Andrew Campbell - Friday, September 01, 2017

Stonewalling is a particularly damaging practice in relationships, and when carried to its most extreme, can completely destroy closeness and intimacy in a relationship. What is Stonewalling? Stonewalling is exactly what it sounds like- putting up a stonewall between you and your loved one.

Stonewallers tend to get silent in the middle of a fight and refuse to share their feelings or engage in constructive dialogue. Some stonewallers leave and only come back when they're ready to stop fighting. The problem, of course, is that because they have avoided conversation, the actual problem never gets discussed, which means it just keeps coming up again and again.

Some people use stonewalling as a way to manipulate getting their needs met in a relationship by refusing to negotiate on issues that they feel are meeting their needs yet are not meeting their partners needs, leaving the other feeling a sense of injustice and unfairness. This in fact is using stonewalling as form of power and control in the relationship.

Like many unhelpful relationship habits, stonewalling usually occurs because someone is afraid of conflict. Stonewalling is also a behaviour that is frequently modelled to children by their parents. If children never see their parents resolve a conflict, it may never occur to them that it's possible, which increases the likelihood that they will grow up to be stonewallers. Finally, unlike many other relationship habits, stonewallers might not actually realise that stonewalling has a negative impact on their relationship. 

Stonewalling can also be used to set-up the other person by blaming them and shaming them for wanting to talk through issues and problems. example being: calling them "trouble makers" and "look how upset you have made me" "why do you always bring this up" ETC as a way avoiding and manipulating their partner and then blaming them for being the difficult party.

Why Is this so damaging? Stonewalling is so damaging in relationships because it destroys communication. A key component of a happy relationship is the ability to work through and move past conflict. Stonewallers refuse to even allow the possibility of doing this because they just won't talk at all. This makes it more likely that the same fight will keep coming up over and over again. Stonewalling is additionally unhelpful for the stonewaller because they are forced to bottle their feelings up, and this practice harms the non-stonewaller because they are never permitted to be heard by their partner. Perhaps most importantly, stonewalling, tears apart honesty in a relationship and prevents couples from communicating with one another.

How To Stop Stonewalling Because many stonewallers actually advocate and take pride in the practice of stonewalling, the first step in ending stonewalling is simply realising its damaging impact. If you find yourself stonewalling without wanting to, however, stopping the practice of stonewalling can still be a challenge. It can be helpful, however, to treat arguments like normal conversation. You wouldn't just not respond or walk away in a normal conversation, so take this same approach when things get tense. Getting help from your partner can also be a vital step in ending this damaging practice. When you feel yourself beginning to stonewall, tell them, "I'm having trouble communicating right now. Can you help me?" Most importantly, resist the impulse to walk away from a fight. The desire to do so can be strong, but this is one of the most damaging stonewalling behaviors. You should never leave in the middle of a fight unless you are afraid it might become violent. Otherwise, you leave your partner thinking they are not important. Resist this impulse alone and you will have made a powerful step in resolving the problem of stonewalling.