Do you find your partner intentionally shutting down whenever you bring up a serious issue for discussion? Do you find your partner getting intimidated during the ongoing argument and conveniently switching the topic?
Perhaps you are a victim of stonewalling in your relationship. What is stonewalling, you wonder? Stonewalling in relationships can be complex to identify and deal with. It, however, is detrimental to a relationship’s happiness and well-being. If you are wondering what is stonewalling, read on.
What is stonewalling in a relationship?
What is stonewalling? Stonewalling in relationships is a behavior that can be described as the act of employing delaying strategies.
The person who stonewalls another avoids confrontation or refuses to acknowledge the other person’s concerns. Stonewalling can occur in a variety of relationships. Communication is the key to a successful relationship. It is of utmost importance, particularly in relations that matter most.
If communication is hampered in a relationship, it escalates the pre-existing issues to deeper levels. Also, the intimacy in relationships goes for a toss when one of the partners resorts to stonewalling. This is why stonewalling is considered one of the most common crucial concerns in a relationship or marriage.
Examples of stonewalling in relationships
It is almost impossible to define stonewalling without examples. Since stonewalling is a complex issue to identify and can be confused with someone just being upset and not wanting to talk at the moment, here are some examples of stonewalling that will make the difference clear.
Some of the most common examples of this behavior can be seen in married couples, where one partner stonewalls the other. The partner who stonewalls the other may dismiss the other’s feelings or walk out in the middle of a dialogue.
Usually, in such circumstances, the discussion may end before any fruitful results can be achieved. Wondering what is stonewalling in terms of how it shows in words and actions? Here are some of the commonly used phrases while stonewalling in relationships:
I don’t want to talk right now
I’ve had enough
Don’t start all over again
End of discussion
Leave me alone
Go away! I don’t want to listen to anything right now.
To get a better understanding of how stonewalling psychology works, consider the following example –
John and Libby have been married for two years. During this period, they have had multiple arguments over several issues. John comes home late from work, and after he returns, he usually gets busy on his cell phone.
This behavior makes Libby unhappy, and on various occasions, she has told John about how she feels. Most of the time that she has tried to confront John, he gave no non-verbal cues about how he felt and behaved as if he had completely turned Libby out.
In certain instances, he only showed his displeasure by leaving the room after telling Libby that he had had enough of these discussions and wanted to hear nothing more.
This is a classic example of one partner stonewalling the other. Often, spouses avoid conflict or simply because they don’t want to deal with the situation.
It is important to note that stonewalling is very different from taking a break. When a person takes a break, they take out time to reflect on the situation, which usually brings beneficial results. Whereas, in stonewalling behavior, no such thought process is involved.
If you wish to understand more examples of stonewalling behavior, watch this video.
Can stonewalling be characterized as abuse?
By now, you may be aware of what is stonewalling and that it is not healthy. However, is stonewalling abuse? Emotional abuse refers to mean behavior that is exhibited to hurt and manipulate the subject.
However, people who stonewall may not always intend to cause harm to the person who is being stonewalled.
Stonewalling abuse is when someone refuses to listen, acknowledge or pay attention to their partner’s complaints or feelings to cause them harm. In most cases of stonewalling relationships or stonewalling marriage, the partner who is stonewalling is only trying to avoid confrontation or a fight.
While they may not consciously realize that they are trying to hurt their partner by their actions (such as stonewalling), a part of their brain may know that they are. If stonewalling is used to manipulate, belittle, or harm someone, it can be characterized as abuse.
Like mentioned before, stonewalling can be challenging to identify. Sometimes, both partners may engage in stonewalling, even without realizing it. If you wish to define stonewalled behavior in a relationship, look for these signs:
Ignoring what the other person is saying
Changing the subject when the topic is uncomfortable or serious
Storming off in the middle of arguments, conversations
Coming up with reasons not to engage in conversation
Refusing to answer your partner’s questions
Accusing their partner instead of addressing the problem at hand
Using body language such as rolling your eyes, hand gestures to dismiss
Procrastinating conversation about serious matters
Refusing to acknowledge any of these traits.
Types of stonewalling
Stonewalling is not of just one type. Now that you know what is stonewalling, you must also know that stonewalling in relationships can be of different types, depending on the intention of the person who is stonewalling, and also certain behaviors that can be mistaken for stonewalling.
