Stonewalling: What Is It & How Can I Deal With It?

Relationships are difficult. They require determination, honesty, and continuous communication in order to last. But what if your partner refuses to speak and cooperate with you, not wanting to deal with the issues present in the relationship? 

This is known as stonewalling, a behavior quite similar to the silent treatment that is often encountered in relationships and marriages. Stonewalling can be a cause or a result of intimacy problems in a relationship, preventing the couple from finding solutions and often causing frustration, pain, and bitterness. 

Keep reading to learn more about what stonewalling entails and how you can deal with a partner that keeps giving you the cold shoulder. 

What Does Stonewalling Someone Mean?

Is Stonewalling A Form Of Gaslighting?

When a person is stonewalling, they tend to avoid engaging in any discussions or working together with you to reach a solution to a problem. They might remain completely silent while you attempt to address your concerns and tell them how you really feel in the relationship, causing you to feel frustrated, frantic, and entirely not heard. 

A stonewalling partner will dismiss your words as unreasonable, boring, nagging, or insignificant. It can make you feel like you have nothing important to say or that your words have zero value. Unfortunately, stonewalling is quite common in all kinds of relationships and may even present problems during couple counseling sessions. 

What Is Stonewalling In A Relationship?

When someone stonewalls you, there is a good chance that you would have a strong reaction. In fact, stonewalling is often quite easily noticeable in relationships, as it tends to result in intense arguments and expressions of frustration. On the other hand, there are times that stonewalling behaviors may go unnoticed, especially when neither of the two partners is particularly introspective and aware of their behaviors. 

Examples Of Stonewalling 

If you aren’t sure if your partner is stonewalling you or not, look out for the following signs: 

  • Every serious conversation begins with you criticizing your partner while they ignore you 
  • Your partner avoids getting into serious arguments by making up excuses or saying they are busy 
  • Your partner likes to roll their eyes at your remarks and won’t make eye contact  
  • You rarely hear your partner say anything when you argue
  • When they do speak, they are either defensive or try to shift the blame to you 
  • You get angry and agitated when your partner ignores you
  • You sometimes experience physiological and physical symptoms while being stonewalled
  • Your partner often makes fun of you and devalues your opinions 
  • Your partner never accepts the blame for their behavior and refuses to admit that they are stonewalling you 

What If I Am Stonewalling My Partner? 

When you are on the receiving end of stonewalling, you are much more likely to notice the effects that this behavior has on you. But what if your partner is not the one refusing to cooperate? Here’s how you can tell if you have a tendency to stonewall: 

  • You get defensive when your partner addresses a concern 
  • You hate arguing and try to avoid conflicts in any way possible 
  • You have a hard time admitting that you’re wrong 
  • You never tell your partner how you actually feel 
  • You are better at avoiding conflicts than finding solutions to problems 

Is Stonewalling A Form Of Gaslighting?

Stonewalling and gaslighting seem to be quite similar on the outside. Both are quite effective at preventing healthy communication between two partners, and both make the partner on the receiving end feel like they are not being valued and heard in the relationship. But while both gaslighting and stonewalling can cause a lot of pain, they are actually quite different in their intent. 

Stonewalling 

Stonewalling, on one hand, is actually a learned defensive mechanism, protecting the person using it from facing their intense feelings, albeit ineffectively. It is often common with individuals who fear commitment or those who grew up in an environment where expressing your feelings was seen as a shameful act.  

The person who stonewalls may simply be unable to express how they feel, whether it be fear of rejection, frustration, disappointment, or hurt. Instead, they shut down when their partner tries to start a serious topic. They might even feel like their partner doesn’t understand them and keeps criticizing them for everything they do. 

Gaslighting 

Gaslighting, on the other hand, has a purpose that is much more deliberate and offensive. In fact, gaslighting is a form of intentional emotional abuse which aims to manipulate the victim in addition to hurting them. It seeks to tear down the victim’s defenses and make them dependent on the abuser. So, although gaslighting includes many of the elements present in stonewalling, it is quite different from it in its intent.  

How Do You Deal With A Stonewalling Partner?

If your partner keeps stonewalling you and you wish to learn how to deal with it without losing your head, follow these steps: 

  1. Remember that it’s probably not your fault.

    Your partner may have issues they themselves need to work on, and it’s not your job to fix them.

  2. Try to understand your partner’s behavior.

    Instead of blaming your partner and criticizing them, try to show empathy, and be there for them when they do decide to speak. 

  3. Consider that you may be part of the issue.

    Evaluate your own behaviors and ask yourself if you’ve been too harsh on your partner, causing them to pull back. 

  4. Focus on yourself and your own happiness.

    Instead of wasting all of your energy on arguing with your partner to no avail, take care of yourself, and focus on your hobbies. 

Build Emotional Intimacy With The Help Of PIVOT Coaching Experts

What Is Stonewalling In A Relationship?

Dealing with relationship problems can take a great toll on your emotional wellbeing and happiness. If you and your partner can’t seem to find the solutions to your issues, don’t hesitate to reach out and find professional assistance. 

At PIVOT, we offer expert relationship advice to individuals and couples struggling with emotional intimacy. Our intensive workshops are designed to help you deepen your relationships and build trust with your partner. Reach out to PIVOT today!