Two people can have all the ingredients for a perfect marriage – they can be decent human beings, they can have a lot in common, they can be educated, and on the right track for two successful careers. But, there is one behavior that can grow over time and ruin a perfectly good marriage; it's called stonewalling.
No, we're not talking about throwing stones or even jabs at each other. We're referring to the refusal to communicate with one's spouse or the refusal to cooperate. For example, refusing to attend marriage counseling, or giving a spouse the "silent treatment" instead of trying to resolve each other's differences.
When you read the title of this post, you may have thought it was about adultery or domestic violence (two major and significant reasons to divorce); however, stonewalling is more prevalent in marriages than spousal abuse and infidelity. Stonewalling is a silent killer that leads to a demise of a marriage and it's one that many couples fail to recognize.
Stonewalling is not the same as needing a day to take a time out and think things over. It's the flat-out refusal to consider a spouse's point of view, and if the spouse listens at all, he or she does it contemptuously.
Common examples of stonewalling:
- "Leave me alone."
- "I'm walking away."
- "I've heard enough."
- "Get out of my face."
- "I don't want to hear it."
- "Stop talking to me."
- "Don't text me."
- "Don't try to contact me."
In an article in Psychology Today, Steven Stosny, Ph.D. said that men are less likely to know when they stonewall their partners because it's natural for men. "A sure sign that a man is stonewalling is if he believes his partner nags him. That's means he's not listening. The nagging partner is the unheard partner," said Stosny.
Are You Being Stonewalled?
Ever been in the middle of a heated argument with your spouse and they stormed out of the room, slammed the front door, and raced out of the driveway? Or, have they ever turned on the TV (during an argument) and stared at the screen as you stood there speechless?
If your answer is yes and this happens on a regular basis, you're being stonewalled. According to John Gottman, a psychologist at the University of Washington and founder of the Gottman Institute, stonewalling is a telltale sign that a marriage won't last.
Stonewalling is toxic for a marriage because it keeps the spouses from addressing and resolving their underlying problems. It may be tempting for spouses to block off a conversation, pull out their phone, turn on the TV, or walk away from heated conversations, but over time this destructive behavior only increases the darker feelings of resentment and contempt.