What Is Stonewalling in a Relationship and How to Deal With It (2023)

What Is Stonewalling in a Relationship and How to Deal With It (1)

In This Article

Do you know what is stonewalling in a relationship? Chances are you don’t even if you have experienced it. Do you find your partner intentionally shutting down whenever you bring up a serious issue for discussion? Do you find your partner getting intimidated during an argument and conveniently switching the topic?

Perhaps you are a victim of stonewalling in your relationship. What is stonewalling, you wonder? Stonewalling in relationships can be complex to identify and deal with. It, however, is detrimental to a relationship’s happiness and well-being. If you are wondering what is stonewalling in a relationship, read on.

What is stonewalling in a relationship?

What is stonewalling? Stonewalling in relationships is a behavior that can be described as the act of employing delaying strategies.

The person who stonewalls another avoids confrontation or refuses to acknowledge the other person’s concerns. Stonewalling can occur on a variety of levels in relationships and prevents effective communication. Stonewall communication can also look like refusal to corporate in resolving an issue or argument.

If communication is hampered in a relationship, it escalates the pre-existing issues to deeper levels. Also, intimacy in relationships goes for a toss when one of the partners resorts to stonewalling. This is why stonewalling is considered one of the most common crucial concerns in a relationship or marriage.

What Is Stonewalling in a Relationship and How to Deal With It (2)

5 signs of stonewalling

As mentioned before, stonewalling can be challenging to identify. Sometimes, both partners may engage in stonewalling, even without realizing it. If you wish to define stonewalled behavior in a relationship, look for these signs:

1. Ignoring

The partner who stonewalls can completely ignore what the other person has to say. Ignoring a conversation can be frustrating as saying something is always better than saying nothing at all. If your partner ignores your approaches, it can be an active sign of stonewalling.

(Video) Stonewalling in Relationships (The PROVEN WAYS to Deal With it)

It can also happen when guys or girls stonewall after a fight or argument and pretends to ignore the other partner.

Related Reading: 15 Reasons Why Ignoring Your Ex Is Powerful

What Is Stonewalling in a Relationship and How to Deal With It (3)

2. Changing the subject

Redirecting an ongoing discussion to change the topic is another way of stonewalling. A stonewalling partner can either change the subject gradually without making you realize the replacement or instantly jump onto some other important topic to divert your attention from the issue at hand.

3. Storming off from the scene

A partner who expresses his emotions aggressively might prefer to leave the discussion midway in a fit of anger, thus dissolving the conversation instantly and completely. Storming off is a common method of stonewalling a spouse when you no longer want to stay in the conversation.

What Is Stonewalling in a Relationship and How to Deal With It (4)

4. Citing reasons to avoid conversation

At times, a partner can give certain reasons to prevent having to speak to you. They could say they’re busy at the moment or not feeling well enough to talk, anytime you bring up a subject to discuss with them.

Sometimes, these reasons can be genuine but if it happens repeatedly, they might be stonewalling you.

5. Resistive body language

If your partner uses gestures like rolling their eyes or certain hand movements signaling to dismiss a conversation, this can also be a sign of stonewalling. Showing resistance through body language can be irritating for a partner who is trying to resolve a problem through mutual dialogue.

Related Reading: What Your Body Language Says About Your Relationship

5 causes of stonewalling

Knowing what is stonewalling and the causes of stonewalling are fundamental to the answer to ‘how to stop stonewalling.’ While stonewalling is problematic in a relationship or a marriage, it may not always be ill-intended or meant to hurt the partner who is being stonewalled.

Understanding and knowing the causes of stonewalling can help you understand why your partner resorts to it, and you can find ways to resolve it and deal with it.

What Is Stonewalling in a Relationship and How to Deal With It (5)

(Video) Stonewalling Meaning | Explaining The Silent Treatment In Relationships

1. Punishment

People may stonewall their partner as a way to punish them over something wrong or annoying that they did. It’s very common to witness stonewalling as a way to convey one’s disappointment.

2. Inability to express

When a person is unable to express their feelings and thoughts, they might adopt stonewalling as a response. In such cases, the person who stonewalls might not do it intentionally or to leave an impact on the person who is getting stonewalled. This can be an example of unintentional stonewalling.

