Stonewalling: What To Do If It’s Causing Your Relationship Problems

Stonewalling
Stonewalling

When the going gets tough, we all have our own ways of dealing with it. 

For some, this means running away from their problems or freezing up and putting up a wall between themselves and the issue at hand.

So today, we’ll be discussing stonewalling—a troublesome communication behavior that can seriously impact your relationship’s health.

You’ll discover what exactly stonewalling is, why people do it, and the powerful steps you can take to stop yourself or your partner from exhibiting stonewalling behavior in the future—for a happier, healthier, more loving relationship.

To achieve this, we’ll cover:

  1. What stonewalling is and why people do it 
  2. Four common communication mistakes in relationships    
  3. How to set up an open dialogue with your partner
  4. The importance of being honest about your feelings
  5. Why you should always ask what your partner wants 
  6. The real reason why you’re not telling your partner what you want
  7. My rule for finding and keeping a loving relationship

Let’s get started!

What is Stonewalling?

Imagine you’re speaking to a wall. Well, it doesn’t speak back to you—and that’s essentially what stonewalling is. 

Your partner takes the role of the stone wall, shutting you out from all and any communication. During this time, it seems impossible to get through to them.

Reading this may make you realize that you may be guilty of stonewalling your partner yourself. Either way, it’s best to be able to recognize the behavior so you can quickly reach better resolutions in the future. 

Some examples of stonewalling would be giving your partner the silent treatment, avoiding conflict and abruptly walking away, being vague or evasive in your responses, and withholding affection or intimacy.

Of course, these are just a few examples of stonewalling, and some are more extreme than others.

But you’ll often find one of the most subtle yet damaging demonstrations of stonewalling is simply saying, “I’m fine,” (and nothing else) when your partner questions your feelings. 

There are many reasons why people do this—so just know that you and your partner are not alone in dealing with this communication problem…

Why Do People Stonewall?

Some people stonewall because they’re afraid of conflict. They may have had negative experiences in the past where arguments turned into shouting matches or led to physical violence. 

As a result, they’ve learned to shut down emotionally to avoid conflict.

Others stonewall as a way to protect themselves from criticism. If they feel like they’re always being judged or put down, they may start withdrawing from conversations to avoid rejection. 

Overall, stonewalling helps to keep others from getting too close—whether that’s due to fear of conflict, criticism, or a fear of intimacy. 

The “stonewaller” creates distance in the relationship and avoids having to open up and share their thoughts and feelings with someone else.

It’s also important to recognize that stonewalling can be a sign of emotional abuse in some cases. For example, some partners use it to control the conversation, manipulate the other person, or avoid difficult topics.

Now you know why people stonewall, you’re going to want to keep reading as I’m about to tell you exactly how you and your partner can make it a thing of the past to succeed in a loving and caring relationship that lasts. 

4 Communication Mistakes People Make in Relationships 

Read on to discover the four common mistakes that people make in relationships

Not only will recognizing these likely help you have fewer arguments in your relationship—but they could also help you stop stonewalling in its tracks for more productive and understanding communication. 

Here they are…

Mistake #1: I like what you like

It often all starts with this one mistake…

“I like what you like.” 

Wrong. 

Please don’t make this mistake early in a relationship.

Many women, in particular, think, “I better not say what I want. I don’t want to be seen as difficult or demanding.”

So what happens? You think the best course of action is to pretend you’re so easily pleased at the start of a relationship. 

You try to appear chilled, easy-going, and fun-loving with your partner—after all, we want our relationships to be successful…this often is mistakenly seen as the way to achieving that. 

We’re all guilty of doing this at some point in our lives. But if you recognize this in yourself, please don’t do it again. 

Don’t put your partner’s happiness before your own—because when you do that, I promise that neither of you will end up happy. 

Mistake #2: Expecting your partner to know what’s wrong

People often stonewall because they want to display their infuriation with their partner that they should know better. And the best—or worst—way to do this is to block them out altogether. 

This means, sometimes, we unfairly expect our partner to be psychic—and that’s just not realistic. Only we know what we’re truly feeling, thinking, and what we need. 

Yet too often, I see dialogue go like this: 

“What’s wrong?”

“Nothing.”

“You seem a bit upset.”

“No, I’m fine.”

Everything in your body language is saying, “I’m upset,” but you expect your partner to know why when you haven’t even told them.

If you’re in a heterosexual relationship, it’s even more confusing. This is because men expect their female partner to act like a male, and women often expect the male to act like a female.

As an example, one of my clients came to me and said, “I can never make my wife happy. I come in at the end of the day, and she starts to tell me what’s happened.” 

