When you or your partner is stonewalling, what’s REALLY going on and how do you stop it from ruining your relationship?
Here’s a question we got awhile ago…
“If your partner isn’t into self-help (books, videos, articles) and stonewalls me every time I bring up the subject, how do you initiate conversation about creating the relationship you envision?
“He thinks things are just fine-“if it ain’t broke”-gets defensive, negative and won’t talk. In the past, I found I’ve been the one doing all the relationship work while my partner(not this one) sat back and just smiled. I think I’ve picked
better this time, but how do I address this with him?”
Before we give our answer, here are a few things about the idea of stonewalling…
It’s a delay or block to a request, process, or person by refusing to answer questions or by giving evasive replies.
It’s when one partner withdraws from an interaction, shuts down, and won’t talk to you. It’s not only frustrating when that happens, but it also kills connection and erodes trust.
Okay, many of us do it but why do we shut down to each other?
Here are a few reasons for stonewalling we’ve seen…
- It’s a fear of getting hurt again or being made a fool of
- There’s been a triggering event
- A way to punish or show pain or anger when we feel wronged in the past
- It’s an attempt to protect against future pain
- A way to protect from the perception of being controlled by someone else
The truth is there can always be conflict in relationships and partners closing to one another because there are two different desire systems.
We think something needs to be changed or different in the other person and the other person thinks that something needs to be changed or different in us.
Stonewalling is just one way we close down to one another when we fear we won’t get our needs met otherwise and the problem is that it can become a habit.
While all that is true, it doesn’t have to be this way.
Here are 3 ways you (and our reader) can invite a partner to open to you when there’s stonewalling…
1. Open yourself first.
Open even when it’s difficult to listen to what your partner is saying to you. Look for truth in what your partner might be saying and don’t defend.
Know that you always have a choice. So often we don’t want to listen because we think we don’t have a choice but it’s just information. Don’t defend. Just listen when your partner does talk.
2. Look at your communication habits.
It’s so easy to fall into the habit of making your partner wrong or coming off as controlling which can close him or her down.
Take a step back and see if your way of communicating could be more of an invitation rather than coming off as “here’s the way it needs to be” even though you don’t mean it that way.
Ask yourself this…
“Is how I’m acting going to bring my partner closer or push him/her away.”
The two of us struggled in a destructive loop with this one until we both realized that at different times, we had both not been open and came off as controlling in different ways.
Susie realized that she didn’t need to preface a request (which didn’t come off as a request) with “You need to…” and Otto realized his voice became loud and what Susie perceived as condescending at times.
We both saw these habits as interfering with our connection and changed them but one person can do this as well.
3. Don’t believe every thought you think
Our thoughts come and go and we can choose the ones we want to hang onto and to focus on.
Let’s take our reader for example…
From various self-help books, videos, and articles (maybe some of ours), she has seen a kind of relationship she wants to create with her husband and perceives she doesn’t have.
Not that we’re mind-readers but she appears to have the thought that the only path to a better relationship is if her husband watched, listened or read these materials as well.
But that’s not his idea.
Instead of holding onto that thought that “He needs to…,” she can focus on just loving him and recognizing when he’s loving her in his way.
Now we’re totally for reading and listening to info about relationships but only for the person who wants that information and is open to it.
You can’t “force-feed” that kind of info but you can open to being more loving and see where that takes you.
When we create walls that something has to look a certain way because these are the thoughts we’ve always believed, we limit life and we limit our relationships.
There’s a whole world of possibilities when we open to seeing things differently and even seeing them from our partner’s perspective.
In that way, we’re loving ourselves as well as our partner and stonewalling becomes something that isn’t necessary any longer.