What Is Stonewalling in a Relationship and How to Deal With It (6)

3. Fear of confrontation

Some people may resort to stonewalling to avoid any kind of confrontation with their partner. Confronting a partner over any serious matter can be embarrassing or uncomfortable at times, hence a partner may try to dismiss any conversation altogether to avoid this situation.

Related Reading: How to Confront a Cheater

4. Anger or hopelessness

When in the middle of an argument, you anticipate things getting heated up and further escalation is possible, stonewalling can be a way to stop the conversation from going ahead. Although, this is not a preferable solution to arguments, it can be a way out to prevent added tension.

What Is Stonewalling in a Relationship and How to Deal With It (7)

5. Manipulation

What is stonewalling in a relationship? It can be a tool to manipulate the person in front of you. Avoiding or ignoring a person repeatedly can confuse a person, hampering their ability to think straight and make logical decisions. Stonewalling manipulation is not a new concept.

Related Reading: 25 Examples of Manipulation in Relationships

Examples of stonewalling in relationships

It is almost impossible to define stonewalling without examples. Since stonewalling is a complex issue to identify and can be confused with someone just being upset and not wanting to talk at the moment, here are some examples of stonewalling that will make the difference clear.

Some of the most common examples of this behavior can be seen in married couples, where one partner stonewalls the other. The partner who stonewalls the other may dismiss the other’s feelings or walk out in the middle of a dialogue.

Usually, in such circumstances, the discussion may end before any fruitful results can be achieved. Wondering what is stonewalling in terms of how it shows in words and actions? Here are some of the commonly used phrases while stonewalling in relationships:

  • I don’t want to talk right now
  • That’s it!
  • I’ve had enough
  • Don’t start all over again
  • End of discussion
  • Leave me alone
  • Go away! I don’t want to listen to anything right now.

To get a better understanding of how stonewalling psychology works, consider the following example –

(Video) What is Stonewalling?? The drama when someone does this!

John and Libby have been married for two years. During this period, they have had multiple arguments over several issues. John comes home late from work, and after he returns, he usually gets busy on his cell phone.

What Is Stonewalling in a Relationship and How to Deal With It (8)

This behavior makes Libby unhappy, and on various occasions, she has told John about how she feels. Most of the time that she has tried to confront John, he gave no non-verbal cues about how he felt and behaved as if he had completely turned Libby out.

In certain instances, he only showed his displeasure by leaving the room after telling Libby that he had had enough of these discussions and wanted to hear nothing more.

This is a classic example of one partner stonewalling the other. Often, spouses avoid conflict or simply because they don’t want to deal with the situation.

It is important to note that stonewalling is very different from taking a break. When a person takes a break, they take out time to reflect on the situation, which usually brings beneficial results. Whereas, in stonewalling behavior, no such thought process is involved.

Watch relationship coaches – Aaron and Jocelyn Freeman teaching how to argue the right way in a relationship:
What Is Stonewalling in a Relationship and How to Deal With It (9)

How does stonewalling affect a relationship?

There can be multiple instances where people don’t realize what is stonewalling in a relationship. In many cases, where stonewalling in relationships is a regular feature, it can be recognized as a form of psychological or emotional abuse. Stonewalling can leave one’s partner feeling vulnerable.

Is stonewalling abusive? Well, it can be. After you have understood what is stonewalling, you must also know that the effects of stonewalling on any marital relationship are derogatory. Many times when a person stonewalls their spouse, the spouse experiences stress and anxiety.

  • Sometimes, the spouse may also use the widely known ‘silent treatment
  • Partner who is stonewalled may feel humiliated to the extent that they question their self-worth
  • It can lead to resentment and frustration in the relationship
  • Research suggests stonewalling may be a key predictor of divorce
  • Stonewalling may even affect physical health. According to a study, it can lead to musculoskeletal symptoms in both partners.

Stonewalling effects on victim can be quite challenging to deal with. The person being stonewalled may feel diminished, confused, sad, and angry – all at the same time. They can begin to feel helpless in the relationship or marriage. Their self-worth and respect may be adversely affected.

