How to Stop Stonewalling in Relationships

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Any relationship is a bubble in which two people exist in their microclimate being as if separated from the outside world. We get attached and cannot imagine our life without a partner. However, the stronger our feelings toward the person are, the more we suffer when they begin to behave weirdly and keep silent without obvious reasons. When you don’t get support or are not fully understood by your significant other, you may feel extremely lonely in your relationships and try to meet a single female. This statement seems confusing and illogical because you are constantly next to your partner. It is this thought that prevents you from recognizing your emotional loneliness. Loss of physical proximity, for example, may be associated with a recent divorce, with the death of a loved one, with the onset of the disease. However, emotional loneliness has nothing to do with physical closeness. You can face stonewalling even when you are in the same bed with your spouse. Often people say themselves, “Better keep silent, don’t say anything, everything will somehow smooth over by itself!” when they want to avoid conflict. And such silence has all chances to turn into the abyss of alienation. This dangerous game can drag on for weeks, months, and sometimes years. What is stonewalling, and why it is the worst way to resolve the conflict?

stonewalling psychology

Definition of Stonewalling in Relationships

First, it may seem that you don’t know stonewalling definition, but chances are high that you have faced this phenomenon more than once in your relationships. Just imagine a situation – you discuss something important with your significant other or argue on some issue. You want to solve this problem once and for all, but your partner refuses to continue your discussion. Your girlfriend closes herself off and doesn’t want to listen to you. Stonewalling occurs when it seems to her that she cannot handle the continuation of your talk due to emotions that overwhelm her. Thus, she builds an emotional wall between you, trying to distance herself from you and escape from your conversation. She may pretend to become extremely busy with something as if she suddenly remembered about her deadline at work or unread tips for dating, so she can turn away and start behaving obsessively. Over time, this behavior pattern can become a habit.

According to psychologists, you increase your chances of breaking up with your partner if criticism, disrespect, distrust, or silent treatment are usual things in your relationships. Stonewalling psychology is a complicated thing that requires a lot of work from both partners. Interestingly, men (about 90%) are more likely to practice stonewalling in relationships than women. It’s explained by the fact that girls are emotional creatures with more developed interpersonal skills, while men are prong to think logically and solve problems. Thus, when a person resorts to stonewalling, usually, they try to avoid an unpleasant and stressful situation, trying subconsciously to calm down in such a way and protect themselves from discomfort.

However, the problem is that the situation remains unsolved. In fact, partners lack normal and fruitful communication due to emotional separation, and over time this situation can worsen and lead to a breakup. A partner whose beloved one practices stonewalling can get a psychological trauma and feel abandoned since such relationships are toxic. Often stonewalling and narcissism go hand in hand, so such relationships can be filled with numerous manipulations and red flags. All psychologists who tried to define stonewalling concluded that it’s one of the psychological methods for demonstration of disfavor or disappointment. Thus, some people use it to reach their selfish goals and make partners do what they want since.

Reasons for Stonewalling

Everything has a root cause - it’s a rule that has no exceptions. And stonewalling emotional abuse is not always the case. Even though such behavior may have unpleasant consequences for the relationships, having caused emotional loneliness and alienation, the partner who practices stonewalling is not always an abuser. Everything can be much deeper, and to successfully meet this challenge and find the most effective solution, first you should identify the reason for stonewalling that takes place in your case.

1. A way to punish a partner

Many couples practice passive-aggressive behavior in their relationships even not noticing it. It’s especially true for people who have been together for so long that one of them or both lose their temper when they hear another “nonsense.” They are sure that a partner must already understand what’s wrong. We are not very patient with people who continue to hold their line even though this issue has already been discussed many times. Thus, a person may use stonewalling as a way to punish their significant other and show that they are not going to discuss the issue once again.

2. Inability or lack of desire to express true feelings

Some people don’t know how to cope with feelings that overwhelm them in the heat of discussion. Maybe they are not sure what exactly they feel at the moment or don’t want to voice their experiences. Well, they might be even afraid of thinking about them too much. In this case, it may seem to the person that it’s easier to hide their true emotions and just say that everything is perfectly fine, but they are busy working on some issue, so they cannot continue the talk.

3. A habit that is rooted in childhood

Good parenting builds confidence in children. They know for sure that they can fall in love and accept love in the same way as their parents once loved and accepted them. Lack of parental love, on the contrary, leads to the emotional trauma of the child. The feeling that your family and friends do not understand you leads to the fact that the child, growing up, continues to experience the same negative feelings. If a person was raised in a family where parents behaved alike or their words didn’t correspond with their actions, a kid could develop this habit. The necessity to talk about their emotions cause anxiety and a desire to escape.

