Stonewalling is a common struggle in relationships. Some may also refer to this as receiving or giving their partner the “cold shoulder”. That moment when you or your partner shut down and walk away in the middle of a conflict. Perhaps it surfaces in your relationship as being intentionally avoidant or cold towards your partner. It may have slight variations in every relationship but a trademark of stonewalling behavior is putting intentional distance between a partnership in a conflict. We will explore different types of stonewalling and look at anecdotes that will help strengthen your relationship.
The cause of stonewalling is complex. In some scenarios, a partner may be shutting down a conversation because they have simply reached their emotional capacity. They simply feel overwhelmed at the conflict of situation at hand. It makes sense if you are familiar with the fight or flight aspect of survival. Within a relationship, a partner may not know how to cope or deal with a conflict, so their instinct is to shut down or run away from the situation. If you feel this is you or your partner, the anecdote is first recognizing if you are doing this. As a partner you can share how it makes you feel when the stonewalling happens. If you need to take a break in the middle of a stressful situation or conflict, let your partner know you are feeling overwhelmed. Communicate why you need to step away from the conversation instead of just walking away. Take some time to do something soothing. Taking a walk, or even discussing something totally unrelated can be a nice anecdote. Once you feel calm and less emotionally distressed, approach the conflict again, with a clear head.
Sometimes this avoidance can last well beyond walking away from a conflict. Another form of stonewalling is to continuously avoid talking about the controversial subject. If you are practicing self soothing behaviors in order to manage your emotions, make sure you commit to a time to discuss the conflict. Simply avoiding talking about a problem for days will create another form of anxiety and the problem will likely snowball. It will be encouraging to set a time to come back together and talk, with both parties prepared emotionally.
The third form of stonewalling is to be intentionally cold and passively aggressive towards your partner. This form of stonewalling is dangerous in a relationship because it stems from the belief that there is “no point” in ever addressing the conflict or issue at hand. If you are on the receiving end of this form of stonewalling, it is important to communicate with your partner that this is taking place and a desire to address their concerns. Reminding yourself as a couple what the common goal is when navigating the conflict can be helpful in healing your relationship.
If you need additional support, or more tools in helping mend a relationship, book in a time to speak to a psychologist call us on (02) 6262 6157 or book an appointment online.