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Stonewalling In A Relationship (11 Ways To Deal With It)

Stonewalling, also similar to the silent treatment, is when someone refuses to communicate with someone. It can be said that your partner is stonewalling when he or she shies away from communication. 

An instance of stonewalling is when your partner walks out on you when you are talking to him or her, especially during conflict. Such a person refuses to interact and may even walk away from the conversation.

Stonewalling is included in the four Horsemen of the Apocalypse identified by John M. Gottman. According to him, these four horsemen include contempt, defensiveness, criticism, and defensiveness. These four create discord in all relationships. 

Research shows that 85% of people who stonewall are males. This may be due to the fact that women naturally know how to emotionally express themselves better than men. 

Some people stonewall in relationships for a number of reasons. It could be that they think they’re not being heard and understood enough. It could also be used as a manipulation technique in a relationship. It can also be seen as a form of abuse. 

So, how do you deal with stonewalling in your relationship? Below are some effective ways.

11 Ways To Deal With Stonewalling In A Relationship

1. Be gentle about it

One way to deal with stonewalling in your relationship is to be gentle about the whole thing. This is especially when your partner does not constantly stonewall you. Look for a gentle way to talk to him. This is because he may be feeling hurt, and not talking about it may be an escape mechanism for him.

You being gentle is bound to send a message across. This tells them that you are interested in knowing how he is feeling. You are also trying to tell them that you are interested in resolving the conflict. Even if you may not be the party at fault, do well to apologize.

If your partner has a cold response, tell him/her that you understand that they need their space and that you respect it. You can, therefore, make arrangements to have that conversation with them at a later date.

2. Exercise empathy

Empathy is all about putting yourself in your partner’s shoes and walking in it. This helps you to understand the problems your partner may be having. Once you understand how your partner is feeling, you will be able to understand their perspective. After this, you will be able to take practical measures to resolve the conflict.

Your empathy can lessen the stress associated with trying to solve the problem between you two. Perhaps, your partner has had a childhood background of emotional issues. Your empathy is a way of extending a helping hand to let go of this stonewalling behavior. Again, it helps to produce trust.

When there is trust, the tendency that your partner will talk to you about any problem he/she may encounter is very high.

3. Be understanding

Do not be judgemental. Do your best to be understanding about the emotional state of your boyfriend. Leave behind the blame game. Reach a compromise with your partner. Doing so may feel hard, however, you need to look at the greater good. If your partner does not want to communicate with you, let him know that you understand.

And allow him to have his space. Do not nag or threaten him. Doing this will aggravate the conflict. This is because it is like you are literally shouting at a wall. It won’t respond. And the more you shout, the more you hurt yourself. This, if prolonged, can become a case of emotional abuse.

This is because if your partner realizes how you are affected by the silent treatment. And they realize how effective it is bending your will to suit theirs, they will likely use that as a weapon against you.

4. Accept that you may be part of the issue

accept that you may be part of the issue

Perhaps, you have played a part in the occurrence of the problem. You need to make an evaluation of your behavior. If you think that you may be biased, talk to a trusted person to help. And where you realize your faults, take the necessary steps to correct them. One way to do that is by apologizing to your partner.

Perhaps, you did something that caused your partner’s stonewalling. It could be that you are not listening when they speak. Or that you do not pay attention when they communicate their problems with you when conflict arises. And due to how difficult it is to get your attention, your partner may want to keep silent when that matter arises.

5. Take care of yourself

Stonewalling can have emotional effects on you. This is because maybe you are trying to establish peace in the relationship. You do this by reaching out and being supportive, despite being stonewalled by your spouse. It is, therefore, important that you take very good care of yourself. Engage yourself by doing things you love.

This will make you happy. And when that happens, you will be able to deal with your partner's stonewalling behavior in a better frame of mind; both mental and emotional. Or, you could go for therapy to help you to offload any negative emotions you may harbor while your partner stonewalls you.

This is very important to your emotional growth. And this, in the long run, affects the relationship.

6. Respectfully take a timeout

Again, you can deal with the stonewalling behavior of your spouse by respectfully taking a timeout. We all need a time out in our lives, especially when in a relationship that looks like things are getting out of hand. Taking a break helps you to “catch your breath” in the relationship and analyze things as they are.

