husband had to leave the room because he could not stop crying himself! It’s not as though their good kids, too…they’re always in trouble, yet my husband cannot get himself to discipline them. Trying to get him to communicate with me s like “pulling teeth”. He says people can’t change, but I believe it’s a matter of how much a person is willing to change, and that everyone has the power to change if he or she desires
    to do so.

  27. Brad

    Waaah Waaaaah!! Cry me a river!! All you women ever think about is yourselves. You never consider what your husband may be going through! Did you ever stop to think that maybe he is feeling just as emotionally alone as you are? And every time you nag him, or point out his faults and criticize him, you’re making him feel even more emotionally alienated. Have you ever perhaps contemplated the idea that maybe he has tried to be the stand up person you wanted him to be, only to have you yank that decision or responsibility away from him because you didn’t like how he handled the situation? There comes a point when every time a man does something, and no matter what he does, it’s never good enough for his wife, that he just gives up! Regardless of how YOU see the situation, he has done many things to try and please you, but he never gets recognition for the good things he does, only the bad. Chances are that your husbands probably feel like “what’s the use?” because even if they do try and please you, you’re just going to find something else to complain about! At least if they’re passive, they aren’t trying so hard for nothing!

  28. Maddy

    Ive been with my husband for ten years. Married for five. He grew up in a household where the women were very dominant. His dad had no say and his mum made every decision. She made every decision for the kids too even as adults. My husband is very passive. A trait that caused much frustration over the years. I used to try to change him by complaining, training and controlling situations to try to make him more of a leader. I then realised I was doing exactly what his mOm did. It never changed him, it made him more passive, because he retreated to being taken care OF and because he was so accustomed to being controlled he couldn’t see i was trying to help. Now I pray for him and I accept him for his many faults as I am not without fault. I am designed to be his helper, not his worse critic. Although it still gets hard, I allow him to make decisions as hard as it is to accept some if them, and I let him know he is loved and accepted. I allow him to be who he is while providing support for the things that I know are very difficult for him. It’s not easy being the thinker all the time but it’s also not healthy to be a judge all the time. Sometimes we have to allow God tO do the changing and more often than not, the change begins in us first.

  29. Lauren

    This page hit home with me some months ago and I just tonight re-read it along with recent comments. My husband was high-functioning in his career but very passive in our marriage. In part because of my less than ideal childhood, the disconnection i experience as a result of his passivity, and my often angry reaction to it, is very painful for me.

    I’ve been doing a lot of work on self-compassion. While I believe our relationship problems are 50-50, I have found relief in being compassionate with myself for being in such an unfulfilling relationship. It is difficult living with a very passive person who can’t own up to his aggression against me and other women.

    The thrill I initially got out of “providing guidance” to this well-educated man faded very fast. Now after 16 years of trying to change him, myself, and the dynamics of our relationship, I am at least getting relief due to self-compassion for being in this situation.

  30. Deez Nutz

    Yall some crying ass heffas on here. YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO SERVE YOUR HUSBANDS! NOW SERVE THEM DAMNIT!!!

  31. Jason Won

    These women don’t care about the man much more about themselves than anything. I guess thats how you survive but the more you yell and nag a man like this the less he will care what words are coming out of your mouth. Be firm but stay respectful

  32. Jasna

    Jason, you are a looser…don’t you get that women want a better World and loving life for everyone???

