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What is Stonewalling and How do you Overcome It as a Partner?

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Stonewalling involves refusing to communicate with another person. Stonewalling is not effective. And, if it becomes a habit, it can reduce your ability to resolve conflict with your partner. Stonewalling can build a giant divide in your relationship because when one partner shuts down during an argument, it can be hurtful, frustrating, and harmful to your partner. There are many signs of stonewalling including discomfort when discussing feelings and refusing to respond to stressful conversations. If you think you’re experiencing stonewalling from your partner, you can start overcoming it by being clear with your communication.

Signs of Stonewalling

While signs of stonewalling can be obvious, they also can be more subtle. Some of the signs of stonewalling include a general discomfort of discussing feelings, dismissing or minimizing the other person’s concerns, refusing to respond, refusing to make eye contact, and walking away from discussions that cause stress. Stonewalling isn’t always easy to recognize, but if your partner is giving you the silent treatment or avoiding important conversations, it might be a sign of stonewalling. Stonewalling is essentially about a failure to communicate.

Causes of Stonewalling- Why does it Happen?

Don’t always assume your partner’s stonewalling is ill-intended. While there is intentional stonewalling, there’s also unintentional stonewalling meaning it is a learned-response your partner has. It’s often a behavior they learned in childhood to cope with their feelings. It’s important to remember that stonewalling is a behavior that stems from fear and anxiety. Reasons that a person uses stonewalling as a tactic include a desire to reduce an emotionally charged situation, fear of their partner’s reaction, and a means to establish themselves as neutral. They often use stonewalling as a defense mechanism to compensate for their feelings of anxiety. You can learn more about the causes of stonewalling here.

Overcoming it

When you’re dealing with a stonewalling partner, be sure to start the conversation softly. A conversation ends 90% of the time how it started. If you go into a conversation aggressively or harshly, your conversation will most likely end that way too. Once you’re in the conversation, be sure to use factual “I” statements about how you feel. Using “I” statements can help reduce how you blame, accusations, and defensiveness. Lastly, be clear in describing what you want. Let them know exactly what you want and how you want their help getting there. Remember, clear communication is always key.

Professional Help

If you think your relationship could benefit from therapy, you could practice relationship counseling in order to help you and your partner better communicate with one another. Chriselda Santos is a licensed therapist based out of San Antonio who offers in-person and online relationship counseling through Life Balance Therapy. To learn more about her services and what she has to offer, click here