Examples of Passive Aggressive Behavior in Narcissistic People

I’ve helped many people personally and professionally extricate themselves from relationships with very toxic people. Unlike people with other serious mental illnesses, those suffering from personality disorders can seem so “normal,” and their behaviors seem more childish and self-destructive than people with other mental illnesses like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. That’s what is difficult for most of my clients because very few of them can pinpoint what’s wrong with their spouse’s behavior until they come across blogs like this one. Finally, a plausible explanation.

Again, people with personality disorders suffer from serious mental illness and the intimate relational harm their family members experience can often involve cutting off contact. This is because the nature of their personality disorder(s) makes them extremely volatile and erratic. As people, we are different from one another, and those with personality disorders are no exception. However, the common behaviors they exhibit allow mental health professionals to diagnose them.

We all may employ passive-aggressive behavior sometimes when we seek to protect ourselves from further harm or escalating anger. However, those of us without personality disorders like narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), do not commonly use passive-aggression in our daily lives. We don’t want to intentionally hurt our loved ones. Akin to a toddler covering his ears and ignoring you when he’s upset because you won’t let him stay up longer, a narcissist intentionally ignoring you is almost the same, minus the aggressive act of overtly covering ears.

Passive aggression in those with full-blown narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), or those high in traits, looks different than when a non-narcissistic person ignores someone to avoid being hurt. The most obvious difference is that this behavior in those with NPD is used more often as an attack method. Acknowledging your presence means that you are worth acknowledgment versus ignoring you sends a message that you’re not even worth addressing. It is hurtful, demeaning, and employed to make you extra nice to avoid things like the silent treatment. Also, ignoring you is a form of gaslighting manipulation because you may truly think the narcissist did not hear you, so you talk louder, and in turn, that makes you seem off-balance or off-kilter.

Commonly overwhelmed by feelings of anger or being wronged, the narcissist will let their reptilian fight-or-flight brain completely take over any logical thought processes. You’ll be ignored when you ask for any help that’s justified in a partnership. Stonewalling you can train you to stop asking for help and in turn, you work harder to maintain a functional household.

Examples of Passive-Aggressive Behavior

That person who ignores you calling downstairs for help, refuses to answer, and acts like they’re not listening or that you don’t deserve a response because how dare you talk to them without coming to them and asking for help (you don’t do that because you probably also want to avoid conflict, or you’re just too tired to do that or don’t have time).

Intentionally refusing to finish tasks like building that deck that they have been working on for years, and you contacting a contractor to finish it would be tantamount to you refusing to acknowledge they can do anything better than anyone else, and you refuse to see his “unique” and special traits.

Using short answers like, “yup,” after you nicely ask your narcissistic partner to help you take out the trash after you’ve asked repeatedly, ignoring you the first twenty times.

Talking about you behind your back to coworkers, instead of bringing something to your attention. This example also seems to serve another purpose – devaluing you so that the inevitable discarding proves to others that the gossiping was justified and exiting the relationship and seeking a new one would be the same.


When you reciprocate passive-aggression with the same, giving that person a taste of his/her own medicine, you only hurt yourself and teach your children that this type of behavior in a marriage is normal. In fact, it is very abnormal. We thereby unintentionally set the seeds that tolerating abusive relationships is normal. Instead, reciprocating passive-aggressive behaviors like the silent treatment only show the narcissist that the behavior is working. What he/she wants is to be left alone, so that works in the narcissist’s favor.

Instead, employ boundaries, and stick to them. Don’t use threats. Instead, tell yourself that these behaviors are not okay and that you will not allow anyone to further hurt or demean you.

As I’ve repeated numerous times before, to empower abused men and women, the pain you’ll feel after the relationship is over is very temporary, and the aftermath will enable you to become stronger and less tolerant of abusive people.

I write these blogs as part of my own healing and as part of my goals to help others understand that there is so much more happiness on the other side of divorce. My own personal experience as well as my professional experience have taught me that the cyclical nature of these relationships is a hallmark of a toxic relationship. You will learn that normal relationships with normal partners aren’t the same, and as boring as they may seem at first, the highs and lows of narcissistic relationships are not the type of healthy excitement that we need.

Fairfax Family Law and Divorce Lawyer: An attorney with experience in divorcing a narcissist can help you redirect the blame to the narcissist, and help you understand that although people can fall out of love, it doesn’t happen so abruptly and silently, as it does in a marriage to a narcissist.

If you’re looking for an experienced Virginia family and divorce law attorney, contact Keithley Law, PLLC today by calling (703) 865-7710 and schedule an initial consultation in our Fairfax law office. We have decades of legal experience in high-conflict divorces.

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