You are able to separate yourself from the situation during the break. This can help you find solutions to the stonewall problem and also deal with the emotional trauma this kind of attitude attracts. I admit that it can get very infuriating when you are being stonewalled by your partner. 

So, let him know that you deserve a break so that they can reassess their behavior, while you focus on yourself.

7. Communication

All relationships require communication. It is the bedrock of every relationship. Sit your partner down and have an honest conversation. Try to find out why your partner shies away from conversations, especially when there is a conflict between the two of you. Let them know that you want to see things from their side. Be strategic. 

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Choose an appropriate time and setting to have this conversation. Let them understand that this stonewalling is a problem in the relationship. Also, let them know how it is jeopardizing the future of the relationship with specific instances. When you communicate, your choice of words is also very relevant. Do not be rude or nag about it. 

Have the conversation with the intent of solving the problem. Again, communication is not only about speaking. It is also about listening. If you express interest in trying to hear out their side, he/she might want to talk to you.

8. Ignore it

ignore it

Sometimes the silent treatment is not intended as abuse, even though it sometimes ends up as one. So, when you ignore it, it is bound to blow over with time. However, in other cases, your partner may use it as a power play against you. This is not right. However, you can deprive your spouse of getting the reaction they want to see by ignoring them.

Go on with your life as if the stonewalling does not affect you. Get busy, and occupy yourself with activities that would not make you think about his stonewalling treatment. Let them know that it takes more than silence to break you.

9. Set boundaries

Another way to deal with stonewalling is to set boundaries. It does not mean that you are resentful or bitter. You just do not want to engage with the silence. So, you can mentally resolve a period not to engage with your boyfriend’s or girlfriend’s stonewalling treatment. Make sure not to re-engage with them before this period.

Once this period lapses, make an effort to reach out to them. If they are still stonewalling, ignore them for some time. As said earlier, this is not rooted in bitterness or resentfulness. Rather, it is to set boundaries on how you want to be treated while your spouse is giving you the silent treatment. 

Again, it is to control the power of stonewall behavior. Stonewalling has the tendency to make the one being stonewalled harbor a number of negative emotions such as depression, anxiety, unworthiness, and loneliness. By doing this, you are able to counter the negative effects of stonewalling.

10. Understand that it is not about you

When your partner stonewalls you, understand that it reflects their behavior and not yours. Maybe, your spouse dealt with abuse when growing up. And this has stayed with them until their adulthood. This is an issue they have to fix by themself. You are being affected by it because you happen to be in a relationship with that person.

To be able to deal with this, change your mindset. Instead of thinking of your partner’s silence as getting back at you, look at it as a time to do away with toxic emotions in the relationship.

11. Walk away

Emotional abuse is something no one has to go through. If your partner has been chronically stonewalling you and you have noticed that it is a way to manipulate you into doing their bidding, save yourself the toxic emotions and trauma associated with it and walk away. There is a limit to what you can take. 

If you think you have surpassed your limit to the point that it is taking a toll on you, it is time to exit the relationship.


What is stonewalling in a relationship?

If your partner refuses to hear your side of the story, becomes absolutely unresponsive, and shies away from communicating with you, they are stonewalling. This term is so because it is like talking to a wall. You are obviously not going to get any response.

How do you deal with a stonewalling partner?

In order to deal with a stonewalling partner, you need to listen to them. Again, express interest in whatever they are saying. You can also keep eye contact to make sure you are listening to them. Also, give them their space, but try to show that you are available.

What is an example of stonewalling?

An example of stonewalling is when you barely get any response when you argue with your partner. Or, when you try talking to them, they walk out on you.

How do you break stonewalling?

If you want to break stonewalling, use a different approach when trying to have a conversation with your spouse. Also, take care of yourself. Your mental health is important. And where it gets too much for you, exit the relationship.

What is narcissistic stonewalling?

Narcissistic stonewalling is when your partner refuses to communicate and listen to you as a means to abuse. They use their silence as a power play as a way of hurting you emotionally.

To Conclude

In conclusion, stonewalling in a relationship is a difficult situation and might be something no one has to deal with. However, if you happen to be with a person who has stonewalling behavior, it is important for you to follow the above points so as to ensure the future of your relationship.

I hope you enjoyed this article. Comment your thoughts in the comments section. And kindly share this piece.

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