It takes courage to behave assertively in your marriage. Sometimes people don’t really know what it means to be assertive. Other times, people have never really tried to be assertive and it feels awkward or uncomfortable. Learning how to be truthful about how you feel can have a positive impact on your marriage.
What it Means to be Assertive
Behaving assertively doesn’t mean you have to be rude or aggressive. It also doesn’t mean you have to be demanding. Instead, it requires you to notice how you feel and point it out to your partner. Assertive behaviors communicate what you want and need in a direct manner.
Behaving assertively allows people to use “I” statements. For example, if your partner is running late, say, “I’m worried that if we don’t leave now we are not going to arrive on time. And I’m uncomfortable walking in late. I’d like to leave now.” Your partner then chooses how to respond to your needs.
Behaving assertively means you can ask a question when you don’t understand something. It also means you can say no when someone asks you to do something that you really aren’t comfortable doing. Assertive people are able to ask for help when they need it. They can also express their anger appropriately.
Assertive behavior and communication is spoken out of caring for the other person. Unlike aggressive behaviors, which violate the rights of others, assertive behaviors are respectful. Speaking the truth to others is part of being assertive but it is not done so in an attempt to hurt other people.
Passive-aggressive behaviors are an indirect way of communicating. It can also be dishonest. Instead of saying to your spouse, “I don’t like this,” your behaviors show it.
Passive-aggressive people sometimes go along with their spouse’s ideas when they don’t really agree with them. For example, “I’ll go to your mother’s house but I’ll be in a bad mood the whole time.” Sullen behaviors are a common example of someone behaving passive-aggressively.
Other times, people sabotage things on purpose. Instead of saying, “I don’t want to go to your office party,” the person purposely tries to be late. Other examples include someone only half-heartedly doing something or performing poorly on purpose. For example, “I’ll paint the dining room but I’ll drip paint and not pay that close of attention to detail because I don’t really want to be doing this.”
Sometimes passive-aggressive people allow their spouse to make serious mistakes on purpose or they secretly hope for failure. For example, a passive-aggressive person may not tell their partner when they’re headed in the wrong direction. The attitude is, “I don’t want to go anyway, so the longer it takes to get there, the less time we’ll have to be there.”
Sometimes passive-aggressive people smile and act polite on the surface. However, they use this to mask their real feelings. They may talk to everyone else about their true feelings and make fun of their partner to others as they secretly grow resentful. For example, if one partner develops a new business idea that the other person dislikes, instead of talking about their concerns to their partner, they call their friends to laugh about it. These sorts of behaviors are very passive-aggressive.
Reasons Why People Choose to Behave Passive-Aggressively Instead of Assertively
Sometimes people feel like behaving assertively is a bad thing. They may fear confrontation. They may have grown up in a household where manipulation was the best way to get their needs met. They may have never witnessed people being able to honestly talk about their feelings and needs.
People who excessively worry about what others think of them often behave passive-aggressively. They fear that showing their true feelings will offend others or will interfere with their relationships. However, their passive-aggressive behaviors are actually much more likely to cause relationship problems.
Assertive behaviors require you to mean what you say and do what you mean. If this is a change for you, it can be difficult at first. Choosing to behave assertively requires courage. It also requires you to pay more attention to how you feel and what you need and a desire to effectively communicate this to others.
Behaving assertively in your marriage helps build trust. It can help you and your partner to become more honest with yourselves and each other. It builds trust and will help you to build better communication and improved emotional intimacy as you will be able to trust what your partner is saying and doing.