Boundaries and Passive Aggression 


This past couple of weeks, I’ve recognized how easy it is not to take responsibility for feelings or actions that need to be taken and how that can lead to blame and passive-aggressive behavior.

Perhaps this story will help you recognize within yourself ways in which some of your own behavior leads you away from the outcomes you desire and drives you to put the onus on someone else when you’re not taking the actions you need to take or saying the things you need to say.

A couple of months ago, I moved in with two new housemates in a house in the mountains above Boulder. It didn’t take long to realize this living arrangement wasn’t a good fit for me. Shortly after I moved in, my housemates went away for 10 ten days. The second thing out of my mouth when they arrived back, after hello, was, this isn’t going to work for me. 

We had a conversation. I explained most of the reasons, and we agreed another housemate would be found to take my place. No hard feelings.

Before moving in, I requested a two-month trial period, even though we all were sure it would be an acceptable arrangement. They were worried about not having someone settled in for the winter, so I ended up signing a lease through next year. That means I’m on the hook for the rent until someone else is found to move in. I should have held my ground on that one; note to self, never be more agreeable than you can be.

And there’s a big caveat— we can’t find just anyone; it has to be someone they want to live with (of course), which means they have to be involved in the process. A week passed. Since we talked about moving forward and how my housemate wanted to find the person herself, I trusted the process had begun. 

I figured she was on it and that it would all work out just perfectly without my participation. However, I was passive, not instigating the necessary actions to find another human to move in. Not checking in with her, “How’s the housemate hunt going? Is there anything I can do?” 

Another half-week passed, and I realized my passivity. I asked her about progress and suggested we run a FB and Craiglist ad. The housemate told me she sent out a notice to her friends and wanted to see what that generated. She wanted to wait until the beginning of the following week to go public. At first, I thought that was reasonable but soon realized there was no reason why the two things couldn’t happen simultaneously. And I got angry and frustrated inside myself. Why wasn’t this moving faster? Why wasn’t she taking every action available?

I approached her again and received excuses as to why she had to wait until the following Monday. She let me know she didn’t need me to help run the ad. She could do it herself. I requested she send me a copy for two reasons. One to be sure it happened and two so I could post it on CL. She only wanted to do FB.

I noticed myself getting angry at her for the amount of time it took to get things moving. I wanted to blame her, yet I was the one that didn’t make sure something was happening, create a clear plan with her for advertising.

I wanted to release the internal pressure. I wanted to tell her how I thought she wasn’t doing what needed to be done and blame her for her lack of movement. Rather than owning my lack of action, I wanted to direct my aggression at her. Let her know she wasn’t doing enough, that I felt her resistance. She wasn’t taking care of me, and I didn’t like it. But I didn’t feel right doing that, so I held my tongue and kept checking in with myself, observing my inner landscape.

She finally posted it on FB. I posted it on CL.

Someone who sounded like a great match replied to the CL ad. I forwarded her the email. 

I asked her if she read the email I forwarded. 

She gave me several nebulous reasons why she wouldn’t want to live with him. How he hadn’t hit his Saturn return yet and how she wasn’t feeling him in her womb. “Would you want to live with someone who hasn’t hit their Saturn return yet?” After my mouth dropped open, I thought to myself, Oy vey, shoot me now.

Getting the sense that this search would be much more challenging than I initially anticipated and already charged with aggressive feelings, I took a deep breath. And at that moment, I shifted my approach from blame to boundaries.

I let her know that I don’t make blanket decisions about people without meeting them. I wasn’t comfortable with random factors based on woo-woo ideas dictating who she considers. That she needs to realize this is happening. No matter how much she doesn’t want to deal with it, that my patience will run out. I offered to help vet the people who show up, call them, and prescreen them to see if they are a fit. She got it and things started happening.

I stepped in and showed up for myself. I set boundaries, became active and looked at myself and my inactions instead of spewing blame and aggression on my housemate. I communicated, and that is freeing.

I recognized that I matter, my needs matter, and my well-being is in my hands. I was reminded once again how easy it is to blame others without looking at myself. 

It turns out the guy from CL was perfect. He came over and spent a couple of hours here and was going to rent the place. She liked him and thanked me for what she called, slapping her around a bit. She said she needed it. 

Alas, it was not to be; he found a place that worked better for him the next day. But there is a new housemate lined up.

No matter how much work I’ve done on myself, there always seem to be opportunities to go deeper, revisit old patterns, and notice how much faster they clear. I welcome these moments. They bring me closer to myself and show me how far I’ve come.

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