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Stonewalling in a Relationship: 15 Signs & Best Ways to Fix It ASAP

Communication will always be key, which is why stonewalling in a relationship can be bad. But how can you overcome or prevent doing this to your partner?

Stonewalling in a Relationship

In relationships, effective communication is essential but hard to achieve. Being able to talk is one thing, but really communicating with someone is entirely different. And stonewalling in a relationship can kill a relationship faster than a cheating partner.

We all get tired of communicating or arguing at times. But, refusing to communicate *stonewalling* regularly can turn into something much more serious.

It’s essential to learn how to effectively communicate and discuss your issues without one person shutting themselves off completely. It doesn’t just affect resolving conflict, but your partner also feels distant from you when you do this.

Not only does it show your partner you feel uncomfortable discussing difficult topics, but it also shows you struggle with handling conflict.

Whether it comes from a fear of confrontation or something else, it makes you a problematic partner overall.

[Read: How to fix a lack of communication in your relationship]

What is stonewalling?

Stonewalling in a relationship is exactly what it sounds like. It’s when one person in the relationship withdraws from the conversation, shutting down and becoming unresponsive. Basically, it’s like talking to an actual wall. You get no response whatsoever from the person who’s doing this from you.

The person doing this can either do the silent treatment or shut down entirely. It’s impossible communicating when stonewalling is present. In other words, you end up never resolving the conflict all because you’re shutting down from the conversation. [Read: The 12 signs you’re the one being selfish in a relationship]

Why does stonewalling in a relationship occur?

There are so many reasons why stonewalling can occur.

First, you could have trouble dealing with conflict. Maybe you weren’t taught how to handle conflict the right way as a child, or maybe you just fear confrontation as a whole.

Second, it could also be because it’s the easiest path, but not the mature and healthiest approach.

Any relationship requires proper communication. So if you tend to avoid difficult topics or stonewall, your partner could eventually grow tired of your tendencies one day.

Stonewalling in a relationship occurs when one of you gives the silent treatment, shuts down, deflects, or walks away from the argument entirely. [Read: Lack of communication in a relationship & why it signals the end]

Why should you avoid stonewalling?

It makes your partner feel they’re away from you whenever you do this. Not to mention, you never resolve conflict since you’re always shutting down whenever a conflict is present. This isn’t healthy, and you’re lucky if your partner tolerates this from you. You can’t go around the fact that communication is and will always be vital.

Your partner will likely give up on you if you don’t maturely resolve conflict as your problems will pile on top of each other. Stonewalling builds a huge wall to separate two people in a relationship and if you keep this up, you might not be able to break down this wall.

It’s a tricky situation to be in for you and your partner. Your partner is looking for someone to talk about their issues with, and they chose you as their partner. Which means they expect you to be able to discuss problems and sort through conflict with them. [Read: How to resolve conflict: The 15 best ways to cut out the drama]

Stonewalling will end a relationship

Remember what we’ve said about stonewalling ending a relationship? No matter how patient or kind your partner is, if you constantly do this in every argument, they’ll eventually give up on you and might even resent you for it. Though stonewalling may not sound like a huge problem, it’s right up there with cheating. No joke.

When it comes to predicting whether a couple will last or not, if there’s stonewalling in a relationship, it’s one of the significant signs of a break-up. Conflict resolution is an integral part of a healthy relationship. Without it, well, you might as well just give up. [Read: Time to let go? 14 reasons why good relationships end]

Both women and men are guilty

When it comes to who does the stonewalling, both women and men are guilty of it. Though, sorry fellas, men are more likely to stonewall their partners. Women are generally more connected to their emotions and are capable of expressing their feelings.

Of course, some women fear confrontation, so this doesn’t apply to all women. Basically, if you tend to avoid confrontation or conflict, you tend to stonewall your partner. [Read: How to deal with passive-aggressive behavior calmly & with class]

Why do people stonewall?

You may be the one doing the stonewalling but at the same time, you don’t understand why this is your reaction. Well, when someone stonewalls, they’re avoiding conflict to calm themselves down. But, it could also be a reaction to not being able to cope with one’s feelings, making them shut down and withdraw.