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  34. Adriana

    Sighhhhhhh. Well it’s nice to know I am not alone but I am still not knowing what my future holds. My husband and I are playing out the text book passive-aggressive relationship. Being rejected emotionally by a parent in my childhood I unconsciously chose a spouse to replicate that pattern. Funny how we chose what we know but not always what’s best for us. I feel obsessed about whether or not to end relationship. What’s best for the children? To have two parents in a ‘loveless’ marriage, living like roommates or for the parents to separate thus disrupting their world as well finances nosediving with two homes to support. I read on another blog adult children who felt guilty their parents stayed together miserable for them. They say it was not a nice place to live where the parents were more like acquaintances. Guilt guilt guilt. And of course living with a passive husband this WHOLE decision is mine. I told him that our marriage was not a good example to our daughter as to what a relationship should be. He blew up called me a name and ran off to sulk. TV and work are his hiding places where he loses himself from reality. For me I am very stressed, tight chest palpitations because of all the frustrations I have that I can’t express. As we all know whenever we express our hurt feelings or anger it is always left unresolved and even worse than expressing at all. I wonder how this long term stress will play on my health in the future. I am 40, married for 8yrs together 11 and we have a 2yr old. I am so blessed to be at home with our daughter something else that would end should I leave. We would have to put her in day care which means right schedule and new stresses that come childcare Nd visitations with other parent. I am a Christian and appreciate any support or advice from anyone who can offer me something. I have read if you choose to stay you just need to get and have your own life. Friends, hobbies, exercise, spirituality and just give up any and all expectations from your marriage. Sucks. Thanks for the vent.

  35. Lynn

    I can relate to everything in this conversation. I have been married for over 40 years to a very passive husband that I too mistook his “niceness” for real caring and understanding. I was too young and inexperienced to realize it was a cover for terrible insecurity! I have led a life of depression and despair. The loneliness at times has been unbearable. I too acted on my anger after I tried and tried to help and support him to use more adult coping mechanisms. I try to maintain good boundaries but it is exhausting! I of course have failed miserably to really help him. Right now I have withdrawn from him because I don’t know what else to do with my overwhelming pain. He basically is dishonest saying one thing but doing another. You can’t have a relationship with someone who hides his real self all the time. His passivity has harmed us financially because this behavior limits you in your work life too! He’s had therapy but he just uses the same nice behavior there too. This marriage is hopeless.

  36. KS

    Yep I can relate to all this. My husband is passive and ADHD. I feel like I have been to a child, not a partner. The first 16 years I thought I had to suck it up and it was the price I had to pay for marriage. But after a series of events I realized after therapy that I lacked boundaries and the ability to recognize my needs. Now I am dealing with resentment. I have insisted that my husband go to therapy and he has, but what he thinks is progress in my world is just a chip in the iceberg. I love him, but if he doesn’t do more than say I’ll try and make a better effort, I doubt that we will last…we have two daughters, one is grown and has given up on a relationship with him, the other is a teen and is about to give up as well. He just sits there watching it and doing nothing about it. I am sure to some degree he just doesn’t know how, but now refusing therapy just tells me that he does not value me , our marriage or children…

  37. Susan

    I have been married for 33 1/2 years. My husband has always had the nice guy attitude as well….. and I could never put my finger on it because he is so nice. I was watching Joyce Meyer the other day and she talked about passivity. As she talked, I sat straight up because I realized that my husband is completely passive! Finally, after all these years, I know what the problem is! From the house to fiancés to taking a parenting role when serious things occur, he just lets me handle it. The one post stated that her husband told her he would back her with the children just bowled me over! I have heard that so many times. Sadly, I am just realizing what is wrong with our marriage. He is passive and I am resentful,angry and exhausted beyond measure. I want a man that will be the man of the house … not the extra child of the house. I want to be happy, not resentful! We both resent each other and we are currently separated, because he decided to have an online affair. Rather than dealing with the realities of our problems, he went to a fantasy world. All I have ever wanted in this marriage was a partner, someone to pick me up when I fall and for me to do the same with them. I only wish that I knew this problem had a label before now. How can we possibly survive? I think he loves me … and I think he loves our children…. but I don’t think he will do what it takes to save this marriage. And I just don’t know if I have enough energy to pick up the pcs one more time.