4. Bad experience in previous relationships

We don’t always realize at once that we are in a relationship with an abuser and that every new day is filled with numerous red flags. We turn a blind eye to it, trying to adjust to a new reality. And if your attempts to express your thoughts and feelings caused irritation or anger in your ex-partner, you learned over time to avoid such moments. It could become a strong habit if your previous relationships were lasting for too long. You have learned that if you keep silent about your true opinion or emotions, you can be safe for some time.

5. Attempt to dominate

A person can practice stonewalling on purpose because they have examined your behavior pattern and know what it is necessary to do to make you act as they want. A partner who tries to dominate in all spheres of life can choose stonewalling as the most effective way to subdue you and evoke certain feelings. It can be an ordinary manipulation when a person tries to control their partner by not addressing the issue and preventing them from acting as well. This reason is one of the red flags that suggest you are in a toxic relationship.

How to Understand Your Partner Is Stonewalling You

You have read the main reasons for stonewalling in marriage or any other type of relationship, but you are still not sure whether it has something to do with your case. Even though you face silent treatment on the part of your significant other. You realize that it should be something about ignorance, attempts to avoid serious talks, neglect, and the notorious manipulation in all its manifestations. But you still have some doubts after reading numerous stonewalling examples somewhere on the Internet. Well, maybe it is not about doubts but rather a hope that you are mistaken? Let’s dot all the i's and cross all the t's. How to recognize stonewalling?

1. You feel abandoned or unloved

Have you ever faced a situation when you wanted to discuss something with your partner but heard, “Just leave me alone,” “I don’t care, you can do whatever you wish”? What did you feel at that moment? Did you feel helpless and abandoned? The emotional connection was definitely lost because you faced neglect and ignorance. You were stonewalled by your significant other. When such a situation takes place, a man believes that a girl is nagging without a reason, while a woman is sure that she is not heard but neglected.

2. You become less satisfied with your relationships

You might realize that there can be different effects of stonewalling, but each of them will inevitably lower the level of your satisfaction with your relationships and partner in particular. Well, a relationship is a teamwork when partners choose the same direction for development and try to do their best to meet all the challenges together. However, stonewalling deprives you of a chance to work on the issue together as a team. Thus, people who practice stonewalling try to avoid problems, but they make the situation only worse in the long run. At some point, everything can get out of control.

3. Your intimate life worsens

When partners don’t listen to each other, and one of them feels unloved and abandoned, their intimate life leaves much to be desired. Besides, a partner who uses stonewalling may pretend that they are alone in the room or that they are too tired to interact with you in any way. All these moments turn into a huge snowball that has all the chances to crush this relationship. You cannot feel passion and desire for a person who neglects you and avoids in other spheres of life.

4. You feel anxiety and may get depressed

Studies have shown that stonewalling becomes one of the root causes of depression and numerous health problems, not to mention its bad influence on the psyche of kids who raise in such a family. Silence treatment becomes a source of anxiety, fears, and lowers your self-esteem because you start doubting your words and decisions. Thus, stonewalling has a harmful influence on the psychological condition of the person it is directed to. On the other hand, if a partner who uses stonewalling is not an abuser and does it due to other reasons, their rejection to sort things out and suppressed emotions may lead to many health problems as well.

5. You abuse alcohol and drugs

When a person suffers from constant stress, they may feel trapped and depressed, an attempt to escape from this condition may drive you to start abusing alcohol or other substances since they bring relief for some time. First, a couple of glasses of wine every day doesn’t seem a problem or something extraordinary, but over time you can realize that you have already made it a habit without which you cannot do. However, these things cannot help handling the main problem – they only make your health condition worse.

How to Deal with Stonewalling in Relationship?

The first step towards overcoming stonewalling is to identify its root cause and begin to deal with it. You shouldn’t blame yourself for what is happening in your relationships if you don’t stonewall your significant other. Do not agree to live in isolation and accept such an attitude as something completely ordinary. If you love your partner and not ready to leave them right away, then you should make every effort to meet this challenge and create a healthy relationship.

1. Find out the root cause

Before you decide to have a great talk with your significant other, you should analyze the situation and understand the possible reasons for such behavior on their part. Then you should reflect on your emotions and understand what is wrong with them, why you are unhappy, and what makes you feel this way. In short, when you decide on a talk, you should show that you realize the situation and the root causes of their behavior. As we have already said – such behavior can be somehow connected with childhood trauma, trust issues, or toxic relationships with their ex-partner. Maybe your significant other do it subconsciously, so they don’t realize how much they hurt you. In this case, chances are high you will be able to change the situation for the better.