The argument might be triggering their difficult feelings and overwhelming them, and they don’t know how to cope with it. So if you tend to stonewall, it could be your way of dealing with negative emotions.

After all, feelings can be scary and all-consuming if you don’t know how to process them. [Read: How to cope when someone you love has an emotional shutdown]

10 things to do when there’s stonewalling in a relationship

So, if there’s stonewalling in your relationship, here’s what you need to do. It’s time to break down those walls.

1. The stonewaller needs to reflect

Whoever is doing the stonewalling in the relationship needs to do some significant reflection. If not, they will destroy their relationship – it’ll only be a matter of time until the other person can’t take it anymore.

There’s no outcome where you’ll avoid conflict from happening in your relationship, no matter how perfect it might seem.

For all you know, your partner could be repressing all the hurt and anger towards you because of your incapability to deal with conflict. The first thing that needs to happen is to identify the behavior. Whether it’s you or your partner, the person needs to know that they stonewall. [Read: How to better a relationship and improve your love life]

2. Talk to your partner about it

Once you *or your partner* reflect, sit down together and discuss it. That’s the only way you can take steps to change the behavior.

If you’re the one who stonewalls, don’t shut down, no matter how much you want to. Listen to what your partner feels, and you can express your sentiment.

It’ll give you and your partner the chance to see things from each other’s point of view. Sitting down with one another and expressing what you feel is the only way to eliminate stonewalling in a relationship. [Read: How to fix a lack of communication in your relationship one step at a time]

3. Recognize you need a break

If you’re stonewalling, stop. That sounds too easy, right? It is a bit tricky to just stop. So, the stonewaller needs to talk to their partner and explain that if an argument does occur, they’ll take a break before they stonewall. Choose a word or a sentence, and when you say that word in the argument, it means you take a break.

Do everything you need to do to calm yourself down, so you can adequately express your emotions as soon as you get back into the room.

If you have difficulty expressing your difficult feelings, you can work on it and take it from there. Maybe start with a friend and see how it feels when you express something painful for you. [Read: How to fight fair in a relationship and grow closer]

4. The stonewaller needs to work on this issue

This is an internal issue, and you need to remember that. You don’t stonewall because of your partner.

Stonewalling in a relationship is an internal conflict and something that can only be worked on by the person who’s doing the stonewalling. This is frankly the most common reason if there is evident stonewalling in a relationship.

So if you want to eliminate this from happening, you need to deal with it internally. If it’s you who’s dealing with this, you need to face whatever trauma or baggage in your life that caused you to shy away from conflict or confrontation entirely.

While you’re working on your stonewalling behavior, your partner needs to work on self-care because they’re not the “fixer.” [Read: How to learn to communicate with your spouse and end the rollercoaster ride]

5. Practice empathy

Conflict involves you and another person. The only way to work through the conflict is to look at the situation from their point of view and vice versa. If you can’t look at the situation through your partner’s eyes, you won’t be able to solve the conflict.

So you need to understand where your partner is coming from if you want to stop or prevent stonewalling in a relationship. If your partner is mad about something, put yourself in their shoes and see why they got hurt in the first place. [Read: How to develop empathy and master the art of growing a real heart]

6. Accept criticism and feedback

It’s easy to stonewall your partner when you know you’re the wrong one. This is your ego and arrogance kicking in, refusing to want to be incorrect.

But this isn’t the time when you need to pull back. Instead, this is the moment when you need to accept criticism and feedback.

Acknowledge your involvement in the problem and your partner’s perspective. Relationships are huge on accountability, so if you want to stop stonewalling in a relationship, accept that you’re wrong and learn from your mistakes. That’s the only way you’ll learn and become and better partner, after all. [Read: 9 ways to master the art of constructive criticism]

7. Take time to reply

When you’re arguing with your partner, you don’t need to reply quickly. Take your time to think about how they’re feeling and what you’re going to say to them. This may help you refrain from stonewalling them.

Also, if they’re pressuring you to respond immediately, tell them kindly to be patient as you’re trying to find the right set of words to express what you feel. You can also try to practice expressing your emotions, maybe through journaling or speaking to a friend.

