Passivity can creep into any aspect of a partnership – from interpersonal interaction to one’s career. It is possible that a person becomes passive in one area only; however in most cases the passivity will seep into other areas of one’s life. A partner could handle fewer clients, postpone problem-solving behaviour, stop showing affection, could lie in front of the television all day, let the housework and/or gardening fall behind or could even suddenly come across as sexually cold or distant.
It is interesting to note that the word “passivity” is an antonym for its root-word, namely “passion”. It is therefore not strange that the passive spouse has often lost his or her passion for life (or part of it). The exertion of copious amounts of energy and effort could have amounted to nothing; another possibility is that an honour which was in line for a partner was bestowed upon someone else. Passivity may even precede or appear as an early symptom of Burnout-Syndrome or Depression. Passivity in a relationship could lead to the spouse also becoming passive; however it is more likely that it will be met with the reaction of anger – which could naturally intensify the passivity. Some partners may take on the other’s tasks and carry a double-load, which could also make the situation worse.
Should you find that passivity has crept into a friend’s life, it is of cardinal importance that communication should continue in spite of verbal silence. The greatest need anyone has, is to be heard by someone who listens without judgement and assumptions and who understands. Patience is of utmost importance in such a conversation. No quick-fixes, reproaches or sarcasm! Rather try to identify the underlying emotion and reflect this by naming the emotion. Only once the emotional aspect has been highlighted can the resulting conversation gradually focus around how each party can contribute to working towards solutions. In this situation, any action is better than none; even taking a brief walk leaves a subconscious suggestion of the possibility for action in other situations.
Naturally, a period of passivity also has its advantages. It allows one to come to a standstill and approach a problem from a new perspective. It channels energy into one specific aspect and has the potential to bring a couple closer together. The space for understanding and supporting can eventually lead to a closer bond – and more passion.
Reference: van der Walt, T. (2003). Passief. In Maartens, M. (Ed.). Die Groot Huweliksboek. (pp. 444-445). Pretoria: Lapa UItgewers.