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Mariah's avatar

Is there a name for this specific form of passive aggression? Does anyone in your life do this? How should it be handled?

Asked by Mariah (25876points) September 3rd, 2011

I adore my dad, but he has this one habit that gets under my skin, and that is punishing the people who care about him by punishing himself.

For example, he’s quite overworked at his job so it’s important that he be able to delegate various tasks around the home to my mom and me. If one of us forgets to do a chore, which happens on occasion, rather than reminding us, he does the chore himself, taking care to make a lot of noise as he does, so that we’ll hear him and know we screwed up. This is after having worked a long day, and it sometimes results in his not being able to get to bed as early as he would like.

Another example, our electric bill was higher than usual this month, so Mom and I came home from a walk tonight to find him sitting around in the pitch dark, as if to make us feel guilty about our electricity useage.

Is there someone in your life who does this, and does the behavior have a specific name? How should it be handled?

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23 Answers

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

That sounds like classic passive aggressive behavior to me, with a hefty dose of guilt trip thrown in.
I don’t believe in rewarding bad behavior, and I would consider this to be bad behavior. Frankly. You and your mother are adults, why do you need to have chores assigned to you in the first place? That would so not fly with me.

ETpro's avatar

Your dad and my wife would be so happy making each other miserable and guilt-ridden together. I agree with what @ANef_is_Enuf said right down the line.

El_Cadejo's avatar

eghhh sounds like my mom. fuckin annoying as hell isn’t it?

Mariah's avatar

I fear I’ve painted a very negative and not altogether representative picture of my dad here. It’s not like we have chores assigned to us like children, it’s more like the cats’ litter box needs scooping every day (for example) and we know he doesn’t have the time to do it so we know we’re supposed to. This particular habit is very irritating, but it’s honestly one of his only faults; I can’t complain one bit.

Aethelflaed's avatar

It does not have a specific name (to the best of my knowledge, anyway). You deal with it as you would other passive-aggressive behavior, and other guilt trips.

bkcunningham's avatar

Do you mind if I ask you what your father does for a living, @Mariah?

Dutchess_III's avatar

Wow. Um…so, does he get any attention for acting like that? I mean, does anyone start apologizing profusely or something? What would happen if you just ignored it? Say, you get home, say “Hi Dad!” and flip on the lights without comment? Does he get all bitchy? If he does, that’s where you can start dealing with it. If all he does is sulk, I’d say the best way to handle that is to ignore him.

@Aethelflaed and exactly how does one deal with “other passive-aggressive behavior and other guilt trips”? This isn’t something everyone has to deal with everyday!

Aethelflaed's avatar

@Dutchess_III Just because it’s not an everyday occurrence (which, I sorta disagree with – most people seem to have someone in their life, be it a boss or a coworker or an in-law or that one guy on the church committee, that is passive-aggressive) doesn’t mean the recipe changes. You set boundaries, you don’t let them guilt you, you explain to them that if they’d like it done all they have to do is communicate with you effectively and respectfully but a drawn-out sigh is not appropriate behavior.

martianspringtime's avatar

I’m not sure if there’s a specific name for it, but maybe you can prevent it by telling him that you notice it, and asking him to instead talk to you/ask you about what is bothering him/what needs to be done because it would be more efficient and probably a win-win on both sides.

Prosb's avatar

My mother does this, along with just making unnecessary amounts of noise doing normal things when she’s annoyed. She’ll close cabinets too hard and make it sound like she’s having a seizure when just pushing a drawer in. My brother and I usually just try to ignore it and avoid her while she’s like this, nothing good EVER comes of asking her what’s wrong, unfortunately.

flutherother's avatar

I think it is a form of stress. Your dad feels responsible for the family and is worried he is going to let you down. I would try and do something together. Why not ask your dad out on that walk? Remind him of what is really important in life.

Mariah's avatar

@bkcunningham He works for a company that buys wind turbines and is in charge of two good sized windparks.

@Dutchess_III Honestly, we express annoyance when he pulls this kind of stuff. Yesterday, for example I ended up accidentally busting my hip on the bathroom doorframe and complained that I couldn’t see where I was going.

@flutherother We ask him to come with us every day; he doesn’t have time. He accepts maybe once a month.

Honestly, I don’t feel entitled to call him out on this behavior because he’s basically working this much to send me to college and pay my medical bills and would probably have a much easier and less stressful life if I weren’t in the picture, and I feel guilty as hell about that.

bkcunningham's avatar

I was just wondering, @Mariah, if his actions at home are a carry-over from work. Like, if he has an occupation where things have to get done “NOW” and can’t wait. Does that make sense? Perhaps he is just used to doing it himself if it isn’t getting done on schedule in order to keep things up and running. Maybe he does it enough at work that it is a habit and he doesn’t know how to transition when he is home.

