Bend Marriage Counselor Divorce Predictors: Part 3 – Stonewalling

April 22, 2014 by

Bend Marriage Counselor Divorce Predictors: Part 3 - Stonewalling

Recently on this blog, we’ve been talking about the five main predictors of divorce. Four of these are the so-called “four horsemen of the apocalypse,” and so far we’ve discussed two – contempt and criticism. Today I’d like to continue down that list by delving into one of the most destructive “horsemen” – stonewalling.

What Is Stonewalling?

Unlike contempt and criticism, which most of us at least have some kind of intuitive understanding about, stonewalling isn’t a subject that comes up much in everyday life. So, what exactly is stonewalling?

In many ways, it has a lot in common with avoidance and withdrawal. When a situation becomes too intense, a person engaging in stonewalling will simply stop responding. It doesn’t matter how much the other person rants and raves; they are simply refusing to enter into a dialogue with them. Some will even walk away completely, and in extreme situations may start to avoid the other person altogether.

You can imagine how frustrating this must be to the other person, but often the individual doing the stonewalling isn’t acting that way out of malice. It’s a defense mechanism that kicks in because they feel overwhelmed by the conversation and are attempting to calm themselves down. Many experts even say that occasional stonewalling can be beneficial – but not when it becomes a pattern.

How to Handle Stonewalling

Probably the biggest problem with stonewalling is that it tends to make the other person feel like the individual who is disengaging doesn’t care about them or want to deal with whatever the issue is. Most of the time, the exact opposite is true, but that’s not always easy to recognize in the heat of the moment.

The best way to deal with stonewalling is to take a break from the conversation, but this means one of you has to take a step back from the way you’re feeling and ask for this to happen. This isn’t easy for either person, but it’s the only positive solution. If you’re the one stonewalling, say that you need a break to calm down and gather your thoughts. Alternately, your partner can offer this solution for you. However it happens, both of you need to be willing to back down but committed to returning to the subject later.

Possibly the most difficult thing about stonewalling is recognizing what’s happening and accepting it without casting more blame or withdrawing further, but if you and your spouse find yourselves unable to do this on your own, a Bend marriage counselor can help.