What to Do If Stonewalling Is Happening in Your Marriage

We can’t deny that marriage is difficult at times. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows. Even when you love each other deeply, you have to really put the time in to make things work. 

You may argue or bicker more over time, which can be normal. It’s how you deal with these problems that makes all the difference. One thing that can really cause a wedge between a couple is stonewalling. So let’s take a look at what this is, and how it can impact your marriage. 

What is Stonewalling?

When you’ve been with your partner for a while, communication can begin to break down as you fall into a pattern. Whilst this can happen to many couples, stonewalling is a little more extreme. In the most basic sense, stonewalling is the process of refusing to communicate with another person or a partner.

This involves intentionally ignoring the other person or shutting down and closing yourself off during an argument or discussion. Essentially, you are placing a wall between yourself and your partner and driving a real wedge between your relationship. 

Stonewalling can also be referred to as the “silent treatment” or “cold shoulder,” which is not only counterproductive, but it can also be hurtful and harmful to your bond with your partner. 

Some common signs that you could be stonewalling are:

  • Dismissing the other person’s feelings
  • Minimizing another person’s thoughts and concerns
  • Not making eye contact during conversation/arguments
  • Leaving during heated discussions
  • Refusing to communicate
  • Avoiding the discussion of feelings
  • Walking away during stressful situations

For some relationships, stonewalling is very easy to spot, whereas in others, you may not realize that you are the one stonewalling or the one who is a victim of stonewalling. To help you spot the signs, we have a few examples here:

  • Being dismissive
  • Passive aggression
  • Procrastination or avoiding the issue
  • Refusal to answer your spouse’s questions and concerns
  • Storming away
  • Not talking
  • Silent treatment
  • Changing the subject
  • Ignorance

Stonewalling can be intentional or unintentional. Unintentional stonewalling is when a partner does this as a coping mechanism. They may be unable to emotionally connect with their feelings and may avoid issues as a means of de-escalating an argument and getting into an uncomfortable situation. 

Intentional stonewalling can be a form of control, as it manipulates the other person. This is a form of emotional and verbal abuse, and if you think that this is happening to you, then please contact a counselor for help. 

What Are the Effects of Stonewalling?

Stonewalling can have a real impact on a relationship. It can damage your bond as the one who is being stonewalled can feel abused emotionally and demeaned. They may also feel that their emotional needs are not met.  

The person stonewalling often does so to avoid escalating a problem; however, shutting down can often just exacerbate the issue as nothing gets solved with this method. Stonewalling can also have a psychological effect on couples and drive them apart if they are unwilling to communicate. 

What to Do If Stonewalling Is Happening in Your Marriage

To get through stonewalling, it is best to speak to a counselor or therapist. With their help, you can change your communication habits, whether you are the stonewaller or the one being stonewalled. You can benefit from couples counseling or therapy, as both partners will need to learn how to identify and change behaviors that lead to this issue.

In therapy, you can learn to acknowledge each other’s feelings in a positive, productive way, and agree to communicate during certain situations. If the situation escalates, then you can postpone the discussion until things calm down without ever avoiding it entirely. You will also need to use neutral language, so that no one feels overly criticized, overwhelmed, or that they are being accused of anything. 

Stonewalling can be a form of emotional abuse. If you think that stonewalling is happening in your marriage, then don’t hesitate to speak out and contact a therapist or counselor for advice.

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