  38. CJ

    As I am reading this article and all the comments below I feel both sad and relieved.
    Now I have a legitimate “character title” for my husbands behavior but I also have a passive husband.
    Although many of you have stated that you’ve been in a marriage with a passive man for many years I’m just now realizing that my husband of 2 1/2 years fits this mold well. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit how unsettling it is to think that our relationship could be this way 10/20/30 years from now.
    Both he and I have been in counseling separately in the past for our own reasons. I feel that my 2 years there has molded me into a more complete human being, the best version of myself that I’ve ever known. I learned healthy communication habits, as well, and although I’m not perfect I do utilize them when confronting these issues with my husband…sadly to not much avail. So up until today I’ve been at a loss for what it is that I keep feeling is “missing” from him; why he can’t unfold his arms and look at me when I’m crying, why he’s unsympathetic to any pain I may be feeling, why I can’t get through to him and help motivate him to make changes necessary to make our relationship more fulfilling for both of us, why he makes empty promises, why he doesn’t seem to love me with as much depth and I do him….but all of this information has clarified it for me.

    A bit of our backstory, if you’re up for it:

    I’ve been with my husband for over 5 years now and have adored him since the first day I saw him. We had a rough start; he was cripplingly insecure when we met but having been this way for most of my life I understood him and I didn’t want to give up on him. I asked him to go to therapy and he did for 6 months until the therapist moved out of state. He contemplated seeking another but I think time got away from him, I felt “better” and many of the surface issues we’d been dealing with were resolved. Fast forward….After receiving the happiest news of my life, that I was pregnant, a year and a half ago I noticed a steady decline of my husbands emotional/spiritual/physical connection with me. His lack of empathy has always been a problem that I tried putting a positive spin on but at 8 months pregnant a passive spouse is difficult to handle, the problem was bigger and more consuming than ever. Fast forward nearly another year with a newborn and this elephant in the room….I’d met my breaking point, I sought a counselor. I’ve been meeting with her weekly for 6 weeks and my husband joined me for my last appointment and plans to continue moving forward. I’ll admitt that I’m feeling impatient, I’ve been feeling neglected and my husband has been feeling pressured so long now that it makes me cringe to think of even another week like this…but I do realize if this transformation does happen that it will take time.
    I love my husband dearly, he may not truly understand how much. I don’t believe that at this point he is capable of grasping loving another person whole heatedly and being open and willing to sacrifice and fight for them.

    Many of the things you ladies have written have been very encouraging, many of them struck me right in the heart…like I could’ve said them myself. I hope that all of you find peace during your troubling times and I hope to find the same.

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  40. Debbie

    I am married to a very passive man. When I married him I admired the fact that he was so kind, and was excepting of me and my disabled son. I have now been married to him for 25 years and the past 15 years have been almost unbearable. He hasn’t had a friend of his own our whole marriage. He is a very intelligent man with 2 different degrees and seems content working at wal-mart part time janitor. He is content with the tv and his computer games. I haven’t been able to feel like I am the woman and he is the man of the house. He lets bills laps, he rarely takes care of any matters no matter how important they are. I’m tired of being the MAN of the house! I have had deep conversations with him about his passive behavior, and all he can say to me is that I am right. He says he knows he needs to change….hes said it a million times and little or no change. I’m so burnt out!

  41. bmk

    Okay I thought I was just crazy. He won’t look at me when I/we talk, won’t engage in anything positively progressive, is a push over to damn quiet and frankly just a wimp. I wasn’t supposed to be the man in our relationship and theirs resentment on both ends for it. Asking for help around the house with the kids money anything important is asinine.I’ve been with him 7 years married 4 he was a gift from God before we moved in together but the day we did I knew something was off but didn’t understand and I figured my undying love for him would give him the will to grow a spine eventually. Well this burning love I felt before for him has faded dramatically I was afraid to let my marriage go before but now I believe I should to let him find himself. I have grown and I want him with me but not like this, he’s an empty shell. at least if I felt welcomed into his heart and not like I’m his mom or his boss, its frustrating and lonely and sad. I love him but I’m not willing to make love or our children the reason I stay. This is so bad for a woman and a shock when you wed planning to be the support but if that means to be the actual back bone or leader of the home when he’s in perfect physical health is too much. There’s no peace here my hearts broken so is his I’m sure but I don’t know him I’m 31 him 36. Ladies do what’s best for you in this kind of situation are you willing to sacrifice the rest of your life wishing you could have a happy marriage or grow your own spine and stop being so passive yourself… By staying! Please don’t stay with such a man I think at the first sign I should’ve left but everyone says work it out… It takes two.

