Abuse is not always a loud and violent manifestation of aggression involving sheer force and threats: sometimes it is quiet and inactive. Today, we are going to focus on stonewalling. In a romantic relationship, people often encounter stonewalling and do not know how to handle and overcome it. To say more, many do not even realize what it is and what negative consequences it can entail for both partners. So, let’s define stonewalling, consider the negative effects of stonewalling in relationships, and find out how to stop it!
According to a researcher Dr. Gottesman, there are “four horsemen of the apocalypse” or four communication styles that can lead to the inevitable break-up of romantic relationships. These are stonewalling, criticism, contempt, and defensive behavior. But what is stonewalling in a relationship?
Stonewalling is a certain behavioral pattern in a romantic relationship when a partner ceases to maintain a conversation, refuses to answer the requests of a loved one, avoids taking responsibility for their own behavior and actions, and does not want to solve problems together with a beloved. The partner can directly reject the question of the loved one, answer with dismissive phrases, or evade the answer at all. In many cases, when one person in a relationship stonewalls another, the conversation ends before even having time to start.
Has it happened that your partner ignored you when you tried to discuss something serious or raised a topical issue? Have you ever felt like you were talking to a wall? Has your loved one ever made you silent without noticing you and saying a word in response? If the answer to all these questions is yes, then it means you have experienced what is called stonewalling in a relationship. There are even more stonewalling examples to identify that you face such a problem:
- evasion from a conversation with a loved one by laughing off or engaging in self-entertainment (video games, going to the bar, etc);
- the supposedly heavy workload because of which a partner is exhausted and does not have strengths to spend time with a loved one;
- lack of touch, kiss, and intimacy;
- emotional withdrawal, complete indifference to everything concerning relationships;
- a partner ceases to confess love and tries to avoid such conversations at all.
Is Stonewalling a Kind of Abuse?
Stonewalling is one of the most powerful forms of emotional abuse. It adversely affects not only the one who is subjected to this type of psychological execution but also the one who behaves so.
Why is it so painful? Subconsciously, each person wants complimenting, recognition, and empathy. That is, all people would like to become a part of a team, community, social group, family, etc. But when someone stonewalls them, they feel abandoned, unneeded, and useless.
Moreover, people need to feel recognition of their human value. This is one of the basic human needs. People in love want to know and understand that a beloved appreciates, loves, and respects them, and takes into account their opinion and desires. Also, it is important to know that you can count on the participation and help of the partner. But unfortunately, you do not feel this support when face stonewalling abuse.
Also, all people want their beloved to understand them, feel their mood and condition, take into account their past, forgive mistakes, be loyal to their weaknesses, tricks, and shortcomings, that is, try to walk in their shoes and treat them with understanding. When you experience the empathy of beloved people, you feel happy and needed even without being perfect. But when a loved one resorts to stonewalling, behaving so on purpose and in a demonstrative manner, you begin to experience the most severe discomfort from the lack of understanding and appreciation of own personality.
Causes of Stonewalling
Now, let’s consider stonewalling psychology. Like any phenomenon, stonewalling does not develop from scratch. Its causes can be internal (related to the personality traits of a stonewalling person) and external. Internal triggers include the following.
Emotional burnout. Very often, stonewalling occurs when one of the partners starts feeling the emotional burnout. This is one of the most common stonewalling triggers. In such cases, a person often fences off other people’s problems – this is an attempt of the human psyche to somehow preserve the remaining strengths, despite the fact that in the long run, the consequences of such a behavior will be even more destructive.
Low empathy. Empathy is the ability to empathize with others and take care of loved ones. Accordingly, the inability to put oneself in the place of a loved one can be a key reason why the feelings and needs of a partner begin to be perceived as unimportant, and consequently, their fulfillment is pushed into the background or simply stonewalled.
Cognitive impairment. Often, people with derangement of memory and thought disorders cannot take care not only of another person but also of themselves. In this case, stonewalling is not purposeful: a person is simply not able to remember instructions or predict the results of own actions.
Narcissistic behavior. Stonewalling narcissism is not a rare thing. In a toxic relationship with a narcissist, stonewalling, silence, and estrangement are manipulative tactics that are part of a constant cycle of cruelty towards a loved one. Thus, narcissistic people provoke their partners to conquer them again and again. Thus, a toxic partner abruptly pulls away from the victim, ignores the requests of a loved one, or refuses to solve the problems of their relationships without any explanation. Such deliberate silence causes the partner to experience excessive anxiety, fear, and constant self-doubt. Narcissistic people revel in the power and control that they feel when resorting to stonewalling and continuing to pull the strings of their victims like a puppeteer.
