Is there such a thing as passive abuse? My spouse is constantly ignoring me, engages in long periods of silence, and is not receptive to my pointing out how harmful this is. I see the problem clearly. My partner does not. It is really hard to keep forgiving what is not seen as an injustice by the other party. What advice can you offer on this very difficult situation?

Yes, there is a form of abuse that is passive and silent as you describe. I am presuming that any offense you have perpetrated does not match the duration and intensity of her ignoring and silent behavior. I want to add that I am not saying that you did anything at all. You did not say. Passive aggression, as it is sometimes called, can result from the person being very angry at someone else—not you—and thus the anger could be displaced onto you.

Either way, whether you did something much smaller than the reaction toward you now or you are a victim of displaced anger, your job right now may be to forgive….every day. Ongoing abuse needs a courageous dose of forgiveness to keep your own anger low. So, I recommend that you roll up your sleeves, forgive, and then forgive again and again.

Keep striving for justice, too. After you forgive and are not angry, approach your partner and ask to speak about this situation. Your partner may not be receptive. Forgive again and strive for justice again. It is not easy, but it is a truthful and joyful way to live because you are doing your best and offering love in the face of a very challenging situation.

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Categories: Ask Dr. Forgiveness