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  54. WalkingonEggshells

    Out of curiosity,
    I was in the exact same situation with my common law boyfriend. I realized a while ago that we were stuck in this horrible dynamic, and it was a cycle I couldn’t see ending until one of us stepped up to break the cycle.
    He wasn’t willing to do anything at the time, so I started trying to really figure myself out. I went to therapy for a while, and while and I’m not quite there yet, I’m actively dedicated to learning more about my emotions and reactions. He, however, seems stuck where he complains and directs all his frustrations and anxieties on me. (i.e. he’s walked all over at work, hates his job, wants to move, wants to go on a trip, afraid of confrontation, wont deal with our landlord because she is “evil”)
    He used to put a lot of his responsibilties on me when we first moved in together, and ever since I decided to stop enabling him, he has lashed out at me. He can’t cope and claims he doesn’t know what to do. I try to help, be supportive and suggest different possible options, but he snaps back with every reason why it won’t work, and pretty much blames me. Everything gets turned around, and I end up having to take myself out of the situation. Then I’m accused of running away during an argument. I understand my part in this, and I’m trying to change.
    I know I can only change myself and I can try to understand what he’s going through and be supportive, but I feel like I’m expected to be his mother.

    How to I healthily be supportive to an insecure passive man without enabling him further?

    I tell him I’m there for him to talk if he needs it, or a hug, etc, and I’ll give advice if he asks. (Still never asks, just expects me to do it anyway). I’m empathetic of his situation, but at the same time, I don’t deserve this type of treatment and I won’t stand for it. I’m open for talking but not yelling, and I really don’t think enabling him is good for either of us.

    So far this hasn’t worked. He just ends up apologizing (for what he did, and then everything under the sun)and if I show any unhappiness afterwards, he won’t approach me or do anything to make up afterwards, assuming that I am just angry and want to be left alone. It’s always up to me to approach him, which makes me feel like a doormat or like I am accepting responsibility for his issues.
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    I’m at my wits end, and I can’t see a way out that ends with us still together. I love him, and we apparently both want to work through this, but I seem to be the only one looking for solutions.

    Please, any advice would be greatly appreciated!!

