Have you ever been engaged in a conversation with another person and it feels like you are talking to a proverbial brick wall? Your conversation partner might turn away from you, refuse to make eye contact, cross their arms, or even sigh in exasperation. He or she might stop responding to questions and withdraw from the conversation completely. This type of behavior is known as “stonewalling,” and when it occurs on a regular basis in a marriage, serious trouble may lie ahead. Breakdowns in communication are among the most common factors in a divorce, so it is important to recognize when you are being stonewalled by your partner.
Why Do People Stonewall?
Individuals who exhibit this behavior do not usually shut down for no reason. There are many things that could trigger stonewalling behavior. Clinical psychologist Mary Spease, PsyD says that a person stonewalls when they feel too overwhelmed to continue interacting in the conversation. The individual may be experiencing too many thoughts and emotions to make sense of them, so they mentally retreat. In cases like these, the stonewaller just wants she wants the uncomfortable conversation to end and to avoid escalating the situation further.
To an outside observer—or even to the person speaking—this retreating behavior looks like the stonewaller simply stopped participating in the conversation. If it happens often enough, the person being stonewalled could easily assume that his or her partner does not care about the topic or about him or her as a person. In most cases, stonewalling prevents conflict resolution and often escalates the tension and frustration of both people. The person who has shut down is no longer working to resolve the issues at hand. The individual being stonewalled may become dejected and angry. He or she may feel like his or her feelings are not valid or reasonable and start to lose interest in continuing the relationship. hopeless.
There Is a Better Way
Relationship experts and couples therapists have some advice for those tackling tough conversation topics. If you find yourself stonewalling your partner, there are steps you can take to get back on track. The first step is recognizing how you are feeling. Your muscles may be clenched; you may grind your teeth or exhibit protective body language. At this point, it may be beneficial to take a break from the conversation. Take a walk or a shower to cool off, and when you feel more in control, you can continue the conversation in a more productive manner. Be sure to communicate what is going on inside your mind and body to your partner. He or she may not realize how you are feeling just based on your outward appearance.
When Stonewalling Kills a Marriage
Over time, stonewalling can be a destructive force in any relationship, especially if it goes unaddressed. If your marriage has broken down due to a lack of effective communication, an experienced Kane County divorce attorney can help you explore your available options. Call 630-377-7770 for free confidential consultation at Bochte, Kuzniar & Navigato, P.C. today.