What Is Stonewalling in a Relationship and How to Deal With It (10)

(Video) What is "stonewalling"? (Glossary of Narcissistic Relationships)

While they may feel determined to leave the relationship sometimes, they may not be able to do so as well. This can make them feel even worse. It can affect their physical and mental health.

5 ways to deal with stonewalling

Now that you know what is stonewalling, its causes, and how it affects you and your relationship, you must also learn ways to deal with it. If you are frequently stonewalled, you must often be mulling over how to break through stonewalling.

How to react to stonewalling? Just avoid getting hyper-emotional. Stonewalling in relationships can be taken care of if you and your partner are willing to put in your efforts for the greater good.

  • How to deal with stonewalling in a relationship? The first step entails the stonewaller to identify and acknowledge this behavior. Once accepted, both partners must be willing to deal with it.
  • If you find your partner uncomfortable talking about something at a time, do not annoy them further. Pestering will not fetch you any positive results.
  • Your partner would maintain a tacit silence as usual. Moreover, your anxiety and frustration levels would inadvertently cross limits. Maintain your logical thinking during this time.
  • Instead, give your partner a much-needed break. You both must try to cool down during the break period and carry on with the discussion when both of you are in a receptive mood.
  • Another good option is seeking professional help, relationship counseling or taking up an online marriage course from the comfort of your home to sort out all the other issues in your relationship for a happy and healthy married life.

Got more questions?

Now that we have discussed in detail what is stonewalling in relationships and how one can deal with it effectively. It’s time to answer some more questions in the same direction. We hope these questions address your concerns.

What Is Stonewalling in a Relationship and How to Deal With It (11)

  • Is stonewalling the end of a relationship?

Although stonewalling is a serious hurdle in the way to a healthy relationship, dealing with it the right way can make it look like nothing. It can be frustrating and demanding but holding on to your patience and understanding is the key to it.

Stonewalling does not necessarily mean the end of your relationship if you are aware of the correct way of managing it.

What Is Stonewalling in a Relationship and How to Deal With It (12)

  • Is stonewalling manipulative?

By now, you may be aware of what is stonewalling and that it is not healthy. However, is stonewalling abuse? Emotional abuse refers to mean behavior that is exhibited to hurt and manipulate the subject.

However, people who stonewall may not always intend to cause harm to the person who is being stonewalled. The emotional effects of stonewalling can make it difficult for both partners to realize what’s going on.

Stonewalling abuse is when someone refuses to listen, acknowledge or pay attention to their partner’s complaints or feelings to cause them harm. In most cases of stonewalling relationships or stonewalling marriage, the partner who is stonewalling is only trying to avoid confrontation or a fight.

(Video) What Is Stonewalling? (It Can Break A Marriage)

While they may not consciously realize that they are trying to hurt their partner by their actions (such as stonewalling), a part of their brain may know that they are. If stonewalling is used to abuse, belittle, or harm someone, it can be characterized as manipulative.

Stonewalling can be prevented!

Understanding what is stonewalling is one of the most critical steps in dealing with it. Stonewalling is one of the major types of behaviors that lead to a failed marriage. Many people stonewall their partners without realizing the effects their behavior has on their loved ones.

They also are unable to foresee how this may affect their relationship in the long term. While making compromises in a relationship or marriage is inevitable, it is essential to identify behaviors that affect a partner’s physical and mental health and resolve them to have a healthy and happy relationship.


What Is Stonewalling in a Relationship and How to Deal With It? ›

Stonewalling happens when one person in a relationship absolutely refuses to consider his or her partner's perspective. When confronted, this person withdraws from interaction and shuts down, becoming completely unresponsive. It's literally like talking to a wall.

How do you communicate when being stonewalled? ›

Let's look at a few examples of what you can say.
  1. Let your mate know the partnership is a priority for you. ...
  2. Express how you recognize the stonewalling. ...
  3. Don't point fingers. ...
  4. Don't try to change your partner. ...
  5. Good intentions are the hope. ...
  6. Make yourself present at the moment. ...
  7. Schedule a time to talk. ...
  8. Don't forget about yourself.
Mar 14, 2022

What causes a person to Stonewall? ›

Stonewalling is often born of frustration and fear, and when it is used alone, it may occur as the result of a desire to decrease tension in an emotionally overwhelming situation, or in an attempt to self-soothe.