2. Speak directly but calmly

None of you will benefit if you hide your true feelings. Remember that unresolved issues are at the heart of emotional estrangement. So, you should choose the right time and open up: make it very clear what is bothering you. Try not to be offended by each other’s words. Be sensitive when pronouncing all the unpleasant moments. If necessary, make pauses to calm down slightly, but be sure to return to this topic later. Ask each other difficult questions, raise those complex problems that spoil your relationship. Regardless of which spouse has initiated the alienation, both will have to work on resolving the situation.

3. Reconsider your view on the relationship

You will be able to meet this challenge only if you try to build a healthy relationship with your significant other and get rid of all the red flags and unresolved issues. Thus, both of you will have to work on the wrong patterns of behavior. However, don’t forget that you should love yourself first and not try to earn someone’s love and attention. If nothing changes, you should leave the toxic partnership and start everything from scratch. Reconsider your view on the relationship and decide how much you need them at all. Use their silence treatment as a chance to reflect on your desires and view of the family you want to have.

4. Don’t become the main fixer

Remember that it’s not about you, so you shouldn't become a safety ring for a person who doesn’t need it. If the stonewalling is rooted in their past, you shouldn't blame yourself or try to please your partner who is constantly dissatisfied with everything and allows themselves to treat you in this way. You cannot fix the situation if your partner doesn’t want to do it themselves. Your attempts to make the partner put themselves in your place may not lead to the desired result and can be even dangerous.

5. Access the possible development of the situation

Such behavior is a huge red flag that poisons your relationships and affects your self-esteem even if it seems that everything is okay. Your partner has already put their desires and principles above you. Thus, you should reflect on how often they demonstrate such behavior. If it is already a habit, then you will hardly change something. If it has happened for the first time, then you should think about the reason. Turn off your emotions and look at the situation from different angles. If you didn’t nag them or do anything unusual, then it’s all about the partner.

6. Do not blame yourself

Your partner’s behavior and attitude have nothing to do with what kind of person you are. The fact that they decided to practice silence treatment and ignore you speaks about their inner issues and not that you are not worthy of love, attention, and care. If a person is stonewalling instead of sorting things out right away, then they are not mature enough and have personal issues. It looks like they try to escape from their emotions and avoid discomfort discussing such things. Anyway, it’s about passive-aggressive behavior on the part of the significant other.

7. Do not chase them

Don’t forget about your dignity and self-worth. If you haven’t done anything wrong, and you are not to blame, then you should hold yourself in hands and not even try to initiate a conversation with a person who doesn’t care about your feelings and ignores you. The truth is that if you start humiliating yourself, it will still not solve the issue. Stand still till the moment person comes to you themselves and apologizes. You can devote this time to yourself, hang out with friends, or meet with a family. You can do whatever will help you distract. They will never change their behavior if it benefits them.

8. Don’t text them or call

If the only thing you are interested in is your significant other, then you may be in codependent relationships. And a person stonewalls you because you try to occupy all the free space in their life. Everyone can get tired of such a partner. Do you check when they were online for the last time and didn’t text you? If yes, then it’s high time to stop and focus on your own life. Show them that you can easily do without them, and you don’t need a person who ignores you.

9. Don’t get depressed

When you get offended by the partner’s behavior, you are driven by your emotions that don’t allow you to see the whole picture. Why does the partner ignore you? Is there something in your attitude towards them? What about constant negativity? Do you behave calmly when you argue or have a serious talk, or you make a drama out of nothing? Some people cross the line when they become angry even without noticing it. So, maybe your partner tries to avoid you because they don’t know what to expect from you? In this case, you should start with yourself.

10. Enjoy your life

We are striving for getting approval and praise from others. We want to be accepted the way we are, and when our expectations are not met, we feel frustration. However, you should remember that you cannot please everyone and make someone treat you with care and love. But you can start with yourself and live the life you are dreaming about. Get rid of the flaws that prevent you from being happy and enjoy your life to the fullest.

Step Aside When You Cannot Do Anything

If you have made an investigation, found the problem, and started working on it, but nothing changes because it’s comfortable for a person to behave this way, then it means that you should step aside and leave. You don’t want to live in a toxic relationship that doesn’t make you happy. It’s especially true if your partner is a manipulator and abuser who doesn’t care about you. Love yourself first. Always.

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