Recently, I met with a couple for whom even the simplest request from one partner—for example, "Would you be sure to park your car under the oak tree?"—was interpreted as an insult or attack by Sam, the other partner.
"Don’t you think I would have thought of that on my own?" he would say.
With some digging into their personal histories, I discovered that Sam's father had always corrected his kids by telling them they were worthless; as a result, Sam became "allergic" to any request or statement that could be interpreted as suggesting any kind of inadequacy on his part. This caused him to develop a defensive response, which, while effective in rebuffing a real attack, only serves to close down communication and invite passive-aggression in an otherwise healthy relationship.