Communication is essential for connection and blocking it off is detrimental
It was a completely foreign term to me until a few years ago when I went through an unhealthy and abusive relationship.
I didn’t have a word to describe the fact that it felt like I was talking to someone who never heard me. I didn’t have an explanation for the erratic behavior my ex would exude if I brought up any of my thoughts or feelings.
It turns out that I was being stonewalled by the best of them.
“Different from an occasional timeout to calm down or collect your thoughts, stonewalling is an absolute refusal to consider your partner’s perspective. If you listen at all, you do it dismissively or contemptuously.” -Psychology Today
The refusal to communicate is one of the deadliest things you can do to any relationship.
However, I am not innocent when it comes to my own communication tactics in the past or present. I have certainly done my fair share of stonewalling in relationships without even realizing I was doing or, or realizing the damage it was doing to my partner.
If stonewalling is part of your relationship, it’s important to understand the why behind you or your significant other resorting to this tactic.
Let’s explore the reasons why you could be doing it and how it can be detrimental to your relationship.
You want to punish your partner
Let’s say that your partner upsets you prior to you leaving for a long weekend with some friends. They immediately try to apologize and you shut them out completely.
It brings you pleasure to know that they are freaking out as you ignore their calls and text messages to “teach them a lesson.”
However, punishing your partner is going to backfire, and being passive-aggressive is not a healthy means of communication.
If you continue to ignore for the sake of hurting them, they are going to feel completely alone because you are refusing to validate that their voice is even worth hearing.
You don’t want to get in “trouble”
Sometimes communicating with our partner means telling them something that they don’t want to hear.
Early on in my current relationship, I realized that I had crossed a line and I needed to tell my partner.
My first reaction was that I wanted to shut down. I felt my heart racing and palms sweating and I felt like I was a statue that couldn’t move. I reminded myself that if I didn’t speak up, I could lose my partner because he had no idea that I wanted our relationship and all he saw was someone that seemed completely unemotional.
No one is perfect and there are going to be times in our relationships when we have to face the heavy stuff. Shutting down is not the answer and could result in dire consequences.
It takes too much energy to discuss emotions
Life can be absolutely exhausting. Between work, friends, kids, and everything else going on, discussing emotions with your partner can be the last thing that you want to do at the end of the day.
There have been times when I have told myself my thoughts and feelings were important and just dismissed my partner’s request to fill him in on how I was feeling.
Even if we have good intentions and believe that we are doing it for the right reasons, withholding your thoughts and feelings is a way of shutting your partner out.
Life will get in the way of your relationship the moment you let it and it’s something you have to work on constantly, not tuck away expecting it to still thrive.
It can be used as a form of power
When I was in a relationship that involved extreme stonewalling I was constantly anxious.
My partner wouldn’t respond to anything that he didn’t want to discuss and eventually, I would give up because it was so exhausting.
He also knew that I wanted to talk through our issues and that it was painful when he was unresponsive so he used the silent treatment to cause me emotional harm, which he even admitted to at the end of our relationship.
When used purposefully against someone in a relationship, stonewalling can be a form of manipulation and control and is often one of the first signs of emotional abuse.
You both want to have the last word
If someone or both parties in the relationship feel like they have to always be right, it is going to cause a strain on communication.
Going into an argument with the sole goal of winning means that neither party is actively listening, and is going to cause someone to become defensive or shut down because they aren’t being heard.
There are going to be times when you are in the wrong and vice-versa and being able to admit fault or listen is extremely important to the success of your relationship.
Stonewalling is not always done with malicious intent.
For example, If you are a survivor of abuse or trauma, direct communication can be extremely difficult because you are relearning to trust your new partner along with yourself.
If you are in a relationship that involves stonewalling from either partner it is something that needs to be addressed.
Having an honest line of communication is imperative and it’s something that will eventually make or break your relationship.