The Silent Marriage is a short Kindle e-book which only cost $4 at the time I ordered it. I have found that the self-published books in this category are often lacking in editing and content. However, I was pleasantly surprised by Nora Femenia and Neil Warner’s work. While the book is not perfect, it is a great place for a woman in a marriage with a passive-aggressive partner to start evaluating what is going on and how she wants to handle it. It’s resource I can see recommending to clients because it is so short and because it is written on a very accessible level for the general population.
The basic information about passive-aggression in the book is based on insecure attachment of the passive-aggressive man to his parents, particularly his mother, when he was a child. This insecure attachment created an avoidant personality wherein the passive-aggressive man seeks love from a spouse while simultaneously emotionally abusing her by pushing her away. His passive-aggressive manipulation is an effort to retain control in a situation where he actually has none: Love is given freely or it is not love. We cannot force people to love us.
My main critique of the book relates to its portrayal of the non-passive-aggressive person in the relationship (usually the wife in this text) as a victim of her husband’s mental disorder. Occasionally it is acknowledged that the wife has an active role in all the relationship, but the emphasis is on the wife not blaming herself for her husband’s behavior. The wife is not a victim, though. She chooses to stay in the relationship, and she contributes to the dysfunction of the relationship in how she responds. I felt like the book really could have done a better job of helping the wife in this situation work on her part of the dysfunction beyond teaching her that she is not responsible for her husband’s emotionally abusive behavior.
Another point of contention for me in this work is the mother-blame which dominates the authors’ theories. If a neglectful or abusive mother raises four children, not all four will become passive-aggressive. Maybe one or two will be based on the families I know with this situation. It’s also possible that the mother is not the primary caregiver and therefore is not the one who created the development of an avoidant insecure attachment in the future passive-aggressive husband. Simply blaming all of the issues on the husband’s mother doesn't allow for the personal responsibility that each of us has in regards to our response to how others treat us. While that response may be partially genetic, partially environmental, and partially related to our fundamental spirit, it’s not entirely the mother’s fault.
The other issue that bothered me in this book was that men are seen as the passive-aggressive partners in the heterosexual marriage. In today’s day and age, it’s time for authors to begin recognizing that not all marriages involve a man and a woman. Furthermore, it’s not always the husband who is the passive-aggressive spouse. I know women who are passive-aggressive, too. I felt as though the authors could have reached a broader audience by examining passive-aggression as a human condition, not one limited to those of a certain sex or gender orientation.
Despite my critiques, I finished this book wanting to read more by the authors to see what other insights they had on passive-aggression. I know that this book will help many women who are trying to understand why their husbands will no longer talk to them, thus creating the silent marriage of the title.
© 2015 Elizabeth Galen, Ph.D., Green Heart Guidance, LLC