Understanding Stonewalling in Relationships

Understanding Stonewalling in Relationships

Stonewalling is a common form of communication breakdown that can cause significant harm to relationships. It is a behavior where one person shuts down emotionally and stops communicating with the other person. Stonewalling can lead to feelings of frustration, anger, and rejection, and can cause relationships to suffer. Understanding what stonewalling is and where it comes from is important in recognizing and dealing with it.

Origin of Stonewalling

The concept of stonewalling has roots in the field of psychology and has evolved over time. Historically, stonewalling was first identified as a form of defensive behavior in relationships by the psychologist John Gottman. Gottman's research showed that stonewalling is one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse, which are the four negative behaviors that predict the end of a relationship. These behaviors include criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling.

Stonewalling is a form of emotional and communication shutdown that is triggered by feelings of intense emotional distress, such as anger, fear, and frustration. It is a way for a person to protect themselves from these emotions, but it can lead to further damage to the relationship.

Recognizing Stonewalling

Recognizing stonewalling is an important step in dealing with it. Some common signs of stonewalling include:

  • Withdrawing from conversation or physical proximity
  • Refusing to engage in conversation or resolve conflicts
  • Shutting down emotionally and becoming unresponsive
  • Displaying nonverbal cues such as a lack of eye contact or crossing arms

It is important to note that stonewalling should not be confused with other forms of communication breakdowns, such as taking a break from a heated discussion or needing time to process one's emotions. Stonewalling is different in that it is a persistent and repeated pattern of emotional shutdown, and it is harmful to the relationship.

The impact of stonewalling on relationships can be significant and long-lasting. When one person in a relationship engages in stonewalling, it sends a message to the other person that their feelings, thoughts, and concerns are not valued or important. This can cause the other person to feel unheard, dismissed, and invalidated, leading to feelings of anger, frustration, and rejection.

Stonewalling can also cause a breakdown in trust and intimacy in a relationship. When one person refuses to communicate or engage in conversation, it sends a message that they do not care about the relationship or the other person's feelings. This can cause the other person to feel unloved and unimportant, leading to a decrease in trust and intimacy.

In addition to causing harm to individual relationships, stonewalling can also have a negative impact on families and communities. When stonewalling becomes a persistent pattern in a relationship, it can cause children to grow up in an environment where communication and conflict resolution are not valued. This can lead to a cycle of stonewalling behavior being passed down from generation to generation.

Furthermore, stonewalling can also cause a ripple effect in other areas of a person's life. For example, when one person engages in stonewalling at home, they may also engage in similar behavior at work, leading to conflict with colleagues and decreased job satisfaction.

Dealing with Stonewalling

Dealing with stonewalling requires a combination of self-awareness, emotional regulation, and communication skills. Some key approaches to addressing stonewalling in relationships include:

  • Improving self-awareness: Understanding the reasons behind one's stonewalling behavior and becoming more aware of the triggers that lead to it is an important first step.
  • Emotional regulation: Learning how to manage intense emotions and respond in a healthy way is critical. This can include practicing relaxation techniques, engaging in physical activity, or seeking professional help.
  • Improving communication: Improving communication skills can help to resolve conflicts and prevent stonewalling from occurring. This can include active listening, expressing one's feelings in a healthy way, and being willing to compromise.

In conclusion, stonewalling is a common form of communication breakdown that can cause significant harm to relationships. Understanding its origin and recognizing the signs and symptoms is important in dealing with it. Improving self-awareness, emotional regulation, and communication skills are key approaches to addressing stonewalling in relationships. By taking these steps, relationships can be improved, and stonewalling can be prevented from causing further damage.