Dr. Jacqueline B. Sallade offers ideas for maintaining your mental health.
When someone ignores willingly, walks away from helping knowingly, refuses to cooperate quietly, that's passive-aggressive behavior. It's angry, like active aggression, but shows the anger by NOT doing, rather than by doing something nasty. So, when a wife asks for a hug and the husband walks away, when the husband is talking and the wife leaves the room, when the friend asks for help to an empty share or a distracted look, when the teachers lectures and the student plays a game instead of paying attention, when the date has fun alone or with the crowd and the boyfriend is looking at his phone--that's all passive-aggressive behavior. Sometmes, that kind of willful noncooperation or ignoring becomes habit and the perpetrator isn't even aware of the insult. However, the subtle effects of long-term avoidance, silence and lack of response ultimately eats at a relationship.
Picture the kid who is supposed to do chores or homework with his arms folded, or finding anything to do but the task. Then, ask yourself, is he angry, frustrated, or afraid that he cannot please if he cooperates. There could be a reason for the passive-aggressive behavior. The partner or spouse might have a reason, too, holding a grudge about some perceived injustice, feeling like no amount of cooperation is enough or appreciated, or being irritated at a surpl us of demands. Some folks don't have the background to know how to give attention consistently because they haven't had proper role models.
If the passive-aggressive behavior continues to the point to leaving the recipient unfulfilled, empty and hurt or to the point that the noncooperative person, especially a chld, is getting away with rudeness or not doing what is in their best interest, it needs to be addressed. A gentle, honest conversation with suggestions for how to help each other feel comfortable and do the right thing may help.