Their daughter forgot her lunchbox, and her boss increased her workload at the last minute…

And his response was, “Oh, well, this is what I would’ve done…you need to have her lunch box by the front door. You need to explain to your boss what you already have on.”

And she said, “I don’t want that.”

“Why does he try to fix it when I just want him to hear?” 

My advice to him was that he’s got to become her best girlfriend. That he’s got to say things like, “Oh, I hate that for you.”

This was such a surprise to him. 

But I explained to him, “She is looking to know that you have heard her. So when she gives the list of what went wrong in her day, don’t offer solutions, become her best girlfriend say, ‘Baby, I hate that for you. That’s horrible.'”

And he said, “Wow, I never knew that.”

He came back to me and couldn’t believe how things had changed. He said, “Becoming like a girlfriend to my wife is amazing.”

You may be reading this thinking, “Well, I’m never going to do that.”

But for him, it really worked—and it may work for you and your partner too. 

Mistake #3: Thinking you and your partner want the same things

I had a situation many years ago where my father was ill.

He’d had surgery, and he nearly died under anesthetics, but they had to do the surgery again. There was a big chance he wouldn’t survive, and I had to call him to say my final goodbyes— just in case. 

Of course, I was super emotional, and it was really hard to effectively say goodbye to him. 

To my dismay, when I picked up the phone to make that difficult call, my partner at the time left to play golf. 

I remember thinking, “Wow, he is not my partner anymore.”

“I’m feeling vulnerable, sad, and emotional, and his response is to go and play golf.”

“What a cold, mean, horrible, nasty person.”

When he eventually came back, I called him out on it and asked, “How could you do that?”

His response was that he thought I’d appreciate being left alone. Because if it was him making that call to his dad, he explained he would be tearful and wouldn’t want anyone around to see that.

So in his mind, he left as an act of consideration and empathy. 

See what went on there?

He did what a man would do. But of course, I wanted to do what a girl would do.

So that’s a big disconnect in many heterosexual relationships. 

We think our partner doesn’t care when really they’re often doing what they think you want them to do—what they would like you to do for them. 

Mistake 4: Being too quick to move on when problems arise 

Too often, I hear people say:

“They’re just not the right person.”

“They don’t meet my needs.”

“They don’t understand me and what I want.”

Nowadays, we get rid of people much too easily. 

We swipe left and get someone new—someone we believe will be an upgrade. Change our number or block our partner; just like that, it’s so easy to start all over again. 

But all of my clients that do that say, “You know what happened? I got a new partner, and the same problems happened with a new one.”

“They were just as bad as the last one. Just as unthinking, uncaring, and insensitive.”

So we really have to take a look at the pattern here. 

When we don’t get what we want, we can often assume it’s because our partner doesn’t care—but that’s not the case. Instead, they just don’t understand because you haven’t explained your wants and needs to them yet. 

The truth is, for most of us, it’s much easier to make an existing relationship better and make it work than to find a new one and take all the same problems with you.

With that being said, let’s move swiftly on to what exactly you should if you want to keep your relationship thriving…

How to Easily Set Up an Open Dialogue

The way to bridge the gap between this communication disconnect and successfully overcome stonewalling is to constantly explain what we want through an open dialogue. 

If you think, “My partner’s forgetting, it’s my birthday. They’re not mentioning it—it’s because they don’t care.”

Rather than ignoring them and waiting for them to mess up, take a deep breath and change the outcome.

Tell yourself, “Hey, you know what? They love me. They want to celebrate my birthday. So I’m going to remind them it’s coming up.” 

Then you can communicate your expectations, needs, and desires with your partner.

Tell them, “Hey, it’s my birthday next Thursday. I know you want to do something amazing. So let me give you some ideas of what I want.”

Just like that, you’ll have stopped yourself from sitting it out and waiting for hurt, anger, and disappointment to arrive. Plus, your partner will be so grateful that they have been given a second chance to make sure you have a great day. 

We’ve all been guilty of this, but from this point on, make the decision to tell your partner what you want and what you need.

It’s so much easier to just communicate your thoughts with your partner, and I promise it will drastically improve your relationship and help you to lead a much happier and fulfilled life. 

Stop Stonewalling By Being Honest About Your Feelings

On those occasions when someone does disappoint you, tell them. Be honest and explain that you were upset and explain what hurt you about the situation. 

The trick to doing this successfully is to not be confrontational. 

Don’t say things like, “You made me feel unimportant. You forgot. You’re always late to pick me up, I know you don’t care about me.” 

Instead, you can get the same message across in a much more productive manner. For example, “I know you care about me and if you could just pick me up on time, I would feel even more cared for.”