My husband just recently retired. I’ve had to remind him several times that I don’t work for him. It has turned into our inside joke. It is just that his occupational position is so ingrained in his daily habits that he has to be reminded that I’m not one of his employees.

flutherother's avatar

@Mariah Well that’s a poor excuse. He could make time. I would insist.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@Mariah By expressing annoyance he’s getting attention for it. You’re broadcasting to him that his tactics are working as he intended. Have you tried just flat ignoring him when he does stuff like that? If he’s not getting any attention, his game apparently isn’t “working” he will A. Stop or B. Bring it out into the open so he can get the attention he wants. If B happens, well, you will have gotten rid of the ‘passive’ part and be ready to deal with the ‘aggressive’ part!

As for the light thing. I probably would have turned on a light and if he protested I would have looked at him curiously and said, “Do you really expect us to got without lights?”
If he’d have said, “Yes!!”
I would have said, “OK. Well, I need to go to the store then,” and gotten my keys and headed for the car with no other explanation. Curiosity would have gotten the better of him and he’d ask “Why?”
“To get candles, of course! We can’t see anything!”
And I would have gotten candles. If the lights were back on when I got home, I wouldn’t say a thing. I’d just quietly put my candles away and carry on.

I understand him assigning you “chores”....but your Mom? Does she work? That’s controlling and insane that he would assign his wife “chores.”

Also, curious, what kind of “chores?”

Mariah's avatar

@bkcunningham Good insight; I think it’s likely. His job is actually very new; he’s worked for this company only since June. Before that he worked for GE and they abused the crap out of him. He’s been working a 12 hour (or more) work day for the past four years. I’m sure part of that is his fault too as he is a perfectionist and never does a half-assed job at anything, but it’s still ridiculous how demanding his job is. He has to travel a lot too. We’ve been trying for ages to get him to adjust his priorities away from work and we really thought changing jobs would help…so far, not so much. I think he’s just really stressed out almost constantly.

@Dutchess_III Good idea, thanks. I’m so inept at confrontation or knowing what to do in these situations. Like I said above, it’s not so much that he assigns us chores like we’re children. It’s just that he runs around like a chicken with its head cut off when he gets home from a long day of work, and we ask what we can do to take any of the load off his shoulders, and we agree to do as much of the work around the house as we can in order to help out. Things like dealing with bills and insurance, taking care of the cats, preparing meals and doing laundry, cleaning…basically he goes to work and we (mostly my mom) take care of everything else. I honestly think this is the best solution; I’m not going to ask him to do any housework after working a 12 hour day. But then he pulls this passive aggressive crap if we forget something.

Mariah's avatar

I forgot to mention, too, my mom isn’t working right now.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Well, if your mom isn’t working then she should be taking care of the house. However, your dad sounds like he has some issues…has he always been like that?

Mariah's avatar

@Dutchess_III Right, which is why I didn’t completely understand all the uproar in this thread about the “chores,” haha. It only makes sense that mom and I would handle the home stuff since he’s busy with work. The only issue I have is his behavior when we forget to take care of something – really, if he would just remind us, we’d slap ourselves on our foreheads and go take care of it. He doesn’t need to pull a guilt trip.

Dad has always been anal-retentive and has needed things to be “just so.” I can’t say I remember him having this specific quirk in the past, really, but it might just be starting to get to me as a manifestion of my having been home for waaaaaay too long. :P

I think part of the problem is that he doesn’t understand that my mom has a lot on her plate too, even if she’s not working, so he can’t understand why she can’t handle the “few” responsibilities that she does have. In truth, she’s doing a lot to take care of me while I’m recovering from surgery.

Ugh, I don’t know, I just wish everyone would communicate a bit more. My mom and dad pride themselves on the fact that they’ve “never had a fight” but I honestly think it’s just because they never air their grievances and behave passive-aggressively instead. Don’t get me wrong, in most ways their marriage is very strong, but some of these little things drive me nuts.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Oh man…Never had a fight? Man, the resentment that must be simmering underneath! Good luck!

We took issue with the word “chores” and the fact that he “assigns” them…you don’t “assign chores” to another adult! Another adult takes care of business without anyone telling them what to do or how to do it.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

It isn’t taking care of the house that bothers me. It’s the idea that he is deciding what your mom does in the house. You, not so much, but your mother is supposed to be his equal. So, if the cat box needs scooped every day and mom doesn’t get around to it today… too damn bad. If it is her “job” to manage the household, she has the right to manage it as she sees fit. Not to kiss your dad’s butt because he is working outside of the home and likes things “just so.”
I could see if your mother was not making any type of contribution to the household or the relationship, but it sounds more like your dad just wants things his way, and throws a hissy fit if everyone fails to comply. And if I were your mom, I would not be hearing it.

Aethelflaed's avatar

It’s not necessarily how I would structure my marriage, but also? Not my freaking business if others do, especially since my passing judgment upon them will in no way help rectify the situation.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@ANuf_is_Enfu Me either! If talking to him wouldn’t work, my husband would see some pure aggression loud and clear!

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