8. How does your partner feel?

You should be doing routine check-ups with your partner after a conflict occurs. How did the situation make them feel? Did you stonewall during the conflict? How can you work towards having more constructive conversations?

There are two people in a relationship, so check in with your partner and see how they’re feeling.

This is such a mature thing to do in a relationship, and it also helps you become self-aware if you’re stonewalling or not. [Read: 25 topics you need to talk about in a relationship to ensure you have a happy one]

9. Practice self-kindness

Whether you’re the stonewaller or the partner of a stonewaller, you need to practice self-kindness. As a partner of the stonewaller, you’re not responsible for their behavior. As the stonewaller, yes, you need to work on your behavior, but throughout the process, be kind to yourself.

Don’t blame yourself for stonewalling your partner. It’s your fault, but there’s no need to put the weight on the blame on yourself. Instead, become better at it, even if it takes longer than you expect. [Read: Here are 13 ways to grow into a kind human]

10. Seek help

This isn’t an easy process to go through as the stonewaller or the partner of a stonewaller. If you need help, don’t hesitate to seek a professional to do so. Contrary to popular belief, there’s nothing wrong with you if you seek help. After all, we need help from time to time.

Going to a therapist can help you make those connections and give you the tools you need to understand your internal conflict, and improve yourself as a person. Most importantly, it enables you to improve your relationship as a whole. [Read: How to know if therapy will help your relationship]

The 5 biggest signs of stonewalling

We’ve discussed what to do when there’s evident stonewalling in a relationship, but what about the signs? Here are the unmistakable signs of stonewalling you should be wary of from either you or your partner.

1. Ignoring what the other is saying

When there’s stonewalling in your relationship, the person responsible for stonewalling will ignore what the other is saying. This is one of the reasons why there often feels like there’s a wall.

If you’re the one doing this, you could be unintentionally doing this because you’re trying to protect yourself from difficult feelings. [Read: The psychology of ignoring someone – Why we do it & ways to fix it]

2. Deflecting

Stonewalling means that one of you is shutting down from conflict. Deflecting is one of the most common defense mechanisms if you’re not used to arguments.

So if you tend to change the subject and deflect every chance you get, you’re also stonewalling.

3. Making accusations

Do you tend to play the victim in arguments? Or, maybe you’re accusing them of something, even if they’re the ones who are upset with you? That’s stonewalling.

You want to avoid discussing the issue at hand entirely, so you end up making accusations instead. [Read: How to spot gaslighting in a relationship & shut it down for good]

4. Passive-aggressive behavior

There’s a thin line that separates passive-aggressiveness and stonewalling because in reality, they’re practically the same.

So if your partner is passive-aggressive, guess what? They’re also stonewalling you in every conflict. It’s why you never both face the issues in your relationship, even if you try. [Read: How to deal with passive-aggressive people and not lose your mind]

5. Walking away

Despite the many things you see in movies, walking away in the middle of a conversation isn’t healthy in dealing with conflict.

This is one of the signs to watch out for, especially if your partner tends to do this in every fight. They invalidate the argument altogether by taking themselves out of the scenario completely.

[Read: Passive aggressive men: How to help them quit playing games]

So, how do you stop stonewalling in a relationship?

It will destroy your relationship if you keep stonewalling your partner, even when it’s unintentional. You can stop doing this when you admit that you’re doing it and become more self-aware of your tendencies.

Start with self-reflection, and accept you’re stonewalling when you do it. Walk back to your partner, apologize to them wholeheartedly and let them know you do realize you’re stonewalling. Let them see that you’re trying hard to communicate without shutting down.

Start with this step, and everything will only get better from there.

If you experience stonewalling in a relationship, this is something that needs to change. If not, it’ll rip apart your relationship. Start small, and you will overcome it together as a couple with a bit of effort, and a lot of love.

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Preeti Tewari Serai
Preeti Serai
Preeti, the founder of LovePanky, is an eternal optimist and believer in the beauty of love and life. With an exhaustive experience in love, relationships, and ...