* I generally write using the pronouns he/him when referring to narcissists, but females are just as likely to be narcissists or exhibit narcissistic traits. So please don't think just because article uses the word him or he that it could not be a woman in that same role.
Relationships can be a difficult thing to maintain and requires work from both people, but you or someone you know might be in a relationship that has the person see themselves in a negative light or may affect their mental health after an encounter with the other person.
It can be hard to identify the main characteristics of a passive abuser, but the main thing that many can determine from an initial encounter is the negativity and the way they might put other people down, as this will usually be to the detriment of you or others.
However, there can be subtler ways that a passive abuser can behave, and these may be a combination of small things but may become worse if they go unnoticed.
Below we identify these and provide advice on how to avoid these types of people in your life going forward.
What Is Passive Abuse?
This type of abuse isn’t necessarily physical, or you might not detect any aggression from these kinds of people, and this is sometimes referred to as passive aggression, where the abuser might add obstacles in the way of another person in the form of comments or insults to make uncomfortable or make day-to-day activities more difficult.
The abuser might make a person do something they aren’t comfortable with, and the abuser doesn’t consider the well-being of the other person and will make the person submit to these demands any way they see fit, as it’s something they want.
They may even use divert tactics such as gaslighting, where the abuser makes the other person doubt their reality and helps the abuser avoid blame by denying they have said or done any abusive behavior, which allows them to continue to behave their behavior.
Characteristics Of Passive Abuse
As we can see, these types of people can act in different ways to get the outcome they want or complete a task in the way that they wish to, as they see this as the only way of doing it, and this kind of opposition can be damaging in little ways that can build-up over time.
Below are some symptoms of this type of abuse to help you determine if the person in your relationship is using this type of abuse.
This might not be initially clear when you speak to them, you’ll notice that they speak little of others and criticize them if they don’t agree with them or will focus on specific elements such as physical features that they can latch to in order to invalidate that person.
If your suspect your partner of doing this, you’ll notice they might insult your appearance or decisions as a means of controlling you, which can make you feel negative, and it could be likely that you submit and change whatever it is that is being commented on.
These types of abusers might use emotional and sometimes physical barriers to assert their power, and an example of this might be withholding communication by refusing to talk or argue and might try to shut down the conversation by playing the victim, making you question your behavior even more.
This might extend to withholding any material, financial, or emotive support that you may need as they have control, and this might include things such as slamming doors, having control over bank accounts, or offering you something that may be more of a detriment to you which they are fully aware of.
Hard To Set Boundaries With
Reinforcing areas of conversation or action that you are uncomfortable with can be counterproductive in relationships with passive abusers as they may shut down and dig their heels until these boundaries fail, which is what they ultimately want.
This can include deliberately mentioning topics that you are uncomfortable with or using these as a means of diversion so they can manipulate you in other ways, and as they like to avoid responsibility, they will blame you for aspects of your relationship that have broken down or are non-existent.
If you try to challenge a person who displays this type of behavior, they will often try to downplay the impact of their words and actions, where they can use this opportunity to blame others, make excuses, and even distort reality.
As this might be subtler and more indirect, this can be difficult to identify precisely, but if you feel hurt, angry, or like you have achieved nothing in setting your boundaries, the abuser is often unaware of the problems they’re causing.
As they don’t like to take a stand on aspects of their life, they may not say what they mean but suggest by body language how they feel, so when you point this out, they may accuse you of being controlling, which is how they like to retain the control that they have or are trying to establish.
How To Avoid A Passive Abuser
Whenever you’re in the company of a passive abuser, you want to ensure that you don’t overreact to something they say and aren’t aggressive in your words or body language, as an abuser can use this to deflect blame and assert that you are the problem.
You can also be direct in what you say and allow the person to think of a solution to the problem, which can take patience, but it is the only way you will restore trust and respect in the relationship.
There might be instances where this confrontation doesn’t get resolved, which could lead to you being a victim of domestic, emotional, sexual, or financial abuse where you feel your well-being is at risk.
Even though passive abuse might not display such behavior, these types of people can be hard to predict, and abuse of any kind can have massive effects on your physical, mental, and emotional health, so you want to take care of these as best as you can.
If this is the case, it is best to avoid the person and contact services such as thehotline.org, where they can help you identify this abuse and offer you local providers and resources to help you get out of a situation you are fearful of.
If you’re in a relationship where you have children, you could see the behaviors of the abuser projected onto them, and you might feel helpless in these sorts of situations, but your and your children’s well-being is, of course, going to be a top priority.
There are many resources available for you to seek help to try and improve your situation, but if you feel you have tried everything and nothing works, you should do your utmost to remove yourself from that environment.
You want to feel supported in your relationship, whether that be a partner, friend, or even family member, and sometimes you might have to have awkward conversions, but stating your boundaries is a good place to start, and you can begin to get some clarity on your situation.