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Stonewalling is when one partner behaves like “a stone wall” in a relationship and refuses to participate or interact with the other, this is known as stonewalling abuse. You might be familiar with it by its more popular term, the “silent treatment.”
Stonewalling can also mean, when one partner rejects the other as “making a big deal out of nothing,” belittles what they say, or keeps the idea that “everything is OK” when in fact it is not.
When someone is being stonewalled, it can be quite irritating for them since they would like to find out what’s wrong but can’t. It is often used as a technique of control and can be seen as a form of emotional abuse.
What Makes Certain People Stonewall In Relationships?
People may stonewall in relationships for a variety of reasons.
Some use stonewalling behaviour as a form of revenge against a spouse for a decision they made. A common misconception is that if something is wrong, their partner should already be aware of it.
Others may use it as a defense mechanism and refuse to speak up because they are unable to express their emotions, sometimes because doing so would be difficult or painful. Again, many individuals think their partner should be able to figure it out or know what’s wrong.
Couples who are excessively busy and lose emotional intimacy such as the practise of talking about feelings can experience this. It can also happen when someone is uncertain of how they are feeling and finds it easier to withdraw and remain silent.
Stonewalling is often used by people who may avoid talking because they have a long history of doing so, especially those who were raised in an environment where it was prohibited to express one’s emotional issues. Or if they did, it had unfavourable effects such as causing issues in the relationship to escalate. Talking about feelings and emotions might make some individuals feel overwhelmed or extremely uncomfortable, so they might choose to avoid the topic completely to avoid being hurt like they have experienced before.
When the tactic of stonewalling is used intentionally, which frequently involves a partner trying to control the relationship by avoiding any difficulties, it can have more damaging effects.
Signs of Stonewalling
It’s possible that you’re being restricted without realising it. You might not be conscious that you are hurting your partner by preventing communication. Emotional intimacy in a relationship is vitally important to a healthy and happy relationship.
Checking your partners’ and your own behaviours in the relationship is a good place to start. Keep a record of your observations in a notebook to check for patterns.
Here are a few indicators of stonewalling in a relationship.
Types Of Stonewalling Can Include
- They don’t listen to you when you speak and don’t answer any of your questions; this behaviour may continue for weeks or even months.
- When you start a serious conversation, they leave or engage in another activity to avoid your effort to address a problem.
- Don’t really consider your concerns to be important.
- Put you down and belittle whatever you say whenever you speak
- They roll their eyes or totally avoid making eye contact.
- Refuse to acknowledge that they treated you wrongly by staying silent.
Effects Of Stonewalling On A Relationship
A relationship may be severely damaged by stonewalling. Stonewalling typically destroys any positive connection in a relationship and causes couples to have an emotional disconnect from each other because it is such a negative type of communication. This has the potential to result in couples failing to communicate or cooperate and living completely different lives without any common hobbies or interests.
What Happens To The Person in a relationship with a Stonewaller As A Result?
A person who is being stonewalled may experience a variety of feelings, including hurt, anger, confusion, and frustration. A person may start to despise themselves when they are often ignored or rejected, which can result in emotions of helplessness, worthlessness, and powerlessness. This is a normal reaction, especially given that stonewalling is considered to be a type of emotional manipulation comparable to gaslighting.
Individuals might find it hard to end the relationship even when they are aware stonewalling is taking place because it can make them feel weak, confused, and dependant. It can also lead to physiological issues and they may even effectively shut down as a coping mechanism or not take any action as their partner may have caused them to be in denial of the issue at hand and have them doubting that anything needs to change. Other people with a stonewalling partner may become furious that they would treat them like that, and try to get out of the situation as soon as possible. In either case, individuals could seek external counselling to help them recover from the trauma.
What Effects Does The Person Who Is Stonewalling Experience?
When it comes to stonewalling in a relationship, nobody wins. Because they are depriving themselves of the emotional connection that provides real relationship satisfaction and can truly make people happy, the person who is stonewalling also suffers. You and your lover will both suffer if you separate yourself from your emotions and avoid stressful interactions and intimacy. Where stonewalling continues there is the chance that one or both of you can become totally unresponsive. This is one of the emotional effects of stonewalling and nobody wants to really feel like that.
