Does your partner suddenly stop communicating? No, they do not entirely ghost you, but they suddenly shut down and withdraw themselves from all forms of communication. If you have been facing this time and again, my dear reader, you are being stonewalled, and it is time you stand up for yourself. It can be infuriating and unnerving at the same time, being shut out by your partner and made to feel unnecessarily guilty, all over nothing. In this article, we will help you understand what is stonewalling in a relationship and how to combat it effectively.
The silent treatment or stonewalling creates a great deal of tension and distance between a couple if one partner happens to continually pull off such a stunt. At the drop of a hat, they recoil themselves, and every time something doesn’t go their way, they attempt to manipulate it out of you, not with words but with the lack of them. Such behavior is toxic at its very core and should be nipped in the bud.
Tell-tale Signs of Stonewalling
- They will minimize your feelings and concerns and make them seem unwarranted. They can even be dismissive of it verbally and yet, their actions- such as not responding to emotions- will indicate otherwise. It can be quite confusing for the partner on the receiving end of such behavior.
- Even if there are issues that need to be addressed, they will express an overall dissatisfaction with discussing them.
- If you have questions- regarding their current attitude or general, they are most likely to avoid them and refuse to answer.
- They will be stonewalling communication; they will refrain from both verbal and nonverbal communication–for example, you may wish to have an open discussion about something nagging you, but your partner will not show interest in participating in the same. And their indifference will be evident not just in their lack of words but also in their body language.
- They tend to walk away from any topic that might be remotely uncomfortable. For instance, the moment you bring up their current treatment toward you, they will distance themselves, in some cases physically, from you.
Stonewalling, or in simpler terms, silent treatment, is not always as apparent as you might think it will be; it can be so subtle that by the time you realize you have fallen victim to it, you will be used to that pattern in your relationship. Read on to find out some examples of subtle stonewalling-
#1 Walking out of a conversation abruptly.
#2 Avoiding an argument even if that means emotions are being bottled up on both ends and will, soon enough, erupt, causing more damage then than it would have at this point.
#3 Ignoring the emotions of the other partner.
#4 Finding reasons to halt communication, even if that means acting busy or taking up unnecessary work.
#5 Having an accusatory tone to make you feel guilty and diverting the focus from themselves onto you.
#6 Displaying aggressive body language coupled with eye-rolling and other dismissive demeanor.
#7 Stonewalling in a relationship can also look like mere passive-aggressive behavior, but the difference would be the intensity and repetition of the same to an extent where it might become a pattern. For instance, your partner might stall things, indulge in procrastination more than usual, or turn a blind eye toward problems to avoid discussing them.
#8 Among the not-so-subtle stonewalling, they will completely dismiss your concern about their behavior and refuse that they are acting differently at all.
Furthermore, it is critical to recognize that there are two sorts of stonewalling, and how to manage the issue depends on which type of stonewalling you are facing.
- Intentional Stonewalling- Most people don’t intentionally give their partner the silent treatment. It is just a defense mechanism. However, in extreme cases, one partner tries to manipulate the other into submission by intentionally stonewalling as a method of punishment. It is best to reconsider such a relationship because confronting such a partner might not help in sorting the issue.
- Unintentional Stonewalling- This is more common than you think; people often unknowingly distance themselves from communication when they feel hurt or threatened without realizing the extent of damage their actions are causing in the relationship. It is more of a coping mechanism; people resort to stonewalling to stop a conflict from escalating, even though it will eventually do more harm than good. Directly addressing the issue and letting your partner know you will not tolerate such behavior might help resolve it.
Emotional Effects of Stonewalling
#1 Too Many Unresolved Issues
With one partner disinterested in discussing the issue at hand, or other concerns that might pop up in a relationship, stonewalling may contribute to an accumulation of unresolved problems, which can eventually lead to a breakup. Maybe their intentions aren’t bad, and they are unaware of the gravity of the damage that their approach can cause, but the outcome of it remains the same.
#2 A Sense Of Loneliness
Constant stonewalling in a relationship can give rise to a sense of loneliness. A couple might be together but somehow still very far away from one another if there isn’t proper communication in the relationship. When one partner puts up a wall around them, it becomes increasingly difficult for the other to maintain sanity in the relationship, finally thinking separation is the better alternative.
As such, ignoring the concerns of one person and dismissing all their initiatives to begin a dialogue is disrespectful; to top it, when one partner takes an accusatory and aggressive approach to avoid a conflict or mere discussion, it can be exceedingly rude. Being shut out is never a good feeling, and having to deal with that in a romantic relationship is even worse.
#4 Growing Resentment
All the disrespectful behavior, the issues left unsorted, and the loneliness and sorrow that stonewalling causes, ultimately lead to a bulk of resentment that holds the potential to grow larger than the love in a relationship.
We have learned what is stonewalling, and the different signs and types of it; without further ado, let’s jump to the ways to tackle it-
#1 Open Communication
It can be tricky to get a stonewalling partner to engage in an open and honest discussion about the issue, given how their refusal to communicate is the leading cause of the problem in the first place. But it might be the most effective way to deal with the problem. Sit them down and make them understand that communication is the key to a healthy relationship, and if they seem indifferent, resort to ultimatums if that’s what it takes.
Establishing boundaries can save you from being stonewalled; do it early in the relationship. For instance, let your partner know that you won’t tolerate silent treatments when things get tough in the relationship. Express your desire to settle for nothing less than open discussions during a rough patch. Being clear about what you will and what you certainly won’t tolerate will help maintain a safe space in the relationship.
#3 Take a Break
If you sense things going out of hand, take a break. Don’t sit around and take every misdemeanor your partner throws at you. Taking a break will be good for your mental health and will also give your partner a chance to rethink their behavior. Some distance can do wonderful things in a relationship, especially one that seems stuck.
Practicing self-care when your partner does not seem to care for anyone other than themselves is the best approach to maintaining inner peace and sanity. Stonewalling can be emotionally taxing, and being on the receiving end of it continually can leave you feeling exhausted. Take time to relax and rewind, hang out with your friends, talk to a trusted friend or family member to gain an outsider’s perspective on the matter, engage yourself in hobbies, and do more things that make your heart happy. Ultimately, the onus of keeping yourself happy is on you, not your partner or anybody else, for that matter.
It isn’t easy dealing with toxic traits in a relationship but having a good idea of what is stonewalling will assist you to analyze and take on it tactically. In any case, don’t ignore it, for it will have a severe impact not merely on your relationship but also on your mental health.