1. Unintentional stonewalling
Sometimes, due to the childhood that people have had and how they have learned to cope with certain situations, they exhibit stonewalling behavior.
Some people do not wish to fight at all and, therefore, may stonewall their partner to avoid arguments and fights. Stonewalling intends not to hurt or manipulate their partner but to avoid any confrontation that may lead to heated discussions or uncomfortable situations.
Stonewalling is of this type when a partner intentionally exhibits stonewalling behavior to manipulate a situation or their partner. Intentional stonewalling could include verbal or physical abuse and is done to cause harm to the person being stonewalled.
Many times, people tend to confuse setting boundaries with stonewalling. For some people, fights, arguments, and some situations can trigger anxiety, depression, or other mental health problems. Therefore, they wish to avoid confrontation. However, to someone else, these behaviors can appear as stonewalling, which is not the case.
Causes of stonewalling
Knowing what is stonewalling and the causes of stonewalling are fundamental to the answer to ‘how to stop stonewalling.’ While stonewalling is problematic in a relationship or a marriage, it may not always be ill-intended or meant to hurt the partner who is being stonewalled. Understanding and knowing the causes of stonewalling can help you understand why your partner resorts to it, and you can find ways to resolve it and deal with it.
People may stonewall as a way to punish their partner
When one cannot express what they feel
When one is unsure of how they feel
Generally wanting to avoid confrontation or fights
When one wants to reduce tension in an emotionally charged situation
Fear of how their partner will react to a situation
Due to hopelessness that a solution cannot be found
In a way to view their partner as emotionless
To manipulate a situation
To avoid conflicts that may lead to the relationship ending altogether.
How does stonewalling affect a relationship?
In many cases, where stonewalling in relationships is a regular feature, it has been recognized as a form of psychological abuse. Stonewalling can leave one’s partner feeling vulnerable.
After you have understood what is stonewalling, you must also know that the effects of stonewalling on any marital relationship are derogatory. Many times when a person stonewalls their spouse, the spouse experiences stress and anxiety.
Sometimes, the spouse may also use the widely known ‘silent treatment. Here is how stonewalling can adversely affect your relationship or marriage.
Partner who is stonewalled may feel humiliated to the extent that they question their self-worth
Stonewalling may even affect physical health. According to a study, it can lead to musculoskeletal symptoms in both partners.
How does stonewalling make you feel?
For the person who is stonewalled, stonewalling can be challenging to deal with. The person being stonewalled may feel diminished, confused, sad, and angry – all at the same time. They can begin to feel helpless in the relationship or marriage. Their self-worth and respect may be adversely affected.
While they may feel determined to leave the relationship sometimes, they may not be able to do so as well. This can make them feel even worse. It can affect their physical and mental health.
How to deal with stonewalling
Now that you know what is stonewalling, its causes, and how it affects you and your relationship, you must also learn ways to deal with it. If you are frequently stonewalled, you must often be mulling over how to break through stonewalling. Stonewalling in relationships can be taken care of if both you and your partner are willing to put in your efforts for the greater good.
The first step entails the stonewaller to identify and acknowledge this behavior. Once accepted, both partners must be willing to deal with it.
If you find your partner uncomfortable talking about something at a time, do not annoy them further. Pestering will not fetch you any positive results.
Your partner would maintain a tacit silence as usual. Moreover, your anxiety and frustration levels would inadvertently cross limits.
Instead, give your partner a much-needed break. You both must try to cool down during the break period and carry on with the discussion when both of you are in a receptive mood.
To tackle stonewalling in relationships, you can try seeking professional seeking.
Another good option is taking up an online marriage course from the comfort of your home to sort out the other issues in your relationship for a happy and healthy married life.
Understanding what is stonewalling is one of the most critical steps in dealing with it. Stonewalling is one of the major types of behaviors that lead to a failed marriage. Many people stonewall their partners without realizing the effects their behavior has on their loved ones. They also are unable to foresee how this may affect their relationship in the long term. While making compromises in a relationship or marriage is inevitable, it is essential to identify behaviors that affect a partner’s physical and mental health and resolve them to have a healthy and happy relationship.
If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.
Rachael Pace is a noted relationship writer associated with Marriage.com. She provides inspiration, support, and empowerment in the form of motivational articles and essays. Rachael enjoys studying the evolution of loving partnerships and is passionate about writing on them. She believes that everyone should make room for love in their lives and encourages couples to work on overcoming their challenges together.