Is Stonewalling A Kind Of Emotional Abuse?
Although it is obvious that stonewalling is a bad habit in a relationship, is it abusive?
The answer to this question depends on the intentions of the people who stonewall. Stonewalling is not always abusive. For instance, for many people, stonewalling occurs as a taught strategy to deal with difficult and emotionally charged situations. This type of stonewalling is often not abusive as they typically use the stonewalling practice without realising it as a means to shield themselves from uncomfortable feelings rather than with the intention of controlling or manipulating people we love.
However, there are times when this is not the case, such as when stonewalling is done in an aggressive or deceitful manner. Sometimes stonewalling includes combination with other controlling strategies like gaslighting or deliberate deception to make the other person feel useless, confused, and powerless. The act of blaming the other for all of the problems in the relationship while refusing to attempt to fix them is also referred to as narcissistic stonewalling.
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Can Silent Treatment Be A Manipulation?
The intention behind the use of silent treatment, like stonewalling, determines if it is manipulative behaviour. Relationships suffer immensely when people resort to storming out of a disagreement or conversation and then intentionally ignores the other person for hours, days, or even weeks while the other person is left in the dark.
This is extremely opposite from when a partner asks for some space and time to cool down and recover their feelings during a conflict so that it does not escalate and will engage in resolving the issue once the situation is calmer.
What Effects Does The Silent Treatment Or Stonewalling Have on A Relationship?
Stonewalling and silent treatment is destructive when used as a technique. It weakens their ability to communicate and collaborate. It enables the silent person to switch attention from addressing the real issues to placating them. This type of behaviour can be toxic and abusive if the stonewalling becomes a habit.
How Do You Deal With Stonewalling?
If someone is stonewalling, it is important to understand why the stonewalling is occurring and what is going on.
Both of you must accept accountability for your actions and make an effort to understand one another if you seek a long-lasting, fulfilling relationship. Couples counselling or professional advice from a mental health professional may be useful resources to address stonewalling. It may be difficult to overcome stonewalling though if your partner refuses to acknowledge any accountability.
If both of you are prepared to make adjustments, the following advice on improving communication and therapy can be helpful and make both parties less likely to stonewall.
Please contact the police right away if you or anybody else is in danger.
What Should You Do If A Person Is Stonewalling You?
Identifying forms of stonewalling and how to deal with them can include a number of different approaches.
If you observe that your partner is refusing to talk to you, it can be wise to take a moment to consider how you both behave in the relationship. To determine what adjustments can be made to help, it can be beneficial to comprehend what drives both of your behaviour.
It’s important, though, that your partner takes full responsibility for their obstinate actions.
Working with a qualified therapist can really improve self-esteem, confidence, and communication abilities for both of you.
Additionally helpful are easy-to-use techniques for handling challenging emotions and circumstances. Instead of using “you” to open a conversation, try using “I” statements. This greatly lessens the risk because “you” can make people defensive.
What Would You Do If You Discover You’re Stonewalling Someone?
Being willing to acknowledge your stonewalling without criticising your partner is a huge first step forward if you weren’t aware of the effect on your partner but are now and wish to change.
Now that you are aware of your behaviour, think about the reasons for it. You can improve your responses and behaviours by having a better understanding of the situation.
Improve your listening skills when speaking with your partner going forward and consider the conversation as a way to resolve an issue as opposed to a fight or proving a point.
Consider the situation from your partner’s perspective. Listening will help your partner feel heard, even if you disagree. Be compassionate, put yourself in your partner’s position, and assess from their point of view.
And express how you feel; are you defensive? displeased? embarrassed? Interaction between you both is enhanced by showing emotion and elaborating on your feelings. This in turn may help you identify what made you resort to stonewalling.
What If They Refuse To Change Their Stonewalling Behaviour?
You must put your mental and physical health first if your partner is stonewalling and refusing to change or if you are the victim of emotional abuse. Abuse of any sort damages and can get worse.
Contact our Expert Team to consult with an expert divorce lawyer if you have any questions about separation or other family law matters.