passive-aggressive personalityHow you and your partner handle anger and conflict plays a key role in the success of your relationship—a rewarding connection is incompatible with suppressed feelings and restricted communication. When the person you love is passive-aggressive, emotional honesty and open dialogue is difficult.

Passive-aggression can be a hard game to play as a partner, even for the most emotionally healthy and stable individual. The game is winnable, though, if you use strategies aimed at reducing your partner’s passive-aggressive behavior.

Passive-aggressive people are often so removed from their own emotions, they don’t recognize anger when they feel it, even when their body is sending them signals that they’re upset. By learning to recognize a few body language signs, you maybe able to help your partner identify his or her feelings and examine their sources. There are the obvious ones—clenched fists, crossed arms—but there are subtler ones that require a keener eye. For instance, a downward gaze can be a sign of hurt feelings or an attempt to hide something emotional.

Passive-aggressiveness often expresses itself through rigidity. If you try to hug your partner and his or her body seems to resist and is uncomfortable with contact, they may be angry. If you notice these body signs—and your own body is telling you that something is wrong—it may be useful to try to open a discussion.

As a rule, only describe things from your point of view. For example, say: “I feel uncomfortable with the way you’re looking at me. It feels like anger.” Don’t say: “You’re angry at me! What’s going on?” Remember, you want a conversation, not a confrontation, so wait until you’re in a comfortable place emotionally to speak…