What helps reduce stonewalling? ›

So, if you are stonewalling and feeling flooded, say that you need a break using whatever signal, word, or phrase you and your partner have decided upon. Let each other know when you're feeling overwhelmed. Then, you need to walk away and do something soothing on your own.

Is stonewalling Narcissistic? ›

Stonewalling is the refusal to communicate with someone. This means that your spouse refuses to listen to you and your concerns. Stonewalling is one of the most prevalent narcissistic abuse techniques.

What trauma causes stonewalling? ›

“Stonewalling is actually a learned defense mechanism that might stem from an unpleasant emotional or physical reaction someone has experienced in the past. Or your partner may simply not be able to express how they feel so instead they shut down,” Dr. Dannaram said.

Can a relationship recover from stonewalling? ›

Stonewalling can cause you to feel confined and defenseless, yet there is an exit plan. If both partners are willing to put the effort into more effectively communicating with one another, you might have the option to reconnect and develop that bigger and better relationship.

Can a stonewaller change? ›

Acknowledge that the only way a stonewaller's patterns will change is if they are willing to change them. If you're the only one willing to work on the relationship, reconsider it. Aggressive stonewallers sometimes act like victims to protect themselves.

How long does stonewalling last? ›

A break is usually short while stonewalling can last hours, days, or even longer. Stonewalling is considered a type of psychologically abusive behavior of the passive-aggressive kind. It involves entirely shutting the other person out and ignoring them, which causes them to feel like they are worthless and unimportant.

What is the psychology of stonewalling? ›

In many cases, the person doing the stonewalling is not trying to be irritating or mean-spirited. Instead, they likely try to withdraw because the situation feels too emotionally overpowering. For some people, stonewalling can be a coping mechanism, a form of protection against feeling overwhelmed.

Is stonewalling a form of Gaslighting? ›

It can have a serious impact on a person's self-esteem. This is a natural response particularly, as stonewalling is widely considered a form of gaslighting.

What are the emotional effects of stonewalling? ›

Emotional stonewalling can have serious consequences for relationships. It creates feelings of isolation, neglect, and frustration in the affected partner. It also makes it difficult to communicate effectively. This leads to further conflict or distance in the relationship.

How should I respond to stonewalling? ›

11 Ways to Respond to Stonewalling in Your Relationship
  1. Acknowledge That You are Not a Fixer.
  2. Empathize with Your Partner.
  3. Depersonalize the Interaction.
  4. Make Yourself Open and Available to Talk.
  5. Try to Avoid Pointing Fingers.
  6. Make Self-Care a Priority.
  7. Don't Try to Change Your Partner.
  8. Focus on Your Partner's Good Qualities.
Nov 7, 2022

How do I talk to my partner who is stonewalling? ›

How to respond to stonewalling
  1. Use 'I' statements in conversations. Because stonewalling is often a defensive mechanism, the moment you realize it could be happening, try to make a shift. ...
  2. Ask for a break. ...
  3. Address stonewalling outside of the conflict. ...
  4. Take care of yourself. ...
  5. Check for triggers. ...
  6. Seek solo or couples therapy.
Oct 6, 2022

What do you say after stonewalling? ›

How to Respond to Stonewalling
  • Discuss topics in a safe space. If your partner bristles at conversations in public, try only bringing them up in a safe space where they will be comfortable.
  • Give an ultimatum. ...
  • Offer help. ...
  • Prioritize self-care. ...
  • Take a breather. ...
  • Tell your partner how you feel.
Nov 29, 2022

What type of person is stonewalls? ›

People who stonewall may do so to avoid escalating a fight or to avoid discussing an uncomfortable topic. They also might be afraid of their partner's reaction. Intentional stonewalling: In extreme cases, stonewalling is used to manipulate a situation, maintain control in the relationship, or inflict punishment.

