We conclude our study of the four communication patterns that lead to the demise of a relationship.
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STONEWALLING; This is shorting down in the middle of a conflict discussion and refusing to respond but
verbally and non-verbally. Predominantly, men are the users of this communication style, (about 85%).
Stone walling is different from taking time out from a discussion to cool off and then returning to the
discussion. A stone waller will usually not revisit the issue again and will resist his partner’s attempts to
get them to talk about it again.
Typically, when a partner is stonewalling, they do not make any verbal or nonverbal gestures avoiding
eye contacts, look way or down for long time period, they want to appear aloof in hopes that their
partners would back off.
The stonewalling mate erects wall between his partner and himself, making the partner go crazy, it is as
deadly as criticising because it reflects to the other person that they are not important to their partner,
in stonewalling a person is indirectly saying to their partner that ‘you are hurt but it doesn’t bother me’,
‘’I don’t care about what you want to say’.
When people keep quiet for too long about issues that needs to be addressed, they usually do it with
good intention, they think when by keeping quiet they are helping the situation. I have heard men say; ‘I
just want to keep quiet and not engage because it is better, it makes the situation calmer’. This is true
only for the stonewaller.
People that stonewall feel a lot of pressure when they have a heated conversation over a challenging
issues, pressure builds up much like a pressure cooker. The pressure stays in them it feels like they are
being ‘cooked’ referred to a ‘flooding’, in an attempt to stop the rising pressure inside – they erect a wall
to protect themselves.
When they are flooded they result to stonewalling by keeping quiet and avoid the issue completely but
avoiding the conflict, refusing to participate in the conversation will destroy the marriage eventually.
One key principle the stonewalling partner should remember is “you cannot, not communicate”, we
are always communicating whether we know it or not.
A few examples;
- a wife attempts to discuss the hurt she felt as a result of things her husband said earlier in the day, but
he attempts to communicate her feelings over the issue is met with cold silence. That is, he is just silent
about it, his way to avoid conflict is to refuse to participate in the conversation at all.
- a partner is trying to communicate how they feel about an issue and the other person changes the
topic every time it is raised.
- a husband spends all weekend watching sport instead of participating in family activities because there
is a problem, you sit with him and explain that you don’t have a problem with him watching sport but he
needs to find time from his weekend to spend with his family, then he responds by folding his arms and
saying whatever or muttering something you do not hear, he then returns to watching his game.
He is totally disconnected from his family and what his family needs from him, folding of the arms in
communication language is barricading himself from the speaker. I don’t want to get involved, am
protecting myself from you. When there is that gesture and then he is saying things to himself. It’s also a
form of stonewalling.
These are the four negative communication patterns (criticism, defensiveness, contempt and stone
walling), if any two become prevalent in the way a couple discusses their conflict, can lead to the demise
of their marriage. Partners may choose to check out physically or emotionally.
Couples with successful marriage also sometimes use these communication pattern but one major
difference is that they revisit the discussion and make repairs.