    Thanks

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  60. Penny Robinson

    I can’t believe this blog and how my eyes have been opened after all these years. I’ve been married for 45 years. The loneliness is the worst part. I’ve had small break throughs but it’s just all so hard. My son 44 wants no part of the reality of our family. He’s very successful and seems wonderfully happy. My daughter 43 is very ill and destitute. She has narcolepsy and schizophrenia. We are all Christians but my husband has agoraphobia and hides from all of these problems. I’ve gone to church alone for years dealt with my daughters illness alone for a long time. Finally a therapist boldly told me my husband was not helping with my daughters problem. Like duh, you think? I asked her so what do I do? She said get away from the two of them. It scared me because I knew without me dealing with her there was no telling what would happen in our home. God had been advising me for almost two years to leave them in some way. So I finally did this. I started working at a job 7 days a week 12 to 14 hours a day. My daughter bagged up 13 bags of insulation in the attic of our house in 110o weather. Thinking it was dirt. She said she was building herself a room. She fell through our ceiling. It took more than that incident for him to wake up and get her some help and start facing the problems. Maybe I should have divorced him but I kept thinking it was my fault. That’s what he has always done. He convinces me everything is my fault. It doesn’t work on me anymore. I’ve gone to different counselors over the years. I’m in celebrate recovery now. But it’s still so hard because I’m so very hurt and angry. Once I was in so much pain from too much work that my back went out. He never even brought me water. I couldn’t walk. Didn’t take me to a dr nothing. I just laid there and prayed. One day a man I barely knew called from the church we went to. He asked me why I hadn’t been to church so I told him I couldn’t move without crying out in pain. He called physical therapists that he knew and set up apts for me at a reduced rate. Then I called my mother and asked her to take me which she wouldn’t do… Until I think I chewed her out. My mother was extremely passive aggressive. The aggression part was towards me most of the time. Plus other worse things. I think that’s why I married my husband. I think I keep trying to work out that painful relationship with her. My husband is a workaholic which translates into him expecting me to kill myself for everyone. No thank yous ever. I sure hear about how I need to thank him if he does one thing. Yes I’m angry and yes it isn’t healthy. It often doesn’t work but then at times it has. We are old now and who knows no one but God how it will all end? I grieve my lost years. I try to love him and respect him but when he turns it around and criticizes me I can’t handle it. He did that tonight. I’m aggressive and I talk too much at church meetings. Some people love me some people hate me or it seems like it. I don’t have anyone at home to talk to. Have you ever tried to have a meaningful conversation with a poor lonely totally in denial schizophrenic? Or a self absorbed boring (sorry I know it’s wrong of me but it’s like living with little children except honestly I have taken care of many children in my life and it’s not as bad as trying to have a conversation with my husband). Bless his heart and his heart is so kind for everyone else but me. He barely showed up when the children were born. He took me to one chemo infusion and was so in attentive during my breast cancer illness I told him basically just go on. I dote totally on him when he’s gone through anything. I recently with Gods prompting saved his life after his hip surgery. But me? No way will he or has he ever been there for me. He never ever takes up for me. His boss years ago was making several passes at me. My husband did nothing. I mean serious bad stuff. To this day he talks about what a good friend this guy was to him. ???? He’s dead thank you. There is a real living God believe me.
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    Hi All,
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  68. Erica

    My husband and I have almost been married a year. He is a really swell guy most of the time.

    When it comes to important things I defintely wear the pants in the realtionship, i pay the bills, i run all the errands, i decide what goes on in our household, i make all of the bug decisions. If we should consider moving to a cheaper apartment. Car notes.. etc..

    He pretends to wear the pants and believes that the 50’s roll still applies that i should cook while he does nothing. I am constantly stressed about bills, our pets, our jobs, everything going on around us while he sits back and plays video games.

    I have approached hm about it several times but most conversations are one sided. - I am talking he is listening and never has a response - he is only responsive if i do something to piss him off. (unintentionally) We never talk about anything.. We seeked counseling because we were seperated for a few months because of this behavior.

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  69. Mary

    Here’s what my husband does. On the weekends, he’ll languidly suggest we go out to eat or “do something.” So it is up to me to figure out what that “something” is. I’ll ask him if he wants to go out to eat or to the movies, and he’ll say he doesn’t care, whatever I want to do. So I check the movies and there’s nothing good playing, so I ask him if he wants to go out to eat and he says sure. I ask him where, and 100% of the time he doesn’t know. So I have to get on the computer and find a good place close by. I anguish over this decision, because 9 times out of 10, he has something to say about the restaurant. Like last weekend we went to an Italian restaurant in our town, because I didn’t want to stray too far. He complained about the restaurant all the way home. So then I am made to feel responsible for his bad time. I am so incredibly sick of being responsible for every decision.
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    He also can’t stand to argue, so our problems fester for weeks. He refuses to deal with it. He shuts off his phone if he is away from the house (he works away from home a lot), or he says he’s tired and goes to bed and will not respond. Or he zones out in front of the tv refusing to look at me. It is insane.
    I never put my finger on what is wrong with this guy. But after finding this website I realize that passivity is a condition, and it is not entirely uncommon. He has a major problem that is wreaking havoc in our marriage.
    He says he loves me, but I am entirely unconvinced. Love is a verb, something you show someone on a daily basis. Not something you tell someone because you want to keep them around for comfort and convenience.

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