You and your spouse are never going to see exactly eye-to-eye on everything. In fact, there may be certain topics or behaviors that lead to very strong disagreements and, yes, possibly even fights. Of course, not all fighting is healthy for your marriage, but, when done respectfully and with a purpose, arguing occasionally can help you better understand each other. Sometimes, though, one spouse may shut down, completely blocking all avenues of communication in the face of conflict. There can be many reasons that you or spouse begin to engage in such behavior, often called stonewalling by relationship experts, but if it is not constructively addressed, stonewalling can destroy your marriage.
Two Different Types
Stonewalling can take several forms. Aggressive stonewalling may be used by a more controlling or manipulative partner simply because he or she knows it will upset his or her spouse. By refusing to engage or communicate, an aggressive stonewaller can feel like he or she is control over the situation. Defensive stonewalling, as you might expect, is just the opposite. A spouse who feels threatened or overwhelmed may retreat into him- or herself, unable—and sometimes unwilling—to deal directly with the issues at hand.
Characteristics of Stonewalling
Spouses who stonewall may be doing so in an effort to protect themselves from direct emotional pain. However, the collateral damage being done to the relationship may go virtually unnoticed until it is nearly, or completely, too late. If difficult conversations between you and your spouse are often halted suddenly by one of you, stonewalling may be a concern. You or your spouse may say things like:
- “Sure. Whatever you want...”
- “Leave me alone…”
- “I’m done talking…”
- “Just stop already…” or
- “That’s enough…”
When one of you have reached the point of shutting down, further conversation essentially pointless, as the listening and understanding has probably stopped.
According to researchers who have looked at such behaviors, stonewalling is more likely to be done by men, though women can certainly engage in it too. In some instances, though, cultural pressures, such as the masculine image of a strong, silent man can add to the problem. It also seems to affect men and women differently when their partners stonewall them: a man being stonewalled often reacts with frustration at not reaching a resolution, while a woman may feel completely isolated, neglected and unloved.
Help is Available
For couples experiencing this type of problem in their relationship, counseling and therapy may offer some remedy. Stonewalling is often a learned behavior and, with work, it can be unlearned or at least redirected. Addressing the issue, though, requires commitment and dedication from both partners to improve the long-term chances of stability.
On the other hand, it may already be too late and your marriage has completely fallen apart. If this more accurately describes your situation, contact an experienced DuPage County divorce attorney. We understand how challenging it can be to work with someone who is unwilling or unable to communicate and we will help you seek the post-divorce life you deserve. Call 630-871-1002 to schedule you free initial consultation today.