Life should not be a competition but when you live with a narcissist, it becomes a way of life. The narcissist will call it being passive aggressive. But the co-dependent didn't develop this passive aggressive tendency overnight. It was developed over time. The narcissist would dominate every situation. It was always the narcissist that the conversation was about. It was always him, what he liked, what he wanted to do, and so on. He would sulk or become aggressive and aggravated if the topic switched from him and what he wanted to talk about. He considered himself the authority on any topic. His say was considered the ultimate authority and anyone that disagreed with him was inferior. His co-dependent wife would always try to smooth things over with everyone else and try to make him happy. She appeared to be content with being the silent one in the relationship, laughing at his jokes and humoring him. She fed into his ego by agreeing with him about how special and entitled he was, after all, he was superior in thought, intelligence and in every manner. It was because of this constant put down that she began to compete for his attention. This is the behavior that he called passive aggressive. She could not face off with him because he always seemed to end up on top, so she had to smile at him and work towards finding a reason to feel good about herself. She began to compete with him.
They took a trig class together one summer. She was good at math and he needed her help to pass the class. She tutored him. The class was easy and fun for her. They sat down together at the kitchen table to work on homework. This was typical. They started the lesson together. They have five children together. She took a moment to feed them and then went back to the homework together. He was now on number 12 and she was still on number 6. She sat down and began working on the next problem. "Mom!" one of their children yelled to her. She got up from the table to see what the commotion was all about. Settling him down, she went back to the table to work on their trig homework. Now her husband was on number 27. He found this problem a very difficult one and asked for her help. She was on number 10 by this time. Up and down, homework and children, she needed a moment to get her mind back on the math homework they needed to complete. She had to shift her brain. Totally unaware that she had been up and down working with the children. All he wanted to know was how to solve number 27. "Just a minute. I need to get my head around the problem. Can you wait until I get to that one?" His response to her was, "We have been sitting here all morning working on this. Why aren't you keeping up with me? Quit goofing off. You're suppose to be the math expert in this family and you are letting me down."
She held back the tears. She did not want him to know that he had hurt her. It would only cause more problems. Any time he had seen her cry, he always told her the same thing, suck it up, what's your problem. The list went on. She did not want to hear that again. She got up from the table and went back to helping the children. This was it. She was not going to attend another trig class this summer. She was not going to do another math problem in this class. She just couldn't do it anymore. She was hurt. He was probably right anyway. Who was she kidding that she could do math. Math was hard and out of her reach. She gave up.
He sat there in his recliner one Sunday afternoon after lunch. Friends were over as they often did that summer. He bragged about getting an A in that class and how he did so much better than his wife who was 'suppose' to be a 'math person'. Why would a man belittle his wife in front of company if he loved her?