Substance abuse. The systematic use of alcohol or drugs significantly reduces the ability to normal social interaction. Drug dependence depraves people: a person becomes rude, irritable, and ceases to take responsibility and show attention to other people. According to researchers, this factor is a prerequisite for the development of stonewalling in many low-income families.
External causes of stonewalling are associated with three important factors:
- economic well-being;
- particularities of upbringing and parenting techniques;
- social impact.
Effects of Stonewalling in a Relationship
As you already know, stonewalling emotional abuse causes harm to both partners engaged in a romantic relationship. First of all, let’s consider what happens with a person who is stonewalled by a loved one. In general, there are several options for the response to such behavior.
Self-condemnation. Stonewalled partners sort out their flaws, analyze their behavior and mistakes, and take responsibility for everything that is happening in a relationship. They blame themselves and do not believe that the problem may be in a partner. In this case, the stonewalling partner achieves the desired outcome and remains happy. But there is another reaction option.
Aggression. A stonewalled partner can simply take a defensive position, be irritated, get sulky in response, freak out, and make attempts to attract the attention of a loved one in every possible way to put the stonewalling partner out of temper and make the beloved react at least somehow.
Withdrawal. Also, stonewalled people can shrink into themselves for the long haul, hiding there from the whole world. This is a very dangerous way of escaping from emotional abuse, as it gives rise to internal complexes and psychological disturbances.
Self-improvement. Perhaps this is the best way out of the stonewalling. Some people, who face stonewalling in marriage, perceive it as an opportunity to engage in self-development. They try to capture the benefits of a partner’s detachment. Thus, they learn to take important decisions by themselves, become stronger, achieve their goals and have more time for themselves.
How to Deal with Stonewalling
Many romantic relationships break-up over the course of a year due to various reasons: character differences of the partners, misunderstandings, misconceptions, and so on. But what should you do if a loved one has ceased to pay attention to you and participate in the development of your relationships at all? How can you help yourself and your beloved to avoid so unwanted break-up? There are some useful tips on how to stop stonewalling in a romantic relationship.
Recognize that the problem is not in you
Stonewalling is the emotional equivalent of exceeding oxygen. The withdrawal characteristic of stonewalling is a form of rejection, and it causes significant harm to a partner. The initial feeling of fear, as a rule, is accompanied by a feeling of anger and aggressive attempts to get some kind of emotional reaction – any, even negative. And when these attempts fail, an inner voice tells you, “They don’t care. They don’t love me. They dumped me.”
No matter what a bad thing you have done, it does not give your loved one the right to stonewall you. In a healthy relationship, partners solve problems by discussing them with each other. Although stonewalling seems to break off any communication, in fact, it says a lot about a stonewalling partner. Regardless of the intentions of a person who resorts to it, such behavior as if tells the following, “You are not worthy of my answer. Your thoughts and feelings are not important to me. And you are not important to me.” But such people do not take into account that engaging in stonewalling, they not only punish someone who may have offended them but also reveal their own weaknesses, demonstrating their quarrelsome nature and inhumanity, their powerlessness, and inability to strike compromises, understand, and forgive a loved one. So, stop feeling guilty and walking on egg-shells around your stonewalling partner, trying to please your beloved in every possible way. After all, this will not change the situation. The only thing that can help stop stonewalling is a change in the partner who resorts to this.
Try to change the way you communicate
You and your partner should discuss your relationships and find out what causes stonewalling. But to make the conversation with your loved one as effective as possible, try changing the way you communicate. There are some tips that will help you make a conversation successful.
- First of all, think carefully about what you are going to tell a partner before talking to your loved one.
- Find a cozy place, where both of you feel relaxed and comfortable.
- Choose an appropriate time for the conversation.
- Do not use words of criticism and accusation.
- Do not interrupt the partner.
- Do not forget to use body language.
- Be sincere and honest.
Take care of your happiness
It happens that people do not want to change and do something for the sake of a relationship despite all your attempts to help them. Instead of trying to regain the attention or approval of such a person, reconsider your view on these relationships: do you have to fight for them at all? Therefore, if a loved one constantly stonewalls you and does not want to change anything, use this as an opportunity to think about your own happiness and get rid of the psychological poison of stonewalling.
To sum up, stonewalling is one of the forms of emotional abuse and a passive-aggressive way to overcome relationship problems. It adversely affects not only romantic relationships but also the general wellbeing of both partners. So, use the above-mentioned tips on how to stop stonewalling and do not be afraid to leave people who are not ready to change themselves for the sake of your relationships. After all, a person who really cares about you will make every effort to help you, not neglect you. You deserve to be seen, not stonewalled. You deserve a healthy relationship in which your needs will be met and your voice heard. We wish you strong and happy relationships!