Stonewalling In Relatinships

Has your relationshiop experienced stonewalling and how are you affected? 

Stonewalling is absolute refusal to consider your partner’s perspective. If you listen at all, you do it dismissively or contemptuously.

According to Gottman’s Institute, a stonewalling in a strong predictor of a marriage or a relationship break up in over 90% of the cases.

While predictors such as criticism, defensiveness, and contempt are gender neutral, stonewalling is more typically done by men.

Men are less likely than women to know when they stonewall, because it seems so natural for them. A sure sign that a man is stonewalling is if he believes his partner nags him. That means he’s not listening. The nagging partner is an unheard partner.

There are two types of stonewalling; aggressive and defensive. 

In aggressive stonewalling, the stonewaller knows that the silence, cold shoulder, and emotional isolation hurt his partner. He stonewalls to gain leverage or power. This is a common tactic in battering relationships, in which the more powerful partner systematically controls or dominates the less powerful one.

In defensive stonewalling, conflict seems overwhelming to the stonewallers. It seems that their only choice is to shut it out (stonewall) or crush it with aggression. So shutting it out seems the better of the two. Of course, treatment teaches them that there are other choices, such as emotion regulation, engagement, and connection.

The experience of being stonewalled tends to be different for men and women. Men who are stonewalled feel frustrated – their goal of resolution is blocked by the stonewalling. But the experience is downright painful for women who are stonewalled, as they are apt to feel isolated – a sense that no one cares about them. To understand the effects of stonewalling on most women, a man need only think of how bad humiliation feels. That’s how isolation feels to his partner, which is why she tries so hard to break through the stone wall.

Note: Content found in Psychology Today.

Steven Stosny, Ph.D.

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