Is someone in your life putting up walls and stifling important communication? Are they displaying avoidant behavior and refusing to resolve conflicts?
You might be experiencing stonewalling. But what is stonewalling in a relationship? Why does it happen?
We’re here to talk about it. Keep reading to learn why people stonewall and how to deal with stonewalling in your own relationship.
What Is Stonewalling in a Relationship?
Stonewalling is when one person in an interpersonal relationship attempts to obstruct communication by being evasive. John Gottman considers it one of the “Four Horsemen of the (relationship) apocalypse,” meaning that it’s a harbinger of the end of the relationship.
The most well-known form of stonewalling is the silent treatment. This means that one person will refuse to interact with the other person at all as a form of punishment.
People may also stonewall by avoiding questions, running away from conflict, changing the subject during important conversations to place the blame on the other party, and even pretending that the other person doesn’t exist.
Stonewalling is emotionally abusive behavior.
Why Do People Stonewall?
Not all people who stonewall intend to be malicious. While the person may simply be acting childish or immature, there’s often something beneath the surface. There’s a void that the person is trying to fill (even if they’re going about it in a destructive way).
The most malicious reason for stonewalling is intentional manipulation. The person might be trying to hide something from the other party, or they might be trying to convince the partner to give up on conflict resolution by ignoring all attempts.
The person may also be overwhelmed. They don’t have the resources to communicate with the other party, so instead, they block off all communication and vulnerability. They’re using stonewalling behavior to “take a break” from stress.
How to Deal With Stonewalling in a Relationship
If you’re experiencing stonewalling, there are a few things that you can do.
First, remember that it’s likely that you aren’t the problem. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t do a self-assessment, but do your best to not target yourself right away. Consider whether or not you’ve been a supportive and open partner, and if you have, try to relax and not blame yourself.
Make sure that you’re not enabling or engaging with this behavior. The other person is not opening themselves to communication, and by frustrating yourself by engaging, the problem may only get worse.
Take care of yourself. Consider getting a personal therapist to work through your emotions. If you want to continue your relationship with the other person and break through the stonewalling behavior, seek out couple’s therapy.
A good couple’s therapist can help you and your partner develop better communication techniques.
Stonewalling Is Serious
While many people don’t see stonewalling as abuse, it is legitimate abusive behavior. Once you know how to deal with stonewalling, you can start taking steps to improve your situation (and, if you choose, your relationship).
If you’re ready to take a step toward healing yourself or your relationship, we want to talk to you. At Uplift Psychology Group, we have both individual and couples’ therapists available to help.
Contact us to learn about our services and schedule an appointment today.