Today we discuss the last Horsemen that could be wrecking your relationship.  (If you missed the beginning the Series begins here 4 Easy Ways to Kill Your Relationship)

Stonewalling looks harmless. It isn’t aggressive. It doesn’t attack.  It doesn’t’ defend.  It doesn’t even seem to hate. 

It is silent.  Withdrawn. Quiet.

And yet it is deadly. 

Stonewalling is when a person shuts down and retreats without much of a fight.

The problem with stonewalling is, it is interpreted as not caring.  And the recipient of the stone wall often gets louder and more aggressive, trying to thaw out the hard silence.  Or they too may retreat, mirroring the silence.

The fact is, when people stonewall they really do care. They  aren’t actually indifferent. They are overwhelmed by the emotion, not sure how to deal with it and so retreating seems safest.  They may be thinking  “This never ends well,” and so in an effort to avoid a fight, withdrawal seems like a good solution.

Certainly if the other 3 horsemen are running rampant, hitting pause on a discussion that feels like a battle is essential.  Just so long as it does not turn into a stonewall.

If you become overwhelmed and shut down, it would be better to turn toward your spouse and share that than simply doing that.  Equally important is committing to come back and discuss the situation. This commitment and follow through break the stonewall. 

You might notice you are emotionally flooded, confused, afraid, overwhelmed.  If you notice you are wanting to fight or stonewall, pay attention to where you experience  this in your body and put a name to it.

Breathe it in.  Let it be without reacting to it or shutting down. This is where staying connected to yourself and your own awareness of your thoughts and feelings begins.  Staying connected within yourself is essential if you ever hope to show up for someone else. 

Here are some examples of turning toward, speaking these words to your partner (and yourself)  when you want to shut down:

I am feeling really overwhelmed. But I am committed to talking about this.  I need to go on a walk and calm down, but I’ll be back.

I am totally flooded and I love you and want to be able to talk about things. Can we discuss this after dinner?

I feel like I am shutting down but want to stay present.  Can we slow this down a little bit so we can talk about it?

Maybe you are not one to stonewall, but your partner is.  Interpreting his stonewalling differently can make a big difference in how you react to it.  Supporting your partner in self soothing by giving him the space to calm down and not forcing a conversation in a heated moment can work wonders.

When things are calm is also a good time to discuss this pattern in your relationship.

Committing to talk about hard things, turn toward kindly, asking for support and understanding are all helpful.  Supporting one another in self soothing is a great gift.  It is also important to establish a timetable of 10 minutes to 24 hours to come back to the subject so that self soothing does not turn into a stonewall.