When Passive Aggression Is Really Covert Aggression
When Passive Aggression Is Really Covert Aggression
When we love someone suffering from any kind of addiction, dealing with different types of aggression is part of our day-to-day. Even though we love these good people, addiction can take the wheel and completely take over the ones we love most.
We’re going to start off today’s podcast with a question from Suzy, a wonderful, beautiful woman in our community.
Her question was so helpful that I wanted to share it with you guys. So here we go, she asks, “I’m dealing with my high functioning alcoholic husband who I believe has probably been for a long time, passive-aggressive. I believe this is a personality defect and does not necessarily relate to his addiction. How does one deal? Any ways to defuse it? I think this is why our house is edgy and would love to find healthy, effective methods for me and my 10-year-old son to cope.”
All right, so how many of you reading right now can relate and think that you’re with somebody who is passive-aggressive? It’s a good question, right?
Today I’m going to teach you the difference between passive-aggressive behavior and covert aggression and what to look out for in both behaviors.
Now listen, I just said some pretty heavy words there and I promise you this: This is not going to be dry. This is not going to be from some textbook. I’m going to give you lots of examples and make it really simple.
It’s actually going to be quite short today because this is one thing I believe in. Knowledge is power and we, you and me, are not powerless over this disease.
If you’ve been reading this blog, listening to our podcast or you joined one of our programs, you know I’m a huge, huge fan of thinking that we are not powerless over this disease. We don’t need to sit around and wait for them to get sober to start to feel better. We can do many, many practical, easy, very simple things to take our power back.
Now, everything I’m going to talk about today is going to be coming from a book called In Sheep’s Clothing. Women in our community ask me for book recommendations all the time. You can get this book on Amazon. It was written many years ago, but it is a classic and a lot of therapists still use the tools to help educate their clients today. It’s called In Sheep’s Clothing: Understanding and Dealing With Manipulative People.
Now if you’re not a reader, that’s okay. Don’t worry. I got you covered. We’re going to be talking about this topic for a couple of posts because I think it’s so helpful. Don’t worry if you don’t want to pick up the book, I will break it down for you, keep it short, keep it simple and digestible.
We’re going to start with the definition of covert aggression. Are you ready?
Covert aggression is basically wanting to be bad while trying to look good.
It’s putting on the image that everything is fine and they’re behaving really, really well, but in actuality they’re behaving very badly.
Again, in our relationships with these good people that suffer from addiction, covert aggression is more common than passive aggression. I’m going to give you a couple of examples. Are you ready?
Here’s the first example: let’s just say they go to work and they’re bringing in an income. You think they’re being so responsible and they make sure to remind you of their financial contributions to the family. But when you take a closer look at your bank accounts or your credit card bills, they are spending a lot of your family income on drugs, alcohol, or other substances.
Now remember when I mentioned knowledge is power? Listen, if you don’t know what’s going on in your bank accounts or credit cards, I want you to spend a couple hours this week, get all the passwords, all the usernames, call the banks if you need to, but get that information and review where your money is going. Look at the withdrawals, look at all of the statements, add up the bills, the bars, and liquor stores. I remember when I did this with my ex-husband who was in rehab at the time and I found thousands and thousands of dollars from ATM withdrawals that were going towards his addiction.
Here’s another example:
Let’s say your loved one who struggles with addiction says that they need to stay up late or they skip going out with the family to catch up on work. Then they grab their laptop and head to a corner of the house. Now, I know you guys because we’re sisters, and I know some of you know exactly where I’m going with this.
You think at the beginning, before you know better, “I am so grateful they are being responsible and showing initiative in their job. I know their boss must be so proud of them.” Or you think, “It’s Saturday. Look how hard he’s working. I shouldn’t be resentful he doesn’t want to spend time with me. I should feel grateful that he’s so dedicated to his job.” But really he’s not working. He’s surfing the internet for pornography. These are signs of covert aggression.
Remember, covert aggression is wanting to be bad while trying to look good. Let me be the loving voice that reminds you that you’re the strong and sober one. You’re not crazy.
Covert aggression is tricky, but you cannot be easily fooled. It says one thing but it does another.
You, my sister, are smart enough not to fall for it.
You’re wise and you know the best way to avoid being tricked by addiction is to look at their actions, not listen to their words.
That is where you’ll find honesty – in their actions. If they say they will be home at six and they walk through the door clear eyed, alert and engaged at six, well then they told the truth. If they say they’ll be home by six and they show up at seven with glossy eyes and a slight slur and they want to be left alone, well then chances are you’ve most likely been lied to.
Here’s the loving truth: There’s no need to accuse them of anything.
You know the truth. Whatever will come out of their mouths probably won’t be what really happened.
Don’t set yourself up to be lied to. Don’t waste your precious energy trying to beat the truth out of them. Go about your business and tell yourself, “I know the truth. I’m smart enough not to be fooled by the lies they are about to say to try and look good. Their behavior was wrong, it was bad, and that is all that I need to know. I don’t need them to confirm it.”
Now you know what covert aggression is. See, I told you I’d keep it short and to the point and super simple.
Here’s the deal: I have work for you.
Are you ready, because remember, we don’t get better and we don’t heal and we don’t grow stronger if we don’t do the work.
Here’s your homework: I want you to take the next few days and I want you to look for signs of covert aggression from your loved one. Then I want you to say nothing. The only person you’re going to talk to you about this is yourself.
You’re going to confirm to yourself that you’re a wise, smart woman who is completely capable of getting through this season of her life. And you’ll come out stronger and healthier and rise into the woman that she’s being called to rise to.
Next week, we’re going to cover the first sign of covert aggression, okay? I’m going to give you a little clue: It’s pretending to be confused. That wasn’t really a clue. That’s actually one of the first signs.
I gave it away, but I want to entice you and I want to be the friend that comes alongside of you, that walks you through this, because listen to me, I have done this.
I’ve been exactly where you are, and this is not your fault and you did nothing wrong to get here. They would be doing this if you were in their lives or not, but this is an opportunity. This is your chance to learn everything that you need to learn so that you can start to feel better. I want to be that person that helps you do that. I love you and I will talk to you next week.
Michelle Anderson has over 10 years of personal experience with loving someone who suffers from addiction. She was married to a good man who suffered from addiction to alcohol, illegal drugs, and pornography. She's used her experience to create powerful resources for women in the same circumstance. Using her own personal experience, combined with years of research and studying, she presents ideas, tips, and tools on how to handle this disease, and take care of yourself, and your family.
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