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How to tell if your partner is stonewalling you and what you can do to stop it

How to tell if your partner is stonewalling you and what you can do to stop it

It's a big red flag to look out for

Just when you think you've heard of all the possible red flags there could be in a relationship, along comes another buzzword to throw a spanner in the works.

But this really is one you should be aware of, as it can spell out major disaster for your love life if you don't nip it in the bud.

Many people could be experiencing it without even realising or neglecting the signs, which could seriously doom your relationship.

For those not in the know, we're talking about stonewalling.

Here's the full lowdown on what it means and how you can overcome it if you think it's happening to you.

What is stonewalling and what are the signs?

Stonewalling is pretty much what it says on the tin.

Essentially, it's the inability to have difficult conversations and express emotions properly during times of conflict - whether that's retracting from the conversation, shutting down completely or giving the 'silent treatment'.

It's like there's a metaphorical wall between the person who is stonewalling and their partner - which, as you can imagine, can be pretty frustrating and difficult to navigate.

It's a big red flag.
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What are the types of stonewalling?

Generally there are two types of stonewalling - unintentional and intentional - which are quite self-explanatory.

Other examples include:

  • discomfort discussing feelings
  • refusing to respond to questions
  • walking away instead of confronting
  • dismissing your partner's concerns

What causes stonewalling?

It obviously depends from person to person.

If you decide to treat someone poorly though, it's often deep-rooted in trauma, fear, anxiety and even frustration.

Those who avoid conflict, may do so because of:

  • a fear of what reaction they might get
  • an inability to handle the situation
  • an underlying hopelessness
  • an attempt to not make things worse that they actually are

Danielle Kepler, a therapist in Chicago, Illinois, told the Huffington Post: “My clients often say they have to shut down in an argument because they risk being flooded and feeling overwhelmed.

"It’s a self-protection mechanism. Knowing this, the other partner needs to be conscious of not overwhelming the stonewaller with too much information.

"I tell couples to stick to one topic at a time. When the stonewaller hears, ‘and another thing...’ it’s usually too much for them to take in. The only way out is retreat.

"Some people stonewall but then think about the issue later and might want to come back to talk more.

"That can’t happen if the partner keeps pushing and won’t let it rest."

There is hope though, so don't give up just yet.
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What impact can stonewalling have on your relationship?

Experts suggest that stonewalling is one of the major red flags that a marriage won't last.

Plus, if it becomes a habit, it can lead the victim to questioning their self worth and end up escalating situations unnecessarily, which can lead to further confrontation and the build-up of frustrations in your relationship.

Safe to say, if you notice it becoming a frequent thing in your relationship, things probably aren't looking good - but that doesn't mean there's no hope.

How do you stop stonewalling?

For the person who feels like they're stonewalling, experts at The Gottman Institute recommend asking for a break if an argument or difficult chat feels like it's getting too much.

This might sound a bit weird as it could be seen as another version of stonewalling, but the experts explain that if you and your partner can calmly agree on when to take a break and honour it, it can stop you feeling so overwhelmed.

The next thing the relationship boffins recommend is learning how to self soothe and regulate your emotions using breath work.

There are things you can do to help.
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As for the person on the receiving end, Vikki Stark, a psychotherapist and the director of the Sedona Counselling Center of Montreal, suggests: "Accept the fact that people who stonewall may need to work through things in smaller bites and avoid discussing every problem in the relationship all at once.

"Give your partner the benefit of the doubt. Maybe you fell in love with them because they were witty and funny or because they were giving or helpful. Let them use their better qualities to turn things around. Tell them things you’d like to see changed. Sure, you might risk nagging but at least you’re giving your partner (and your relationship) a chance,” Aaron Anderson, a marriage and family therapist in Denver, Colorado, added.

If all of this fails, it's highly recommended that you seek couples' counselling to work through the issues at play.

Featured Image Credit: Getty Stock Images

Topics: Dating trends, Sex and Relationships, Mental Health