I said to my husband one day, “Baby, you know when we’re downstairs, occasionally you go, ‘I’m going to bed,’ and you just get up and leave. Well, I have to lock all the doors and windows, and I don’t feel protected.”

Then I explained to him, “I want you to always lock up so I feel you’re concerned about my safety.”

And he loved that.

Now, every night he checks all the doors, and he feels good about himself—and I feel protected. 

All because I communicated my feelings to him, and I did it in a polite and thoughtful manner. It’s not important to him but now he understands it’s very important to me.

I could have said to my husband, “When you go bed and don’t even lock the door, you don’t care about me.”

But instead, I communicated with him that I know he loves me, and he could show me how much he cared about my safety by doing this one thing for me—and he does.

So here are some ways to start your new and improved dialogue: 

“I know you care about me, so…”

“I know you want to make this work, so…”

“I know you’re invested in both of us being happy, so…”

Tell your partner what you need—share them. Share your wants and desires. 

Remember, your partner is not psychic; they’re clairvoyant. Therefore, you need to be open and honest with your feelings, wants, and desires so they can be understood and met. 

Ask What Your Partner Wants

Success in avoiding stonewalling and achieving great communication in your relationship isn’t all about telling your partner what you want. You also need to ask them what they want. 

If they don’t openly tell you, then asking your partner is the only way to know what they want and need. 

Just like when it’s your friend or sibling’s birthday, and you have no idea what to get them, you ask them. 

You say, “Hey, what do you want for your birthday?”

You give them what they want—it doesn’t make the day worse; it makes it better because they got exactly what they wanted, and you didn’t waste your time or money on something they didn’t. 

For example, if I asked my husband what he wants for his birthday, his response would likely be a book—he loves them. So, a little book that costs $5 will thrill him.

However, if he bought me just a book on my birthday, it would not be a happy day. It wouldn’t thrill me at all because we’re different.

And there’s nothing wrong with that. We’re two separate people who have two different sets of desires. So you see, it’s all about understanding each other’s needs. 

The Real Reason Why You Don’t Tell Your Partner What You Want 

The most common reason why we aren’t clear about what we want in a relationship is a fear of rejection—our greatest fear of all. 

“I don’t want to tell you what I really want or need in case you reject me.”

The issue with this is that you can’t show someone who you are and can’t have the relationship you want if you’re not truly being yourself. 

When you do this, you actually end up rejecting yourself. 

You must realize that no one can reject you without your consent. And if someone rejects you just because you are sharing your needs, they’re not the right person for you. 

I want you to know that the right person will never reject you.

In fact, the right person for you will go out of their way to understand your needs because you’ve got the confidence to express them so nicely and eloquently.

And your partner, of course, is worthy of expressing their needs and having them understood and met too.

My Rule For Finding and Keeping a Loving Relationship

By now, I hope my rule for finding and keeping a loving relationship is clear—it’s all about working out your needs and feeling comfortable sharing them with your partner.

So don’t dismiss your partner when they don’t understand you. Instead, take the time to explain to them what you’re feeling, what you want, and what you need. 

Be honest.

Of course, this requires a level of vulnerability, but you can’t be afraid of that. Remember—people like people who show their vulnerability because it makes them endearing, relatable, and authentic. 

As much as you may try to be perfect, not only is that an impossible goal to set yourself, but you’ll find the closer you get, the harder people will find it to relate to you. 

People don’t connect to those who appear perfect. We like people who share our values, and we dislike people who appear perfect and who never express their needs.

So, in relationships, vulnerability is great.

If you want to explore more about how to attract and maintain a loving relationship, check out my Attract Your Relationship hypnotic audio course.

Final Thoughts on Successfully Overcoming Stonewalling

Stonewalling is a frustrating communication issue in many relationships. If it’s affecting yours, then start taking the steps we’ve addressed today to start making positive progress in your relationship. 

Tell one another what your needs are, what your desires are. 

Open up your dialogue, express your needs, and let them know all of your desires and ask them theirs. If you do this, then guess what? They both get met. 

Doing this will not only help you overcome and avoid stonewalling, but it could also help drastically improve your relationship and reignite the love and connection between you and your partner. 

If either of you needs extra support, check out my Healthy Relationships Mini-Course, so you can move towards a joyful, happy, loving, wonderful relationship together that lasts the test of time.

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AUTHOR: MARISA PEER

Marisa shares her 30 years of experience as a multi-award-winning therapist to celebrities, top athletes, and even royalty. She is the founder and creator of RTT®, the cutting-edge method and hybrid solution-based approach that can deliver extraordinary transformations.

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