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Hi Lolypat! I don't know if I'm going to be much help...but I am the daughter of a passive-aggressive mother and I am familiar with the dynamic! The only insight I can offer on the subject is that with my mom, I am uber sensitive to the things that she says and this leads me to over react. When she makes a "joke" (ie a comment that is really a veil jab, or an attempt to get me to do what she wants me to do), I perceive it as a full blown insult and I go absolutely BONKERS. I usually react in kind, but since my mom doesn't realize that she initiated the passive-aggressive exchange and I'm just responding to what she is putting out there, she feels like she is the injured party and I'm the big meanie.

It's not just her...sometimes these exchanges go in the reverse order (ie initiated by my passive aggressive jabs, with her going on the defensive).

It's messed up. I don't know how to fix it. I do know that I have a lot of buried resentment for things that my mom did (and failed to do) when I was growing up. Most of it stems from childhood abuse (ie Dad was a jerk, Mom stood by and let him get away with it, even blamed me for it). She regrets it now, which is all well and good, but kinda feels like too little too late, you know?

Now, I'm not saying that is the case with you and your daughter...and I think that you are awesome for spotting the pattern and looking for a way to break the cycle. I guess that what I'm getting at is that passive-aggressive behaviour can be a symptom of deeper resentment, anger...and an inability to express that anger and resentment in a normal, healthy way.

I hope that you and your daughter can work through have already taken an important step by recognizing what's happening, and I hope she can meet you half way.
Violet, your response has actually helped me see the dynamic of what happens between us and why, so I thank you very much.

When my daughter flips out, it's usually over some "joke" I've made that she will say is a jab at her. In my head, I don't think of it that way at all, because I love her unconditionally, faults and all. She is an awesome woman, very intelligent, etc., but like anyone, has faults of her own that I don't think are nearly as bad as my own. At a gathering recently, someone "joked" that my daughter is an enabler. I "joked" that she gets it from her husband, and my daughter became irritated and said in all seriousness that "any enabling trait I have I got from my mother." The whole thing was a joke because yes, I an a bit of an enabler, her husband is definitely an enabler and even my daughter is a bit of an enabler, but she took it as my jabbing at her and being critical of her.

I'm sure there are times when I am critical, despite not meaning to be. My mother was critical and very aloof and old if I angered her, so I learned as a tot not to make anyone angry with me, and never to express my anger, lest they stop loving me. That, I believe, is the basis for my passive-aggressiveness and inability to communicate directly when I am angry.

When something like this happens, she pretty much melts down and gets very upset at my treatment of her (in her eyes). She then accuses me of being hurtful, mean, unloving, destructive, and on and on. It goes way beyond the seriousness of whatever has happened, in my mind.

She also has a habit of putting me down in front of whomever is at her home. She'll tell me in front of everyone that my hair is awful, or the lipstick color is hideous, or I look like a sack of potatoes in that shirt. She rarely says anything nice to me, even in private, but then says she spends a lot of time standing up for me and defending me, although I am uncertain of whom it is she does this with.

I know I need to keep my thoughts to myself and not make any comments about things in general, unless it is good, but that's hard to do, considering there are grandchildren involved.

Thank you, Violet, and all, for your comments. I'm up for any information I can get to help me understand what I'm doing wrong and how I'm doing it, because I just don't see it.


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