When a partner stonewalls you? ›

Stonewalling can be an attempt to gain control or power over the other person. By shutting down communication, the stonewalling partner expresses that they do not value the other person's feelings or perspective. This behavior may cause emotional distress and can be classified as emotional abuse.

Is stonewalling toxic behavior? ›

There's no doubt that stonewalling is a very toxic emotional abuse that you shouldn't do to your partner. Stonewalling partner leads to a lot of negative effects on your romantic relationship, which may lead to a divorce or breakup.

What stage is stonewalling? ›

According to the Gottman Institute, stonewalling is the fourth stage of a relationship in trouble, after criticism, contempt, and defensiveness. Stonewalling is an indicator that you or your partner feel uncomfortable discussing difficult topics and are struggling to handle conflict effectively.

Is stonewalling manipulative? ›

According to Gottman, stonewalling can be used as a form of manipulation or punishment and not just a way to avoid conflict. Teens may shut down or stonewall parents during the high-stress period of puberty. A teenager might find it challenging to manage their expectations, especially from one social group to another.

Is stonewalling fight or flight? ›

Often, those who stonewall feel overwhelmed by conflict and they either shut down or remove themselves from it in order to escape feeling overwhelmed. The stonewaller may feel that they are going into fight or flight mode. Stonewalling is emotional flight. It is typically done in an attempt to avoid conflict.

How long should stonewalling last? ›

A break is usually short while stonewalling can last hours, days, or even longer. Stonewalling is considered a type of psychologically abusive behavior of the passive-aggressive kind. It involves entirely shutting the other person out and ignoring them, which causes them to feel like they are worthless and unimportant.

Does stonewalling mean they want to break up? ›

While it's OK to take space from your partner or an issue before discussing it, stonewalling shows a desire to detach from the relationship and conflict resolution. It can affect both partners physiologically, and it often escalates conflicts because of the reaction it elicits from the stonewalled person.

What is a Stonewaller personality? ›

The “stonewaller” personality is the behavior of an individual who tends to shut down during an argument and refuses to communicate or even cooperate. This person is emotionally closed off, and at times it could be extremely hard to reach them.

How to be in a relationship with someone who doesn t communicate? ›

These tips can help you foster more open and honest communication.
  1. Process your feelings first. ...
  2. Thinking about timing. ...
  3. Start with 'I' statements and feelings. ...
  4. Focus on being both being heard and listening. ...
  5. Make compromising and resolution the goal. ...
  6. Set clear boundaries. ...
  7. Leave notes for your partner.
Oct 29, 2019

Is it normal for couples to not talk for days? ›

While you may be mourning the heart-to-hearts and endless banter you shared when you were falling in love, what you're experiencing isn't abnormal. And the fact you're no longer conversing with the frequency and curiosity you once did doesn't mean your relationship is doomed.


1. Stonewalling in Relationships: What Most Men Fail to Understand & Why You Cannot Break Through
(Geoffrey Setiawan)
2. Stonewalling In Relationships | How To Deal With A Stonewalling Wife | The Proven Ways To Deal With
(Better Marriage)
3. 5 Stonewalling Examples & How To Stop Stonewalling In Relationships! 😮
(Magnetize Your Man - Antia & Brody Boyd)
4. 3 Tips to Eliminate Stonewalling From Your Relationship
(Happy Couples Academy)
5. Stonewalling in Relationships: Try These 7 PROVEN Strategies To Break Through Her Stonewalling
(Geoffrey Setiawan)
6. Here’s a quick tip on how to view stonewalling #stonewalling #tips #advice #toxic #relationships
(Kerry McAvoy, PhD)


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Horacio Brakus JD

Last Updated: 27/10/2023

Views: 6029

Rating: 4 / 5 (71 voted)

Reviews: 94% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Horacio Brakus JD

Birthday: 1999-08-21

Address: Apt. 524 43384 Minnie Prairie, South Edda, MA 62804

Phone: +5931039998219

Job: Sales Strategist

Hobby: Sculling, Kitesurfing, Orienteering, Painting, Computer programming, Creative writing, Scuba diving

Introduction: My name is Horacio Brakus JD, I am a lively, splendid, jolly, vivacious, vast, cheerful, agreeable person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.