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Dr. Michael
Dr. Michael, Psychologist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 2177
Experience:  Licensed Ph.D. Clinical Health Psychology with 30 years of experience in private practive and as a clinical psychology university professor.
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Dr. Michael, Can you help me with another question? Why

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Dr. Michael,

Can you help me with another question? Why is it if I need my wife to execute something immediately she stalls out. i.e. I asked her to run in and get some fast food lunch at a place dropped her off and asked to be "bell fast" (we had a plane to catch)and I ran and picked something else up and came back 5 minutes later, she didn't come out for 20-25 minutes; this was t a place that would take 2-3 minutes under no pressure. i.e. Acted like nothing ever happened, not time sensitive!
Hello. I believe I can be of help to you with this issue.

I'll toss out 3-4 hypotheses. I don't know your wife well enough to place any weight on any one---you can do this of course.

1. Passive-aggressive behavior: As a reflection of cloaked or subtle, chronic anger, some people will act in aggressive ways that are fully deniable ("I'm not angry whatsoever") So the dawdle, procrastinate, undermine, sabotage the work of others, fail to fulfill the needs of others.

2. Lack of empathy: Some people do 'get' how their failure to support and give equal time/energy/attention to others hurts the feelings and trust others have in them. They are unable to truly sympathize and understand what other people are experiencing.

3. Attention deficit disorder: Some people cannot stay focused, on task, due to attention deficit problems. They are generally quite disorganized, fail to regularly complete tasks, move from one task to the next without finalizing them, one at a time.

4. Narcissism: The person lives each day in their 'own little world', expecting others to meet their needs and demands, while rarely reciprocating. They tend to feel 'entitled' and get upset when they are not catered to or when people don't recognize their very minor accomplishments and lavish praise on them. They tend to also lack empathy for others.

What do you think?
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
I believe she is a #1 and her personality seems to bring more of #4 out of me.
#1 with one partner and #4 with the other is not a good combination in any relationship, of course. One thing you can try is to compliment and positively reinforce your wife when she DOESN"T ACT passively-aggressively i.e., whenever she is considerate, does something graciously, is on time for something important, etc., compliment her, give her a warm hug, etc. If you react harshly to her passive-aggressive behavior, if this is what is going on in fact, then you are merely validating in her mind her 'justification' for acting passively-aggressively ("See, I knew that if I was not 'fast enough' for him in getting this stuff bought, he'd come unglued and get angry at me; I KNEW he'd do that and I just proved it"). So getting quite angry about her behavior won't do much good. However, you can talk about the effect it has: "We probably should not have had you go into the store because the consequence now is that.........[recite what the consequence of her behavior is]; this is really quite a problem now". So say it matter of factly but don't show anger. And reinforce her when she doesn't do such things.

What do you think?
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
why would someone want to prove that I am going to be mad when it is an emergency and requires time sensitive ACTION. The way that you are suggesting sounds backwards to a normal person or treating her like a 3 year old maturity wise. If a boss said get me these numbers on the botXXXXX XXXXXne or else you won't have a job. I wouldn't be like, I didn't do anything at all because I knew you would get mad at me. This would be counter production and someone would be out the door.
If a person has a passive-aggressive personality disorder, they LIVE to feel justified in their general position in life which is to live out a role as 'the victim". They hold core beliefs about themselves that they are victims of aggression or mistreatment or failed recognition by others and set about creating tests to prove this. That is, they set up self-fulfilling prophecies that ANYONE would get angry about. Passive aggressive behavior allows individuals to retaliate against people they are miffed at, or displeased with on/off, etc., because everything they do in the way of cloaked aggression can be explained away and denied. And in doing the passive aggressive retaliation, the response of the person they aggress against is usually one if distress and upset, which they secretly revel in. If the person gets angry, it fulfills their prophecy and validates their self-view that the person is prone to become angry at them. Makes little rational sense but this isn't real rational behavior.

Here are a couple of information links that discuss the 'purpose' of passive aggressive behavior:

Take a gander at the above and then consider whether you picked the right option from my first post.

Let me know what you think.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.

OK, everyone has their quirks, but why when its time to put differences aside and take emergency ACTIOn would someone just stall out???

I have read all of the posts and books as this has caused me great ANXIETY over almost 25 years. There is a book called Phantom of the Psyche and when I read it, I thought that it was my wife's autobiography. She grew up in a home of mom PAD, dad the enabler - big baby mamby pamby, acting like a girl and hunny bunching them, and treating them like a 3 year old. Mean while they were educators, so my wife grew up around very high education, and maintained a very low emotional leverl I guess. When I met her she seemed quiet, reserved, educated, no baggage. But as it turns out her baggage is a million X heavier than anything that I have ever carried.

Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Dr. Michael are you able to respond or have i taken too much of your time
I will have to get back to you later today. YOu aren't taking too much of my time, I'm just extra busy. Thanks for your patience. Let me know if I can get back to you, o.k.?
Customer: replied 5 years ago.

Just let me know when your ready!


I have nothing but grattitude for your insight and thank God for you being on this answer sight!

Why would someone 'stall out' in an emergency and be unable to put differences aside for the moment? This is actually the MOST perfect time for the individual to act passive aggressively, and derive the most gratification from it. They know that at such times, their dawdling, procrastinating etc., frustrates their partner the MOST, so it has the greatest, gratifying effect. Also, another issue here is that people with the problems you describe tend to have some difficulties appreciating how other truly feel i.e., there may be serious deficits in their ability to empathize with others. So you may feel terrifically offended by her lateness and apparent failure to appreciate how her slowness has affected you. She may genuinely not appreciate how you truly feel so there is a sort of emotional aloofness at these times. So this would be another question for you to ask yourself, "Does this woman seem fully able to really empathize with others' feelings? Can she really appreciate how her actions affect others? Or does it seem she doesn't get it, or doesn't seem to care? The latter two points could reflect a problem with empathy.

Let me know if I can be of further help to you. Please let me know if I have overlooked any aspect of your original question at this point. Please click on the green Accept button at the bottom of the screen. Thanks.
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