Although you may not actually realise it, you (and your partner) have been guilty of stonewalling one another at one point in your relationship.
It is something that we all do from time to time and don’t see it as being particularly bad, but the effects it can have on a relationship are much more serious than you may have thought.
Let’s discuss what stonewalling actually is first, then look at why it could be ruining your relationship.
What Actually Is Stonewalling?
You may know this as ‘freezing’ your partner out or giving them ‘the silent treatment‘. Stonewalling is by definition ‘the refusal to cooperate or communicate’. It is generally used when one half of a partnership wants to avoid conflict, although it is often used as a form of manipulation.
Examples of stonewalling includes:
- Physically removing yourself from the situation
- Muttering under your breath or talking to yourself
- Changing the subject
- Responding with complete silence
Why Is Stonewalling Used In Relationships?
Often, stonewalling is used as a punishment; it can manifest itself in passive-aggressive behaviour. It could be that when you have a problem, you think that they should already know what the problem is, particularly if it is something they have done to you.
2. Unable To Express Your Feelings
Another reason why you may stonewall your partner is if you are finding it painful or difficult to express exactly what you feel. It may be that you see it as your partner’s job to find this information out and it’s their job to find the best way to achieve it.
3. Unsure Of Your Feelings
You may even stonewall your partner because you don’t actually know what you are feeling, or are scared to give it too much thought. In situations like these, it often feels easier just to say ‘I’m fine’ when asked and just try to convince yourself.
4. Busy Schedules
There are also practical reasons why stonewalling happens – if you both have a really busy work schedule and commitments such as children and other family members, you can develop the bad habit of avoiding discussions about emotions because you don’t have enough time.
5. Bad Habit Developed During Childhood
It could be that stonewalling is something you have always done. If no-one ever made the time to sit down and talk about their feelings or there were negative consequences for doing it, it could be that you never learned how to properly share your emotions.
The very idea of talking about how you are feeling might make you upset or anxious.
6. Bad Habit Developed Through Previous Relationships
Sometimes, stonewalling is a habit that has developed because of experiences in previous relationships. For instance, if previous partners have reacted negatively when you spoke your mind, you may have developed the habit of just avoiding it.
7. Used As Manipulation
Partners who want to dominate or control their relationship often use stonewalling. By stopping you addressing issues or taking action, it can be an effective way of manipulation.
How Stonewalling Affects A Relationship
As you can imagine, stonewalling never has any positive effects. The person who is stonewalled can feel helpless. They want to do something, but feel unable to and can make them feel resentful.
It can cause them to push the one stonewalling to explain themselves, which can escalate to arguments. Although it is understandable to want answers, this could just worsen things. This is especially the case if they are stonewalling because they are anxious or scared.
Eventually, it may lead the one being stonewalled to just give up because they have tried so many times without getting anywhere. This can result in what could be described as an ’emotional stalemate’ in that no feelings are ever discussed or expressed and there is a huge gulf growing between the partners every day.
If the relationship is abusive, stonewalling may be another tactic used in conjunction with continual criticism, isolation, and intimidation. As the one stonewalling continues to use these tactics, the partner being stonewalled could become more withdrawn and start to feel worthless.
If you are on the receiving end of stonewalling, the best way to handle it is by being as compassionate and understanding as possible. It is important to realize that lashing out if not the best way to deal with this kind of behavior, as frustrating as it may be.
Rather than being a deliberate or vindictive act, as we have highlighted above, it could be that your partner is stonewalling you because they don’t know how best to express their feelings or are worried what might happen if they do.
Communication Within and Outside The Relationship Helps
Communication is key. You need them to see that you want to help, but they need to be willing to talk. Rather than pressurizing them, you need to be kind and caring. Give them the option to open up and that you want to listen.
Some find it easier to other people about relationship issues or their feelings, rather than their partner. Give them that option. This could be a close friend or family member. Failing that, they could also seek out professional help from a counselor, for example.
Having the chance to verbalise things with another person, might allow them to put their feelings and situation into perspective, making it less overwhelming to broach with you.
Write Things Down
If, however, you are the one stonewalling; you need to consider that although it can be difficult, it is better to discuss things rather than avoiding them. As it can be tricky to explain exactly what you are feeling by talking, it may be a good idea to write down exactly what you want to say.
While it is recommended you move onto talking face to face eventually, this is a healthy way to get things moving in the right direction.
As you can see stonewalling is something very serious that needs to be addressed. The sooner it is addressed, the better. However, because feelings are involved, you should strive to be understanding and tactful.
Remember, you love each other and the aim is to stop stonewalling from ruining your relationship.
It is possible but requires work and understanding on both sides.